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Thursday, January 9, 2014


there’s a lot we still don’t know about how a dress comes into being. modern life obliges us by delivering a bolt of silk organza paper - wrapped to our back room, and we acquaint ourselves with it, we ruffle, we tuck, we ruche, we share the fate of the fabric. forty - three spools of silk ­ thread are waiting at my right hand, to be transformed, our future.

but the dresses don’t exactly start with us, any more than a poem starts in print. the dresses don't begin when our package arrives by post, or even when i put pen to paper to trace a flutter, a flounce, a gather. but what is gathering the fabric before cloth is even involved? it is like a rhyme turning over in my mind, and it's not even words yet, just the shape of a sound, or the rhythm of a few sounds together. nothing is out loud yet. it might never be. maybe one word emerges.

i suppose the dresses can go on like that for quite a while before really getting my attention. a persistent dress eventually puts a pencil in my hand. on paper the flyaway notion approaches a phrase. to follow its meter faithfully, i need needle and thread to stitch the dress into spoken language. every flounce and pin-tuck has its origin in a stitch, no matter how tiny or hidden.

so maybe a series of stitches is becoming a slip. its progress may be mysterious. it may have to serve as its own incomplete map. i might see that a ruffle wants lengthening one minute, and the next moment i may face the flapping fabric of an immense dust - swept plaza in mexico.

the thread is still in my hand.

have i let a dress take me too far afield? it was a whisper, and nothing more. it was a couple of pretty words tacked together. it was an innocent turn of phrase. It was a couplet, a flight of fancy, and it has landed me here among the marquesas and a million barrels of mescal.

tremendous doesn't begin to describe the hacienda. abandoned doesn't quite capture it, either. inside, the hacienda is inhabited by its own winds, layers of paint and paper revealed by the breezes of time. a dusty refinement pervades.

the caretaker is in with the winds. he always finds something to sweep away. the caretaker is listening to a whisper, too, and he has made his own capture: on the display of his phone, a few delicate flourishes are visible in the dark, not much more than a flounce. he doesn't know who she was, is. she must have been of this place. or maybe this place was of hers. was, is, was. she appears to be of the same stuff as the ruffle. i try to see the photo on his phone again. just like the ruffle. a little longer, maybe, than i pictured, but as ethereal, as far - off. as near.

for me, this is an unexpected meeting. i traveled a great distance to come here. i certainly was invited. but there is no invitation to show, no formal names in antique longhand, no seal.

the thread is here, however, and the dress, and a woman wearing it. she might not know any more than we do, what we are invoking. we will be happy if we can capture even a handful of the images that turn within these colossal walls. most images are elusive! you can’t harness them. they wait for us, just out of view. they hide in time’s wrinkles!

likewise, how many flutters and seams suggest themselves to me and disappear? i can only capture a few dresses. they must be the devoted ones.


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