August 19, 2012

Virginia Slachman


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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