Untitled

by Sara K. Bown

 

 

 

Sára Kasanová Bown was born in the Czech Republic in 1993. Sára works predominantly in the medium of video and photography. Her art is often based on performance and everyday observations of mundane objects and moments. Her work deals with perception of memory as well as current events. Currently Sára is a BFA candidate at Brigham Young University. She has repeatedly received juror’s awards in both the Mayhew show and the Annual Student show at BYU. In 2016 she interned with David Thorpe in Berlin, Germany. She currently lives and works in Provo, Utah. 

Evelyn’s Hands

by Heather Thomson

Evelyn considers objects with her slim infant fingers, moving her digits slowly, independent of each other—absentmindedly, automatically: she has not yet learned to control her movements. In her sleep, she moves her fingers in long elegant waves, like the legs of a spider on water, and shoots her hands up above her head when she hears a bang, bringing them down slowly—eyes still closed—with fingers spread, as though in worship. My daughter’s hands are like a spider’s web: softer and finer than you might expect, and as lightweight and translucent. They are cooler than you would expect, too, and do not possess the supposed death grip—the kind that Annie Dillard’s weasel had on the eagle’s throat—and the kind that Evelyn’s mouth has on my breast when suckling, with a tongue-tie limiting her motion, restricting her jaw. Two innate abilities: to suck and to grip. Her fingers are loose where her mouth is tight.

I suppose it is commonplace to contemplate tiny hands. Each of her fingers is its own delicate strand in an intricate web of bone and flesh and purple veins, forming hands that are, at two months old, two inches by one-and-a-half. I study her palms, between the creases where the black fluff from her little gloves has gathered.

But I study her hands as metaphor, too.

Of course, there is the time-old, clichéd question, which I’m sure every new mom has asked: what will these hands one day do? Curiously, I don’t think about this much. We read hands like the wrinkled map of one’s past, or the bright pages of one’s future. More generally, we use the hand as synecdoche: a part to stand for the whole (person). Give a hand, lend a hand, ask for a hand in marriage. (If she to me is “hand,” then I to her am “breast.”) Instead of reading her future in her hands, I try to read her present.

I have seen her carefully wrap her fingers around the cold steel arms of a pair of scissors her father was using to cut off her hospital bracelet (he stopped just in time). I have seen her reach for other objects, warmer, friendlier ones: the healing fingers of her chiropractor making miniature circles on her jaw—gently massaging the bone. I have felt her knuckle-white nails in a colic rage sink into my flesh. I have felt her fists pound on my breast in hunger. And, I have seen her stretch those same hands just barely above her head after a good snooze, shake them with anger before a cry, and wave them in delight when she offers us a smile. People say that crying is an infant’s only form of communication. Evelyn’s hands seem to suggest otherwise.

As I’ve been writing this essay, Evelyn has learned how to bring her fist to her mouth to soothe herself, similar to what she did with her fingers in the womb. She’s combining her two instincts of sucking and gripping. Eventually she will learn how to more fully use her hands. How to pick things up, for instance, developing her fine motor skills. Her communication will later more fully switch from her hands to her mouth: she will begin to speak in words, her sounds now being only cries, grunts, babbles, and gurgles, many of them still unintelligible to me. Some may say that even at her present stage, the mouth is still the predominant communicator. It may be the more obvious one. But the fingers were in motion first, before the sputtering cry in which she gasped for her first breath.

She never wanted to be swaddled, having all her limbs restrained, tucked close to the body, a position that is supposed to mimic being in the womb. Even then, she wanted her hands free: during ultrasounds, I watched the black and white images as if they were old silent films, of her sucking her fingers, clasping them together, and, once—as though with a dramatic flair—putting her hand to her forehead, palm up. She is her mother’s daughter, I thought, as I watched her on the screen. My husband and I don’t put the socks on her hands that are used to prevent scratching, nor do we cover them when she sleeps. In fact, the only time we cover her hands is to bring her outside into the Canadian winter, and even then, we leave her arms free to move, putting only her gloves on, and popping them off as soon as possible.

When referring to the procedure to alleviate tongue-tie, they use the euphemistic term “clipping”instead of “cutting,”as though it were only an ancillary fingernail, instead of a membrane of flesh (called the frenulum) holding down the tongue. A baby is clipped if the membrane prevents her from breastfeeding properly; tongue-tie can also later restrict a child when she begins to speak. When they clipped Evelyn, they had to restrain her hands so she would not grasp at the instruments.

