“Daddy’s Helper” by Annette Snyckers


Your hands on wood,
(tongue between your lips)
and I—only a girl, not the son
who should be helping—
I sat and watched,
sometimes was allowed
to hold the end of the measuring tape—
I could not take my eyes off your hands,
how they caressed the wood,
held the paintbrush, concentration
furrowed on your forehead.

Because you believed
women’s hands should not
handle implements,
tools and paintbrushes
(we would mess it up),
you never taught me.
I watched, and learned
to use my small hands
only later, when they grew
into a woman’s hands,
my eyes to measure things
to within half a millimetre,
to plumb as straight and true
as a level.

I paint in translucent layers
on canvas
the way you painted
walls and cupboards;
my hands get dirty
and I inhale, thrilled,
the smell of turpentine.
I have disobeyed you—

but I know that now,
you would not be angry.


Annette Snyckers is a visual artist and poet living in Cape Town. She studied literature (English, French and German) at the University of Pretoria and later Fine Art at the University of South Africa. She was a high school teacher and translator before dedicating herself to the visual arts. She is a painter and graphic artist working in oils and mixed media. Her poems have been published in literary magazines and online in Aerodrome and The Stellenbosch Literary Project. Her work was selected for the following anthologies: Difficult to Explain edited by Finuala Dowling, For Rhino in a Shrinking World edited by Harry Owen, The Sol Plaatje European Union Anthology 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015, and the McGregor Poetry Festival Anthology 2014 edited by Patricia Schonstein. Annette writes in English, Afrikaans and German.

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