[identity profile] two-grey-rooms.livejournal.com
"All night I wait for language to form me. And think of the wind that comes to me, stays in me. All night I have walked in the unknown rain. I was given a silence full of forms and visions (you say). And run desolate like the only bird in the wind."
---Alejandra Pizarnik, "L'obscurité des eaux," trans. Cecilia Rossi


"Never are voices so beautiful as on a winter's evening, when dusk almost hides the body, and they seem to issue from nothingness with a note of intimacy seldom heard by day."
---Virginia Woolf, Night and Day


"We come back here to the status of metaphor in the fifth-century world, so different from its high profile in our own. Fifth-century listeners did not have our option of saying that something is metaphorical, 'therefore not real.' Personification, as the fifth century inherited and used it, was not an isolatable trick of language, but part of explaining what happened to and inside people."
---R. Padel, In and Out of the Mind


"The world is full of painful stories. Sometimes it seems as though there aren't any other kind and yet I found myself thinking how beautiful that gleam of water was through the trees."
---Octavia Butler, Parable of the Sower


"There are no 'pure' phenomena, nor can there be, either in Nature or in society---that is what Marxist dialectics teaches us, for dialectics shows that the very concept of purity indicates a certain narrowness, a one-sidedness of human cognition, which cannot embrace an object in all its totality and complexity. There is no 'pure' capitalism in the world, nor can there be; what we always find is admixtures either of feudalism, philistinism, or of something else. Therefore, if anyone recalls that the war is not 'purely' imperialist, when we are discussing the flagrant deception of 'the masses of the people' by the imperialists, who are deliberately concealing the aims of undisguised robbery with 'national' phraseology, then such a person is either an infinitely stupid pedant, or a pettifogger and deceiver."
---V. I. Lenin, The Collapse of the Second International


"The Impossible Indispensability of the Ars Poetica"
But of course the poem is not an assertion. Do you see? When I wrote
That all my poems over the long years before I met you made you come true,
And that the poems for you since then have made you in yourself become more true,
I did not mean that the poems created or invented you. How many have foundered
In that sargasso! No, what I have been trying to say
For all the years of my awakening
Is that neither of the quaint immemorial views of poetry is adequate for us.
A poem is not an expression, nor is it an object. Yet it somewhat partakes of both. What a poem is
Is never to be known, for which I have learned to be grateful.
But the aspect in which I see my own
Is as the act of love. The poem is a gift, a bestowal.
The poem is for us what instinct is for animals, a continuing and chiefly unthought corroboration of essence
(Though thought, ours and the animals' is still useful).
Why otherwise is the earliest always the most important, the formative? The Iliad, the Odyssey, the book of Genesis,
These were acts of love, I mean deeply felt gestures, which continuously bestow upon us
What we are. And if I do not know which poem of mine
Was my earliest gift to you,
Except that it had to have been written about someone else,
Nevertheless it was the gesture accruing value to you, your essence, while you were still a child, and thereafter
Across all these years. And see, see how much
Has come from that first sonnet after our loving began, the one
That was a kiss, a gift, a bestowal. This is the paradigm of fecundity. I think the poem is not
Transparent, as some have said, nor a looking-glass, as some have also said,
Yet it has almost the quality of disappearance
In its cage of visibility. It disperses among the words. It is a fluidity, a vapor, of love.
This, the instinctual, is what caused me to write "Do you see?" instead of "Don't you see?" in the first line
Of this poem, this loving treatise, which is what gives away the poem
And gives it all to you.
---Hayden Carruth


"Science fiction is the only genre that not only allows you to disregard everything that we’re taught is realistic and practical, but actually demands that you do. So it allows us to move beyond the bounds of what is realistic and what is real, into the realm of the imagination, That is actually something that organizers do every single day. All organizing is science fiction. When organizers imagine a world without poverty, without war, without borders or prisons—that’s science fiction. They’re moving beyond the boundaries of what is possible or realistic, into the realm of what we are told is impossible. Being able to collectively dream those new worlds means that we can begin to create those new worlds here."
---Walidah Imarisha


"Autumn Day"
Lord, it is time. The summer was immense.
Lay your shadow on the sundials, turn
the urgent winds loose across the plains.
Ordain full ripening of the last fruit;
grant it but two days in the south wind,
follow it to perfection, and compress
the last sweetness for the heavy wine.
Whoever has no home will build none now.
Whoever is alone will long remain so,
sleepless, taken up with books and letters
and wandering back and forth along the ways,
restive, at the drifting of the leaves.
---Rainer Maria Rilke, trans. unknown


