You told me once, all about it. How you stood beside your mother in the transept of the cathedral and became flooded with blue. How the recipe of pigments used to stain the glass robes of the Virgin had been lost and couldn’t be replicated exactly since. And I could see you, your face still holding childhood in its cheeks, tilted upwards, awash in the adoration of cobalt-streaked light.
A hunger for that colour nested in the creases of your eyes and perhaps you imparted some of this desire to me in the womb. I have caught glimpses of it, pulled at the threads of a prism only to be disappointed when all I found was air.
So, the summer you brought us back to your village on the sea, I searched for it in the palette of the sky. I found a whisper in the tracery of veins on my daughter’s eyelids as she lay asleep in the stone washed hours before dawn. I even felt tints of it in the brushwork of my body. Fleshier than I was used to, I saw tongues of blue in the stretchmarks that were etched into my lower stomach and thighs, where the swimsuit bit too deeply into my skin.
And it was there, walking together on the beach at Bertra, that I came the closest to it. The child ran in front of us, kicking up spray. Three generations stepping lightly over waves that carried a memory of how they once had bowed their heads against your infant legs. Those feet were knotted and stiff now, but your toenails were girlish still. Each cuticle furled and unfurled itself into a pearly glaze, bright as freshly washed bedsheets billowing against the sky.
The clouds above us were enamelled by light. It poured though scratches in the quatrefoil of grey, anointing the cracked surface of the sea with a tender spectrum of grace.
You stopped suddenly, looking out to where an overpaint of sea mist hummed against the bay. Your fingers grasped mine and I felt your bones through the inadequacy of skin. “Look…” you said. “Look at that colour…” and I knew by your face that you were in the cathedral once more, at swim again in the alchemy of its blue.
I was so desperate to see it. I searched and searched the horizon, but it escaped me. All I could see was a dull silica haze, melting slowly into the endless glasswork of the sea.
Anne Daly is a writer who lives in Co. Meath, Ireland. Her short fiction and poetry has been published in a number of journals and anthologies.
Her debut pamphlet Triptych was published by Alien Buddha Press in April 2022.
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