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The Birth of Art
Robyn Sarah


The child isn't done with the painting,
but the painting is done, in mother's eyes,
who wants it the way it is--those
marvelous colours! Quick--take it away,
give him a clean page before
he puts on the muddy wash,
his finishing touch. 

To the child, each spoiled painting is as precious
as the next: the flaccid sheets spread out
to dry upon the floor, wrinkled
where paint lies pooled, or paper's
surface has curdled up in fibrous shreds
like mop strands under the
over enthusiastic brush.

And the water, that has bloomed with every dip,
from cherry red to purple to a
storm-cloudy grey and now a
greenish black, is as good as
paint, too. Slop it on! Watch it
run in those crooked little rivers
down the white.

Here is where mother's own
designs begin--untimely to rip
the sheet away and tack it up
for doting eyes. Isn’t that
a nice one, dear? What is it?
(Well, what
is it? Gravely the child studies it,
and tries to guess.)

From Questions About The Stars (Brick Books, 1998).
Used here with permission.


Robyn Sarah was born in New York City to Canadian parents and grew up in Montreal, where she still lives. She wrote and enjoyed poetry as a child and is the author of ten poetry collections, two collections of short stories, and a book of essays on poetry. Robyn is presently serving her tenth and last year as poetry editor for Cormorant Books in Toronto. Her last poetry collection, My Shoes Are Killing Me (2015), won the Governor General’s Award for poetry — one of Canada’s highest literary honors. Sarah's most recent book is Music, Late and Soon, a memoir to be published later this year.



Post New Comment:
Lori Levy:
Great portrayal of a child's art and how parents often respond to it.
Posted 04/16/2020 12:30 AM
Posted 04/15/2020 12:04 PM
I'm the child writing poetry. First the bright colors, then the muddy wash. Somebody - please rip it away from me!
Posted 04/15/2020 11:11 AM
Janet Leahy:
The free-form paintings of the very young are a favorite, and the haunting question for young and old 'what is it" sometimes it just is. A layered poem, thanks.
Posted 04/15/2020 09:23 AM
Larry Schug:
I especially like the third stanza-a poem of its own.
Posted 04/15/2020 08:22 AM
What great fun poem which anyone who is a parent can relate to. Love the �but the painting is done, in the mother�s eyes,� �wrinkled with the pain lies pool,� �mop strands under the over enthusiastic brush (very nice)� the description of the changing colors of the �bloom� in the waters, and lastly to the questioning, even by the child, of what the painting is. What a great subject, and what a great rendering of it. Randy
Posted 04/15/2020 07:58 AM

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