August 19, 2012

Virginia Slachman

BLUE HAND

The artist must search deeply into his own soul, develop and
tend it, so that his art has something to clothe, and does not
remain a glove without a hand.
—Wassily Kandinsky

Today at the glass factory I fell in love with a blue-veined reticulated glass
hand. Heavy, cold and translucent, it is not a hand held out in love
or forgiveness. This hand is simply a hand, simply itself

devoid of intention. I admire most, beyond its heft and cool
presence, its detachment. I am much too fond
of detachment. As was Kant; his devotion to disinterest

spawns beauty like Athena sprung from the head of Zeus. Across the way
men in overalls dismantle an old house—whining power tools
mix with wood’s hollow call. I should be reading

Lorca but instead I’m flipping through a book on ornament, page after page
of hand-wrought symmetry in gilt and finely wrought intricacies;
the knots, the flowers, the pendulous, hanging and spotted

pointillistic moments of pure color and form. Today I sent my daughter
a new pair of gloves—black, supple leather with a cashmere lining. I can
still feel the weight and smooth elegance of that blue hand, cold

as my mother’s the day she died. I wasn’t with her though I recall the March
day. I make myself picture touching her hands, cool and a little
blue, the veins full of motionless tide that just seconds before

had rocked to a halt after the pump stilled. For Lorca, the darkness of death
is the light of the imagination. I’m not sorry to be devoid
of feeling. Its absence leaves the mind’s blue light

cool and composed, yet even it struggles against the infinite which is
without reason. There is nothing of use to say about our private
losses. The house across the way is now merely mounds of stacked

bricks—clay and straw molded by men gone to dust long before the cool
calculation of economy judged it
extraneous. The book’s heft contains millennia we’ve strived

against disorder, constructing geometry’s repeatable patterns—
squares the haven of protection, lines of predictable journeys
and a good end; countless lotus baptizing us over and over in pure

radiance. How we make whole the fragments of reason—a vase, a wall,
a stone relief … things that call to mind
what is lost. My talisman is the body’s enactments: a blue hand

standing in a pool of light. And my daughter’s—warm, thriving.

from Rattle #36, Winter 2011

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Virginia Slachman: “My poems are frustrating and bull-headed. This poem (I thought) was about art, about an eerie blue glass hand I saw and couldn’t get out of my mind. But of course it’s not about art. It’s about what terrifies us—love and loss.” (website)

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