Rae Gouirand


n. the blurring or softening of sharp outlines in painting by subtle and gradual blending of one tone into another. Etymology: Italian, past participle of sfumare, to evaporate, fade out.

Inside La Specola, a woman's neck graced
by pearls, comma between face and science.
Entirely wax, aside from that string, as though
a woman sculpted on such a cold table deserves
something for the borrowing. Hair, also real, kept

in braids, some warrant of care or purpose for this
surrogate, a sample years past her one stopped
utterance for Florence, its students of bodies
& service. The city stands, wax intact,
but I learned my veins from books,

guessing faint hairpin turns in blue
x-ray, and a house where things pulsed
without the rise of sight. (A mother, once
chamber, confabulates from a hill address—
pick ascent or decline, but just decide.) Spectacle,

the small lift tab on her chest, sliding our eyes under
her sides: heart, kidneys, liver, uterus purple, high-
ways of veins—of course I'd think highways—
& muscle rivers, system of blood and reason,
of room, beauty, clauses. One thing

granted her above her neighbors:
she moves, or seems to. One leg, flung
ajar, a pubic curtain—tickling, or nerve, or breeze
disrupts what is otherwise the model's solid promise,
more perfect than a brighter face, bleeding out beneath gaze.

Full-bodied modesty. How does wax understand witness,
keep plague in a box, resist? Studies of muscle have
dressed these walls for centuries, & she continues
to look up & show what she has, some colored
organs, held in their shaped chambers, curved

& corresponding. Suppose you would allow
your hands (mine, voice of course) to examine
that fit, in the wax or in the wrist (once broken, still
senses), and find something you actually could not speak
to, that did not arrive from biology's solid case. Moth, memory,

(bed), box. With lock. What might that cavern feel like, in hands
accustomed to one piece atop, askance, aside, constancy
of purpose, determined rules of surface? When I glance
sideways at the distant past, I can kind of feel it, but
the edges elude—no protrusions, & those what

I go back looking for. If my mother says
(what she says) about long ago, she can progress
past the brief dent of the question—but yesterday,
no such luck. A sequel to (fill in stages of abuse) leaves
the sentence in a state of. Encephalopathy: comma's pause & the

rest never comes. When I learned to read maps (interest) she flipped,
as with the horticulture bit. Ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny
he said, ninth grade (won't forget). The art in Italy is so
large I can't make everything out, but am satisfied by
what foregrounds suggest. Each leaf echoes

later mass. Vein law: eventually, it feeds back in.
(Not that I meant. The rest recedes.) A guide: Da Vinci
favored that film in the distance, translucent veils overlaid
for atmosphere, estimate of haze. Vague sense of movement
delivered by breath (in) rather than (front page). Something comes

into view if we choose, put one foot in front—but first, its
muted face, fuzzy guess of the thing, perhaps its king
-dom, granted that it lives. Asks for your immediate
pause as it adjusts, fits to your lens, then appears,
one day, harsh defining stroke. Blade lands

noisily in the thick top of a chest. When
you see this chest it stings so bad you can't even
focus. Its boxness could not be worse: solid, kept, and
filled. Contact can be so cruel. Wish you'd never glimpsed
a calligraphy so awful and readable, characters of such brutal

defects, entire vocabularies of soundless tissues and bruises.
Far better to see the skin as more than it is. The woman
in pearls as woman, not willing. Even if she never
took a breath from the room, kept her own, had
only her sterile clarity and arranged hands,

turbinate and permanent, before the constant
flux of us. During the Renaissance, art arrived
from the eye rather than the divine. I was inspired
when they looked up in 1400 and saw parentheses' glint
around the suggestions of things: ought to research popularity

of halos, to know what was thought about such signs. Seems
from what I've seen that everything graduates from single
stark details, nicks in the surface that force us. A cornea,
if scratched, handles its damage in flood; we insist on
patching. My fist went straight for hers when I

was two. Uncut nails, & that the last she saw of
me, I believe. My family insists on duties, such as:
loss (memory, present tense), forgiving (for remains
of time & these lesser horizons), and chronic anything.
The vocabulary of new information & episodes, sunk by

anterograde amnesic difficulties. No wonder the masters
found joy in observation, apprenticed themselves to
anatomists and spent their pens on messages of
the inner life instead of waiting for the next
annunciation. Did I forget to mention one

of the women in question—it won't add much,
I guess. I'd rather examine the symmetry of what's
simplest—fall's coming, preparing the press. Perhaps
it's easiest to say in terms of lease, time and space a grant
greater than land. Those contents refuse to empty their news

unless. Sooner or later the ribcage deflates (see now the heart)
when the subject's given its proper name and admitted to its
components. Acquisitions include apples, aphids, emeralds,
lost cells, all escaping details delivered to distance. Neck
-lace a final trace, what we've required of ourselves.



Museo La Specola houses a collection of anatomical models in wax established by the Medici family. Its works introduced the possibility of three-dimensional anatomical study from a lifelike specimen and were equally important to the promotion of the artistic and scientific communities of Florence during the Renaissance.

An encephalopathy is a neurological disorder disrupting coherent participation in the short-term present, complicating the making of new memories. 'Ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny' recalls the biological principle that the development of the organism mirrors the evolution of the family to which it belongs.