OPEN STUDIO AT THE ARTISTS COLONY by Nancy Kline

by Steven McCabe

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VCCA, February 14, 2009

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The visual artist in the studio next door is knitting stainless steel and silk. She’s disabused now, she makes prints of clothes unraveling. A dark skein stained. She’s knitting up the sleeve of care.

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Electric ukelele down the hall! A white piano plays itself (we all do, here). It has no hands. The trombone-player has composed a piece starring an interstellar Po’ Boy. He slides us along. He sings us a valentine.

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 I’m writing flash about my mother, while the writer on the other side of this white wall knits her long narrative of the Great Silk Road.  

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   When the undertakers wheeled my mother through the livingroom in a body bag, I turned my face to the wall. But I’d already seen how fast flesh, absent of her, became trash.

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This, despite the fact it takes so long to die. My friend Diana tried for months and months to do it, pregnant with her tumor. Death, it turns out, won’t be rushed. It takes its time, as birth does. My baby daughter was ten days overdue, I went into the backyard and jumped up and down. To no effect.   

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 And yet. Thanksgiving night I went into my mother’s bedroom. She was weeping. “I don’t think I can do this anymore,” she said.

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If she had lived another week, she would have been a hundred-and-one. I said, “I think if you can’t do it anymore, you won’t. I don’t know even what that means. But I believe it.”

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Mother had a will of steel and silk.

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 “Thank you, you’ve helped me,” she said. 

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Six days later she was dead. 

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Across the pebbled courtyard, someone’s making art with smoke, with milk. The smell of linseed oil floats on the air.

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Nancy Kline’s fictions, nonfictions, reviews, and translations of modern French poetry have appeared all over the place – including here: see Eluard’s “Klee” (March 14, 2013) and “No Hard Feelings” (Feb.14, 2013).

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I felt compelled while addressing Nancy Kline’s beautifully poetic work of flash fiction to visually catalogue, in the sense of Joseph Cornell’s boxes, memories opening and closing, fading in and out like distant radio stations. And, while traversing the distance between equally rich worlds, to hint at a diaphanous cloaking, absorbing both light and darkness.