Songs of Eretz Poetry Review is pleased to present "Painting a Friend," a previously unpublished poem by Meg Eden. Ms. Eden teaches at the University of Maryland. Her work has been published in various magazines, including: B O D Y, Drunken Boat, Mudfish, and Rock & Sling. Her work placed second in the 2014 Ian MacMillan Fiction contest. Her collections include: Your Son (The Florence Kahn Memorial Award), Rotary Phones and Facebook (Dancing Girl Press), and The Girl Who Came Back (Red Bird Chapbooks). Check out her work at: https://www.facebook.com/megedenwritespoems.
Painting a Friend
In a frame shop in Annapolis, I was asked
to paint a portrait of my friend. I had not seen her
in three years, but remembered how haughty
her eye was, her beautiful hair, highlighted
and styled the way we all wanted it in 2003—
Her skin was dark and olive, and as I began
to approach the landmark of her face,
my teacher shouted, No white! No black!
You must mix from what you have.
She showed me the contrast of red and green,
took the photo of my friend and pointed out
the yellow in her eyes, the purple in her skin,
the diseases in all of us—I was young
and did not want to believe her, but as
I mixed the green into her cheeks, the burgundy
behind her and the purple in her hair,
she became clear to me again: the girl who taught me
how to be alive and full and provocative.
Poet's Notes: My middle school didn’t have many art classes, so my mother found me private lessons at a framing store. They were some of the most bizarre lessons I’ve had for any art medium, but my teacher’s advice has remained with me in a way that I feel compelled to revisit in my poems. When approaching "Painting a Friend," I came with this backstory, but also came in response to Cavafy’s "Picture of a 23-Year-Old Painted by His Friend of the Same Age, an Amateur" http://www.cavafy.com/poems/content.asp?id=25&cat=1.
Editor's Note: What a delightful melding of the art of painting with the art of poetry! "Painting a Friend" starts in black and white, transitions into muted tones, then ends in a spectacular explosion of color.