[_________________]
                                   for ...

at night they pulled me into the dark they yelled
I spoke clearly through wool over my head the night
was clear moonlight against the wool their shadows
lengthened by flashlight their pipes shown through
moonlight bloodied edgeless
                             they removed the wool bag
to see my face to see my face they tilted it beneath
flashlight and counted what teeth remained what
white one of them had a son his face tilted at night
to my lips his teeth were white his face
like night would he recognize this wound this me

I smelled rain with what was left of my nose
with what was left of my nose I bled into my mouth
with what was left of my mouth I spoke my name
                                                          could they
hear my voice breaking blood to speak could they
hear me over truck engine over asphalt hissing beneath
my skin pulled my mouth my nose my blood without its body
dragged down a road where my blood made a road within
a road my mouth a mile back my tongueless name my foot
in a ditch my hands one waits for the other to lift like dust

---Phillip B. Williams


"The River"
          for Rekia Boyd

In the Book of Grief, a woman wrapped in black
scarves walks from the river bottom and says her own
name to the dusk. Horseflies comb
her hair this late afternoon to the tune of beauty
cricketing through the chamomile, distending
a frog's yellow throat. A ring of rust
draws a mouth on the woman's neck.
When she leans back the red crease loosens
as if to crack open and say:

            Who summoned me? Who thinks my gaze
            is a wheel of thread to sew wings onto backs
            that never had wings? Who traced the maze
            sunset makes on the water to lead me back?
            The air is caustic here and rotten milk
            spills from the flowerbeds. The earth is iron-
            stenched. There is blood like unwound silk
            ribboning from a body. Whose child has learned
            their history? Who's found the door but can't get out?
            Whose words do I perform from my sealed mouth?  

And the frogs fall quiet in the riverbed.
     And the crickets detune their shins
            in the chamomile disintegrating quickly

as it came. It was too easy a song
       and so must begin again, the lyric unwinding
            toward a destination not already-fulfilled,

the one to fulfill it touching the dead
     with unwashed hands, the unwashed mind
            scouring again the moment for merchandise.

Horseflies and their diligent limbs have failed,
     the desk lamp---not made into sun or
            moon---just the light, this time,

and its heat refuting elegy. And the river woman
      asks what in this now, and asks
            whose to say, and the sage of her voice

leaves my mouth, the inquiry the lyric,
      the impetus, that working organ
              running down as rivers do.

Inside, a thousand fish like specter-arrows
       swim hectored by waves, their patterns
            make turning back a moving forward

in the current. Inside me I carry the image of Boyd
       and ask permission to begin again,
            to say the words death in context,          

violence with the angel of vengeance
       at the corner of my lips but
            what now with this anger? What now

with these thousand fish in this river and
       the river woman waiting patiently
             for instructions, her yellow dress just now

appearing, the black scarves not for her
       but for me and I don't need that lace,
            or those seams sealed to keep

their secret massacres. Let them fade
       like frogs, like an intention. I hand over
            the image to the river. I watch it fold                      

into its own fish, unable to distinguish
it from the other, glistening arguments that turn,
       go nowhere; turn away. Am gone. 

---Phillip B. Williams


"Praise House: The New Economy"
The rosemary bush blooming
its unabashed blue. Also dumplings
filled with steam and soup
so my mouth fills and I bubble
over with laughter. Little things.
People kissing on bicycles.
Being able to walk up the stairs
and run back down.
Joanna’s garden after the long flight
to Tel Aviv. Not being detained
like everyone thought I would.
The man with dreadlocks
and a perfect green shirt walking home
from work. One cold beer
before I drink it and get sick.
How peaches mold into compost in a single day:
orange to gray to darkness into dirt.
Her ankle’s taste. The skin
right under the knob, delicate
as a tomatillo’s shroud. All the animals
that talk to me. That I finally let them
talk to me. The blessing of waking
early enough to watch the fox
bathe itself. The suction of a man’s hands
meeting another’s on the street.
Every single person looking up
to see them. Bros, yes. But lovely
in the golden light with brims swung
to the back. I want shoulders like
they have. Want my waist to taper
to an ass built like the David’s. I admit it:
this body’s not enough for me.
Still I love it. Al B Sure blasting
out a Nissan Sentra’s windows.
Bowties. Ridiculous blues.
My mother’s seizures—specifically
that I don’t have them.
That I can answer Ross’ call
or not because we live Harmonious
and are always talking somehow.
Tapestries with their gluttony of deer.
Fig perfume and also cypress.
Boxer briefs and packing socks
in jockey shorts. Strap ons.
Soft and hard. Welcome in her hand
and in mine as I greet the real me.
The little shop in Provincetown
And the speckled dog that licks itself
in that fresco of the crucifixion.
Mary Oliver. I love her. I really do.
The baseball she gave me
that says, “Go Sox!” Though, I love
the Orioles. Old Bay on all my shrimp.
And justice. And cities burning
if people need to burn them to get free.
My grandmother gardening
in the late light. Sun Ra. The first time.
Paris, even though I’ve never been
there. Natal plums. Tattoos everlasting:
Clouds. Orion’s belt. Pushing inside her
with both hands holding myself
up. My weight. Her grabbing and saying,
“God.” “Fuck.” The neighbors.
Casablanca. Not knowing anything.
Angels. Mashed potatoes. Good red wine.
---Gabrielle Calvocoressi


