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Roy de Maistre

Roy de Maistre

Christ Divested of His Purple Robes c.1950
oil on canvas board
40.6 x 30.4 cm
Monash University Collection

You’re naked, almost, hands above your head and you’re tangled, come here let me help you with that. It looks like a purple rose. I’m with you, in the warm dark moment between your ribs and between the folds and between the hands. It’s a sail and it’s taking you somewhere; Red Violet Lake, Blue Violet Lake, the best pencils in the box and you’ve worn them down to stubs to make yourself this place.

You say that those who’ve suffered have a depth of soul to them, I say you make your own worlds, you’ve learned how to make your own worlds, a black hole in that purple robe wreathed around your head, it’s your universe, it’s the universe you’ve built and carry with you, it’s a rose, it’s a cloud, it’s your world and you’re entering into it, head first.

I keep finding you over and over again, across time, people are sending you to me, the pale back, that particular bending in the middle, the fabric bunched up over the head, like a child always changing. I see you over and over in slightly different positions, the wings exposed the ribs exposed the back of the neck, the shoulders, the curve of the hips, the curve of the calves, the thighs, the not-too-white undies; is it a panic or a relief to expose yourself in such a way, or

are you already gone

and what am I left holding if so, in those pincers, the wrench and the paw and the four little fingers, are they yours or mine it’s hard to tell anymore. This isn’t some sweet moment, you’re about to die, and you don’t even get that pretty purple dress to do it in.

Sometimes I want to give you a little push, a shove from behind but instead we sit, and I wash your back, and I put a red bird to my lips and sing and sing and sing. You say it’s returning and I’m not sure I want it to; you say the coming back is the thing but I’m not sure it is. I feel an ache in just the part that’s hidden, the chest and the stomach, I had my eyes closed and I never even knew.

I bow my head at the bareness of it, we speak in whispers or not at all and how to go on, all those baths and all those undressings and for what, and the shadow seeps into your ribs, and the shadow seeps into the rose, and I can’t get close to you but that has to be ok for now

but let me look at you let me just look at you because we didn’t really do anything wrong did we, really, just bent our heads to one another and held out our arms,
we just held up our arms and said help me off with this will you,
we just held out our arms and said hold this

Mel Deerson is an artist and writer living on Wurundjeri land. She teaches in Fine Art at Monash Art Design & Architecture.

Blue Rose by Mel Deerson

Mel Deerson's reading of her text in response to Roy de Maistre's
Christ divested of his purple robes c.1950