colour study #2

Colour Study: Yellow

Yellow: The boy in the backseat had a mango popsicle for a short amount of time.  Before he consumed it he was clean and excited.  He ate it fast, biting around the stick.  Now there is thick juice on his face and his shirt and the car seat buckles.  If it was red juice, the scene would look macabre. (A word his dad taught him and a surprisingly useful addition to his four-year-old vocabulary).  As it is, it just looks silly, like he peeled a real mango with only his teeth.  He mumbles something and I look in the rearview mirror and ask “What?” He holds up the stained stick:  “Stripped to the bone in seconds.”  He grins.

He says this again, finishing his corn-on-the-cob the next day at the campsite.  Carnivorous vegetable eating.  “Stripped to the bone in seconds.”  Yellow husks like strewn skin.  Easy prey.

Yellow:  As a verb, it is depressing.  Teeth.  Leaves.  The armpits of dress shirts.  The fingernails of elderly people.  The newspaper.

Yellow:  A painting of a circus in the Montreal Museum of Fine Art.  The ground is gold and the clowns look lonely.  The crowd isn’t painted, but the bright light where they would be vibrates so you know they are there and can imagine their sound.  A yellow noise.  The blurb on the wall next to the painting says the artist painted circus scenes all his life.  I wonder about what that would feel like – a life preoccupied with the circus.  I read about clowns.  I read about how traditionally their role is to manifest what is there but not expressed, in their audience.  So a sad clown is sad because he reads hidden sadness in his spectators, and a wacky clown is acting out our dormant, but very real, folly.  The clown says: “You think you’re logical and I’m crazy.  You think you’re the one with the strong grip on reality.   But I only reveal what is present in you. The reason I make you uncomfortable is my illogic is yours.” 

Yellow: Rain boots.  Legal paper.  Egg Yokes.  Lemons.

Yellow: The two year old’s pajamas.  His soft morning self.  The tiny light catching hairs on his neck and cheeks.  He asks for a lemon in his water.  He considers himself grown up.  He puts his tin mug on the arm of the couch.  He takes a book into his lap.   His lips are fat and parted.  I think of cheese when he kisses me: how instinctual the craving of certain things gone bad: beer, cheese and my kid’s morning breath.  His sweaty head.

Yellow:  The window in a second painting at the art gallery.  The painting is called Domestic Scene and is dark save for the window.  A woman looking out stands in the shadows.  A child is beside her on the floor, raging.  His face is crumpled and hands in fists.  There is another child in a tall and awkward wooden highchair and a third with a blank inward look sitting at a big table.  There is mess and food in varying stages of preparation and consumption.   The painting conjures up the weariness of parenthood, the feeling of being the lone adult amongst children.  Domestic Scene reminds me of my very strange position as mother of my children.  Job description:  Feed offspring.  Observe rages.  Stand by.  Look out the window.

Yellow: Maybe the verb isn’t all depressing.  Bananas.  The morning.  Fire.  A healing post-purple bruise.  

Yellow:  The pile of leaves my children are playing in.  Their play is all sorts: loud, wobbly, careful, clumsy.  Violent and tender.  The leaves were a mess I cleaned up along with the summer’s scattered popsicle sticks (a pile of bones). Now they are a mattress and a blanket and play dough.  The boys are learning what the laws of relationship are.  They know what forgiveness is and have forgotten yesterday’s offences.  The four-year-old says “Hear me mumma!” and howls.  The two-year-old says “Look me mumma!” and jumps.  I look up from my raking and watch them and hear them and acknowledge their clown-ness.   They reveal my hidden self; act out my desires.  Only their desire doesn’t stay desire.  It incarnates.  One steals leaves from the other’s hands.  One pushes the other into the leaves.  They grab one another and laugh.  Holding on. 

a colour study

Colour Study: Purple

Purple:  The lilacs my boys have in their fists.  They are thrashing out the smell like priests do with those balls of incense.  (I learn that those balls are called thuribles and that inside them incense is burned over coals.  So really, they are swinging containers of death.)  I try to suggest the boys be gentler with the lilacs.   “Lets carry them home and put them in water, wouldn’t they be nice in a vase on the table?”  But they can’t seem to help themselves and continue their repetitive rite.  The lilacs break down mid air and there are petals, so tiny you hesitate to call them petals, in their hair.  The lilac season is short here - one perfumed week in May – making their assault on the flowers seem all the more violent.

Purple:  Their bodies when they came from me.  When you peel a boiled egg right you get your fingers under that clinging film beneath the shell and the egg comes out slippery and whole.  When I peel eggs I think of childbirth.  The breaking; the drawn-out tedium; the slippery, sometimes-so-perfect-it-forces-you-to-contemplate-roundness result.  I remember the crying animals that came from between my legs and were shipwrecked on my chest as purple.  I wonder if this memory is wrong; were they really red?  Did my mind mix it up?  Maybe memory is a prism that splits colours.  But there it is in my head, twice: small purple people, gasping and crying and perfect with thrumming purple ropes coming from their bellies.

My friend told me that because she couldn’t use her hands when her baby was born, they stuffed her daughter, a small purple animal, down her shirt.  Also purple: the sachet of lavender her sister gave her to sniff during labour.

Purple: The butterfly we saw emerging from its chrysalis at the zoo.  The paper sack hung there and then there were legs and then hard work and then a sort of sad struggling body stumbled part way out.  Emerged feels too smooth a word.  It didn’t emerge so much as break free. I have read that inside the chrysalis there is just goop: the caterpillar breaks down before the butterfly begins to grow.  Inside a chrysalis is decay like the decay in my compost bin.  Wouldn’t it be nice if it were otherwise?  If transformation was a matter of hiding away and taking your time and growing wings?  I would prefer to imagine transformation in this way.  But transformation in this case comes out of commitment and compromise.  And Loss.  Not complete death, but complete loss.  I feel deceived on this front.  The stories and songs from my childhood had me believing that life came from life.   That the kind of death that gave way to life was a sort of “faux-death”: inside winter hid spring.  But that isn’t true.  Spring is nowhere in winter.

The butterfly at the zoo was the Emperor butterfly.  But I’ve never see a butterfly look less regal. 

Purple:  Pickled cabbage on tacos.  Lent.  The name of Steve Jobs’ secret club that developed the iPhone.  Some Mediterranean jellyfish.  Bruises.  Figs.  Taro root.  Flintstones vitamins.

Purple:  A blanket on the bed of a boy.  In the morning when I am in the bathroom I can see through the door into the boy’s room.  Because of this compromised view and because of our long night apart I have a sense of them as strange mysteries.  Like whales beneath the water: slow swelling movements that suggest grandness underneath.  The boys do not yet move like they will in the day.  Minus their spritely energy their bodies look altogether different and heavy - I do not recognize the leg heaved from under the covers.  A sleeping body covered in blanket stretches and then curls.  There is the slow rise of a knee or elbow then a pause.  Movement.  Sleep.  Movement. This is different than the chrysalis.  Here is latent life.  Here is hidden spring. The boys emerge.  Like whales surfacing: they take your breath away.  Their limbs have grown overnight.  It takes effort to connect these bodies with the marooned newborns from years ago; there has been loss.  But life has come, and keeps coming, from life.


summer 2017
















































"Dear Mother
I have left my troubles in a corner.  Can you run my bathwater?  If so, please come upstairs.
Sincerely, Hilary Bergen."