Poem: Instructions to the artist

Title: My mother in America emails instructions to the artist for a portrait of her mother,
now 85 and with Alzheimers

By: Zola Gonzalez-Macarambon

portrait
What I remember,
what I want her to remember …
what you can work with
are these:
youth, a lakeside town, routine mornings,
slick footpaths, the open lips
of a lake and muddy banks red
as fish gills, and stones
strangely shaped like …
like turtle heads, and a slow fog
feathering like threadbare scarves
around her hair. This young mother, mine,
has laundry angled on her hip,
has a toddling daughter – me –
who’s ahead of her, not very far, but far enough,
like now …
The girl should skip and sway
holding a *palo-palo – she promised to be helpful –
and a little pail of kittens
for drowning …
For color, don’t hold back
on the green-blue of the lake …
is all I see clearly now really,
but maybe not too clearly now
that I’m old too … If anything,
you can wash it all a blue-grey
since I am only working from fading
clarity … and I understand, your style
is realistic.

*a palo-palo is a paddle used for squeezing water out of laundry

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