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I paint you as a blue tree

Kate Walters

Dream fragments written in the early hours, on an iPad, during the year of COVID.

 

 

I paint you as a blue tree. Branches are antlers. I creep skywards, hanging on your furry stumps.  The tree becomes the sky. The gift is in the dream. You take my dream seed lovingly in your hands, breathe life into it with a strong breath. I like the sound you make when you exhale strongly. Itís a roaring stag, a foot striking the ground, a call to senses. Thereís a part of you which no one sees. Itís rounded, it revolves. Itís the colour of a certain yellow flower, it raises itself away from your skin like a belly breast or the top of a bone. It moves towards the place in me made to receive it. It spins with eyes and moons, it hesitates, it hovers, it moves across the room.

I get up, find ice and a towel, bathe my face. The cold water runs down my neck and scores my shoulder. I reach across the bed and my hand rests on the hard edges of books. I stay awake. I think of you and the words you said today.

Your voice is an animal: brown as pelt.  You step gently into my ear. I don't answer; you speak again. Charge me with your voice I say, with that very particular timbre, those notes. I tell you I want to suck the animal pelt into all my cells with my hearing. I want to survive.

I speak of feeling vulnerable, of showing you my true self, of the self I do not hide. I speak of woundedness: in an instant Iím cowering over my tiny eggs of shame, trying to cover the shape of my words with my dislocated wings. I build and move all the time, I am a bird building a nest, changing its mind.


Iím a deep valley, with steep wounded flanks in shadow; animals gather here, thereís a rounded pit where the boar lies, and a form for the hare; deer lie, forelegs folded, amongst the scrub; I hear hoglets squeak, and their mothers grunt. Ants have made a dusty tower; it gleams orange with shivering eggs when the sun reaches this part of the wood. The river bed is wide; towering teeth broken from a great mouth have washed up here. Thereís a pale stream trickling down this channel, and a sense of yielding. I feel you rest there: dark, hairy, painting on my belly with your brush.


Iím a horse who comes to meet you in the morning.


I remember the burning bush kindling at my knees: men stood there, lit the taper. The flames breathe out of time with my heart. Yellow fire shapes my pregnant belly, stains the underside of my milky udders like a lick of pollen; Iím a horse of the plains led by you between smouldering silver birch branches; Iím white with blackened limbs; smoking handfuls of leaves and empty stalks fill my mouth: my tongue is crisp, wordless.  Dried seed-cases and shrivelled flowers are pushed into my ears: the manís arm thrusts endlessly into my heart, autumn comes in June.

 

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Iím reminded of circumcising the heart and the time in Assisi. Standing in the white room with the bright altar and the monk and the dry Old Testament pages. There was a jug of arum lilies, erect on thick stems, white and red, waxy, sensuous, with stiff yellow stamens. Nuns gathered armfuls for the altars at San Damiano; Iíd been amazed by their sexiness. Early morning, sun shining, bells ringing and outside the screaming swifts cut the hot, scented air with their endless flight. The pink of bougainvillea in the pots at the door. My heart becomes engorged as I pray; I remember as I write that the heart has no skin to lift, no foreskin to pull back; the heart is an organ exposed, so tender to touch.

 

When I left he hugged me and said quietly ďcome back.Ē

 

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Awake in the night again, before dawn. My lover comes, the man of butter, the man who is golden, whose fluids run over my body, who settles in all the creases of my skin, who anoints me before the morning. He tells me of his time in the mountains, of the golden cow who made him. She spends her days with her calf and golden ponies on mountain pastures, in the fields of summer grasses and wildflowers. I went there to meet them, I stroked their brows, we told each other stories. He watches over them. He watches over me. Wolves, boar and bears still roam. The air is clean. I see gentians, those flowers who recall the sky and your eyes. I think of my pictures, of the creamy milky colour of the spirit horse who stopped for a moment on her journey yesterday. Sheís a foal and sheís old. She covers the child with her body; a spirit line hovers between her ears, dancing in sound.

