An excerpt from All the Shades of Grief

On the anniversary of Van Gogh’s death

You, who wielded yellow not like a weapon
but like a looking glass. Did you find it?
The ochre on the inside of starry eyes,
in the yawning mouths of terminal flowers,
the hay in the buttery shade of cypress trees?

You, who forged blue into an ocean of tiny suns,
burning Paris back to itself on the wings of crows
scouring away their heartfelt blacknesses and cawing
in that moment, forever. The people in your paintings
always have such heavy shoulders.

It must have been unbearable.

from All the Shades of Grief

Author Statement: All the Shades of Grief

Dear Reader,

As I sit here, looking out my window at ferns and nettles dancing in the British rain, it occurs to me for the first time that the publication of my debut chapbook is a somewhat bittersweet occasion. Sweet, of course, for the obvious reasons. Bitter, because the one person I want to share it with most will never get to read it. Allow me to use this space to tell you a bit about that person, that such a person once existed.

My mother, Victoria Sutton, was a deeply remarkable woman. She was a teacher. She read me bedtime stories. She would write down the stories I told her, long before I fully understood what an author was. Every blouse she owned was purple. The only thing she could cook was spaghetti bolognaise. She took me to see a big Van Gogh exhibition in London. She showed me a beachfront in Italy where she fell in love once. She could always win something out of those arcade claw machines. She loved Peter Andre. She wrote I love you in the front of every book she ever bought me. Above all else she was unwaveringly and profoundly kind, a kindness of sorts that very few possess. Often, when I think of her now, I think of her before I knew her – as a teenager, charming her way across the US to visit James Dean’s grave; hiding a stranger from the police in the boot of her bright pink beetle; wearing bottle after bottle of Bodyshop perfume.

There is no way of dressing this up. She died when I was fifteen, after four years of a cancer that was supposed to have killed her within weeks of diagnosis. Death is rarely a truly peaceful process. For those left behind there is a cacophony that births a tinnitus that never completely dissipates. The poems in All the Shades of Grief give form to my own personal tinnitus. They are not all about the death of my mother but rather they are all coloured by the background noise of that grief, as everything is and always will be for me.

The result is, I hope, not intensely depressing but honest. And kind, like her.

All my love,
Ellora x