On Painting My Room

I read a story about a Russian woman—
a motorcyclist—riding helmeted and carapaced
through the curvy streets knotting Chernobyl.
She carried a Geiger counter           click
and a camera          click
to tell her story if she failed          pop
to return. She smartly kept to the center
of the road knowing that cement repels
what plants 
absorb. Along the streets, she saw
marigolds so orange they hurt her eyes.
If she had dared to peek into any empty houses,
she would have seen shrouded tables, armchairs, sideboards—
furniture mired in dust just waiting
for their Grand Unveiling. She wrote,
This world is deceptively radiant, and then she
imagined herself living there after the radiation
finally dissipated, wandered 
like drunks after the cotillion.

I think of her as I open the can of paint,          pop
and spread the brown tarp over my tables,
my armchair, my sideboard. Tap the water three        click click click
times from my brush, jab it into the can’s mouth,
then watch as a future splotch falls        plop
on the carpet, creating a brilliant marble
of marigold orange. And me,
my finger extending toward the drop,
dipping in and dripping off: the wide-eyed
victim of a Technicolor life change—
but only for a minute. I adjust,
the color dims, and the party
continues. The clamor spreads from
wall to wall. That’s the beauty
of orange, I guess—how it matches both
the midnight and the morning framed
daily in my window. No matter what happens
past all that woodwork and wiring,
my room will always complement.


24 Replies to “On Painting My Room”

  1. Ah, I remember your original piece on the technicolour life change and I love how you’ve taken it beyond its original 42 words. This rhythm of this piece, even without the clicks and pops, is unbelievable, but with those added accents, it becomes sublime. I loved this part of it in particular: “furniture mired in dust just waiting / for their Grand Unveiling.” It is all so vibrant and amazingly well-done!

    1. This poem owes a lot to Dobyns. You probably caught that. And yes, The seeds of this poem were from that Technicolor life change line and the Days Lined Up Like Buckets speakeasy prompt from a while ago. Both lines I just couldn’t shake. Sadly, only technicolor made the cut.

      1. Yes I did notice the Dobyns influence. So well done! You could always keep playing with the buckets line. Coincidentally, I wrote something this weekend from the Speakeasy line about loving the silence.

  2. I really enjoyed how you wove the Russian woman’s story into yours, punctuated so cleverly with the pops and clicks. The recurring orange was gorgeous. There’s so much emotion and cultural significance tied up in that colour, and you were so clever to work that in.

    1. I felt a little presumptuous overtaking her (possibly true? See glasgow’s comment above) story and making it my own. My family is Protestant Irish – so yes, orange has some meaning for me.

  3. The use of the sounds and the color orange made this piece stand out! You have a lot of depth in this piece. For what could be considered a mundane task, it has so much more meaning and imagery behind it.

  4. “I adjust,
    the color dims, and the party
    continues. The clamor spreads from
    wall to wall. That’s the beauty
    of orange, I guess—how it matches both
    the midnight and the morning framed
    daily in my window.”
    And much more in this piece. Gorgeous writing, Nate

  5. This is so understated and lovely, Nate. I love that orange “matches both/the midnight and the morning framed/daily in my window.” The lyricism matches my orange kitchen.

  6. This came together beautifully. I love the connection between the motorcyclist and the painter, and this is probably my favourite line of the week: “…the wide-eyed
    victim of a Technicolor life change”

  7. Great piece! Really effective use of pops and clicks as a device to shape shift between your times and places. I can’t quite recall if it was you, but someone else at YW submitted a piece about orange walls since I have been on the grids. Anyway, your colour references contrasted creates further dimension to me as a reader. I assume from the comment above that this is based on a real person?

  8. I too have read about the Russian biker in Chernobyl. I like the way you tied that into the colours of the flowers that she saw and then took it one step further to the paint on your walls. I might have stopped there, but you are braver than I am sir, you took it over the top to the matching and complementing of the ambient lights that come through your window. Really nicely done.

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