Thursday Poetry Challenge at Imaginary Garden with Real Toads.  This poem is first draft, just going for it, inspired by the picture of an oil painting by Paul Whitener, “Unfinished Landscape” 1950

Paul’s paintings were started with an underpainting of warm or cool oil paint thinned with turpentine. Paul used both rose and brown pigment for the underpainting in the canvas above. The contrasting greens in the landscape will be made more vibrant by these warm tones which will peep through the final applications of paint…


I treasured his hands–those cracked, dry, cut

and dug-up hands with the bitten nails

and callouses and blackened gashes. I watched

him hook my line as if I were his little girl. I watched

him wipe the grease from the engine on mom’s

kitchen towels, cigarette stuck to his bottom lip,

squinting his left eye at the smoke,

“Yeah I think this’ll get ‘er runnin'” as he fixes

yet another one of my cars.


Every time I went to my mothers since I was twenty,

I spent my time in the garage with Dave.

“Husband number three.”

There was hope in this one,

which I waved back and forth

almost carelessly, because anything happens.


When my father died, I was twenty-one.

Panic attack on the bathroom tiles and then

Dave holding my shaking body

and hushing me like I was a kid,

just “shhhhhhh…poor baby, it’ll be ok…”

his hand rubbing hard circles on my back.


He broke a lot of things.

He fucked up a lot of things.

Like boats.

He sunk a boat.

He chain smoked like a mother fucker,

biceps like Popeye on his short frame, back when

he worked at the lumber yard, before he got injured.

That was our thing together back then, smoking

and coffee in the treasure trove garage

(he collected junk from the dump and yard sales–

“this is worth five fuckin’ dollars!”)

and he’d hold up circular metal spinny spindly things

with screws in it and various attachments he’d taken

off and I’d ask him what it was, how it worked,

and we smoked and sipped and talked. I could

listen to him for hours talk about tools and gadgets,

machinery and equipment; felt like I was with a dad.


“Yer ma, I tell ya, I dunno man, I love her but…

she makes me crazy!”

–“yeah, ma….”

“Hand me that so I can splice this–”


The painting by Paul Whitener.

“Unfinished Landscape.”


Makes my eyes sting,

makes my throat hurt a little.

I didn’t see landscape before or while

I saved the picture to write about it.

I saw blood and gray matter, a bleached out brain

washing out like Whitener’s oils with turpentine.

Dave skulking around those houses

we tell the girls to never walk by.

Dave driving on the wrong side of the road,

oblivious and half-eyed.

Dave disappearing.

Dave’s mind a soupy, rotting,

eaten mess similar to my father’s. But my father’s

made him only softer, farther away;

Dave’s made him mean to my mother.


But not to me.

I watched him disappear in those rounded

clouds of Whitener’s–purple, orange, red

a fire bloating what space was left, with the sinews

of greenish yellow dispatched and unattaching

from the helm.


Four days ago:

“It’s rehab with all of us behind you, right now, or you go.”

…tell me tell me he didn’t say he’s leaving

“Fine. There’s the door,” I had said simply.

I wanted to grab his leg and beg him to try.

I became my seven-year-old self in heels,

there in the garage, stone-face, sweaty hands.

The doctors and officers in agreement

that it was probably too late for rehab.

Words like severity. Deep-in. High levels. His age and conditions.

Dropping dead before he hits rock bottom, if this drug has a bottom.


Three days ago:

Cops can’t find him. Restraining Order out.

“Dave can you help me build Emma’s bookshelf?”

The meth houses aren’t giving him up.

Dave, wanna go fishing?”


Two days ago:

I have to keep my doors locked.

Yesterday I went into my mother’s garage

to get the mower. Knee deep in bikes and boxes

and a broken down car Dave had crashed months earlier;

dust and abandoned tools, half-finished

pallet projects–and there I was, trying

to screw the handle back in it,

taking in sharp, loud breaths as the tears came.


I can’t write how I’ve seen him die off. The rot there.

I can’t.

The painting can. That painting of Dave

thinning down his soul with

methamphetamine like Whitener thinning the oils

with turpentine, –“the effects will visibly peep through

during the final application...


The red clouds lined thinly in pink–they’re moving

away into the distance, almost behind

the painting; you can see them move

like you’re coming up with speed on a drop-off

and the sky rushes to your face

rushes to his veins

rushes to the wind up the base of the canvas

rushes into the yellow and green warning that curls

before the eruption of sky red, blood red, pink body insides explode

rushes over the dead-end and off the drop-off

rushes away and spreads thin and disappears.


11 thoughts on “Rush

  1. Wow. This is an intense, powerful read, from someone who has lived with an addict, lived all that pain. I love the way you presented him to us in earlier years, before the meth got him. I am so sorry for all you and your family are enduring. I so know. You have written it true.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Nekyias are for diving to the black bottom of the soul, and this descent with the eye of that canvas is cracked, bloody and true. And meth has become opium’s chaser, the freak flag of rural annihilation. Write it.

    Liked by 1 person


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