Oil and gesso on canvas Robert Ryman, 2004
As if it were still the 17th century, when conscious
just entered the English language, meaning secret and shameful:
the whitewash of brushstrokes over black. It was like erasing
to put white over it, Ryman says, but gives no hint of what—
everything we have words for is dead.
No wonder, Nietzche said, I forget; so it repeats, like a series
of couplets: In Hebrew darkness is not unrelated to childlessness.
Being 47, unmarried, without children and in love with men who don’t
is not a choice. It’s a compulsion. Last night I dreamt that I was a little
dressed in white, running behind a boy, down a dirt road,
searching for a home, and because we couldn’t tell which was best
we stopped at any house. It was owned by a blind man.
In Jane Eyre, it is after Rochester is blind in a fire that burns his house
to the ground
that he is finally free to marry Jane. And in the paintings,
what is present is what matters. And what is present
is not white paint, but paint that reflects white,
a lightwave, a stream of minute packets of energy photons.
first appeared in Colorado Review, Spring 2007
republished with author's permission