Stretching canvas is an exercise in forgiveness, pulling the fiber until it’s endured all that it can take and wants to disintegrate into a relief of dust. You watch, wait, recognize the signs that what sits between your trembling hands is ready to surrender. You release the canvas the tiniest bit, an exhale of mercy.
The wood frame may be fixed but you are supple the way a reflection shivers with its subject. You know if you treat the canvas well, an unearthed miracle waits.
Dad tells me to paint the fence white and shoves brushes into my hands with bristles so stiff they crackle like the sound of a bone snapping in half so when I dip them into the paint there is no give the way he offers no give when I beg him to let me paint the fence, the same fence I have walked past my entire life, yellow or green or blue, the color of sky the way my eyes are the color of the sky before it storms, when the world is ready, thirsty for the rain only he tells me white fences are safe and our town is safe, except the brushes won’t hold the paint because they’re ignored, stored in buckets until they’re needed and they’ve never felt safe when he kicks the bucket across the barn, swears at the docile cows who bow their heads, nodding that he is cruel and immovable and I bet they wonder why I’m listening to him because I’ve got a voice, words and syllables to fill up ten buckets and all they’ve got is their milk and the open fields so I take the white paint and pour it down the utility drain listening to the churning blub blub blub until it’s vanished and I refill the bucket with green and paint the fence the color of the field so when the cows look at it, when I look at it, it’s like we’re not fenced in at all.
Sarah Clayville writes and teaches from a small town in central Pennsylvania. Her work is featured both online and in print in over thirty journals. View her other works at SarahSaysWrite.com.