Archival Features, Poems

Sara Wainscott: “The Apprentice Making Paint”

I  am interested in the way poems allow scenes to overlay one another, in the relationship between image and reflection, in the simultaneous workings of internal and external worlds. Mostly, though, I have a lot of fondness and respect for ‘shit jobs’ and the lessons I learned by working my way up. (Sara Winscott)

The Apprentice Making Paint

A stupid boy, crying into the lapis lazuli again and rubbing his punished head.

The mortar and pestle, very blue, and his runny face hued by the costly grime—

a waste of ultramarine, the most unyielding stone, so hard to grind by hand.

Half-filled flasks of linseed oil, spilled pot of rabbit skin glue, husks of roaches.

The boy, sighing, holds the stiffest brushes to warm under his arms.

The window’s writhing landscape, the hollers from the damp street, the coal-sellers,

the basket-vendors. The raving rooster woman wrings her cloak.

The still canvases on the wall—unfinished portraits, hunting scenes—most of all

the wonderful archangel drying leisurely in a vermilion sky (mercury and sulfur

need tending as they heat to red), and below the archangel fly the minor angels,

poised like butterflies upon the spires. All but one (the brat wants practice! Master says)

that wilts on permuted wing, that buckles before the newborn Christ.

Or, cumbersome, it falls, gaining the earth’s ochre, umber, bone-black plane.


Sara Wainscott has an MFA from the University of Washington. Currently she lives in Chicago and teaches writing. Most recently, her poems have appeared in Columbia Poetry Review and The Journal.

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