A curator decides, quite simply,

what other people see, so

see this: it is Thursday. The sun

is setting, the room is small,

there’s a yellow lamp on a brown desk,

and a dozen people with no

working eyes are receiving

a museum tour for the blind.

She pulls up on a computer

the whole exhibit, which she exhibits to

them by description. No one objects

when she says red. What is red

if not a feeling? All listen

patiently as she finely details

every aspect and angle of

paintings made to sell things

that no longer exist to people

who are no more. I’m sitting

opposite her in a chair. I’ve

come because my sight is

growing dimmer. Little floaters

that increase in number daily. A

curator tells me about the past so

I can imagine a future,

and I close my eyes and listen to

stories of lovely lovers in love,

here to sell collars and cocktails.

There are questions:

No one asks about the brush strokes

or the borders, and instead

stick to the details in the fabric:

what does the dress feel like?

asks one. Another wants

to know about the sound she’s shown-

when she touches his hand,

does it feel clammy?

A curator decides what people see,

and answers them patiently: soft

cotton. Dry skin.

Yes, it is, she says, when

the youngest woman asks

Is the wine glass cold

when it touches their lips?

And confirms when the oldest

decides they look sad,

they don’t look passionate,

they look tired.

Another tries to make out

rough static: it’s the rain,

it’s the rain, she declares,

right before the tour ends

and I walk out the door, into night.

B.A. Van Sise is an author and photographic artist focused on the intersection between language and the visual image. He is the author of two monographs: Children of Grass: A Portrait of American Poetry and Invited to Life: After the Holocaust. He has previously been featured in solo exhibitions at the Center for Creative Photography, the Center for Jewish History and the Museum of Jewish Heritage, and in the permanent collection of the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery. He is a New York State Council on the Arts Fellow, winner of a Leonian grant, a PX3 award-winner, and an IPPY gold medalist.

The Details in the Fabric

B.A Van Sise