Our Bodies Were Both Made of Wood

The motionless girl who sat slumped on a three-legged stool in the corner, her wild braids hiding her identity, was a thief. Her skirt, woolen, was stolen from sheep. Her shoes, leather, were stolen from cows. Her body, wooden, was stolen from trees. She was surrounded by inkwells, reams of papers, and feathers that visiting birds had molted and left behind.

The wells were untouched; the papers, vacant; and the feathers had never been dipped.
The girl did not have the agency to speak, but had so many words that she wanted to say.
The girl was natural and unnatural, made of organic substance, but created by a man.
The girl, who was dead, was alive, though she had been left behind by her craftsman.

The boy lived in The City where plastic grew from factories and metal embellished pathways. His body was flexible, his clothes were made of synthetic fibres, and his head was close-shaven to hide nothing. He experienced life through images rather than words and carried a virtual pet in his pocket for companionship, as there was no one else to love. Beep, beep, he fed the pet. Boop, boop, the pet responded, because it was “happy.”

The boy left The City because he never spoke a word while living there. He produced plastic dolls, and once a fortnight money was deposited into his bank account for his efforts. Plastic lasted forever.

The boy returned to his childhood farm for a vacation, where producing individual wooden toys was no longer a profitable endeavour. Clientele were not willing to pay for masterpieces, so the boy had easily left his living poppet to experience the city. She had always sat on the stool in the corner chatting, smiling, and writing in a notepad whenever he worked on his greatest project: a life-size marionette. (He never asked to read her words, and didn’t particularly want to.) When he left to work on the cushy plastic assembly line, he said goodbye to his poppet and his unstrung marionette. His poppet had left the farm out of despair, but her leaving was far more permanent than his. She had died from sickness of the heart.

The marionette sat propped up on the corner stool ever since his poppet left the seat vacant, and that’s where she was when the boy entered his workshop.

“Are you here, poppet?” His voice was scratchy from disuse.

There was no answer. When he saw the marionette, all thoughts of his poppet evaporated. He became infatuated with completing the wooden marionette and set to work stringing the wires into a wooden cross. When he tied the final knot, the wooden doll came to life and took her first step. He was surprised by her self-initiated movement. “You can’t move on your own,” he said with authority. He held the cross above her head, pulling the strings taut, and she moved as he moved. Her strings danced under his command as expected. The marionette moved like his poppet had in a bashful series of steps. However, when the strings hung from the cross loosely, the marionette’s movements were her own.

When he realized that the marionette was possessed, he dropped the cross; the doll did not collapse under her own weight. The cross fell against her back softly and she curtsied. “I’m glad you have returned to visit me,” the marionette said. Her words echoed through her hollow wooden limbs. “I’ve been waiting for you all of this time.” His lips dipped into a frown. He had never waited for anyone. She continued, “You never replied to the letters I wrote to you.”

“You can’t write,” the boy told the marionette sensibly. “You can’t think.”

“I was a writer of sonnets, combining structure and sensibilities. Smile, darling, because I wrote them for you.” Her voice was lofty, floating about their heads in smooth ink script on weathered paper. Her words became touchable poetry. The letters ripped apart as he reached into the air to put the pieces of paper into his pocket.

“I’ll read them later,” he dismissed her. “I swear, I’ll savour your words, but for now, I want to hold your hand.”

Beep, beep. His virtual pet was hungry, but he ignored it, taking a hold of both of her hands and looked into her unblinking painted face. He admired his craftsmanship. She was a piece of work. One hundred points.

“I didn’t think it would be like this,” she said, turning her head to look away. “You aren’t looking at me as your poppet. You’re looking at me as your puppet.” The paper that floated around them curled and wrinkled until they settled on the floor. He didn’t listen to her words at all; he twirled her around in the wood shavings, tipping over inkwells and soiling pure papers and feathers. He released one of her hands and took the cross from her back, and they danced and danced and danced.

He let go of the cross once he believed she had learned the box step; he wanted her to do it of her own free will. Her feet continued the motions, but her voice wavered and the paper poetry ceased. She whispered, “In dreams I’ve danced with you, but our bodies were both made of wood.” She lifted her cross and snapped her strings with the splinters on her arms, and crumpled into a pile of wooden limbs.

The boy returned to The City and took care of his virtual pet (as he still believed there was no one else to love). The girl, who was alive, was dead, and waited for her love to appreciate her (though it’s probable that he never would).

Our Bodies Were Both Made of Wood

pange

Oshawa, Canada

  • Artist
    Notes

Artist's Description

Completed February 2007. Beep beep. Boop boop.

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