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.
And other ancient mysteries.
Just the other day, we were discussing how it might be a good idea for us to pay close attention to the most enduring species, given our current trajectory. And then you showed up, looking like an underwater plant. Spineless, with branching appendages, radial arms, each like a feather. Where did you keep your fists, and how did you get this far without the opposable thumbs we so prized? What about your capacity for reason? Did you even have reasons? Name one, we challenged, but you were silent.
What you did was something else, and we couldn’t look away. You went on and on, catching what drifted before you. What you lost––namely, arms––you regrew. There is something here, we think. About the way you present as a walking plant, hiding in plain sight. We were trying to name it when you moved away. We were surprised by your speed. We wondered about your purpose but had to surface for air.
Then we went inland and sat by the banks of a river, the site of another flood. Being creatures prone to contemplation, we often sat at the edges of water bodies, looking for some way to understand the movement between life and loss. When the waters receded, we would see the crowns of drowned monuments, and these would knock against ancestral bones. And we would think of things to notice. Like how the river must know every stone it touches, and these. They went on, knocking, and we left.
Inspired by feather stars.
Let’s go see the animals!
This is of language, the sound and sight of it, the signature and sign. The undoing of signs. The shattering of symbols, the gong of their echo. Notice this tongue as medium, as manipulated, manipulating music, a polyvalent creature in motion, now still. Oops, there it goes again. Got it. Sort of. To borrow an expression. This is a form of attention. Here, touch it.
What, then, have you won? Give me No One’s name. Having long since rejected the assumptions of the acolytes of progress, I am gone from the metaphor that makes the conquest of my seeming forms its mark.
––And with that, from your ordered pairs: Nature/ Mind; Nature/ History; Nature/Art. You claim victory in classification and find structure only in subjection, erasure, my silence. You assume I am quiet now, but the frequency of this song is beyond your hearing.
What was the point of your logic, except to keep me? I am not the end, but the reach. This body is no monarchy, and neither are these wants, invisible to the lens trained on contours. This tongue of a thousand tongues speaks sound without border or death.
I do not guard myself from breaking into endless unknowns, refusing life nothing that it passes through this unnamed constellation of shifting membranes, and not one contains a subject you can recognize. Come away from the shadow of your scepter and see.
At night we watched the water, but her depths revealed nothing of themselves, all reflection and tides and unknowns. But once we looked and like a jumping fish it showed itself. We gasped to see Time. You! We almost said, but he was gone again.
What could we do with that? Dark and cold, she would neither be caressed nor worshipped, features afforded by our creatures, mountains, monuments. The mirror of her, looking back, knew us, and she held what we had meant to catch.
It was hard to face, our faces. We went back to carving our names. We carved them in stones that looked solid enough to hold them. To last, as the saying went, the test.
What test? We wondered, and the answer was Time. But time was submerged again, and the sea, seeming to see us, had always been more than we could take in. Now it was more still, and rising.
The space between fiction and nonfiction is often a no-man’s land, but the artists know it. Which is to say, they have become accustomed to its strangeness. Which is to say, accustomed to not claiming to know anything about a space so wild.
Now it is dense to the point of opacity, now translucent. Now deep dives under desert waves, now a barren ocean. Now the weather is a cat.
We asked one, what is your work about? When they were done laughing, they told us. It is about encounters with other people, they said. And water. Also, the search. For water, and for the others. In some places, both are elusive.
Inspiration: While considering the work of Ivan Vladislavić, I came across this article: “Diving the Reef: Water Metaphors in the Work of Ivan Vladislavić” and today’s post sprouted from my notes.
With cat and other creatures.
I was going to make a grand announcement.
A natural doubter, I knew I had to earn the right.
I thought it would help to learn some things.
I learned that I lacked patience.
One day, after years of preparation, the shimmering moment arrives, and I am ready to stake my most credible claim on a final silence. I accept, sort of. In the end, this will have the last word. Still, I want to stick around for the conversation as long as possible.
This morning, in a sort of interim silence that was not without the noise of pipes and a washing machine and car doors, I notice that the cat makes a muted mew in her sleep. It is unlike her other sounds.
I have a sense the cat knows many things, traveling as she often is, between here and the hereafter where she stores her other lives, among the other lives of what must be an immense congregation of creatures, and wouldn’t it be something to be in that church, hearing?
Whatever they are, the cat has yet to announce. She holds her silence and I hold my flimsy patience in midair with the posture of someone who has just forgotten why they entered a room.
It was a single date, but memorable.
Who wears a watch anymore? he quipped, except if you are trying to impress.
He was referring to the old watches that just did time.
Laughing as they entered the restaurant, she removed her coat to reveal a dress made of old watches.
What is this? he asked.
She had her reasons. It’s been a week of dark dreams, she told him, and she was done with fighting them off. They are creatures too, these memories. She supposed they just needed a home.
Now nervous, he tried to make light. So, do you have the time?
I have all the time in the world, she replied. Take your pick. Every watch was set to a different time.
Suddenly, he remembered something he had to do. There was no time to explain, he told her. Urgent business, he said. So sorry!
She waved as one does from upper deck of an ocean liner at departure, smiling.
What followed was a beautiful meal.
Inspired by an encounter with this reference to L. Mylott Manning’s Kiss the Dark.
In quiet devotion from within the crowd, you witness the sway of a collective in song, knowing this moment in transit a destination of its own, and call it Train Church. You seek out parallel moments, always from within. The stream crossing, the waiting line, the dancers, the cave. Outsiders wanted spectacle and you pushed back with ordinary life. The long looks of tired eyes over the horizon from the middle of a field, breaking from the labor of the day. The hanging clothes of late parents on a bare pole against a concrete wall. Shaded interior of a kitchen, ethereal light through pleated rayon curtains. The mist pushing against easy meaning, smoke against certainty, dust against the definition of forms. No, the magic won’t be captured, you insisted. Chasing shadows to witness, atmosphere to witness, sediments to witness––faces, in long attention, patient. Insisting, here is only the beginning of sight. Look again.
Inspired by the art and practice of Santu Mofokeng (1956-2020).
To move between the domestic and the otherworldly need not be some hero’s leap across some chasm, triumphant. We drifted back and forth, more gaze than choice. In this way, our tears translated to the pools of mermaid songs at bath time. Come, littles. Now the scalp, now the towels at our tails. Daylight done, lights out, out! The mystery had to do with its return in the morning, and we whispered, Tomorrow. Of the light and the pinecones, rabbits, and blue jays. They would. We would be there. We hoped tomorrow to put acorns in a pile, that the squirrels would see them and approve. That they would see us and know. We called our good nights to the moon. It was changing and we meant to see how. It pulled our gaze like tides, and we were out again.