"Neither Conquest nor Surrender"
I have not been long in the meaning of shadow, the one shared bruise of
all things. Light in its truest mood. I had come to know this masklessness
in my own restless mornings. I found my shadow in the pit of myself,
merely a knot of what it could become, until light pulled my form from me
and gave it to my shadow. It keeps quiet, working harder than the mind to
make real what is not, though it is the mind that imagines the shadow
having its own language, its own dark idiom translating the body onto
whatever surface will hold it. The shadow is the mind, the mind’s work,
seen. I roll over

~

         and see him sleeping next to me, having forgotten he was there, the
wrinkled cave of him now locked, almost. I sit upright on the bed and face
the wall that holds my shadow like an opened door.

~

Through which the impossible multitudes of the hidden self swiftly pass.

---Phillip B. Williams


"Children Walk on Chairs to Cross a Flooded Schoolyard"

Taytay, Rizal Province, Philippines (based on the photo by Noel Celis)

Hardly anything holds the children up, each poised
mid-air, barely the ball of one small foot
kissing the chair’s wood, so
they don’t just step across, but pause
above the water. I look at that cotton mangle
of a sky, post-typhoon, and presume
it’s holding something back. In this country,
it’s the season of greedy gods
and the several hundred cathedrals
worth of water they spill onto little tropic villages
like this one, where a girl is likely to know
the name of the man who built
every chair in her school by hand,
six of which are now arranged
into a makeshift bridge so that she and her mates
can cross their flooded schoolyard.
Boys in royal blue shorts and red rain boots,
the girls brown and bare-toed
in starch white shirts and pleated skirts.
They hover like bells that can choose
to withhold their one clear, true
bronze note, until all this nonsense
of wind and drizzle dies down.
One boy even reaches forward
into the dark sudden pool below
toward someone we can’t see, and
at the same time, without looking, seems
to offer the tips of his fingers back to the smaller girl
behind him. I want the children
ferried quickly across so they can get back
to slapping one another on the neck
and cheating each other at checkers.
I’ve said time and time again I don’t believe
in mystery, and then I’m reminded what it’s like
to be in America, to kneel beside
a six-year-old, to slide my left hand
beneath his back and my right under his knees,
and then carry him up a long flight of stairs
to his bed. I can feel the fine bones,
the little ridges of the spine
with my palm, the tiny smooth stone
of the elbow. I remember I’ve lifted
a sleeping body so slight I thought
the whole catastrophic world could fall away.
I forget how disaster works, how it can turn
a child back into glistening butterfish
or finches. And then they’ll just do
what they do, which is teach the rest of us
how to move with such natural gravity.
Look at these two girls, center frame,
who hold out their arms
as if they’re finally remembering
they were made for other altitudes.
I love them for the peculiar joy
of returning to earth. Not an ounce
of impatience. This simple thrill
of touching ground.
---Patrick Rosal


"Personal Helicon"
for Michael Longley

As a child, they could not keep me from wells
And old pumps with buckets and windlasses.
I loved the dark drop, the trapped sky, the smells
Of waterweed, fungus and dank moss.

One, in a brickyard, with a rotted board top.
I savoured the rich crash when a bucket
Plummeted down at the end of a rope.
So deep you saw no reflection in it.

A shallow one under a dry stone ditch
Fructified like any aquarium.
When you dragged out long roots from the soft mulch
A white face hovered over the bottom.

