The 750 Hands
Mar de lagrimas (Sea of Tears)
Each is cast in porcelain, fired, glazed a shade
of blue or greenish-blue, some left hands,
but mostly right, and each is the hand
of a Cuban artist. Some left during
the great flight of the mid-Sixties
and the lesser flights of the Seventies
and Eighties. And some, forced to work
in mines and canefields, stayed in their
homeland. The hands hang a dozen deep,
a great wave on a long wall, each turned
slightly, thumb up, palm exposed.
From the side we see fingernails,
knuckles, knotted ridges of arteries,
scars of accidents and toil. Inert and cold,
signaling from stony depths, disembodied
yet over-arching, as if each lived more
in the sky than in the flesh, more
in the sea than on the shore; the hand
of its people, the sky and sea that holds Cuba.
Each man or woman kept a hand in plaster
long enough to form a mold, each mold
received the poured clay, the glaze, the fire,
filling the void of absence with existence—
I lived through sorrowful times and made art
with this hand. Nothing can stop
a hand from finding whatever it needs.
Nothing can stop the maker.
From: Brave Disguises
Univ. of Pittsburgh Press, 2002