How to Speak to a Materialist

Henry Walters

People are always asking, “What would you sculpt were you a sculptor?”

What would you in the barbershop.

What would you in the train station.

In the marketplace, so-called, of so-called ideas.

It has become a proper nuisance to us all.

I, intestate, here leave my answer to the public domain, so feel free.

I would sculpt a girl leaning face-first into a sassafras, pillowed on her forearms.

She is counting up to twenty-five, but counting a capella is not a good way to keep time when you are in a hurry.

So she counts one-Mississippi, two-Mississippi, three- . . . . the way you do when Eagerness & Delay are equally sweet on you.

They lean into each other like armwrestlers whose clinch pulls their heads very close together, almost touching.

The tree is just as important as the girl: it holds her up.

Because their legs are liable to give way, marble figures are often braced from below by a chair, a stick, a small child, or, in one case I know, a three-headed dog.

Even the most vigorous Hercules, sculpted in marble, must lean on his club like a golfer who has stood in the sun too long.

Their weariness is what makes them come to life.

Stillness & motion:

the Thinker & his thinking.

Despite a total lack of funding & a high rate of turnover among researchers, children are the only scholars making progress in this field.

Freeze tag, Sardines, Leapfrog, Marbles, Red Rover, Red Light Green Light, Simon Says, & many versions of Pretend are their best experiments to date.

I would call the statue “It,” which would make all the rest of us Not-It.

Everyone who sees the statue runs away & hides, for the moment you glimpse the girl’s most beautiful face will be the moment you turn to stone yourself.

There is a force field around the statue as big as Mississippi.

Henry Walters is a naturalist, teacher, falconer, and writer-in-residence at the Dublin School, in Dublin, New Hampshire. He is the author of Field Guide A Tempo.
Originally published:
October 1, 2018



Race Off

The fantasy of race transformation
Namwali Serpell


Suicide in Fiction, Reconsidered

Why we need stories about living after a suicide attempt
Morgan Thomas


Discipline and Abolish

Writing, power, and mass incarceration
Rachel Kushner,
Caleb Smith

You Might Also Like


The Marvel of It Is

Henry Walters


Crime Scene

Henry Walters


From Clues – Batch 4

Henry Walters


Become a subscriber to get four beautiful issues a year for just $49—and help keep print culture alive.