by Akim Reinhardt

Traditional Carved Red Wood with Flow Lines

I say carve.

You imagine a chisel flaking or chipping or gouging wood or stone.

I say line.

Now you see the chisel slicing and curving redoubled trenches through the surface.

I say straight.

You stir uneasily in your chair, or readjust your stance if you’re standing, perhaps mildly shrugging one shoulder. The chisel, for reasons you can’t imagine, carves a straight line. It is not rotating, turning, angling, or otherwise expressing itself creatively. It is simply working

This is not art, you murmur to yourself. This is just a straight line.

So odd, the word murmur. What a strange assortment of letters. A row of three, repeating itself once. rum rum backwards. Not red rum, such as murder backwards. Just rum rum. Why even one rum, much less two of them, cleaved together for reasons that are beyond us?

There is no rum here, light or dark, no molasses, no slaves. No triangular trade, carved through the Atlantic Ocean by large, wooden sailing ships, from Britain or Portugal or the Netherlands or Spain to Africa, usually West but occasionally Central, to the Caribbean islands, or perhaps to Brazil, and once in a while northward to the North American mainland, before returning back to Britain or Portugal or the Netherlands or Spain.

No triangle at all. Not three straight lines, each connected to the other two at its ends, laid out in right or isoscelean or equilateral or scalenean or obtuse or acute configurations.

A square. A rectangle. A rhombus. A parallelogram. A trapezoid. Sails full of wind. Wooden hulls bouncing on untamable waves. A rum-soaked weaving of amorphous, spikey shape, spewing blood and profit and ballast, gold and ivory and thick syrup. Dispensing tin and iron and wool, gunfire and wails and barked orders.

And black slaves. Black African slaves. Working alongside brown slaves. Brown Indigenous slaves. Black African slaves replacing brown Indigenous slaves. All of them worked to death. Laid low by diseases and ardor and malnutrition.

They all can perish from too much toil. But the Indigenous slaves can runaway. Have somewhere to runaway to, without having to walk on water, like the preaching, bearded demi-god, spawn of Heaven’s baritone shadow, who secretly fucked a woman named Mary, even though she was married, and in whose names all the carving is justified. The shadowy father. The fucked, virginal, married mother. The preaching spawn. But not the cuckolded husband. His name justifies nothing. His name merely endures.

Lines, dug deep, with metal blades capable of ripping through wood, chopping through stone, slashing through flesh.

Lines like sugar cane and lashing whips. Flatness like cloth sails and dried Tobacco leafs. Roundness like iron manacles and gun muzzles. Scattered dots like rice kernels and blood droplets. Odd shapes like muddled words and unmarked graves. Like cotton buds and memories of home.


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