Others had echoes, gave back your own call
With a clean new music in it. And one
Was scaresome, for there, out of ferns and tall
Foxgloves, a rat slapped across my reflection.

Now, to pry into roots, to finger slime,
To stare, big-eyed Narcissus, into some spring
Is beneath all adult dignity. I rhyme
To see myself, to set the darkness echoing.
---Seamus Heaney


We grow accustomed to the Dark -
When Light is put away -
As when the Neighbor holds the Lamp
To witness her Good bye -

A Moment - We Uncertain step
For newness of the night -
Then - fit our Vision to the Dark -
And meet the Road - erect -

And so of larger - Darknesses -
Those Evenings of the Brain -
When not a Moon disclose a sign -
Or Star - come out - within -

The Bravest - grope a little -
And sometimes hit a Tree
Directly in the Forehead -
But as they learn to see -

Either the Darkness alters -
Or something in the sight
Adjusts itself to Midnight -
And Life steps almost straight.
---Emily Dickinson


"For darkness restores what light cannot repair."
---Joseph Brodsky, trans. unknown


"And I, leaning out of my window, alone, peering into the gloom, am seized by a passionate desire for everything that is hidden and forbidden. I want the night to come, and kiss me with her hot mouth, and lead me through an amethyst twilight to the place of the white gardenia. There is a dull, heavy sound of clocks striking far away, and, in my room, darkness, emptiness, save for the ghostlike bed. I feel to lie there quiet, silent, passively warm would be too fearful—yet—quite a little fascinating."
---Katherine Mansfield, from a journal entry


"All Hallows"
Even now this landscape is assembling.
The hills darken. The oxen
sleep in their blue yoke,
the fields having been
picked clean, the sheaves
bound evenly and piled at the roadside
among cinquefoil, as the toothed moon rises:

This is the barrenness
of harvest or pestilence.
And the wife leaning out the window
with her hand extended, as in payment,
and the seeds
distinct, gold, calling
Come here
Come here, little one

And the soul creeps out of the tree.
---Louise Glück


"That is why I—the Other, the exception, the sometimes unexpected—came to poetry. To make because I couldn’t find. To risk the shards. To speak with fire. To shape glass. To make once. To keep making."
---Scherezade Siobhan, "Llamada"


Is there no voice to cry out from the wind and say what it is like to be the wind,
To be roughed up by the trees and to bring music from the scattered houses
And the stones, and to be in such an intimate relationship with the sea
That you cannot understand it? Is there no one who feels like a pair of pants?
---Kenneth Koch, "Fresh Air"


"She appeared to be walking in a dream; or, more truly, the vivid life and reality assumed by her emotions made all outward occurrences unsubstantial, like the teasing phantasms of a half-conscious slumber."
---Nathaniel Hawthorne, The House of the Seven Gables


"If I’m interested in a writer, I want to know who they are as writers, and I want to know the communities they came out of. I’m not ticking off boxes. I’m making relationships, between myself and the writing I love, and the organizations that support that writing, so that I know who their newcomers are, their ancestors and their heroes. And so if I choose a writer for something, it comes out of that long relationship. It is coming out of the conversations, and those rooms. If your life and reading are not diverse, I feel sorry for you. You’re living in a tiny tiny corridor inside of an enormous world. You’re on what amounts to a restricted diet while a feast goes on around you. Get out of that corridor and live."
---Alexander Chee


"The doors to the world of the wild Self are few but precious. If you have a deep scar, that is a door, if you have an old, old story, that is a door. If you love the sky and the water so much you almost cannot bear it, that is a door. If you yearn for a deeper life, a full life, a sane life, that is a door."
---Clarissa Pinkola Estés, Women Who Run with the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype


"I write, I extend my hand; without my knowing it, this is already a prayer, I extend my hand to you so that you will exist because you do exist, beyond my fingers, your fingers, without my knowing it this is already a response, already I draw to my side the site for you, with one hand I call the other hand, it is in this modest, all-powerful way that I begin to save what is lost. When I write I ask for your hand."
---Hélène Cixous, Stigmata: Escaping Texts, trans. unknown


"Vert"
As in green, vert, a royal demesne
stocked with deer. Invert as in tipped
as a snow globe, going nowhere in circles
but not lost, not bereft as the wood
without deer, waiting for the white antlered
buck, or his does, or any slim yearling
to step along the berm, return. Vertigo
as in whirling round, swimming in the head,
unanchored by the long spring,
the horse cantering, the meadow dropping
like an elevator into the earth, falling
like Persephone through a crevice, a swiveling
crack, a loose screw, a lost way. Disordered
as in death lasts, my brother’s not coming back.
The spin of it continuous as in looking down
from height, and then it stops, the spinning
just slows, a chariot wheel stilled in grass.
The world is the same, but it isn’t. The tipped
views of trees when hanging from your knees.
The deer in twos and threes watching.
---Catherine Staples


