Painting in the Tropics, 2009

This poem won Second place in the 2009 2-Day Poem Contest

No fish, this time, no fish.

Find a fresh canvas and rack it up. Then paint, you old fool, paint.


Time edges forward, slow bead on bead.

He's all brute force and need, like a novice,

Blind to each gradation.


Understudies in the parlour, lauded exhibitions -

Who'd expect this scene? Dirty palette

the stump of his shaking arm,

he wounds the cadmium, dulls the emerald green.


Somewhere he offended, and imagery

Once effervescent

stiffened on the floor.

Now loud-leafed plants reach through the window,

rubbernecking at the gore:

kumquat viscera, stopping up the sink,

and half-hearted daubs of paint, half-squeezed tubes of ink.


The canvas leers, a gap-toothed freak in the foliage of unwashed rooms.

Old master with the noxious breath still looms,

Whispering, Let go, be agile, improvise!

Such lies. He takes a pull and tells himself,

Relax, old man, just dial it in.


Something flits by. Was it a fin? No matter.

The quagmire shifts, he flexes the vermilion

and his brush finds solid ground.


Now cobalt, tempered, for they are thrashing.

Titanium buff for the glint of eyes,

And the gills, viridian, gasping.

Published online June 01 2009.

This poem was a winner in CV2’s annual 2-Day Poem Contest. Every April, CV2 challenges players to create a new original poem that uses all 10 words of our choosing. It’s poetry under pressure for prizes, publication, and personal bests. Learn how to sign up for the next 2-Day Poem Contest.

Poetry Only cover image

This piece was published in ‘Poetry Only,’ the Spring 2010 issue of CV2.

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