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Original artwork by Marina Hartzell Gallegos

Portrait of Childhood with Abstract Art

Jennifer Brown

The child was raised by Malevich canvases—Black Square, White on White—in a simple geometry of feeling. What could be more helpful than billboards, icons, flat planes uncluttered with the treacherous figuration of words? The child looked up into glowering Black Square, studied the off-white of White on White for hours, wondering what was its secret, its cool, angular serenity undisturbed by Black Square’s sharp contrast & violent edges. The child looked back & forth, making, as children do, the inscrutable tell it a story with its silence, its all-&-nothing. It watched Black Square drinking, like gravity, from the well of White on White, all light & color sucked into its sharp-cornered heart. Together an ourobouros, Moebius strip, finite to finite bonded, making infinity. The child began to wonder where it had come from; it could not have come from or between them. 

Outside, the wind shook dry leaves left on trees, stormclouds glowered dull metal above. Or light whitened the windowglass hot to touch. The child believed that it came from the air, full of sky & rain, & from the light, which disappeared but always returned, & from the keening sound the wind made against the sharp-cornered house. The child believed the voices that sliced out of far rooms sometimes harshly & the ones that brushed its ear like a wing. From them, it learned that fathers are towers, stonehard & lordly, mothers righteous & still, a placid lake that mirrors the sky. Sometimes, father & mother would take human form. Sometimes a nosy dog would greet the child delightedly & a squirrel would teach the child how food could be buried & found again. The child came to believe that it was not an orphan but the opposite—born to everything, child of everything, at home everywhere—for which there is no single word, orphan’s antonym, but each day a new one. Today, weathervane, yesterday, peregrine, tomorrow, howl.