Déjà vu: Poetry in Hand

As I mentioned in the previous post, poetry serves as a bridge across time and culture, carrying the author’s ‘voice’ across generations and places but what about the gesture, the language of the body? Will the YouTube video that I posted, or all of those digital photos carefully placed in albums on my hard drive, and on Face Book, last as long as an inscription on a clay tablet? As you read this sentence and I write it we both know that the answer is already, emphatically no. Yet, gesture does seem to have a life of its own…

When my daughter was tiny I noticed that her hands made shapes that I recognized from images of both Byzantine and Hindu art; I called them ‘baby mudras’. Where did these miniature, elegant gestures come from?

Those tiny conical fingers, with their slender tips and chubby bases that, for my husband and I, recalled 10 little Campari Soda bottles, eventually grew longer and more slender. One day, having eaten some toast at the kitchen table, my then two year old began sweeping crumbs along the yellow Formica surface and into the open face of her cupped palm. I recognized the gesture immediately as my mothers and only later caught my own hands in the act. So, from where had my mother received this gesture and just how old was it?

Although it is impossible to know either the source of the ‘baby mudra’ or the genealogy of that peculiar arc of the fingers as they sweep up crumbs, the questions scratched at that vague itch for meaning that seems so basic to being human.

Gestures that gives words wings, gestures that give wings to what cannot be said with words – evoking only questions; then there are the gestures that are meant to express something but somehow end up clanking emptily. Futile, hollow gestures…

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