I have chosen David Hockney’s painting, A Bigger Splash (1967) from the Tate Britain collection, to accompany a new poem by Molly Rosenberg. The connection is perhaps rather tenuous, but both the poem and the painting deal with absence.
In Molly’s sensitive poem, a personal loss is registered and there is a tense equilibrium between the absence of one life and the presence of another. Hockney’s composition, however, captures the sad, dreary perfection of a Californian day by the pool. Here the pastel colours are deliberately drained of life, and the hard geometrical edges of the draughtsmanship are used to highlight the lifelessness of the scene. What is missing from this painting is the richness of life, there is no hint of a body anywhere. The splash that occurs is tantamount to an attack on the vapid soullessness of the scene, an act not of vandalism but of defiance and rebellion, a yearning for life.
Glint of shining Aqua
At times almost blinding.
A boy figure stands
At the edge of the pool.
Elongated limbs that will stretch
With the promise of years to come.
The grandchild he so longed for, yet never saw.
Impatient, he left before age could claim him.
Corn-coloured hair ruffled beneath the surface
Drifts like weeds on the riverbed.
Honeyed limbs, silky smooth
Bejewelled with crystal drops.
He’d have held your small soft hand in his.
Delighted as you tightly clasped
your arms around his neck.