Regeneration

Regeneration
image_print

The artist descends to her workshop. The stairs creak underneath her feet. A lightbulb hums. With a rustle of plastic, she uncovers her project. The artist hides it so her wife and daughter, rummaging for a winter coat or out-grown toy, won’t see. Not yet. Upstairs, her wife shuffles papers at the kitchen table. Their daughter has fallen asleep at last. The artist considers her sculpture. The ears are correct. Symmetrical, small, with intricate hollows and unattached lobes. The earrings are spherical studs, fissured and whorled like tiny brains. The rest of the sculpture—the artist listens to the low, insistent voice inside her head—is wrong. The artist spritzes her creation. She pounds it back to formlessness. She gets to work.

+

The artist descends to her workshop. The stale air smells of day-old tea. As the artist uncovers her project, particulates swarm. She sneezes. Her daughter’s nose drips like a broken faucet lately. She went through tissue after tissue at the ceremony. And after, when her daughter laid her tired head against her shoulder, her hair gave off the watermelon scent of kid shampoo. The artist considers her sculpture. The nose is correct. Bony and narrow, with flaring nostrils and the shallowest channel between the tip and top of the lips, which—the artist inhales, frowns, and exhales—are wrong. The mouth needs work. She begins by destroying the woman in front of her.

+

The artist descends to her workshop. Her wife is washing dishes. The artist tongues her teeth to free a sprig of spinach. The neighbors brought a casserole. Traditional. She uncovers her project. The sculpture’s lips are lovely. Pursed and dainty, thin lips scored with tiny lines. They move in her mind, but what will her daughter retain? A powdery kiss on the cheek. An ice cream sandwich in the kitchen. Cigarettes and mothballs. Her accented croak. Some phrases from a bedtime story. Hug after hug after hug goodnight. The artist hopes. The artist fears: a still, flat image. Even less. She adds the laugh lines, wrinkles, scars. The mole on the side of her chin. She cups the sculpture’s cheeks between her palms. Almost. The body is not the soul, and yet. She can’t undo the face before her, can’t even recover her. The artist ascends the stairs in tears.

+

In the morning, the artist descends to her workshop. Light pours through the basement window. Birds chirp and her daughter is laughing. The ears. Her wife brews breakfast tea with lemon. The nose. Cereal and milk slosh into a bowl, the mouth, and dribble down her daughter’s chin. The skin. The artist blinks and reaches to crease the sculpture’s lids. She paints black circles ringed with brown. White crescents with stray threads of red. The artist lays the rescued wig (white curls) around the heart-shaped face. Stands back and meets her mother’s gaze. Becomes in that instant her daughter again.

+++

Alex Blum

About Alex Blum

Alex Blum is a fundraiser living in Berkeley, California. His writing appears or is forthcoming in the Texas Review, Santa Clara Review, Hobart, and Necessary Fiction. You can find him on Twitter at @a_blum.

Alex Blum is a fundraiser living in Berkeley, California. His writing appears or is forthcoming in the Texas Review, Santa Clara Review, Hobart, and Necessary Fiction. You can find him on Twitter at @a_blum.

Leave a Comment

Your e-mail address will not be published. Required fields are marked *