By Gwendolyn Soper
We Are Paint in Metal Cans
We are paint in metal cans.
We drip, we hurl, we
swirl our colors of fear
confusion and sadness
onto a canvas the size of grief.
It follows us wherever we go
hovering a few feet
behind our heads like a kite:
of angry red vermillion, swirls
of blue sadness, puddles of brown
confusion – your colors and mine
we are the art.
Today the unframed apparition
is reflected in the glass.
I finally notice other colors
I’d been too selfish to notice before:
huge splashes of courageous purple
and powerful black.
Ninety-four Google Chrome tabs
line up across the top of my screen.
My eyes caress them – I cling to each one.
They reveal my pre-pandemic life. If the tabs
are gone those parts may be forgotten.
I open the earliest tab. A lifetime ago I
searched for how to remove a turmeric stain
after dripping curry on my favorite swishy skirt
from Uniqlo. The tab for Travelocity feels like
that winter-day search for cheap airfare was
a dream. Will I ever imagine flying
to Copenhagen again? Click. Click. Gone.
I start toggling down the line, suddenly
feeling sad. One tab makes me laugh out loud:
how to do a credible Scottish accent.
Well, now you know I read my poetry out loud
in a poor Scottish accent to see if it’s any good.
Where is Wuhan, marks exactly when life
changed for us all. Apparently, I hunted
through my cupboards because there’s
a tab for recipes with canned salmon.
I have no memory of why I have an open tab
for I Snuck into a Celebrity Wedding on Palm Beach,
and I Would 100% Do It Again. How did that tab
find a place in my line? Was I sleepwalking?
You know what? Some of the other tabs in
my previous life seem meaningless now,
like I’d had my priorities wrong. I shuddered
at Tiger King, preferring the gentler shocks
of rhymes and quatrains, so
I turned to poetry.
There’s a tab for Downpour because rain
makes me happy. I didn’t realize I’d be reading
a poem about the names of deceased friends
Billy Collins had written down on the back
of a shopping list before he went shopping
for linguini. I think of the thousands
we deeply grieve around the world, bow my head
and say yet another prayer. I’m not crying now.
It’s just raining on my face.
One of my remaining tabs holds the horrific
image of George Floyd dying beneath the knee
of Officer Chauvin – a name that sounds like
a villain straight out of a Victor Hugo novel
but who is, in fact, the apparent villain from
our current real-life nightmare. Suddenly,
even the pandemic feels passé.
There’s a comic strip in my next tab: how
to dress protectively for a protest. Thousands
of people find it relevant. Rubber bullets and
tear gas are less likely to hurt if you have
long sleeves and goggles and wear a bun
so no one can grab your hair.
The last tab: Julia Child in a tube top,
(Bon Appetit Magazine) reminds me of bygone days.
Yet, as hard as I look I can’t see what and who
those days were glossing over. They weren’t quite
what I thought they were. Those black and white
photos have a lot more white than black.
I hover the cursor over the powerful red
dot in the corner of my screen
and with one click
I close them all.
I’m reaching you via Poetry & Covid from a small farm in rural Utah, USA. Writing poetry has been cathartic for me during the pandemic—like it has been for many of you. I also founded a thriving, global underground poetry group during the pandemic. It’s for fans of the poet, Billy Collins (and his broadcast on Facebook: The Poetry Broadcast).
I also write commentary about basic human rights and current events like the Brood X Cicada. Many of my essays can be found here: https://linktr.ee/Gwendolyn_S