xv. remote control
the manipulative ability of the hand which gives us hunger for meaning …
an old woman whose children died at birth and whose husband was lost at sea … one night she looks through an artist s window. when night comes, james ensor puts on a mask.
we work our fingers by remote control … the muscles are elsewhere. the fingers are connected by strings, like a marionette.
before choosing, james ensor touched the masks with his fingers. the old woman watched as he ran his fingers along the slack jaws and collapsed noses. as he pushed his thumbs through the vacant eye holes.
creation of meaning from nothing, we owe this to the hand. to reach, to pursue, to seize, to hunt. it takes nine muscles to control the thumb, an appendage so astounding that sir isaac newton believed it proved the existence of god.
for james ensor there are disadvantages. behind the mask, his face sweats. breathing is harder. but imagine the donkey relieved of its burden in the momentous painting of the christ s entry into brussels.
the artist is free. the old woman sees it.
Theresa Williams has poems and stories published or forthcoming in Gargoyle, Lilliput Review, Prime Number, Midwestern Gothic, The Sun and many others. Her novel, The Secret of Hurricanes, was a finalist for the Paterson Fiction Prize. The above letter to her friend Nancy reflects her interests in James Ensor, masks, and hands.