Thursday, 2 October 2014
New Poem: White Paint
We turned up in the yard because there
was an ad in the paper. There was a man
there who asked us if we had ever done any
painting before. I said yes. He sent me to
the top of a ladder and on to a plank. It was
high up, under the roof. There was no ceiling.
I had to paint what was the underside of the
roof. There were three of us up there. It was an
empty factory, or a hangar. Our plank was about
seven feet under the roof so we had to paint
above our heads. The man said it was best not
to look down.
It was a hot day, the sun shining on to the roof
outside. It wasn’t just that it was hot doing painting.
The roof was hot. The man said we were toshers.
Just put it on. And get it done. As the paint went on,
the heat made it fume. I could feel it spread out
under my face, into the spaces behind my eyes. It
made me smile. Thick cream paint.
I looked across to the other guys. They were
toshing. I smiled. They smiled. One of them laughed.
Don’t look down, he said. I’m not sure he said
it to me. He may have it said to the other guy. I nodded.
He nodded. There was a day at the beach. The
sand was a million fragments of glass, each
pointing towards my eyes. There was a link between
my eyes and being sick. You could look at
the brightness for so long that it flowed into your
stomach. Light waves making sick waves.
There was a presentation day once and
everyone was told to go on to the platform, shake
hands and get off the platform as quickly as
possible but this boy Jeff, got up there and waved.
He waved to his mates and they all cheered. And
that had been wrong. Jeff was wrong. He had done
a wrong thing. Jeff was wrong to have done that.
The paint was white. The smile was more like a grin
now. Like I had to pull my lips back to make room
for the fumes in my face.
The roof moved. The paint was white. The waves
reached my legs. Milk into a bucket from the cow.
Thick with bubbles. You could paint with milk.
Warm milk with cream. And it’s cream that makes
butter. Shaking it up till it gets thicker. It’s the
shaking that makes it thick.
I had to kneel down. I knelt down. I looked
across to the other guys. One of them was standing.
He had stopped painting. He was standing. I said,
‘Whooo.’ He said, ‘Yeahh.’ I said, ‘I’m kneeling.’ Then
he knelt down too. I said, ‘I’m going to lie down
now. I’m going to lie down.’ I lay down on the plank.
He lay down on the plank too. I looked at the other
guy. He was pressing on. ‘He’s good,’ I said.
He said, ‘Don’t shut your eyes.’ I shut my eyes.