A new poem by Richard Greene

Oils

Black and white and notionally portable,
a TV occupies half the kitchen table,
gives off The Edge of Night or Coronation Street,
as my mother, among copies of Vogue
and Chatelaine and The Daily News,
lays oils on the rough side of masonite.
The paint brushes seem to last forever
and the tubes of Winsor and Newton going
from year to year, the same ones never empty:
manganese blue hue, phthalo turquoise,
cobalt chromite, viridian, and terre verte,
purple lake, raw umber light, and Payne’s grey.
Her gardens are decorative and terrible
as vined or beasted letters of a manuscript,
and undersea, whales and plankton and octopi
of equal proportion, as when sleeping
shortens the gap between dead and living.
Mind always elsewhere—on Adam Trask
and Mike Karr in mobbed up Monticello,
on Ena Sharples and Elsie Tanner,
the Barlows, all that marriage and murder
at Rover’s Return—her automatic
touch making intricacies on the board,
shapes of memory from which she can
never turn away—a tiny brother
throttled by whooping cough, her father
weeping in the pantry, all the dailiness
of death in 1941. Thirteen then and never
right afterwards, except perhaps in oils.