What do you call the records kept by those who escape from war with nothing but their lives and memories of the dead? Not History, but its adjacent double. The shrapnel in tissue when the bleeding learned to stop waiting for peace, to start saying this is the leg now, the cause going no further than the blast itself as if to say, here is the end of time as you knew it as if to blow into injury some reminder: this is the living now.
These fragments from the blast, this thread that bound us once so long in the weather and the sweat of my grip, past the point of being able to imagine an end or a beginning, love I only want to offer them to you, for keeping even after safe is gone.
An offering to other hands.
Over large canvasses, he painted whole body, whole space, his life.
When his given form could no longer rise to meet the wall, his family offered theirs as new mediums.
He used a laser pointer to guide their hands, the paint. Saying No, there, and Yes, like that. The work evolved, with them.
I miss being able to do it myself, he said, but it’s about the art and you have to go where it takes you.
Inspired by the life and work of of Frank Bowling.
Notes for a community chorus.
Like this, she said, hands open, singing. Gonna let it move me, she sang, and we followed, fingers splayed and pressing into the space of the circle we made with our attention. Now stir, she said, and we did, and it stirred us up.
Let it come, she sang. We laughed, cried. Feel this, she sang, and by then we couldn’t help ourselves because our centers had shifted to the space between us, and it was this that we pressed with our open hands. It was into this that we poured our voices, surrendered our attentions––
And we held it like that, stirring and singing together, here. Something shifted, and we went with it.
Life, she sang, let this life.
Eventually, talk turned to having and spending; to getting and maintaining, as it often did, and you could feel the way we became coiled springs ready to fire and everyone was excited and no one could sleep, it was so much.
Another time, there was nothing and no talk anymore of what could be got. Even our resistance to loss had gone out of us, and it made us porous. There was no more talk of keeping, except when it came to someone at the hearth and the babies fed.
A vessel, once emptied, can only carry what comes into it. A hand, outstretched toward another holds the world in its emptiness. The fist is what you get when the cold is too much for too long and the hand forgets itself.
In warmth, it remembers its radius, star-like. Then cupped with another, it cradles what is delicate and brings it to the lips, an offering in earnest––or to another, saying here.
An (expanded) video version of this post is available here.
Aesthetic aspirations of an avian artist.
Deep in the forest, on the floor where the art risks trampling by a large mammal or easy pillage by interested parties, the bowerbird assembles his offering. His shrine is an elaborate risk of time, energy, and attention, a seemingly superfluous display of beauty.
Here, a passageway built of two rows of arched sticks bending into one another. Here a wide arc of blue feathers, blue bottlecaps, blue plastic knives, marbles, a costume ring. At the center, a wide-eyed doll, arms splayed and open-mouthed.
The offer comes with no promises beyond the pure beauty he makes visible by this daily art. He makes no pretense of protection, procures no food for the young. You will not catch him visiting the babies in a nest. The audience observes, moves closer, weighing the draw of what beguiles against the risk of being fooled.
This is his hope: to put forth something so dazzling in its excess of devotion that the ideal witness will find it and be moved, close enough to offer some hope of continuance.
Inspired by reading about the beautiful structures built by bowerbirds of Australia and New Guinea (by the males of various species, in the interest of courtship), which brought to mind Robinson Jeffers’ observance of “divinely superfluous beauty.”