The perfect evisceration. The process of embalming provided a secure journey to the next life. Along with dehydrating the body, internal organs were extracted and the hollow cleansed with a mixture of spices. Only outlines can survive the inevitable decomposition of all things. It is the point where distinctions between skins become irrelevant. This is Dürer’s Melencolia Engraving on copper.
I am made of the same sketches as the objects that surround me and so I will be forgotten. The novelty of wings in a room of my own design. I am nails on the floor, the horizon that slivers from a single point to the hourglass and bell. I like to think about absent clouds. Ladders that extend beyond the frame. I am disabled from action by these achievements. Feathers carved shut in a braid. A thought experiment: a wing exerts a force on the air. The force on the wing is equal in size but opposite in direction. This motion lies dormant in tools on wooden boards. I am old with nothing to show except a housing place for a failed universe. I miss dreaming, actually dreaming.
Käthe Kollwitz’s Pietà shows her shielding her dead son. He is huddled on the floor between her legs – he is not offered up for a witness to observe. In 1914, Kollwitz persuaded her husband to allow their sixteen year old boy to join the military. What happened ten days later would be a continual source of grief and shame. This work was begun in 1937 and offers no suggestion of spiritual recovery, forgiveness or acceptance.
Speck of two sparrows. The idiot savants recalling the weather. She protects until there is nothing left of anything. Neither set of eyes flicker in response. It is known. His protruding tibias are as defined as the folds in her cloak. If I stare too long at this sculpture, I feel I have been awake before. That this sentience has existed and is surfacing, piling up like the accumulation of everything ever written. I know this is untrue because only the reflections live there. In moving towards any oculus we do not choose what we keep. Love is finding someone on the ground by remembering the way rain falls around them.
The new guardhouse
There have been three versions of Barlach’s hovering angel. The horizontal sculpture traditionally hangs in Güstrow Cathedral and has been described as a memorial but not an admonition. The original figure was condemned for its passivity and smelted to aid the war effort. A reproduction was created in secret using the original cast and hidden in a village near Lüneburg. The cast was later destroyed by bombing. A third angel was created using a copy of the cast in 1953. This is the version we see today.
Lost gravity of an exploded star. The air, as incremental and sustained as voice, sets the figure apart and above. It inherits what it remains motionless enough to collect. Everything is as it is, and the sky beneath the angel makes it so. Industrious bronze from plaster. The body is hysterically streamlined for its inertia, yet the decisiveness of the cast reveals a need to take up the spaces. When it was melted, as it is now, it was used as a barricade. Art students may recognise the face. Her closed eyes display the purpose of her separate dreaming, her down-turned mouth shows a quietness akin only to time travel. Stillness is so much more than repetition. You must have me confused with someone who has somewhere to be. Käthe Kollwitz is floating.
[Lewis Haubus is an English teacher working in Sheffield. His poem ‘The Thought of You in Another Country’ was selected by Simon Armitage as the winner of Sheffield University’s first Festival of the Mind poetry competition. He has previously been published in Route 57 and Wordwards.]
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