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Middle Tint


I had never heard of ‘Middle Tint’

Until you quoted John Ruskin,

Observing how the finest of painters

Devote most of their canvas to this


It sounds like an English village, Middle Tint,

Or a prescription for new glasses, in fact,

You write, it’s everything we take for granted

Each ordinary day, this overlooked life


There is excessively small quantity, said Ruskin

Of  extreme light and extreme shade,  All the

Mass of the picture being graduated, delicate

Middle Tint, laid before dark colour, before light


The going back and for, to school or work

The paying of bills, small joys, hidden hurts

The bolognese on Monday, the washing, the ironing

The colleague who dislikes you, a cloud, no silver lining

The tooth that needs filling, distant conflict, so much killing

Those thoughts in the night, the morning sunlight

Words spoken in haste, a friendship that breaks

The clink of the glasses, the moment that passes

Ambition that’s thwarted, most things that get sorted

Dirty mugs in the sink, all this, the middle tint


This is what you wrote Lauren F Winner

How Middle Tint is our rote, unshowy behaviour

We may not see it, but it’s most of the canvas

Our eyes drawn instead to

Births, marriage and death


Maybe this is prayer, most of the time and going

To church, the length of a life, And against this

Landscape – the joy and the gloom –

A bush flares into flame,

And someone


Walks away from a tomb



(After reading ‘Still’ by Lauren F Winner.)