This short poem is a present I wrote for my Gram for her 80th birthday, which is tomorrow. She received it as part of a book of messages and photos collected from all of her children, grandchildren, friends and other family, and arranged by my Aunt Sally. My favourite theme of poetry is always to describe a single moment in my life and try to capture all the details and linked memories that perfectly describe how it felt to be there. This scene is in my Gram’s kitchen, and is one of the first moments that I ever had the opportunity to make art with professional tools and the freedom to explore whatever I wanted. Taking influence from my Gram’s landscapes, I had my first real lessons in these mediums of art from her. This is one way to show my appreciation of that, and my love for her. Happy birthday, Grammy!
It is always daylight in memory,
Golden sun filtered by leaves and petals and the whirr of tiny wings,
Dripping down through the windows into her small, well-kept kitchen.
It brought with it the talk of birds, kookaburras laughing at the winds,
The tiny song of wrens, the far away groan of cockatoos,
The soft whisper of eagles on the wing.
And, within, the timbre of her voice,
Splashing with restrained enthusiasm over her paper-aged hands,
Where they held the stain of coloured chalks and tried to teach me.
At the scrubbed and worn plain of her ever-present kitchen table,
Pushed close and alert to her plan, was I, a child of hazy recollection,
But in this, suddenly, was I sharply aware-
The push of the colours across the page, the melding, crumbling touch
To blend and pool with a soft impression – a bough, a tree, a brush.
And taking shape from her hands, the window with its birds and bushes – the light that danced between us.
The day was caught in a spidering of whispers on that page
And somehow it had, too, the smell of baking;
The humming chord of the bee hives;
The shape of her hands that cupped the tool
That moulded the scene before her.
When, later, I mixed and muddled my way through my own poor copy,
I would conjure this to me, to try to see again the magic as she taught it.
The artist, who I had sat at the elbow of, in the tiny kitchen where light was borne –
My grandmother who tried again, with patience, to help me see the forms.
With paint and water, I recall her cautioning, we must go from light-to-dark,
And see with wisdom, the places where we need not touch.
But with the pastels we go from dark-to-light, and peer at shadows to better see
The way the sun spills into our lives.
And, distant, I heard the tractor blowing, and the clucking mumble of the chooks,
And remembered the warmth of fresh-laid eggs, and heard the birds about their lives and
Felt the soft-firm direction of my grandmother’s hands.
Cupped in the scent and the sounds, and the light of her world,
I began to understand.