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.