The drawing above was made in 1980 at the UBC Museum of Anthropology in Vancouver BC. The museum building was designed by noted architect Arthur Ericson. It is a splendid space built around possibly the best collection of West Coast Indigenous art and artifacts. Splendid space notwithstanding, the roof leaks. The paddle depicted here is plenty strong enough for rough service, unlike the one referred to in the poem Museum of Anthropology -December 2018
Museum of Anthropology – December 2018
Totems hewn from overbearing trees,
we stroll among their wreckage in a wash of idle chatter,
the winter rains withheld despite a leaking roof.
This history of making and remaking
Is spread before a people no longer used
to fashioning of tools and stories.
We note a paddle made with lightness and refinement,
anticipate the pleasure of its suppleness, but
take measure of its frailty.
Willfully, its maker carved beyond
robustness meant for daily service
to satisfy some longing to attain
the paddle’s essence.
Hand upon the knife,
( January 4 2019)
I’m paying attention to my right hand,
the one that’s writing this poem.
It holds the pen in a loose grip.
Small muscles shape the letters while
the forearm spreads them on the page.
Such skill gives pleasure to the eye.
The pauses are not the work of the hand;
blame them on the editing
the mind imposes.
Don’t ask me to take that apart just now
or maybe ever.
We are taking notice of the hand.
The hand, reposing with a ball-point pen
is graceful in its relaxation.
I will it to move
To spread its fingers, curl and straighten them,
but it finds its greatest beauty
bolding a tool loosely
poised and waiting.
The skin that once was taut
is thin and slack,
revealing the meanders and the forking of the veins.
The tendons branch out over the knuckles.
There are half-healed nicks in the skin,
wounds that speak of struggle to impose the mind
on a resisting world.
Sculptors may shape this form in marble.
But after that there is nothing to talk about
except perhaps the beauty of the sculpting hands.
Those hands and mine are warm.
I have to thank this hand
It is old but serviceable yet,
restless in anticipation of the joy
when the tool it holds
is put to use.