"Northern Pike"
All right. Try this,
Then. Every body
I know and care for,
And every body
Else is going
To die in a loneliness
I can’t imagine and a pain
I don’t know. We had
To go on living. We
Untangled the net, we slit
The body of this fish
Open from the hinge of the tail
To a place beneath the chin
I wish I could sing of.
I would just as soon we let
The living go on living.
An old poet whom we believe in
Said the same thing, and so
We paused among the dark cattails and prayed
For the muskrats,
For the ripples below their tails,
For the little movements that we knew the crawdads were making under water,
For the right-hand wrist of my cousin who is a policeman.
We prayed for the game warden’s blindness.
We prayed for the road home.
We ate the fish.
There must be something very beautiful in my body,
I am so happy.
---James Wright


3.
(To Iphigeneia.)
Your hair is scattered light:
The Greeks will bind it with petals.

And like a little beast,
dappled and without horns,
That scampered on the hill-rocks,
They will leave you
With stained throat–
Though you never cropped hill-grass
To the reed-cry
and the shepherd’s note.

Some Greek hero is cheated
And your mother’s court
Of its bride.

And we ask this–where truth is,
Of what use is valour and is worth?
For evil has conquered the race,
There is no power but in base men,
Nor any man whom the gods do not hate.
---H.D., "Chorus of the Women of Chalkis"


"As for 'Write what you know,' I was regularly told this as a beginner. I think it’s a very good rule and have always obeyed it. I write about imaginary countries, alien societies on other planets, dragons, wizards, the Napa Valley in 22002. I know these things. I know them better than anybody else possibly could, so it’s my duty to testify about them."
---Ursula K. Le Guin


"I am coloured glass from a church window long since shattered. I find pieces of myself everywhere, and I cut myself handling them."
---Jeanette Winterson, Lighthousekeeping


"My deepest impulses are optimistic; an attitude that seems to me as spiritually necessary and proper as it is intellectually suspect."
---Ellen Willis


"We cast a shadow on something wherever we stand, and it is no good moving from place to place to save things; because the shadow always follows. Choose a place where you won’t do harm---yes, choose a place where you won’t do very much harm, and stand in it for all you are worth, facing the sunshine."
---E.M. Forster, A Room with a View


"People say that you should really do something out of your comfort zone. Why? I worked very hard to find my comfort zone. It was really rough and I can’t even get there that often. Takes all day and I gotta get off to a good start and do all the right things and avoid the right people and find all the right people and do all of these things to find my comfort zone. And then I’m supposed to do something outside of my - Fuck you! You do something outside your comfort zone. My comfort zone is hard-won….

"But then, that’s where popular culture and pop psych comes in and wants – and the shtick I was looking at last night was that like, so, if it’s ‘afraid’, then, ‘You should do the things you’re afraid of’. Why? Why? I have felt quite enough fear. I don’t think I will benefit from more fear. I don’t think it’s the missing element in my life. I don’t think that’s the thing I need to be seeking out. ‘Go to the places that scare you.’ No! I have carved out an awesome space in which I don’t have to visit the places that scare me. I don’t like them there. I’ve been there. I know more about them than you, person telling me to go to the places that scare me."
---John Darnielle
[identity profile] two-grey-rooms.livejournal.com
"Frame, an Epistle"
Most of the things you made for me--blanket--
chest, lapdesk, the armless rocker--I gave
away to friends who could use them and not
be reminded of the hours lost there,
not having been witness to those designs,
the tedious finishes. But I did keep
the mirror, perhaps because like all mirrors,
most of these years it has been invisible,
part of the wall, or defined by reflection--
safe--because reflection, after all, does change.
I hung it here in the front, dark hallway
of this house you will never see, so that
it might magnify the meager light,
become a lesser, backward window. No one
pauses long before it. But this morning,
as I put on my overcoat, then straightened
my hair, I saw outside my face its frame
you made for me, admiring for the first
time the way the cherry you cut and planed
yourself had darkened, just as you said it would.
--Claudia Emerson


Under the heart of grass, dew is heavy.
Along the path, a barefoot child carries
an open basket of strawberries.
And through a window I watch him--
as if he's hauling a basket of dawn.

