Poetry by Maureen Wilkinson

Making an Etching: Copacabana Beach, Rio, Brazil

First warm the zinc, and coat it with brown wax.  I'm using
a hard ground.  Draw with a point to open the first lines.  Our balcony
was twenty-two floors high, above the stranded
beach and promenade:
that's why I've drawn
binoculars, or rather scratched
two big enclosing circles.  They dissect the picture plane
diagonally.  I found you outside, beach watching.  At first I thought
your motives voyeuristic.  Later I
got hooked myself. 
  Within the rings, outline
the magnified sunbathers.  Outside the rings draw smaller supine
figures.   These will be lower etched, an almost random
patterning of form, like leaves on grass.  None the less try to catch
their sense of soporific concentration.  Slide the plate
into the nitric acid.  Time four minutes, while dispersing
air bubbles with a seagull feather.  Watch
the lines darkening.  We passed
the binoculars between us, while the sun moved round
two numbers in the sky.  Mostly we traced
the ripple of beach pedlars, selling cokes,
dope, halved coconuts, bikinis.
Rinse the plate
and using block-out varnish blank out all
but the circles.  Re-immerse in acid. 
A photographer entertained us by approaching
girls, who'd then pose at the ocean's edge; standing at first, then
kneeling, perhaps splashed
with water now; tits out, hands shaped to thighs: 
then straight back to the sunshine.  Maybe that's
how they choose the next Miss Carnival.
Rinse the plate.  Use solvent to dissolve the wax and varnish. 
Apply a surface texture, using aqua-tint, which is a chemical
dust, burnt on.  It's best to wear a face mask.  Paint on black
block-out varnish where the flamboyant light
curves onto flesh, and on the sea's long lip.  Dip in acid for two
minutes.  Keep repeating this sequence, slowing etching in the shades
from bright to dark.  Later we walked the sea front;
past rinks of white hotels, and showy palm trees;
watched joggers and posers, saw the street kids sleeping
across the afternoon on old settees.  We took in the Sugar Loaf
Mountain, saw the towering sky-high Jesus, (wreathed in scaffolding),
rode cable cars.
   Now clean the plate
meticulously.  Soak a sheet of thick white paper.
Work black ink into etched metal.  Wipe the surplus.
Place in an iron press. Shroud with paper.  Turn the handle.  Print.

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