Their collection features pinions of all kinds. Not a common word clearly. What's worse an ambiguous one: meaning both the wing and what pins it down. Evoke Nabokov if you like (it isn't meant here, the allusion is to birds not butterfly or moth; as a youth he, not Nabokov obviously but our hero, the visitor, once put a robin in the sights of his bow and arrow and drew the arrow back slowly, raising it up in such a way that its flight would take just the right arc, or so he thought-- what did he know, he was only twelve years old, the bow a birthday gift, simple rather than compound-- and, tremoring only slightly, the feathers of the arrow, pinions again, tickling against his cold cheek, shot the robin straight through the neck, an amazing shot, the body circling the shaft where it sunk into the grass, then expiring and with it any love of hunting, an impossible shot).
In this case the collection is the latter: pinions, shackles, bracelets, ties, restraints, silks, cuffs, things of gold and sisal, shock-something nylon (the fabric of parachutes and seatbelts) and those self-sealing loops and burrs whose name he often mistakes for teflon, what is it again?
Once at Harvard he saw an entire museum of glass flowers, delicate hand-blown dephiniums rising above the green glass stalk like the pale faces of refugee children on a railway car in an old photograph.
Some of the pinions took the shape of snakes, some simulated ropes, caraved from nephrite and jadite. Most interesting were the ankle bracelets of fine gold chain and a Ute bracelet woven from milkweed. There was a brightly colored catalogue for the exhibition but none in translation. It was the sort of thing you expected from young curators and what made visits to new places interesting sometimes.
Throughout the exhibition he trailed a woman in a purple knit dress, winedark really. Ample, but voluptuous hips, and a round inviting belly. Once she smiled at him and he saw she was missing a tooth, not unalluring in someone so darkly beautiful. In the museum canteen they were the only customers. She had a pot of tea and a poppyseed cake at a distant table while he had cafe au lait and a fruit pastry folded like a sodden newspaper. His pastry was powdered with so much sugar it was impossible to eat without spotting his lapel and pantsfront.
Likewise peeking down at the shining white blooms, volunteers, it seems unlikely she knows about these refugees, or perhaps has forgotten altogether because they are obscured by overgrown shrubs.