Thursday, March 3, 2011

"Requiem in Verse" Revisited, For My Mother...

Gertrude Scott with her art, "Color Trek" on the wall, an untitled piece on the bench
and her wild flower hand-drawn and then embroidered quilt on the left.
This photo must have been taken at her church.



I'm about to get real serious here, folks....

I pulled out a journal that I'd bought years ago. It's beautiful, red leather bound with a stamped Celtic-type design on the cover, held closed by a strip of the same leather and a wooden bead on the end that one draws tight to keep it closed. The pages are lined and of good paper stock with a red ribbon to mark one's page. It's really quite lovely. I've held onto this journal for years thinking it was "special" and I should save it for a - well, lack of a better word - special purpose. I decided to use it with my "Artist Conspiracy" free writing and focus this month of "Words and Writing". (In case you're wondering what the "Artist Conspiracy" is, it is a program that Alyson Stanfield, the art coach of Art Biz fame has put together. More info can be found at http://www.artbizcoach.com if your interested.) Afterall, this is the year I really am getting serious about this "artist's life" that I've slowly been crafting, so what could be more "special" than that, right?

What I found tucked inside that journal is even more poignant than I can almost describe here. It's a yellowed, battered, some edges and sections missing, held together by Scotch tape, fragile piece of a newspaper. A column written by Phyllis Battelle, I'm guessing maybe in the '60's or '70's judging by the portion of a car ad on it's tattered back. Hand written in pencil, by my mother's hand, is "Beaumont 2250". Obviously, this is a room number at the local hospital, but who was in the hospital at the time, I do not know. But knowing my mother and reading the words of this column breaks my heart a little because you see, my mother was also an artist. An artist who never fully followed her passion for art because "life got in the way". She lived to be 92 and painted for herself. This column must have touched a part of her soul and that's why she preserved as best she could.

I want to share this column with everyone - artists and creative souls of all genres, but especially with those who don't quite "understand" the "why" and the "need" of these souls... If I could, I would try to get permission to post this column, but I have no idea where it was published. There are a couple spots where, as I stated before, the newspaper is literally missing, I think I can surmise what the missing words were and I will put those "words" in italics. And with that I give you:

Phyllis Battelle

Requiem in verse

NEW YORK - a boy student in the 12th grade, starved for attention, parched for understanding, handed in the following poem to his teacher:

"He always
He always wanted to explain
things.
But no one cared.
So he drew.
Sometimes he would draw and it
wasn't anything.
He wanted to carve it in stone or
write it in the sky.
He would lie out on the grass and
look up at the sky
And it would be only the sky and
him and the things inside him
that needed saying.
And it was after that that he drew
the picture.
It was a beautiful picture.
He kept it under his pillow and
would let no one see it.
And he would look at it every
night and think about it.
And when it was dark, and his
eyes were closed, he could
still see it.
It was all of him.
And he loved it.
When he started school he
brought it with him.
Not to show anyone but just to
have it with him like a friend.
It was funny about school.
He sat in a square, brown desk
Like all the other square, brown
desks
And he thought it should be red.
And his room was a square, brown
room
Like all the other rooms.
He hated to hold the pencil and
chalk,
With his arm stiff and his feet
flat on the floor,
Stiff,
With the teacher watching and
watching.
The teacher came and spoke to
him.
She told him to wear a tie like all
the other boys.
He said he didn't like them.
And she said it didn't matter.
After that they drew.
And he drew all yellow and gold
the way he felt about morning.
And it was beautiful.
The teacher came and smiled at
him.
'What's this? she said. 'Why don't
you draw something like
Ken's drawing?
'Isn't that beautiful?'
After that his mother bought him
a tie
And he always drew airplanes and
rocket ships like everyone
else.
And he threw the old picture
away.
And when he lay out and saw
looking at the sky,
It was big and blue and
everything,
But he wasn't any more.
He was square inside
And brown
And his hands were stiff
And he was like everyone
And the things inside him that
needed saying didn't push
any more,
It had stopped pushing.
It was crushed.
Stiff.
Like everything else."

The teacher couldn't help but be surprised. Such creativity. Such flavor. Could this 12th-grade boy really have composed such a poem?

It is not known today whether he actually wrote the poem by himself, all alone, or not.

It is known, however, that he committed suicide shortly afterward.

Nothing needed saying any more.



For my mother...

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