Friday, January 15, 2016

Stumbling on Treasure

63 ~ some serious January sun and warmth in advance of a sinking cold front headed our way for the long weekend

Beware: We are about to "go round by Laura's house" to get to the point of today's post.

Today, I ventured to the SoMa (the South Main St.) District in Little Rock to find South Main Creative, an arts, vintage, antiques shop where individuals rent space within a single building and form a collective selling space. I went to South Main Creative to see what clothing they had from Blue Swallow Clothing Company, having seen and fallen in love with a handmade duster jacket owned by a friend.

The Blue Swallow clothing is just inside the door at South Main Creative, but before I even saw it, I got distracted by a small selection of old books and pulled out New Educational Music Course: First Reader from Ginn and Company Publishers, 1906. It's full of music and lyrics and I knew I'd buy it to use for collages. Turning to the clothing, the selection was limited, as all items are handmade, and I didn't find exactly what I wanted, so I'll have to keep checking back as the stock gets updated regularly.

However, all was not lost. I wandered farther into the shop and stumbled on a booth with lots of books on design and art. I crouched down and a large cloth-bound, red book struck my eye as the word "Vesalius" called out. It was The Illustrations from the Works of Andreas Vesalius of Brussels, a reprint from 1950. Once upon a time, a few years back, I wrote a poem inspired by the drawings of Andreas Vesalius, "On the Fabric of the Human Body Book I: Chapter 19: On the Bones of the Thorax" and looked at the images of this ground-breaking anatomist online. The poem appeared online at The Dirty Napkin, which has since gone defunct. I'll post the poem after the images, as the poem has not appeared in a collection yet. But back to that large red book. I actually spoke out loud and said, "Vesalius! No way!" and grabbed it up. Next to it was An Atlas of Anatomy for Artists from 1957. In my collage, I'm addicted to anatomy illustrations, so that went into the pile as well.

And my dilemma is this: Will I be able to cut up the Vesalius? I'm betting I will, but I might have to photocopy the best of the pages and frame the originals.

Here, then, are my treasures and an old poem at the end.

On the Fabric of the Human Body
Book I: Chapter 19: On the Bones of the Thorax

Vesalius broke the spell, unyoked Eve from Adam
at the Cemetery of the Innocents, later dissected

the bodies of executed convicts, and excavated
the dark intercostals, spaces where muscles and arteries

mask all our bad blood.  The Fabrica emerged,
a new view of what sustains, braces, and attaches

the body.  The true, false, and floating ribs provide
an elastic, protective cage around our hearts, our lungs,

and certain nerves, delicate as the tentacles
of the sea nettle jellyfish.  In one drawing, the rib cage

splayed by an arched back could be played
like a musical instrument if someone had fingers

graceful enough for the tapping.  A rasping sound
escapes from mechanical ventilation, the respirator

forcing the expansion and contraction, the movement
of the chest that reassures the bedside watcher.  Vesalius

predicted it.  Ventilation depends on the ribs expanding
and contracting; surviving depends on keeping the cage intact. 

Shipwrecked at 50, Vesalius sweated out his final days
knowing all of this:  The heart inside the ribs is a magnet

for whatever swings a clotted fist, and a cracked rib provides
a pain that radiates with every breath, a pulsing flame

steady as the blazing sword outside of Eden.
We cannot choose not to breathe.


Kathleen said...

Oh, my! Wonderful finds, wonderful poem! (I, too, recently acquired some old music, saved for collages or collage poem backing!!)

Sandy Longhorn said...

Thanks, Kathleen. So much ephemera, so little time. :)