 

The golden cow with her calf stands quietly beside the refuge, on the side of the toothy mountain. Some of her milk is drawn off into a jug. It is churned into butter by the men who tend the enormous ceramic stove, and who cook dumplings, and call me beautiful in the old language, Ladin; the rooms are warm, and panelled in wood. Outside, amongst the rocks, the golden herdsman sits in the gateway; it's where I met him in my dream. My mother brought spirit cakes. I took off my skin. He likes me; he likes the cakes. Butter runs in his veins, seeps from his pores. I meet him in the gateway each morning.

 

In his hands thereís a swarm of bees. He holds the swarm gently, it is a cloud, a black song. A man of honey too, the hives in the chestnut forests below the tree line were built by him. Great jars of honey and oil are kept by the bridge where the swifts scream. I stayed there when I was young, my body still asleep. A nun kissed me on arrival. I watched her care for bright geraniums through a window screen of linen. The airy rooms were roofed in prayer.


....................


 

A supple thing, I turn it over in my hands, scented, smooth, some fruit from a tree spirit and the pores of your body. I touch the fruit to my lips, I feel the soft skin against mine. I smell the flesh. 

Your gaze of stones lies cold beneath my watery stream.  Shoulders carry desire. My tongue speaks silently of my need. The words are stuck in my body. When I ask you for love it is a carcass I find. You hunch, a feather-stripped bird, no smile comes. The desert calls. Other visitors come to flesh out my fantasy. I play the music in another room. I dance alone. The notes of longing reach me through doorways; so it is with you. I need to have your words travel before they reach me. I need time to react. Days, years. To not feel the shock which returns me to an early place.

 

A supple thing this fruit - and also a stone. Iím thinking as these days pass that I must not see you.


 

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Initiation: a kiss against a blow

In the mouth of the panther I lie and wait. Sheís taken me in. It's a night of dark saliva, black liquid against teeth shiny as paint;  the curling red tongue rough against my skin. My hair protrudes chaotically, like a handful of dead grass, from her lips, pale against dark, a kiss against a blow. My brow is jammed against the ridges of the roof of her mouth. Her teeth crunch on my bones, suck my blood . Iím told she needs my flesh to help with her dreaming. She comes to help me with my dreaming; she appeared first, many years ago, as I dreamed of my mother, after she had died, when she ran from the church after her funeral, to the place of her childhood; the little cottage in the woods, where she went to help her mother recover after she had killed her unborn children. Panther showed up then, when I knew my mother had been afraid. The church had been filled by the form of a great white bird. As I stood to read my eulogy I could still sense the vast white breast of her; and I could smell her feathers: chalky, sky-dry.

 

Iím held captive for the night hours, a swollen swallowed thing, held fast, like a baby birthing, in the creature's digestive tract. Iím become liquid, all my organs a pink soup only just contained by a flimsy skin. I wait, I know there has to be a process of absorption, and an exchange. Iím never sure what she gives me until much later. When the panther is done with me, her guts gather me up and pack me into a bundle, and then she shits me out into the morning. I emerge from sleep with little bits of dream stuck to me like seaweed on my wet skin.

 

Each day is different. Itís like the weather, or the sea. One day Iím swallowed whole, and am ingested easily, peristalsis is smooth, not squeezing me beyond hope; other days Iím chopped into pieces by a particular creature of desire, and I barely survive the passage through her body.

I come out broken, and every morning I must be re-built. Sometimes it's a thought about a painting which causes all my parts to be spontaneously re-membered; at other times it's remembering a dream which meant I was whole once. There was P, my friend and a great painter, and she and I were in a great hall, she was giving a talk on her work. Many female artists were there. Afterwards she sat down, and I saw a cheetah had jumped onto her lap. After a while she placed the cheetah onto my lap, and stood up to leave.  I went to look for her, but she had disappeared.

 

Each evening I am eaten, every morning Iím different when I re-emerge. Your body is vast, multi-coloured, made of every substance in the universe, sometimes your coat is black and smooth, at others it is dry, coarse, reeking of wolf or porcupine. One evening I was dragged up a dusty track, between vines and dry grasses. You swallowed me slowly, I felt every bit of your bite. In my bedroom I have some of your quills. 

