The Door to Colour
Myra Schneider’s new collection brings a fresh sense of reality to some well-known images. Colour is the keynote of the book, moving through Matisse, Hockney, Chagall; sound too, in Mahler and Beethoven. Often we find skin-deep assumptions turned around: the gold of ancient Crete is not its jewellery but olives; a postbox’s bright exterior conceals menace; a major twentieth-century artist only started painting by chance at the age of twenty; and the long poem ‘Minotaur’ makes it clear that the Minotaur is no monster, Theseus no hero.
I’m warming my hands on the teapot’s yellow belly
when a parakeet lands on a dead sunflower head,
snatches seeds, then flaps onto the bird-feeder
hung from our drooping clothes line. Its feathers
are woodland green, Lorca green, dream-green.
But I’m not fooled by the redberry beak, brassy eye.
No surprise that the tits scatter into the buddleia.
Yelling at this intruder into a season where beeches
have lost their copper and leaves lie in damp heaps,
is pointless – the bird ignores me, only takes off
when it’s certain it can’t prise out a single nut.
The coal tits are soon back but, pretty as they are,
it’s no good pretending there isn’t quick-nipping,
a pecking order, that given the chance they’d behave
as badly as bankers, dictators, most of us.
But why bad-mouth our species? Last week
technicians slid me into a machine conceived
by humans to explore our inner landscapes:
“muscle boulders, maze of neck, the highway through
twiggeries of spine. Wrapped in insistent music
which shifted between high pitch and boom
it was as if I was encased in a huge thumping heart
or bedded in the cavern of a humpback whale
at the height of its song. And what is marvellouspage28image5872
is that the initiated can pinpoint sources of pain
from songs recorded in this place. Come to think of it,
thanks to our inventions, the kitchen has a music too –
a music we take for granted. Turn a tap and liquid silver
hishes. Touch a button and the washing machine
tunes up to offer purr and whirr. Flick a switch
and from the kettle comes a chant that crescendos
to a bubbling climax … I stir the tea in the pot, pour
and the tightness in my backbone loosens a little. “