Beginning Sculpture: The Subtractive Method

The girls sit before the assignment—identical
blocks of salt—and from tall, precarious stools,

look down into blank planes of possibility. In the end,
though, the only choice is to carve something

smaller. So they begin. Rough chunks like hail
fall before the rasps and chisels' beveled

edges. Salt permeates this air as it has
for years, the floor gritty, their hands, eyes,

even the skylights made opaque with it—
disappearing not unlike the way it is

subtracted from similar blocks, in the fields,
before the tongues of the horses.

by Claudia Emerson

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