Restraining hands is meant for suspects in metal handcuffs. Not Evelyn, who—unsuspecting—had her own hands restrained beside her body in the folds of a sterile white hospital blanket moments before the procedure. Suspects are told they have the “right”to remain silent. The right to not speak, which also implies the right to speak. Her way of speaking—with her hands—was taken from her, as it would be from a person who was handcuffed and only spoke sign-language. It was seeing the restraint of Evelyn’s hands that made me look away in pain, not the blood gurgling cry that would follow, which was like a second birth. In Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Little Mermaid,”the heroine exchanges her voice for a pair of legs by having her tongue cut out. In Evelyn’s case, there was also an exchange, but we made that decision for her. Her tongue would be freed at the price of her hands, though they were restrained only temporarily. Thirty seconds to be exact (at least, that is what we were told), though it seemed much longer. When the clipping was finally over, she breastfed with blood streaming down us both, and she pumped her upper fist at me, as if to make sure I knew she never wanted to be silenced again.

As for my own hands, one holds her now as she feeds and subsequently sleeps; the other types, one-handed, fingers like spider-feet stretching for the keys. It’s like playing a difficult piece on the piano: let not your left hand know what your right hand doeth. People keep telling me that Evelyn has piano player hands. I smile at them, politely. I realize that most of them are merely commenting on her anatomy of long, slim fingers. But I don’t want others’ ideas imposed on her of what she should do: I want her to choose for herself. She is now only beginning to learn what her hands may do, what they can reach for, what they may grasp. In this moment, it is my own hand in hers. Sometimes, though, I catch myself wondering if—and guiltily hoping that—like me, she will eventually turn her hand to writing, that her hands may once again be the medium through which her voice is heard.

 

 

 

Heather Thomson is a recent graduate of the MFA creative writing program at BYU. She currently lives in Montreal with her husband and newborn daughter.

A Letter to Sunday

by Ellie Peek

Dearest Sunday,

I saw your RSVP on the calendar. From now until the end of the days, there you are. What a well-mannered end of weekend. You are always on time, with a full gift of hours.

You bring 24—same as your brothers and sisters. Yet, something about the way you give yourself stays with me. Seven matching offerings, given differently.

Dutiful Monday will close my hands around its small, blue container. Friday, with urgency and ribbon, appears a large, red, and mostly empty package in my arms. These must be opened and put to use. Sunday, you are that familiar rectangle. Brown paper, string, and a good weight to you. You do not demand to be unwrapped at all. Your gift is simply given, without implication or cellophane. Your gift is time—time to do nothing at all.

I often ignore your golden, early parts. I even sometimes let your middle slip away. Always, I roam aimlessly in your quiet finale. I make circles and half-circles across your surface. I read fiction, I wash myself, and I smell something cooking. I know you would never use me for obligations.

Sunday, use me for easy things. Use me to rescue firm, bright cherry tomatoes. Use me to fold blankets. Use me to pet the cat, and pick tiny black hairs off a skirt for an hour. Use me to eat more than my share and to feel uncomfortable. Use me to leave dirty dishes in porcelain stacks by the sink. Use me to free braided hair, in irreverent curls on my shoulders, and eventual knots. Use me to beg forgiveness.

Let me waste you away. I’m sorry I always waste you away.

Sunday, your obligation is simple: arrive, always. The task is thankless and crucial.

You are a promise that exists before and after me. I weep when you go, for not using you better.

Sunday, the overflowing cup. The muffled hiss of curtains across a stage.

God’s only moment to sigh.

I sigh in you too, but not like a God.

Lower me with grace, into another round of seven.

1/7th yours,

a committed sinner

 

 

 

Ellie is an English major and senior at BYU. Her favorite writers come from the Harlem Renaissance and professor recommendations. She loves poetry even when it doesn’t love her back, and plans on pursuing an MFA in Creative Writing.

Checkers

by Ellie Peek

Jacobo Guitart de Virgo, my great grandfather, used to play checkers with Francisco Franco. In the heat of August they sat outside together, turning blood-red. They sat, wrapped up in royal guards and confined by the hundreds of big white windows with small black balconies in Franco’s Palacio Real de El Pardo. Small heads sometimes popped out from the glass—looking severed—to see who was winning. In Spanish checkers, the uncrowned pieces are called “men” and the crowned pieces are “kings.” My great grandfather and Franco were loyal fascists, but I imagine Jacobo chuckling when he said, “King me!” to a dictator. They had become friends in the Spanish Army. I have seen a picture of them together then, at the Infantry Academy in Toledo. In the picture they are standing close—standing like brothers.

Franco’s real brother, Ramón, was killed in an air accident during the Spanish Civil War. His body was found, bloated and salty, near the coast of Majorca. What do living soldiers talk about after a war? Do they play checkers in silence? Do they slide the black and red pieces beneath floating heads and dead friends? They must have said some things while they played. The two had so much in common: both were conservative and utterly Roman Catholic, both loved their families and named their daughters Carmen, both were mortal and died in Madrid. I wonder if Jacobo ever dared to bring up Franco’s missing testicle. It went missing when Franco was 23, dropped off at the thumping of machine gun fire. Perhaps Jacobo did bring it up, and so Franco smashed his glass of Cava on the stone patio.

The white tiles bloomed crimson.

The young guards flinched.

