A painting I never painted by John Tustin

Illustration by Gunjan Thapar
Illustration by Gunjan Thapar
I keep seeing the clots of paint
Gathering conspiratorially on the canvas.
I tried to do too much
And then I just kept dabbing.

I see a bed, a woman’s body,
Disturbed sheets, the sun through
The blinds, flowers large upon the night stand.

Drunk, dizzy, my numb fingers
Reaching out to the pretend canvas,
Re-smudging the work
That I was too lazy to put
Anywhere outside of my head
Until I tried
Just as I knew trying was useless.

I keep seeing the ghosts of us
In the white of the iris,
In the little bullying push of brown
Beneath a green stem.

I am an unwilling artist. I cannot
Lift the brush because I know
It will always result in failure.
I am a frightened General,
Consigning my troops to a lifetime
Of waiting.
Closing my eyes and seeing what should be,

Not what is.
I don’t know what is.
Still I demand. Cajole.
Salute and do as I command, you lovely

Body in a cubist heaving,
Crying into your hair painted by Goya,
By God, but
Not by me.
Your hair thick black spirals of wine
Spilling down my throat, trickling down
In these amazing rivulets
That envelop my body that is
Pale and gross and protruding
Smothered beneath you.

I love you –
Your hair and your flesh,
The words that come from the lips
I used to kiss with the hunger
Of the dying.

I cannot paint you well,
Even in this sleep,
And I am in awe just speaking of you.
I kissed your briny glowing brown skin better
Than I could ever commit it
To canvas.

If kissing could be considered art…

But then I would have long ago
Abandoned my paints
For pretending.

Describing the spice and salt of your neck
And your belly and your opened legs better
With the memory of my tongue
Than any paintbrush could convey
With a mix of colors
That, in my hands
Could only be considered luck
If they construed the construction
And the solemnity
Of you,
Which they cannot.

The sacrament of raising a cup of you
To my lips.
The tremble of your body under
My sips and swallows
With no two ceremonies alike.

There is a painting I cannot paint
And it sits in a small rectangular frame
Beside my bed, clanging madly above.
It is you, asleep, your hair a waterfall of vines
Spilling down the side of my bed.

Your lips are pursed, your eyes shut tight,
Your arm a dangle.
I lie beneath the bed
And the painting shows only the tip of my left index finger
Touching your hair.

A small spark

What color represents
A spark?

I have no silver or gold
On my palette.

About the Author

“I want to paint you in verse” – Ian Hunter
JohnTustin is currently suffering in exile on Elba. His published poetry is available at http://fritzware.com/johntustinpoetry/

About the Illustrator

Gunjan is a future art curator who dreams wild and has a knack for travel. She is sauntering through life while painting stories, reading history, writing ballads, and singing poetry.

A painting I never painted  is one of the many amazing poems from the upcoming edition of the literary collection The Machinery.

Feel free to share the poem on Social Media or let us know what you think about it in the comments below!


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