Stone and Wind
Carl T. Abt
I have a child of stone. I dare not tell my husband or daughters. They would not think it healthy of me: I invest so much into my sculpting. But their thinking isn’t what counts. They won’t be around after we die. The child who carries my name will be stone.
And nobody will be forgetting my name – not when I have a statue this big to it. I dangle from its nose, a rope and pulley system holding me where I can use a torch to polish the surface above his lips – Native American chiefs weren’t big on mustaches. Crazy Horse was no exception.
I’ve been carving Crazy Horse into a mountain side near
Dusk has arrived for those on the ground. Up here though, I have a few more minutes of light. There is always more light for those above the daily affairs.
I close my eyes and the world is remade.
In my self-imposed darkness, I remember the wind, as it tries to unbundled my hair. I run my calloused fingers over the rigid lips, passing over the rim, and on up to the nose. No matter how many times I had read the stone texture like Braille with the half-conscious dream of finding my name, with my eyes closed these are shapes I cannot know the ultimate meaning of.
What I have given birth to here wasn’t just larger than human scales: it was beyond human comprehension. But you could only know that when you couldn’t see. Someday, my daughters would see that when their silly dreams of being writers and politicians proved themselves to be dreams. They would see that no matter how large they made themselves, life would always be larger than they could comprehend. That is the truth you see when you close your eyes. They said they would understand that one day, when they had given birth. I’m not so sure.
The wind shifts and shifts till it is impregnated with such a cornucopia of scents they dare me to define them. There are bird droppings, dust from the drills, granite tainted with minerals not cataloged. The second you try to put your finger on which one has come to you, the wind changes, and the world is new again, like a child who changes scent every minute from mud, to soap, to vomit.
I shudder, and open my eyes; my world is back.
I lower myself to the flat surface that will eventually become Crazy Horse’s arm, and will be all but tattooed with my name. Until I unbuckled my tool belt, a dozen handles tapped my thighs like they were my daughters learning to play the piano. The wind sang through the slack ropes like the violin strings my daughters had also pinned their dreams on. With a few practiced motions that let leather groan against steel clasps like a mother bound to unbending children, I free myself of the harness, and light up a Marlboro.
I’d told my daughters to find dreams that could be more than dreams, dreams that did not ask you to close your eyes, dreams that could be real. Like accounting. Or child care. But they would have none of it. Writing. Politicking. I told them how few people made a living at these, and they rallied by the word hypocrisy. How many people got to be sculptors? I told them I was lucky, but luck wasn’t a concept they shared with me. No matter. Let them drown themselves in poverty: I didn’t need them to carry on my name.
I take a drag, letting the Marlboro take a calming hold on me, and then let the smoke drift out of my mouth: I’d smile if I went out with that white cloud as long as my name stayed down here. I’d burn my name into stone even it left nothing of me but smoke. I’m not afraid of standing on the edge of the cliff. Death cannot hold itself over you when the world will remember you. And no one will forget my name. So I bring fire to my lips. So I stand one step away from the forever abyss. And so therefore I am.
I take a step closer to the edge and flick the nearly spent Marlboro into the valley below, which yawns like a great maw big enough to swallow Comprehension itself. I lean over the edge to watch the cigarette be extinguished before it had given all it had to give. There was still smoke left in it – and where there was smoke, there was fire, that power which could make a name burn brighter. Then a gust tore itself up into a fury from out of nowhere.
There was a clatter of loose rubble, and then I was falling. This is not a cartoon. I’d looked over the edge enough times to know there are no convenient trees growing out of the side of the cliff. Wouldn’t have wanted those on a statue. Statues were for names.
My heart quickens, but I am not afraid. Two hurricanes brew below, out of the last light of day, their screaming winds never ruffling my bundled hair. But I am not afraid. I have Crazy Horse, my child of stone. But what would Crazy Horse say if his lips could move: “When people look at your work, will they say your name – or mine?”
I close my eyes. The air is stone-still, but I fall, and in falling, hear the howl of wind that is not wind.
(First published in May of 2008 by The Denney Stall)
BIO: CARL ABT is an English major at the Ohio State University where he has been admitted to advanced creative writing classes in fiction, poetry, and non-fiction. He has a dozen previous or forthcoming publications in The Houston Literary Review, Expressions, The Denney Stall, Ink, Sweat and Tears and other journals. His website: http://sites.google.com/site/carltabt/
MOTIVATION: "To imagine what might drive someone to dedicate their life to a single work of art - and imagine what sort of person would do it for the wrong reasons."