Abbas Abidi – A reading from the Book of Cranes, or The Crane in a Type of Descent


Hold this paper crane. As you begin to unfold it, be careful not to prick your fingers on the corners of the origami, colored orange on one side, a type of silver on the other. If you open the bird too fast, your fingers will bleed. The blood will vary in its shade of red, depending on whether it is retreating from or returning to the heart. In the innards of this crane, there is no blood.

As the origami uncurls, notice the crease created by the vacated fold. Here the crane resembles its visceral counterpart in flight or more accurately, the crane in a type of descent. As your hand moves to pick apart the geometrical singularity of the bird’s body, see how the shadow of your hand forms, with the thumb meeting the forefinger, resulting in a type of frame, a hollow parallelogram which makes smaller, lighter parallelograms which pulse across the space on which you are working.

In this brightness, which is useful to study things that must be carefully studied, the light multiplies the reflection of your hand onto the body of the unfurling bird, each bulb making its own shadow. Your hand is a relief, carved by light, carving open this origami bird.

In this way, a type of typography is created, not dissimilar to the way a mountain is represented on a map, the first contour lines spaced farther apart, but limning the circumference of the object in question, then coming closer together, clustering as a way of showing in two dimensions that something large exists in three dimensions.

Each shadow extends like a hypsometric tint, shading the silver back of the origami which is the color of the insides of this origami crane. You count six shadows that contract when unfolding the bird. As you continue to flatten and reveal the cave of this paper crane, you begin to think that in some way your own hand is a mountain, that this crane made of orange origami is in fact a bird that has failed in flight over your mountain.

Since it is your mountain, this bird has now fallen in your hand. Inside it, you see someone, perhaps yourself, has drawn on both sides of its papery face a pair of eyes, and a small line representing a mouth. This is the last area you unfurl.

The shadow which now swells across the now flattened body of the bird can be represented in other ways. You think that perhaps your hand is not a mountain but rather a pulse. It is a nocturnal representation of some type of mating song in which one of the participants must die so that there may be further life, a call that unwinds all birds within the radius of your shadow, a pulse of sound whose lighter edges are the faintest portions of a deep and dark song which simultaneously leads to sleep and death, and at once, a chance for rebirth.

Once the crane is a square, naked piece of orange origami, you stretch your hand over it, then press down from the lower left edge to the top right, smoothing out all the creases. Now you begin to refold the bird, taking note of the typography of creases which once formed edges with other creases to make the limbs of this bird. This new crane is wrinkled, but wiser, a thicker bird folded twice over, smaller, reincarnated, sitting cross-legged in its platform nest, watching the marsh water swirl below, its eyes where you drew them, the same size and shape, its mouth crooked, a slight crescent scar against the shadow of your hand.