Long ago I watched you stride
then slide across the canvas barefoot,
throwing paint with open hands, fingers flicking,
sometimes with your look of grave intention,
a cat coil-crouched by a low-leafed bush;
other days you groaned as if the impetus within were shocking.
Your clothes, bare skin, blending with the mural
camouflaged, anonymous, you disappeared from sight.
You asked the age-old question of invention
and I said I don’t know.
You said creation was overrated,
exposure of the truths within would trump it,
and we would find out all we could discover
if we only –
and I said I don’t know.
Some cloudy coloured streaks formed letters –
obvious initials stood out –
A, Ess, Kay, alles klar, all were clear
and could not then be unseen;
as I closed my eyes they shone
like tattoos on my wrist and arm.
Scripts I did not know soon caught my mind
characters hiding in plain sight
An author? What author?
Any author sir.
After the paint the words
and you became my writer.
You created people in your clicking mind
They fell into a checkboard scheme
Each in its place, all moves controlled
until your pen was broken
and the fences that enclosed them.
Good, good so far. Critically admired. Strong.
Characters in your past solidified from misty memories
and became new and real,
less shiny in reflected light:
that was OK, you did not seek to justify or deceive
so it was acceptable – they said.
You lived in your own world, your known world
a world you gave birth to
the world you showed us was the world you knew
what you meant in your world we knew
Later doctors showed us the nipping
the clipping shut of tiny vessels,
thinner than wires, thinner than hairs,
and slowly the closest connections failed
and the ghosts began to come alive.
Even touching failed,
sealed shut and separate,
in real life lost meaning.
You invented –
I shouldn’t call it that but do –
you invented made-up people in the present
the cat you saw sat on the mat had lost its mother
your father dead these years was now your son,
who had lost his meaning and his purpose.
You cried for your past
and did not see a future.
More tears later I hope you have forgotten.
You are still wearing your spattered shirt
so you can call memories as they and you were
I wipe it with a dampened cloth
but the rag smells of water, of absence of smell,
and you frown at the nothingness in anger or confusion.
On the screen grey mist spread wider
soft-edged goodness was soft-shaved away
I couldn’t believe it but
only the dark self diamond remained.
This was your real self, not the one I believed in
not the one I believed to be true.
Your true self. It said so on machines
so who was I to argue?
Once, I remember, I longed for the phone to ring –
now I welcome its silence, no news.
And then it rang once and stopped,
silent before I could fish it from my pocket or my bag.
It was your number but
you could not use it so
And it rang again and this time I answered
and then I made the journey.
Be brave you had said
so I was.
Cry for me you had said.
So I did.
It was a different you that left me
not the you of paint and words and meanings
not the you of morning night and evening
not the you.
Not the you.