THE LINO CUT.
Her sharp blade slipped, castrating him – once again! And the ruined lino-cut joined the others in the bin.
She tried once more; tracing the preliminary sketches afresh onto the lino square. She felt a vague disquiet. Why, always at this point, and why, for heaven’s sake, a lino-cut? Why not just a pencil drawing, a charcoal sketch maybe; even a water-colour, oils or an acrylic.
No, it had to be a print. And Why? Perhaps because she was making a statement. One copy was not enough. Not nearly enough! It must be stated and restated. The bastard must pay!
And while her deft fingers prepared her materials for this, her fourth attempt, she mused, her fury put aside into the limbo to which she had consigned it.
The sketches were striking. Linked at the necks by a double bind, a white scarf tied the two black figures together. Black, not because of race, but because they were negatives, prototypes of the real; simulacra of the soft pink forms that were she and Barry.
She checked the sketches again. The two figures, linked at the neck by the tie of matrimony; the head rules. Linked at the chest by the arms entwined; the heart rules. But at the loins? Ah, that tells a different story. Their loins are straining apart.
She had left their genitals until last, preferring to finish the proscenium arch of figures, with which at first, in her innocence, she had supposed she was portraying the ideal. They were moving anti-clockwise. Starting from the right a female figure, behind her a shadowy male indicated only by the outline of a leg and large proprietorial hands clasping her waist. Then another form, androgynous. Followed by a diving figure, undeniably male, phallus erectus, surmounted by a female, an eager grasping hand reaching, reaching for what belongs to her. ‘NO! not to her. To ME!’ And she saw suddenly that figure was not hers but belonged to the other. The one that was watching.
The watching figure is shadowy. Long blonde hair shades the face. An eye observes. ‘Is she watching us while we make love, Barry and I? And why is she here at this precious moment? Surely only because she is summoned by him. I am not letting her in. It must be he. Maybe he is comparing us. Does he ask himself who is the most passionate? Does she — Does she do to him the things I do to him? – and does he compare us? Does he number our orgasms? Does he count our gasps and groans? Does he judge us on the number of times that our mouths seek him out? on the times that we yield ourselves to his questing tongue?’ And once again the blade slips. And once again he is castrated and cast into the bin.
The pristine square confronts her. Almost by habit now the swift bold strokes cut into the lino. The figures delineate them- selves. As if by magic the proscenium forms leap into place. The background is prepared. Now for the central characters.
She offers up a silent prayer. ‘O God! Oh Please! Let me be sure. Let it come out right this time. Show me the way. And slowly but surely her hand makes the first cut.
This time she begins with the female figure. Quickly she outlines the shape of the body, her body. Wild scratches indicate pubic hair. The vagina is hinted rather than stated. All that is lacking is a sign “Closed for repairs”. The right knee is flung wide but the left is busy restraining his.
She turns her attention to him. ‘Careful! Careful! This is where I meet the problem.’ No difficulty in outlining his form; although barely sketched, no-one will fail to recognise Barry. His boyish grin, his damnable insidious appeal to the maternal. His musculature which gives the illusion of protective strength. The soft skin that reminds you of the first time you bathed your baby, the warm sweet smell of him, no doubt engineered in Paris at a hundred bucks a bottle. Yes this is Barry.
She wonders where she can go from here. She outlines his nipples, the little scar that only she knows about, surely it will be thought a slight blemish in her technique (but she will know!). She draws his legs now. His loins, too, are separating from hers. Not by choice (‘You’d have both of us if you could, you bastard!’) but in recognition of how things are, Or rather, how things must be, of how things WILL be in the future.
With exquisite care she delineates his feet. Each little toe-nail evokes the dedication of a Michael Angelo. She pays inordinate attention to detail. And why? Because! Because she is procrastinating. There are fifty bucks worth of ruined lino in the bin. ‘And all because of a stupid PRICK. A COCK. A PENIS! Slowly she tries again. This time the scratches that indicate pubic hair are almost peremptory. The penis itself is drawn as flaccid. Cautiously she proceeds. This time her blade doesn’t slip. The lino-cut is complete.
Swiftly she inks the surface with the little roller. Lacking a press, the heel of her hand firms into the bowl of the table-spoon. Long practice regulates the pressure on the back of the block, intuitively giving a texture as unique as any signature.
She peels back the print and looks at her work. ‘It will have to do.’ She consoles herself. ‘As always, it will have to do’.
Copyright H.St.V.Beechey 1990.