(on a painting by Ursula Bethell )
There is a fine line between the painter’s
finger and her thumb, between the open door
and the wooden verandah, between the there
of England and the here of the Waimakariri,
icy braided river.
It is 1903 or thereabouts,
she is 29 years old maybe, painting a woolshed
or rather a fine big white English homestead
within a stand of pin oaks and Lombardy poplars.
Is this what you see?
In the foreground there are 3 strands
of barbed wire nailed to a row of wooden sticks
for a fence. The bluegrey sky is big and familiar,
clouds lavender lilac above blue mountains.
Is this what you think you see?
Be careful. The weird marsh is already
making a comeback in the home paddock.
See the raupo pushing up through springy grass
turned mustard yellow by the southern sun.
She is European, well trained, able to speak
in one place a language learned in another.
C’est vrai. But pain is born of this divided loyalty.
You can see it in her eye and in her hand already.
© Bernadette Hall