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Elspeth and Arco in Pisa
It's twelve feet from her left hand to his right eye, seven feet from the one point where their lines cross to the left edge of the canvas, eight feet from there to the top edge. Her name is Elspeth, his is Arco. They were friends for fourteen years, lovers for two of those, and they saw each other only twice after the scene I've painted, neither time long enough to say anything. Her family left Pisa for Wales within a month. He had his father's obligations to fulfill, and wasn't old enough to think of that as a choice. And in the end, impatient and frustrated, he chose a war not to return from.
 
soft time breaks open
soft fallen, hard broken
soft pardon, hard ocean
'til light hits her shoulder
 
It's eighteen feet from the leading edge of the easel, projected to the floor, to the only window large enough for it to go through. He should have known, but, I think, did not. She knew. Twelve feet between them, at what was essentially their last chance. But last chances are our romantic impositions. They followed their natures. History is what's left when the people who made it are no longer here to contradict us. They had a tragedy noble enough to define their lives, we have the logistical problem of getting this painting out of my living room. They had us, we have measurements.
 
cold water in a foyer
as autumns wash over
soft dreaming, hard soldiers
'til light hits her shoulder
 
There are two questions you asked, which I'm aware I haven't answered yet. One was "Why so big?" I believe I have attempted to substitute scale for insight, not for the first time. It doesn't often work, but in this one I think it says as much as I could hope for. What we don't know, we can't contain. The other, harder question, is "Which of them are we?" Raising a child in a rain-cradled coastal mining town, or watching her leave from a window in the library? I can only guess. We have her obstinateness, obviously, and you, at least, have her eyes. But there's the painting, and the window.
 
soft time breaks open
soft fallen, hard broken
soft pardon, hard ocean
'til light hits our shoulder
 
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