Improvisation on a painting by John Climenhage during the pandemic Sometimes the quick sketches are best, the ones you threw out, the ones where you threw your mind out the window. The seventeen syllable paintings. The chosen colour is really just like all the other colours until we set them into neat cadences of justifications. Or jubilations: invent a game of paint chips, use them in place of words. Use colours as baby names: Carnellian, Ochre, Hansa, Pthalo, Viridian, Ultramarine, Cerulean, Scarlet. Give them play dates, watch them grow into unruly teenagers. Trace your brush over all the old familiar crevices in a black and white photograph and lie about it in colour. Hopper's shadows have migrated from night to day, getting lost in some back alley at high noon, so accustomed as we are to their ill repute. A foreign film from the 50s looks for a translation at the corner of that garage at the corner where the deal went down at that corner where they found the body, the corner of Aylmer and McDonnel. Does it really matter where? Your brush played chess with de Chirico while you cut out the city's tongue to the tune of pandemic. I have to imagine the banners, the laundry lines and flickering neon signs that are not there. I have to imagine Norman LaLiberté's declaration of royal ideology in flags, flapping, Whitman's songs of himself, Sandburg's skyscraper exaltation cities and little cat feet cities. Now no one is there - no one who matters not foxes or passing birds. We are not landing on telephone wires on our way to the office or making nests in the bus shelter, not even as common as flies leaving flesh-coloured spots while trapped at the edges of a window sill. Even if the smell of jam from the cereal factory lingers in the air it is not the smell of rain. Only a few days ago a forest covered the drumlins Now silhouettes are ever trimmed at the margins, miserly. We miss the squirm of living things but pretend we're far away on the day the earth stood still. Not staying in their lanes, we find a collision at the intersection of morning light and jam smell, the intersection of fever and police tape, an intersection of abandonment and acquisition stumbling into a box of hard candy and caramels with their inconsiderate, watered-down shadows. Imagine what's left after that, after an army of horses has starved after a still from a film shoot was lost in a suitcase in North Africa on board a runaway train not even braked by shame and because everything is both mundane and alien imagine it painted with a soundtrack by a Polish composer using a theremin: “You there, children of the lost city, are you still companion planting on the banks of the Otonabee?” -AJ
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