It’s winter here.
The trees stand stark, bird-diminished.
I sold the last of my books
to buy nine tubes of paint.

What is seen, alters the current of my thinking,
I must honour on canvas.

When I cannot make a brushstroke, a colour gambled,
lift a painting,
I return to drawing
to remind my hand and eye
of curve, shape and shadow,
of what is present and suggested.

In life-drawing class
we’re sketching Alex,
an aspiring ballet dancer.
His body
crouches, leaps, spins,
both obeys and defies
Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake
playing on the gramophone.

Muscle. Breath. Poise.
A hundred decisions
about control and release.
The dancer shows the audience
the body marshalled,
supple and sexual.
There’s fright, applause and envy.

The date of my exhibition has been set,
the first of April.
I hope the exhibition will be a success,
that each painting finds its rightful owner,
those who realise that a painting
may also be a mirror.

Please send me a photograph of your Adam.
Tell me more about him,
how he
reads the soil and sky,
joins you in prayer
for a child
and rain.

I’m not one for marriage,
am most alive when painting portraits.
Each sitter is a ribcage full of stories—
a childhood illness,
the temperature of a marriage,
the press of clouds against the heart.

I listen
and note
the blue vein that pulses
in a pale, exposed neck,
the nervous rubbing of the left temple
with a calloused thumb,
when the sitter chooses words
for their range and accuracy,
as who they are
rises towards the lure
of my paintbrush.

I’ll close for today,
work further on my portrait
of the local butcher.
Must render the look in his eyes
when he raises his gleaming cleaver.