“Let’s paint!” he says, flexing fingers that know
paintbrushes I can tell, as his shirt knows paint

(Are we going to get dirty?)

the class leaps up – limber bare-bellied girls and
a trio of tatty superior blokes – my friend and I too

organise easels, brushes, squeeze out
small neat turds of thick glistening gloop
onto ice-cream lids –
red yellow blue white black

(Are they the only colours we get?)

crisp new white paper covers last term’s spilt paint
a table is made manifest in the middle
of the easel jam a red-checked tablecloth
arranged a bagful of shoes tipped out

painters dart from behind easels to
poke prod pester thongs boots sandals sneakers
into paintable postures – my friend and I too
set the silver sparkle sneakers akimbo facing us

(What do we do?) “Have fun!” he says
(We don’t know how to paint…) “Find out!” he says

Have paid. Will paint. Well … draw to start with.
Outline of one tiny shoe an hour later has me
cornered – enwebbed in its laces

“Where will you put the paint?” he hisses in my ear
raises an artistic eyebrow and his voice

“You have one hour in which to cover your paper with paint!”
he says “Don’t panic!” Steps neatly aside
the class as one body launching itself at the paint bottles

we become dramatic, my friend and I –

(“Gawd! I never knew it was gunna be like this!” she says)

desperation gives the check tablecloth a speaking part,
grey sneaker leans drunkenly against high-steppin’ yellow thong

(Hey! Trying to make the silver sparkle IS fun!)

red roadrunner trips over snaking laces
dark green strappy slip-on steps archly
down into the waiting mouth of an evil black
flipper whose edges are curling with anticipation…

“Finish!” he says. “Clean up!” he says.

Bare-bellied belles, tatty blokes and my friend and I too

scrub and swab and sweep and grab
a cuppa tea and take our seats for the show and

Hey! Look! Ours aren’t bad – some of the others can’t paint either –

you know from here they look like – a bit like –

yeah they really are recognisable as

“Still Life With Old Shoes And Tablecloth”.

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