The empty

Somebody at lower right went blurry and moved off in the dark. For a time a shutter had opened and the dark was filled with glitter. It threw light on the change of circumstance. Within the dark, non-glittering somebody would never be seen again.

Detroit Publishing Company collection, Library of Congress, Perspective adjusted and contrast and detail restored.




In 2023 as in 1854

“bravery” doesn’t mean only “courage”;

it can also mean “dressing to show off.” Consider the rose in Herbert’s “Virtue,” with its “hue, angry and brave.”

Or, because the rose display can also include yellow, consider:



Color code

In 1916, wings could still be translucent. Their delicate black markings were shadows of a metaphor for the term endoskeleton. At each tip, these particular wings also shadowed a purely human term: Germany’s black Iron Cross.

“An Albatros C.III two-seat reconnaissance biplane after an emergency landing surrounded by curious German military personnel.” Kees Kort Collection,, with contrast and detail electronically restored. The print is dated on its reverse “Bei Rostock 5.XI.1916.”

On the record, these wings and this thorax are black and white. One of the black and white men accumulating before the lower wing is wearing the tunic ribbon of the Iron Cross, but in 1916 that too would have been black and white. The other tunics are in various 1916 instars: some accurately following contours of flesh and bone, others shaped by the now dead; all black and white.

But in the white space between two of the human bodies hangs a cross in blue. At the time it was inked onto the Rostock print somebody intended it to refer to one or the other of the bodies, but nobody now can tell which. Separated by a shared white space, the black and white bodies are in the midst of an uninked record. The inked cross suspended in the white looks like what we readers think of as an X, but it is the X in an alphabet that can no longer be read. We receive it now only as a shape combined with a color. The color is the color of a sky no longer perturbable by wing.