 

 

 

Ellie is an English major and senior at BYU. Her favorite writers come from the Harlem Renaissance and professor recommendations. She loves poetry even when it doesn’t love her back, and plans on pursuing an MFA in Creative Writing.

Chuck Taylor Blues

by Mel Henderson

  1. When I was thirteen, the pink-cheeked counter girl at a frozen yogurt shop gasped and called over a co-worker to show him that our eyes—mine and my mother’s—were exactly the same: the same blue, same bones, same eyelashes. As if we were the same girl, now and later. My mother quietly rolled her eyes.
  2. My mom called me a “difficult shopper,” especially for school clothes, because she always had to ask. Did I prefer the navy skirt over than the tartan? The herringbone or the plain pea coat? Did I prefer the cordovan penny loafers or the chestnut ones? Sure, I said, and I picked one, trying not to roll my eyes.
  3. Once, when I was six or seven, I bit her on the arm through the grey wool of her tailored suit. I don’t know why I did it; I was never a biter. I remember the taste of the wool. I remember her scream and how she sent me away. I don’t remember being punished.
  4. I wore them all at least once—the khaki skirt, the cordovan loafers, the plain pea coat—so that they wouldn’t go to waste. Most of the time, I wore jeans and yellow Chuck Taylors.
  5. When I drove her especially crazy she would declare, like issuing a curse, that one day I will have a daughter just like me, and then—then I will know what I have put her through.
  6. I am the mother of three boys. Now I will never know what I put her through.
  7. She said females are mean; they can’t be trusted. She didn’t say “girls.” She said “females.” Men make better friends, she said, so she had hoped to have only boys. But of course once she had three wonderful females, she said she wouldn’t change a thing. Not even cursing me with a wonderful female of my own.
  8. Between the ages of fourteen and eighteen, I went through three pairs of yellow Chuck Taylors and one pair or cordovan penny loafers.
  9. An immigrant businessman friend said I get my looks from my mother. He said, “This is good for you.” I think my mother is pretty so I was flattered. He said I get my personality from my father. He said, “This is lucky for you.”
  10. I’ve been told two different stories about the moments just after my birth: (1) Because breastfeeding should commence at once, she suckled me immediately. (2) Because the delivery had been unspeakably painful, she asked the doctor to knock her out immediately. I have never asked her which really came first.
  11. Why would a mother ask to be knocked out—to vanish into the unconscious dark—just when the worst part is over and the reward has arrived?
  12. What do the mothers of mothers know that I, a mother of fathers, may never know?
  13. When she was teaching me how to use mascara, she declared that women with rounder, cat-like faces are universally considered more beautiful. She lamented that her face is not cat-like. She denounced the shape of her elegant nose, the curve of her modest lips. But my face, my shapes—God gave me better things. God always gave me better things. She slammed a door to go think about that.
  14. I do not know if Chuck Taylors come in cordovan or chestnut.
  15. If I’d had a daughter, I know I would have dressed her in tiny little yellow Chuck Taylors while she was still too small to bite me.
  16. We recently walked into an ice cream shop, my three boys and I. The girl behind the counter smiled when she noticed my sons all have brilliant blue eyes—and that each has his own distinct shade of blue.

Rock

by Wesley Turner

The four of us were busy with college and one of us was poor, but we decided to get passes at the local climbing gym.

Back when Sarah was in middle school, she attached her harness wrong and her forearm learned how to make a right angle. She used to get scared of slipping when she started climbing again, but now she isn’t afraid. She climbs and falls and climbs and falls and uses up all my time belaying her. Her boyfriend bought a ring without telling her and then he proposed in the mountains. She said yes—what else could she say in a place so close to God? When Sarah gets to the top, panting with her chalky fingers clinging to that last plastic rock, she whispers to her rope thank you thank you for catching me. You’re always there to catch me.

James talks about grigris and ice climbing. He says that if he can’t find his climbing shoes he can buy a new pair, and that he’s fat and it’s okay. He laughs because some rocks are called “jugs” and because the men constantly have to readjust their harnesses. At the top of his climb he says—loudly—you needn’t worry rope, I don’t intend to fall. You know just as well as anyone that I’ve never fallen before.

Lenny used to stutter, and he didn’t read well, so he had to go to a special school for a while. Whatever school he went to compounded his awkwardness and then he started wearing glasses. Still, he climbs gracefully. The first girl he ever kissed wept because it was snowing and Coldplay was going in the background and can you believe that? It was her first kiss too, and she’d waited a long time for it. She said sorry, sorry and he said its okay and kissed her again.

I stumble now and then when I climb, but I’m decent. When I get to the top, I glance down at the three of them, so far below, feeling guilty that of the four of us I’m glad I’m me. I turn to my rope, about to thank it, about to wish it a nice day. Instead my rope speaks to me. It tells me to find some real rock, to get out from under this ceiling and feel the cold earth pressing on my hands. It tells me to try falling where no one can catch me.