 

In a Tyrolean museum I saw a sculpture of a skeleton woman, she was half skeleton and half woman. She held an embroidered hanging depicting folk animals. When Iím with you, trying to make sense of myself against the blank pattern you hold up, I feel as if Iím half skeleton and half fleshly woman. 
 

..........


 

August 23rd 2020

*Dream of being in Italy, in a wild mountainous place/village and of seeing the mountains lit up at night, in a sort of cosmic way, with parts being lit up/coming to life, in a strange luminescent/burning magnesium way, full of spirit and power. This effect faded as the sun rose. And of many ponies, horses and foals who had their coats patched/embroidered, sewn into, in a very beautiful way. I spoke to the women villagers about wanting to return there, with funding, to do a project on their tradition. So it has its roots in the mountains, in the inherent luminescence of things, which you can only see in the dark (oneís inner dark? From a place of deep unknowing, a darkness, a fecund place of falling in, falling down, loss of ego awareness?) Sewing into actual living flesh/skin, but it was to do with covering over/healing/hiding/disguising wounds, weak, injured and worn places. Making beauty from wounds? The horses were very friendly, they were in small herds or groups. Old ones and foals, all had coat sewings. The patterning on their coats was very beautiful. The god in the horse. The painting I was doing at the time, of the chestnut horse, the sky horse, with the little sky rider and her crown funnelling into sun...


 

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In the painting you lay out for me a bed of your broad tongues. They spread out from your navel, muscular antennae which I sense across the room. Your tongues are silent and attentive. There are things I don't understand yet. Sometimes your tongues move slowly, from side to side; but mostly they're quite still, resting heavily on the floor between us. They grow larger, swelling with a sweet blood and glistening with a deep redness; curling slightly at their edges with their blue veined muscularity. The tips come close to me and I become aroused, but I remain still. Sometimes your tongues seem to have a life of their own. Theyíre descended from sea-creatures, they taste of salt, I taste them on my lips. They wash in the mouth of the room like whalesí tongues in the immense seas of their bodies. A song rests on them. I pick it up.

We become two tongues in one mouth.

 

...........

 


 

Disembarking from the small wooden craft across the blue I hesitate - before calling on St Francis to please take my hand. 

 

I met him some nights ago in sleep, he came to me in a dream and we flew around a mountain together, slowly gathering power beneath our linked arms. Gaining height our flight described the form of a cornet or cone; we grew closer to the knowing of the abstract ones, the ones floating above, the crystalline beings, those who came to me one night many years ago. They floated down onto my consciousness with their light geometry and Iíd been afraid. Iíd raised my arms, placing my hands over my head to try to protect myself from their transparent immensity. My body was lying down, I was trying to hide in the hareís form Iíd scraped in the ground. The people of the old ways were there with me, they were happy witnesses, pleased at my initiation.

 

The first thing you see as you step ashore with St Francis is a wooden crucifix.  It's ancient, imposing, though simply hewn. Large bees with hanging pendulous abdomens are sucking wood from the crucifix; its skin is puckered with a myriad of holes. Slowly, mouthful by mouthful, they eat the crucifix and carry the pulp in their bee cheeks to the confines of the cool hut sheltering the spring. Then they build tiny conical nests for their young: miniature mountains around the shrine to St Francis, a garland of wombs in wood. The pulp dribbles out of their tiny mouths, and with minute grace they form little egg dwellings of semi-masticated, partly digested wood pulp.  Their saliva cooks the pulp, it takes the wood and makes a little rippling shore of stilled tree flesh. The womb of life flows through the bite of the bee; it hovers in generations of kisses in these shaded sloping walls.

 

St Francis lives still, heís decorated with baby bees and tiny cups of wild honey. Prayers are brooded by little wings of mirror and glass; and the tiniest of angels are born in this dark sanctuary; memories of a life shared are theirs, when all creatures sheltered together. They are the pattern, they form nodes for the crystals to set their paths to earth.

 

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To see photographs of paintings made alongside this writing, please go to: https://www.katewalters.co.uk/paintings-from-2020-21/

And for more writing please visit: https://www.katewalters.co.uk/poetry-a-poet-a-painting/

And https://www.katewalters.co.uk/new-writing-birds-i-travel-with/
 

10.2.21