An artistic dialogue with painter Janette Maxey. First exhibited at Lit Up 2013 as part of Tête-à-tête, a progressive conversation between three pairs of artists from different backgrounds. For Aproximity, Janette started with a painting and I responded with a poem. She then replied with another painting and I countered with a poem. The final exhibition featured eight paintings and poems, all created within a month.
by Marc Nair & Janette Maxey
The large, unseen gaps that hover between things
Exploring distance in a crowd, or any similar density
Growing from the nearness of space, time and relationships
These hooks hold a neck easily,
less so the baleful glance. Queue
please, this is transit ordered
en masse, a rapid conveyance
from coop to set meal. Whether
part or whole, we are all flayed
to the bone, laid in fragrant bowls,
our skins roasted with endeavour.
Moment of sky,
with its shades of blue opal,
descends, a pendant hanging
from the neck of God,
above the hands of casual fronds
that drift lazily across the fence,
some rich man’s walled-in
dream; unbarbed, yet high
enough to be a shelter, becoming
home, for those who have enough.
Could this be the hand of a great man,
curled into original thought, holding
in the veneration of meditative years?
Or it could be a bunch of bananas,
arcing in ripe repast, a prayer before
being twisted off, and consumed.
A new day is sold behind metal hoardings
soon to ascend from pathos; the scaffold
of progress, the bones of a millionaire’s
new playground, rising higher over the
frayed houses that window lost seas,
the sad waves of tattered palm trees
and a sky that cannot see its stars.
Shimmering skirts walk by night
like tattered blue veils; only a
streetlamp will keep aglow.
This pot of necessary excess
This chamber of effluent secrets
painted with an indistinct eye on nature
This studio apartment of inner wealth
collecting drops the color of gold, a
dank waterfall in the wee hours of dawn
This is no cistern of desire, from which a
poxy of withering men may gulp a toast
No history stagnates overlong inside,
everything empties with the rising sun
She would dream this cosmetic fantasy,
a regression from riches into youth
Eyes the allure of perfect almonds,
eyebrows a delicate arch to hold the
weight of pencilled-in propriety and
those lips; what rounded reasons,
what bodied desire, what bee-stung
kisses to plant on the skin of some
natural fool, who will never know
the difference between collagen
Last of the mannequins,
they hold stories in plastic silence.
Stand too close,
and they’ll stare down your
imperfections, though that
uniform smile makes them
two sisters in a family feud,
a wealth of colour wrapped
around serious eyes.
Each one takes on her own hue;
some haughtier than others,
some an inviting cup of tease.
No one has asked for a sister along
with a scarf, so they carefully
wrap their dreams like these shawls,
wishes warm against sudden chill.
A Hairball of Rambutans
It was our secret proper name for luscious memories
set against evenings in neighbors’ dense gardens,
wielding a home-made pole with a kind of scissors
at the end to pull a string and snip off thin branches.
We watched the rambutans fall like circus jugglers
collapsing into heaps of laughter and juice. Too much
rambutan is just too much, and nothing more. Nobody
we knew ever fell ill from overeating, and there was
always extras to bring home, our sticky fingers
clutching plastic bags, as we stopped for a second
before getting in the car to break off wild ixoras
and slurp on stems, a nectar of kampung and sunset.