Artist Proof
by John Sokol

    Marko blends a smidgen of Thalo Blue
    into a print-run batch of Bismark Brown.
    Chocolate turns to ebony, and then,
    saturation pushes ebony into the pine-pitch
    lamp black of moose lagoons far north
    of Bangor; into a color that, despite all its blackness,
    retains a fathomless, unrelenting brownness.  
    Isabella warms an ink brayer in her hands
    and spreads Marko's blend of dark oil  
    out over a glass mixing table until  
    she has paved a patch of ink that bares
    no more tooth than fine emery cloth.  
    She then rolls a seamless load of ink
    onto the cross-hatched, furrowed field
    of a 9 x 12" wood block, riding only a plateau
    of image, ever careful that she ink no valley,
    that no heavy hand skids-and-plows the plane.
    With the confidence of Galileo, Marko drops
    a sheet of Kitakata paper onto the block.  Isabella
    then places her hands -- folded, as in prayer --
    onto the middle of the print, then opens them,
    palms up, and smooths the paper to the block
    until a palimpsest of image appears faintly
    through fibers wrung from the heart of the
    Gampi tree.  Marko rubs a bamboo baren
    over the image and delineates the edges of the print
    by lightly embossing it to the block.  
    Using small, circular motions, he rubs the backside
    of the image with a wooden spoon, working his way,
    slowly, from one quadrant of the print to the last.  
    Then, as though removing a bandage from a burned
    loved one, Isabella slowly lifts the veil from the face
    of the block.  It is the veil -- more than the face --
    that Marko and Isabella most wish to see.

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