the river I live on is the Rio de los Brazos de Dios, or The River of the Arms of God. It's really hard to leave this place, and I'm suddenly looking at taking off in the next two weeks after being here thirty years. I reallly have to get out of my emotions and into my intellect.
posted 4 years ago
my mother wrote this. I can't read it without weeping.
Elisabet Ney, Sculptor, to Her Small Son Arthur, Dead of Diphtheria
Liendo, Hempstead, Texas, 1880
So still, mein Herzchen? Never a royal head has posed so well.
At last that awful fever's fled your brow, now cool as this clay.
Never fear, my son. Mother knows—
Mother knows so many important things—
Old Prometheus who stole fire from heaven,
shaped the first man from mud,
Mother's strong hands are working
—not in cold marble, you see,
but in this living, magic earth from the banks
of the cool stream where you love to dig with your spoon—
working to create the tenderness of baby's flesh
so that your sweet face may smile again,
and those fat legs grow and bestride the world.
When Mother's work is done, Athene, the all-wise,
with her owls will come, hü hü,
and with her breath—
See, meine Süsse? The royal heads of Europe stand watch around us,
all crooning to you, my darling, that you may have courage.
Ludwig of Bavaria from his fairy castle on the Rhine—
he built me a studio there you know;
the King of Prussia—I gained a necklace from him;
Victoria Regina, Queen herself and mother of kings—
a gold and diamond bracelet from her;
and from blind George V of Hanover—
a circlet of diamonds and emeralds—
those trinkets, all yours, to amuse you
when this work is finished—
And look—there's Grimm, too,
spinner of your favorite fairy tales,
urging me on in the lamplight as I labor.
Sour old Schopenhauer frowns in the corner,
like that backwoods Doktor with his terrible decrees.
We'll pay no attention to him.
Can it be dawn light already? But where is Athene?
Come now, wise Athene. Breathe life into this cold clay!
Spanish moss weeps from the sacred grove beyond the window.
Never you fret, Liebchen. Mother will find another way.
The flames, Liebchen, you must not fear.
Great Goddess Demeter, in the guise of an old nurse,
would have made immortal the little prince in her care
by passing him through the flames,
had not the queen halted Her before the gift was done.
Mother knows better the ways of the gods
than did that foolish queen.
See? This time the door is locked.
By my order Cencie has laid the kindling and brought the oil.
She and Papa may fret outside the door,
But they will thank me when this rite is over
and you, my dearest Arthur, emerge all pink and smiling.
Your Papa dubbed me deity of this grove.
For all his dry studies on the stuff of life,
it is I who now am goddess here
and can make immortal whom I choose.
And oh, mein Herz, it is you I choose.
I'll sing you a lullaby
while I do this difficult thing
Alles ist ruhig und still wie im Grab;
schlaf' nur, ich wehre die Fliegen dir ab.
All is peaceful and still as the grave
Only sleep. I’ll brush the flies away
Schlaf' nur, ich wehre die Fliegen dir ab.
Brave boy, my heart. No tears? Mother's hands
are blistered and she has a cinder in her eye.
Why have the gods forsaken us in this alien land?
Nu, nu. Never you mind.
No matter that verdammte Doktor
said that your sweet body
reeked pestilence like some plague rat.
When the peasants ask, I shall tell them,
my own, my dearest little son, that the Greeks
cremated their dead kings
when they fell on foreign soil.
posted 4 years ago
my mother used to take me to the Elizabet Ney museum in Austin, TX when I was a child. I was struck by her work, but I never knew how important it was to my mother until decades later. My mother lost several children before I was born. She loved every one of them.