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Painting My Emotional Landscape with Bob Ross
Shevaun Brannigan


I am not a painter. I am not a happy person.
I do not see a blade and think mountaintop,
I do not see turpentine and think fresh start.

You tell me I have to make a major decision.
I have to decide where the mountain lives
in my world. Where the light is going

to strike. It’s overwhelming. To say
that I am my mountain, and that light strikes
anywhere but here, is to not follow

the quick study wet-on-wet technique.
So I paint the mountain, its snow, scrapes of
white paint turning gray as they meet

the mountain’s black. But how is that snow
? I hear you ask. I paint a half-hearted moon,
glowing behind clouds. A lake. And trees,

you always need trees, but the only way I know how
to make them happy is to paint them thin and
surrounded by their kind. Still, spindly and too dark,

they are, at best, indifferent. Bob—
if I am not just the mountain, if the mountain
does not define me, if I must too be the moon,

however veiled, then I am also the reflection of
the mountain, of the moon, the trees, in this
deepest lake, where all is blurred, and—for I am

not a painter—mirrored inexactly.
The moon too large, the mountain too small,
and my signature drowning without mate.

Shevaun Brannigan’s work has appeared in Best New Poets, Rhino, Redivider, Slice, and Crab Orchard Review. She holds an MFA from Bennington College.