Her Own Bones
Bright spot of a dream: creature's bleach-bone skull, cleaned of decayed-dead sinew, flesh, and fur. Found entombed among granite chunks. She remembers the skull as fist-sized, hers; she recalls making a small fist those thirty years ago to judge proportions and then suddenly became aware of her own bones. Was it baby squirrel, fox, or raccoon? Neither skeleton, nor limbs, nor paws; a solemn discovery, not for adults. Coffin surreptitiously constructed from a large kitchen-stove matchbox, then stashed in dresser drawer; her back-bedroom. She'd slide the bone into view, later push it to secrecy. Naïve scientific-marveling and religious-worshiping implications about her own young body; small hands touch sensitively, feeling the greater design. Teeth aligned and sized in perfection. With child's paint-brush were tiny-clod remnants of dirt and cobwebs carefully removed, brush caressing bone and somehow creating, something ripening.
Childhood recollection electrified today by a Brooklyn Museum trip: seven hundred years of European paintings, previously displayed, now invisible; vision-sealed eyes in wooden crates. Boxed silent, unseen. Hooks and name placards still on walls, slight dust-dirt outlines of frames. Imagine what is not there, now. Who is packaged with whom? Imagine the painterly fingers. Who faces whom? What angles, what pigments, what brush-strokes, what ages barely touch? So sealed in darkness, masters of timelessness, so stifled of perpetual conversation, manipulators of earth's human-historical colors. Wherefore now her boxed skull-bone?
Working from the beginning, her memory considers the water.
Chafed-old grandma hands rub-wash clothes in barrel-preserved rainwater, scrubbed loud on a brown-soap washboard. Several days in hot-summer sun, cooled by evening's gloaming, tiny larvae inhabit the depths of the water deposit; they then surface to succor mid-day sun, awakening from invisible sleep, quick-wriggling in escape spasms to the drum bottom.
Which in turn brings her to examine water on earth.
Wooded vicinity scouted for orange lizards under green-lichen brook rocks. Stream-fed pond, gushing water; pools housing clusters of frog eggs, jelly masses protected by blankets of fuzzy-grayish water moss. She treks the way of the stream; enticed by a childish sense of adventure walks dangerously across precipitous-slippery stone slabs. Monstrous, stinking weeds. Cache of jump-stretching frogs, dear friends. Thus stagnant and foul; bleak and horrible; yet light-sparking, a puddle of honey-reflecting amber fluid, unknowable; cosmic realization: origin and end in dirt and mire. Glory since earth-shared: what heritage, whose? Fetid pond—but cleansed by infusions blasted off nature-hewn water-stones. Engrossed by minutiae lost to adult myopia. Quiet air, void of sharp machine-noise, only distant-scattered sounds: slow rumbling of rickety-wooden box cars on steel-shiny freight rails, reminders that one is not alone, as she often imagined, indeed wished.
Like a mythological Lithuanian forest creature, she.
Breeze-hovering birds, flit-floating butterflies, and snap-sharp insects, flight patterns creating an invisible interstice; fleck-clouded blue-backdrop, distant universe. Gnat hoards burst forth, suffocating. Incorruptible air, sunshine medium revealing: foreground, yellowed slight-blue buttercups; background, staid green-tinted mountain. Hard-layered ground afoot: mushrooms brown-red, white-gray, dulled-bright growths sneaking beneath the dark corners of moist soil-rotting fallen trees. Dimensions and creases soft and manifold, everywhere crenulations. Potato bugs and creepy crawlers. Provoked to touch—unknown pleasures and poisons. Profuse ferns, deep-green, wade-refreshing foliage sprouting amid speckled granite, calling: come, see, reveal.
Why is there something rather than nothing?
Examining her work-rough hands, paint-stained fingers, turpentine-dried nails, she knows hers is the art now that hangs in this museum, her vitality; but with the others temporarily blind-quiescent, who perceives?
words: Gregory F. Tague, New York (website)
image: Steve Wing, Florida (about & more)