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An Indiana Sun
In Memoriam: Dorothy Burke I have this friend whose first relations he accounts to all species of snake, a maker of masks molded from human faces, whose hands have been shaped by the insinuations of his wet clay against those faces, carrying away their designs into his studio lamplight with a hawk's distinct precision in her descent toward the earth. Personally, I've not made friends yet with death, since I despise too much my thirst for an end to the touch between breast and hip, the angular arch of a spine against my palm, the sweep of a thigh up against a buttock, the ankles riveted to pirouetting feet. I love all things breaking under my touch far too much, the seconds growing longer with each pendulum's rush to seize its lowest point of rest, a host of dark birds building a fortress out of moonlight just past the crackling circuit relays of telephone lines, a childhood home still rising out of my dreams like fresh bread. To make a mask is to occupy an oxygen made momentary in the capturing of something sardonic in the grace of a chin, or a cheekbone's pensive holding up of eyes bearing witness to their own suddenly found creation, penetrating the shadow inherently blent into the sunlight streaming through a door. You, my friend, have found a stage for your waking death, and so I praise you, bless you, as any friend would. Beyond this, there's nothing to weigh, no desires slamming their car doors against my temples, no paint spilling out of inkwells, or sunsets to stencil into perishable landscapes. My grandmother has just died, and so I lift the white carnation of her last breath into a light purely waiting for us all on the flip side of every sleight-of-hand junction between wrist and a gated heart, flooding her with the sound of my mantra. Once, we played Scrabble in an Indiana sun, on a patio table made of black iron, a humid heat swelling out of the tamarack reeds in a woods far below us, the pungent smell of cut grass filling the afternoon air as we laid words out in a race to eclipse each other's score. What of those words now, I wonder? They've blurred like chalk in rain, yet have grown round and lucid as grapefruit in how some of them must still be here among these. I grow closer to my own face. Can you hear it, old spirit, among the spirits of all grandmothers pronouncing my name, your name, the names of species of bird and snake, the name of my friend whose masks are awake with sunlight in the language of the unnamed, where you play your last word, using every letter on a triple word score, each square a sacred tablet you've made your own scripture out of wherever you may be now, nowhere and everywhere?
Recently, my grandmother died at the age of 90. This is both a tribute to her and my friend Kep whose masks are a delight to behold.
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