WITNESS TO THE ARIA by Meg LeDuc

Meg LeDuc
WITNESS TO THE ARIA

A sculpture soars in the sky of Meijer Gardens, red as a hummingbird heart, rising over the pinprick of a groundskeeper below. Of the painted scarlet steel of his public art, Alexander Liberman once said, “All my sculptures are screams.” Yet Aria shouts joy, curves a-dance, music in metal.

Meanwhile, in downtown Grand Rapids, a woman sings The Clark Sisters on the corner of Monroe and Pearl, singing the sunshine down: “You came my way / You made my day” and “I’m a witness.” Here on that city intersection, a gospel woman caresses her aria with winged voice. In the sculpture park, a groundskeeper tends his aria with downy hands.

I’m a witness. I once overdosed in the back of a car, swilling down hundreds of minute cotton-candy-colored Benadryl pills with lukewarm Budweiser. When I awoke, I wanted to hide from the police. I clambered behind the wheel. The last thing I remember is merging onto the freeway.

I am a witness to my own past. I’m a gospel woman.

Hummingbird heart stilled to the aria.

Now, today, my husband Tim strolls beside me through the sculpture park, as we discuss whether I should go back to school to study writing. We round a bend of shrubbery to find a female nude that leaves nothing to the imagination. Tim says, “If I took a photo and posted it to Facebook, would I violate Community Standards?”

I laugh, “Maybe. She’s about as curvy as your wife.”

He smiles. “I love my wife’s curves.”

In our historic downtown Airbnb, glitzed with an ancient bike behind the futon, Tim and I make love, and he calls my name in the night: “Oh, Meg, I love you.” Tears prick my eyes. I think of God calling names in the night down the corridors of time, Adam, Moses, David, Mary Magdalene, Peter, Francis of Assisi, Dorothy Day, calling each to a life with him, and my husband calls my name for love, and once, he stood at an altar and named me, to cherish until trees touch sky, and earth spins to stardust, and the River that flows through the City flows through us.

I’m no saint. Yet I am named.

Hummingbird heart witnesses the aria.

“As bees gather honey, so we collect what is sweetest out of all things and build [God],” writes Rilke.

When Liberman died at his home in Miami on November 19, 1999, The New York Times obituary of the one-time art director of Vogue and director of Conde Nast read: “He wanted to embolden design and to break away from artifice, so he brought in younger photographers who shot outdoors in natural light. ‘No more Ophelias dancing through the Plaza at dawn,’ he said.”

To walk downtown Grand Rapids, I wear black tights patterned with maroon and sapphire blossoms, a skintight maroon shirt, and nude ballet flats. I’m not breaking away from artifice, yet perhaps I am, after all: I want my husband to see and desire me. I imagine Liberman asking, “What do you know about fashion?” Art director for Vogue, my god, but all I think when I see his sculpture is electric joy, and it’s the joy I discover in bed with my husband, when I say, “Tell me you like watching,” and Tim says, “Oh, Meg, yes!” and “You put on quite a show.”

You came my way / You made my day.

I am named.

The Russian-born Liberman fled occupied France for America in 1941. The artist had studied painting and architecture at the École des Beaux-Arts. But he needed employment to provide for his wife and her ten-year-old daughter. The New York Times obituary pronounces, “The decision came down, as it always would, on the side of money. His years as a refugee had given him a deep respect for comfort and security…”

Over enmoladas and enchiladas rojas at a hip Fulton Street restaurant, Tim says to me of studying writing, “I want you to have the chance to expand your world,” and hummingbird heart whirs in matchstick chest, and I, too, respect comfort and security, but You came my way / You heard me every time I prayed. There will be no more Ophelias in the Plaza at dawn. We build God out of the sweetness we gather. Can we build ourselves?

I will witness the aria with my hummingbird heart.

I choose to craft joy.


Meg LeDuc is a graduate of the University of Michigan with a BA in English and attends Vermont College of Fine Arts’ MFA in Writing program. Her writing has appeared in Brevity, San Fedele Press, CRAFT, and the International Human Rights Art Festival and has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Meg LeDuc lives with her husband and three cats in Detroit, Mich. Visit her website.

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