Art by Ann Trainor Domingue
Although it is a cold evening,
down by one of the fishhouses
an old man sits netting,
his net, in the gloaming almost invisible,
a dark purple-brown,
and his shuttle worn and polished.
The air smells so strong of codfish
it makes one’s nose run and one’s eyes water.
The five fishhouses have steeply peaked roofs
and narrow, cleated gangplanks slant up
to storerooms in the gables
for the wheelbarrows to be pushed up and down on.
All is silver: the heavy surface of the sea,
swelling slowly as if considering spilling over,
is opaque, but the silver of the benches,
the lobster pots, and masts, scattered
among the wild jagged rocks,
is of an apparent translucence
like the small old buildings with an emerald moss
growing on their shoreward walls.
The big fish tubs are completely lined
with layers of beautiful herring scales
and the wheelbarrows are similarly plastered
with creamy iridescent coats of mail,
with small iridescent flies crawling on them.
Up on the little slope behind the houses,
set in the sparse bright sprinkle of grass,
is an ancient wooden capstan,
cracked, with two long bleached handles
and some melancholy stains, like dried blood,
where the ironwork has rusted.
The old man accepts a Lucky Strike.
He was a friend of my grandfather.
We talk of the decline in the population
and of codfish and herring
while he waits for a herring boat to come in.
There are sequins on his vest and on his thumb.
He has scraped the scales, the principal beauty,
from unnumbered fish with that black old knife,
the blade of which is almost worn away.
Down at the water’s edge, at the place
where they haul up the boats, up the long ramp
descending into the water, thin silver
tree trunks are laid horizontally
across the gray stones, down and down
at intervals of four or five feet.
Cold dark deep and absolutely clear,
element bearable to no mortal,
to fish and to seals … One seal particularly
I have seen here evening after evening.
He was curious about me. He was interested in music;
like me a believer in total immersion,
so I used to sing him Baptist hymns.
I also sang “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God.”
He stood up in the water and regarded me
steadily, moving his head a little.
Then he would disappear, then suddenly emerge
almost in the same spot, with a sort of shrug
as if it were against his better judgment.
Cold dark deep and absolutely clear,
the clear gray icy water … Back, behind us,
the dignified tall firs begin.
Bluish, associating with their shadows,
a million Christmas trees stand
waiting for Christmas. The water seems suspended
above the rounded gray and blue-gray stones.
I have seen it over and over, the same sea, the same,
slightly, indifferently swinging above the stones,
icily free above the stones,
above the stones and then the world.
If you should dip your hand in,
your wrist would ache immediately,
your bones would begin to ache and your hand would burn
as if the water were a transmutation of fire
that feeds on stones and burns with a dark gray flame.
If you tasted it, it would first taste bitter,
then briny, then surely burn your tongue.
It is like what we imagine knowledge to be:
dark, salt, clear, moving, utterly free,
drawn from the cold hard mouth
of the world, derived from the rocky breasts
forever, flowing and drawn, and since
our knowledge is historical, flowing, and flown.
About the Artist:
Ann Trainor Domingue has been a full-time painter since 2013, after a 30-year career in advertising. A lifelong New Englander who lives in Goffstown, New Hampshire, she aims to ground her work in the working waterfront.
Nearly all of Domingue’s acrylic and oil works include what she calls her “every man,” a fisherman figure whose story travels and evolves from painting to painting. She recently added a woman, which she says has allowed her to push into a more abstract realm. It’s the characters’ gestures that tell the story — the way they’re positioned, how they interact — as opposed to the minutiae of a face or a garment. “I don’t finish the story. I leave room for people to interpret it as they might, and as they connect it with their own life,” says Domingue, who is 61.
Her bold colors and abstract strokes are meant to convey a sense of optimism. “I’ve been accused of looking at the world through rose-colored glasses,” Domingue says, and she likes it that way. She says her paintings bring joy and happiness to her audience, and she’s most creative when channeling positive energy.
One of Domingue’s paintings made the rounds at galleries before landing back in her studio. She realized she wanted to add something to it and change its title, giving it a sort of facelift that speaks to the artist’s belief in an ever-evolving story. “I’m just kind of winging it,” she says with a humble but self-assured laugh. If she’s not pleased with the way a painting is turning out, she paints over it and uses the underlying texture to start again.
With a foot firmly planted in salt water and a curious mind that wanders the coast, her paintings give viewers space to do the same.
— Krista Karlson