My white grandfather uses his narrow hallway to display the work of his granddaughter. The wall acts as a timeline, dating back to my first kindergarten project that is now curling at its edges, yellowing from time.
Calendar Contest 2004: won
Two young boys face each other with rosy cheeks, and open smiles. They wear corresponding winter jackets with matching mittens. Between them a near complete snowman begins to take form, with coal buttons and branches for arms that look like long stringy fingers. The boy in the green scarf is reaching up high on tip-toes with a carrot in his hand, ready to finish their masterpiece.
Their faces aren’t colored in: white as paper.
Comic book Contest 2005: won
Supergirl is fighting a villain I have since forgotten the name of. They both are midflight, surrounded by puffy clouds. The sun shines as a half circle in the top right corner. Supergirl’s hand are balled into round fists, and her hair blows in the opposite direction of her cape.
Her face is neither apricot nor peach: white as paper.
Picture book Contest 2006: won
A ballerina joins a clown on a boat ride. They pass through twists and turns as they point in amazement at every new exhibit they pass. An enchanted forest with tiny fairies in sparkling dress shine brightly on the third page.
All of their faces: white as paper.
Self-portrait Contest 2007: lost
This is the first time I have colored a face in.
My skin: the color of rust. I excitedly overcolor. I am burnt and too dark.
The rough construction paper broideries are ripped at the corners, as my grandfather hangs up the wall art without order. But as he takes his guests down the hall, he points at the white faces I’ve drawn: stamped with 1st place ribbons. He tells them how he passed on his artistic gene, how we spent many afternoons doodling in a sketch pad together. He tells them nothing of the way he would erase the penciled shadings of my characters faces until they were once more as white as paper. And now they all hang, as if it’s a collage of evidence, a wall for him to point to and say, look at what I’ve taught her.
Vanessa Zimmerman is a poet currently residing in Ithaca New York. More of Zimmerman’s work can be found in The Merrimack Review, Sagebrush Review, Slipstream Press, The Healing Muse, Literature Today, and Serendipity magazine.
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