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The Dime
wilowisp
Pass the postcard! Everyone grabs a postcard and begins to write, being inspired by the image. (It does not need to be a literal translation) After 20 minutes, pass the cards to the right. Then after 10, do it again. Keep going around, giving smaller pieces of time, until you get your own postcard back. Ready, set, write!

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We wander through cathedrals, museums, historic buildings together. We search for the statues, carved images in stone, frozen moments backed by the weight of marble and granite. In the churches, we find angels and gargoyles. Beatific and grotesque, both guardians reveal the power of man, shaping stone with hand and faith. Historic buildings have gargoyles too, occasionally, but they also have grand pillars and buttresses, doorway arches and windows carved like lace. Here too a sense of the old and well-worn prevails. In the museums, though, things are different.

The stone and the statues of the museums are vast and varied and challenging. We find oblique granite shapes and are told they represent man’s struggle against pain. We stumble across pillars with thousands of sheets of paper tacked on, a protest against the modern world, and we agree timidly, mourning for the marring of perfect stone for an imperfect ideal. Then we huddle into the side halls, calming ourselves with small jade statues of the Buddha. Three of them are arrange in a tight row, with the largest in the center, serenely smiling. It makes us smile in turn, and we relax into each other’s arms. We are afraid of new stone.

There was a statue in a French museum. It depicted an orangutan overcoming primitive man. My French is poor and Drake had to translate the plaque for me. His eyes furrowed in displeasure, worried by how yet another artist seemed to be mistreating his materials. How could something such as this truly reveal the content of one’s heart? Carving stone is an act of love, not of biting politics. Everyone other statue we’ve wandered by in this museum as been similar; same gross misuse of hammer and chisel. I agreed with him at every other one, though we rarely have need to speak aloud any more. But this statue in French is different. I cannot say why to him.

That night, in our hotel room, I dreamt of a woman. She was carved of stone, but not ancient and knowing cathedral stone. She was shaped and formed from new stone, chisel marks so recently smoothed away that I flinched at the violence of it. She was imperfect, with hands that refused to come into focus. She watched me, as if through a window, mismatched eyes imploring. I knew, from the fresh curves of her exposed breasts, that she had peeled herself away from the same vein of rock as the statue that morning. French primate and primitive. The line of her back and the angle of her neck were of the same ilk, the same brood. She continued to watch me, needing something; direction, maybe, or perhaps a purpose. I remember feeling trapped by the unseen window between us. She felt that way as well from the way her blurry hands fluttered behind her nervously. She was a prisoner, but I? I was something else.

We sat in a park the next day, Drake with a book of French poetry published anonymously. I tried to draw the woman, pencil lashing out against another blank page. I could not get her right. My pencil was too thick, the day too bright, nothing coming in the same sepia tones she lived in. Drake asked what I was drawing, and suddenly secretive, I just shook my head.

A small boy came up to us then, dressed in a make-shift costume of robes and a crown. He giggled nervously and then looked behind him, to where and adult kept a safe but obvious distance. The boy then began to ramble quickly in French. I only caught a few words. “School” “Please” “Afternoon” Drake smiled and responded in his soft, lilting French. The boy shyly answered a few and then ran back to the safety of the adult, who hugged him and took his hand. “A school play,” Drake informed me. “He’s asked us to come to his school’s afternoon performance of ‘The King of Apples’.” I had never heard of it, nor had Drake, and we were unsure of whether to attend or not. The child had been earnest, but the French had overwhelmed me so quickly. And there were still cathedrals and museums to see.

In the end, we decided not to go.

We moved through the parts of the city with streets we loved best. Corner performers and open case musicians, all looking for a little extra money, but still sincere in what they did. Two weeks before, when we had been in Barcelona, there had been performers on every block, large piece musicians and statue people. We loved these people, dressed in white and marble, who sat stone still until a coin dropped in their cup. Then they moved slowly, like liquid rock. There were less street performers here, but the freedom of it remained. We stopped to listen to a man sing a beautiful son, accompanying himself on guitar. We sat in the shade of a building, on steps near two women in love. They passed a cigarette between the two of them. I was surprised by their openness until Drake reminded me that they weren’t being open, that they were still heavy with their secrets, and we two were just keen on picking up the signs. These women seemed oblivious to anyone but each other to me, yet then they looked up at the two of us and gave us a look. We smiled back.

The man ended his song, garnering a generous round of applause but surprising lack of monetary appreciation. As we moved to leave, Drake put too much money into the musician’s case. Part of me worries when he does grandiose gestures like that, but the rest of me loves him for it. We traversed the crowd, moving slowly don the street some more, making out leisurely way towards the day’s sights of shaped stone. We passed by a couple of brightly costumed individuals, one with a large mask on his head. They too seemed to be calling people for a play, but the distorted mask of the one and the words on the other’s sash made it clear, even to my poor French, that this was a political play. On the verge of happening right there in the street, it seemed, for the force of their passion was almost overcoming them.

Drake was tempted to go see the show. Politics do not belong in stone, but elsewhere, he is drawn to it. He wants to pull me along, but I quietly refuse. I could not bear to attend this show after turning down the innocent boy in the make-shift robes. Drake understood, I hope, but in any case, took my hand and continued down the street.

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