A short story based on the evocative title of Emiko M. Venlet’s piece, “I left my poems at your heart”.
“I don’t… look, I’m sorry.”
I feel those words thud against my chest each time I remember them. The flatness of her eyes looking back at me—not angry, just wholly resigned. Defeated, maybe.
One moment I was at the foot of her bed, sweaty fingers scrolling through my Notes app, a voice shakier than I was hoping for filling the space between us. The next I was in her apartment’s hallway, standing awkwardly as though I forgot how, or even why, I needed to leave this carpeted stretch of comings and goings. I could have stayed there for an eternity if it weren’t for the audible sound of her neighbour eating spaghetti. I wanted to press my ear against the door. Not her neighbour’s, God help me, but hers.
What could I say, if she opened it? Now that my words were at her feet, how could I scoop them back up? I spent three weeks on those sixteen lines. Three weeks, labouring over the perfect rhyme, the perfect word. And now, I’m in her hallway. Staring at a burgundy carpet, noticing my right shoe about to untie itself.
Please, let me take them back. The poems I left at your heart aren’t for you.
Except—they’re also not for anyone, but you.
Seven years later and that one perfect poem still hangs in the space between us. Do you remember it? I can’t remember the words. I only remember the smile I thought you would have. That smile lights me up every time, and then goes out. Like a match that doesn’t take.
That one perfect poem.
Stuck in the stretch of comings and goings.
I left my poems at your heart.
The last dance was on me.
Silence fell and we began again.
You kissed my flowers and that was the beginning of our end.
Each of these lines are not mine, but the provocative titles of Emiko M. Venlet’s paintings. Are you as captivated as I was? Every line begs for a whole story, and so I jumped headfirst into the tiny one you may have read above. I ache with curiosity when I think about Venlet’s internal narratives behind each title.
Venlet is an artist, poet, and storyteller who lives in North Vancouver, BC. You can see all of her work here.
To me, her work captures the vibrant nostalgia of our imperfect memories.
The feelings attached to memories can be visceral, like they’re happening for the very first time. It’s as though we turned the saturation all the way up. The minute details, though, are less in focus (save for a few). And that’s what keeps us coming back and back. We ache to fill in every detail, to jump into the memory fully, but we can’t.
When I take in Venlet’s work, I feel like I’m looking at a memory from someone else’s mind—a sweet moment from their childhood home, or their favourite way to spend an afternoon. The granular details aren’t there—instead, we see broad strokes of plump colours. The perspective of her pieces is somewhat distorted, too; and it’s not meant to be perfect. What we are drawn to are the colours, patterns, and light. Just like our memories.
We are in a persistent flux between focusing on our past or future and then being pulled back into the present laid out in front of us.
Venlet’s work also features scenes that appear overwhelmingly ordinary. At face value, there is no drama. A vase of flowers, a half-finished tea. We’re looking through the eyes of someone going about their day, mid-cutting some flowers from their garden. And yet, their internal life could be in turmoil, or ecstatic anticipation, or heartbreak. Our thoughts are taking us elsewhere constantly.
Venlet’s scenes of simple, everyday moments coupled with such provocative titles (such as the piece above) highlight this challenging, beautiful part of being human. We are in a persistent flux between focusing on our past or future and then being pulled back into the present laid out in front of us. Cutting some flowers. Finishing some tea. Most of the time, the present is an afterthought, a backdrop to the thoughts that captivate or torture us most.
I highly encourage you to support Venlet’s work and peruse her paintings further, along with her own descriptions of each series. Thank you, Emiko, for pulling my own understandings of our imperfect minds to the surface.
Until next time,