Matthew, stranger. Matthew, “gift of God.” You’re still. Trains to embark, places to rush to, you’re still as the people speed by, screeches against the rails, strangers forced to touch. The artist captures you, just a moment—you on your way, your way. Which way are you going? Rain, sun, cold, laughter, worry, etch your skin with small lines. Your coat shows the privilege of warmth against the cold. Oh “gift to us,” you are rich with the privilege to touch, to love, to kiss, to speak the messages you feel in your bones, to never be alone, to move, to be still, to still be here. Before you get on the train, I want to be still, to look into your eyes. I want to touch you, to place each hand softly on each side of your face and be silent, still, looking into your eyes. To see what you see, to see what you’ve seen, where you’ve been, your insights, to find what’s inside, then to ride, to get on the train and ride with you. To be right. To be right with you. So touching, I see into, I see through, behind your eyes, the generations upon generations, people touching, people joining, separating, encoding messages in each cell, messages that spell their names in your eyes, these eyes that are your eyes but are not your eyes but their eyes; your face is chiseled out of all their messages in their blood, in their bones, older than the stones that line the walls behind you, those stones still bearing the fingerprints, underneath the lines of tiles, of the people who made them; who placed each tile that people rush by, rush by the lines upon lines upon lines without opening their eyes. People speed past, their lives speed past, the train is so fast, they are thrown against each other, they are touching, touching strangers. The train is so fast. Oh, the pain of the moment in life when you realize that the train moves so fast. I remember. I remember I made a chart long ago. I traced one line of my family back 16 generations, inked their names and dates in tiny print, then gazed across the wide, empty space of the rest of the poster paper and then knew. I knew. If I filled in all those names, those thousands of names, just 16 generations to fill the spaces, I’d know we are all related. I put down the pen for everyone. I put down the pen forever. I had traced my lines, with one line I knew I had traced all my lines; yes all the lines lead to everyone, all the lines lead to everyone, and all the lines lead to you; if all the lines lead to you, oh gift, oh gift to us, I must see the gift you are, I must open you, I must be open to you, and if all my lines all lead to you, I see you, I know you, I feel you in the same messages that line my bones. And if all my lines lead to everyone, to the strangers, the strangers touching, then I must love you, you and all the people rushing, speeding, all the people rushing by.
By Carolyn Wood—written while experiencing artwork by Able Parris
Piece # 4