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watercolour strokes

For Azlina Alias

By Nicole Long

I could paint you a woman
beautiful and soft-spoken
with an aura radiating kindness
and unadulterated grace

with hopes and dreams 
that form the forefront of her mind
and set her heart ablaze with zeal

I could paint you a mother
who breathes life into her boys
who stands over the stove with shaky hands
who mops the floor while
her legs are about to give way.

I could paint you a wife
who loves with every fibre of her being
who pours herself into the architecture 
of a household

I could paint her 
In harlequin hues
bursts of watercolor
splattered across a blank canvas

I could trace the outline of
her face
detail every curve and feature

but if i spilled a little black ink
a blot on the woman’s silhouette

a mark that
brings her perpetual pain
bone ache
bouts of despondency

is that all you will see in her?

not the vivid strokes of paint on the canvas,
nor the indelible impact she has made on the world

but the small, faint, blot of ink.
her illness is not her identity.

Author's Note

While conversing with Azlina, she mentioned that she found solace in painting and used it as an outlet to express her emotions. She also had the aura of a kind and gentle woman, who poured herself into the lives of her children and her husband. This gave me the idea of centering the poem around a painting poignantly drawn. It would have great strokes and brushes, reflecting how Azlina is a selfless and noble mother who sees the good in everything and everyone. If there was even a small blemish, a black blot spilled over the artwork, that one smudge would be perceived as overpowering everything beautiful and good about the painting. That black blot in Azlina’s life is Rheumatoid Arthritis. And the reaction depicted in the poem is the reality of how people with autoimmune diseases are perceived in society. I aimed to portray yet challenge this societal response through the metaphor of a painting.

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