Clift

Will Clift: Curving Over, 2017, mahogany, courtesy Gerald Peters Gallery

Never simple neglect; it must be exotic. I doubt

my father knew the family anymore than I did,

which was not at all. Hippie-homesteaders, living

in a remote part of New Mexico, where tornadoes

might gouge twenty-foot-wide wounds. The girl

and boy: plain, pale, welcoming — nine years old,

led me from their mobile home, through snake-

weed and cholla, across a bone-dry patch, to a trio

of pines, from which they’d tied a sheet — stained

membrane holding desert sky at bay. Beneath it,

we lay, side by side, staring up from June-dirt, still

as saints, with little said. The girl, like sun or moon,

positioned in between, her orbiting hands soon in-

itiating a gentle exploration, so that the sightless

land slowly came under the compass of her touch:

commanding not just skin or nerves or limbs but

cholla, snakeweed, brother, sky and wind. As if

a whole world had been placed brimming in her

palm to deliver what seemed a sweet sort of sin

to belly, thighs, spine, chin. A timeless feel to all

of it, as with most childhood memories; panoply

of thought and sense still suspended. And I am

like that facet of my eight-year-old self, again,

which always kept to a certain remove, while on

my milk-bright body a lost friend’s hands keep

administering a new sort of script, the wish of

whirlwinds, electric reverie, this dusty, near-

forgotten arabesque.