Fast Thaw, Aylmer and McDonnel

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Fast Thaw, Aylmer and McDonnel by John Climenhage, 2021 oil on panel 12"x16"
Fast Thaw, Aylmer and McDonnel by John Climenhage, 2021 oil on panel 12″x16″
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

This web page is part of The Climenhage Project Walking Tour.
View a map of more locations here »

© John Climenhage 2020


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