Charlotte Ansell

Drowning

When the news breaks and the tide cannot be turned
I find comfort in the Muslim call to prayer on TV,
its mathematical calm laps over me
like today as I paint, the ripples of chatter
from the Eastern European family fishing
on the opposite bank of the canal.
I relax into the peace of incomprehensible words
but the laughter of children is the same,
the cheers when they catch a fish.
I wouldn’t eat anything from this water
maybe they wouldn’t either
I push my assumptions down, drown them in paint.

We co-exist in this subdued day
Cloud muffling out any extremes
the odd phrase in English reaches me
and when they leave, a man calls out
‘beautiful painting you come paint my house?
See you next time!’

Not everything can be covered, made new
when my friend’s appeal for asylum was refused
I went round, the nakedness of the packing boxes
the panic in her daughters’ eyes
and her without her hijab.
Somehow I couldn’t hug her
seeing her so exposed.
After three long years they let her stay.

Isn’t that all anyone wants,
a safe place to call home?
I go back to painting,
the grey green expanse grows,
soothing my eyes, if only
it didn’t remind me of the cold sea,
the slip slop of the brush like the slap of waves
lifting a dress to expose a nappy
breaking over pliable limbs
a swirl of dark curls, such a little face
as if in repose.

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