I took the face out, carefully, trying not to damage the reflection, a little fragile and warm still. The plaster mask cooled slowly in my hands, as I looked at its interior. I could see the imprint of the eye brows and nose, forehead and lips. I could see myself from within.
I was overwhelmed by a strange feeling. Probably not because I had made the first ever plaster cast of my own face and could see something I had never looked upon before (no mirror could offer such a perspective), but also because I had read Paz’s poems about the process of permeation. His words speak of touch, and the aftermath of touch, the kind I was experiencing having removed the mask in the cool, empty room which served as my workspace that night.
“Abre tu ser” rang in my ears. Open your being and awake. Learn to exist, shape your own face, own bone structure. Posses features which will then reflect another. Which will see me.
It’s as if a man was discovering, submerged in water, the shape of his own body. Water, flowing around him, pressing with greater force than air, making him tangible to himself. Sometimes more so than human hands could.
Paul Valery also wrote about this. “He thought that a ship should somehow be shaped by its learning the seas and as near as formed by the waves. But familiarity in point of fact depends on our substituting our thinking of the sea with thinking only of its influence on a given body – far enough to achieve different actions, actions which resist the process, and that we are now only dealing with a balance of forces, both borrowed from nature, where they dice with one another uselessly”. That’s how he wrote about Tridon, the ship builder.
And once more, the letters of Octavio Paz return. “Abre la mano, senora. Abre tu ser, despierta, aprande a ser tambien, labra tu cara, trabaja tus fasciones, ten un rostro para mirar mi rostro y que te mire”.
The need for reflection, a tangible reflection. There is in man such a need. Or at least it happens. “There are moments when objects need human hands”, as a Polish author once said. There are also moments when a man becomes an object to his own self, his own mask. Own cast.
The mask cooled, the warmth of skin evaporating. It was becoming itself. I was in it, touching it with my fingers, caressing the drying plaster. But there was less and less of me in the mask. More and more alien matter. More and more of the cold, late evening around me, in the big, poorly heated house.
The poems of Paz swelter. Saturated with Spanish sun. They are alive, trembling – touched. Like objects come alive, formed and animated. Sculptures… such as Galatea.
“Mio ojos te descubren, denuda… tus nalgas en plena noche”. These poems must be read in the original (anyway, like all poems, perhaps – in their mother tongue… or at least experienced, sound wise, in their “native” form).
read the rest of this superb story here