How I wish a path would run my way,
how I wish I held a basket that swayed.
Then I wouldn't long for a far-off realm,
I wouldn't envy what someone else had.
And I would never--really--come back home.
--Arseny Tarkovsky, translator unknown


"Gravity"
After Carrie Mae Weems's "The Kitchen Table Series"

I. THE STRAW

Can you throw this away Maybe you should hire more Black staff
Where are you really from You’re not busy are you You look ethnic today
Where's the African American section Can you turn the music down
Fasterfasterfaster Let me see those eyes Beautiful If you were mine
I'd never let you leave the house It's like you went straight to Africa
to get this one Is that your hair I mean your real hair Blackass
Your gums are black You Black You stink You need a perm
I don't mean to be
racist

But
You're scarred over, I'm the one bleeding
You're just going to rip apart whatever I say
You've said sorry only two times
We tacitly agreed
Then dead me


II. THE CAMEL'S BACK

When you born on somebody else's river in a cursed boat it's all
downhill from there. Ha. Just kidding. I'd tell you what I don't have
time for but I don’t have time. Catch up. Interrogate that. Boss. Halo.
I juke the apocalypse. Fluff my feathers. Diamond my neck. Boom,
like an 808. One in a million. I don't want no scrubs. You don't know
my name. Everything I say is a spell. I'm twenty-five. I'm ninety. I'm
ten. I'm a moonless charcoal. A sour lover. Hidden teeth beneath the
velvet. I'm here and your eyes lucky. I'm here and your future lucky.
Ha. God told me to tell you I'm pretty. Ha. My skin Midas-touch the
buildings I walk by. Ha. Every day I'm alive the weather report say:
Gold. I know. I know. I should leave y'all alone, salt earth like to stay
salty. But here go the mirror, egging on my spirit. Why I can't go back.
Or. The reasons it happened. Name like a carriage of fire. Baby, it's
real. The white face peeking through the curtain. Mule and God. I'm
blunted off my own stank. I'm Bad. I dig graves when I laugh.
--Angel Nafis


"The present is not marked off from a past that it has replaced or a future that will, in turn, replace it; it rather gathers the past and future into itself, like refractions in a crystal ball."
--Tim Ingold, "The Temporality of the Landscape"


"To Be Alive"
To be alive: not just the carcass
But the spark.
That's crudely put, but...

If we're not supposed to dance,
Why all this music?
--Gregory Orr


"It's not enough that a poem extol the virtues of survival and overcoming. What if the poet never overcomes? What if the poet hears the same bitter verdict when testimony after testimony has been given? What if that poet--and this is the ultimate emotional transgression that repels the reader who takes comfort in literature as forgiveness--still feels a shadow of hate and it is that hate that disfigures song into something broken? But see, the only way to get at that inalienable grief is to disfigure song."
--Cathy Park Hong, "Against Witness"


"This first, which might doom everything: poetry is the closest literary form we have to silence. I think about prose too sometimes. What I think is--prose is made almost completely of words. And poetry is not. I keep coming back to this notion in more visceral ways, especially these warmer mornings, the windows open, all the early neighborhood silence rushing in. But of course that silence, like poetry's, isn't silence at all. I hear all manner of birds--the robin's clear push-me, pull-me song, the whirl of the wren and the house finch, the plaintive two or three notes of the chickadee, the two-note hiccup rush of the titmouse. Count more: the thump of the paper on the porch, the guy across the street slamming his car door once, twice. [...] Such an ordinary world. Not the sound of poetry. Not yet anyway. Still, the wayward, sometimes urgent sound of such a world is specifically--to me--a poetic sound, neither the mind's nor the heart's but some weird hybrid, a rhythm out to discover what is knowable and, more aptly perhaps, what is not."
--Marianne Boruch, "The Sound of It"


"In this rhetoric s/m becomes reparative or restorative; and the formalization of its practices suggests a ritual that is repeated in order to recuperate losses or heal the wounds of life. S/m, then, implicitly begins to take on the shape of an art form that is counterpoised to life, and in this opposition its acting out becomes an artistic performance that is more 'real' than life itself. 'Above and beyond the boundaries of time, the boundaries of life and death, there is a greater truth in visions,' Thompson writes. In this way s/m becomes expressed as a journey in which there is no truth prior to the experience but one at the journey's end. Nonetheless this 'end-truth' is somehow always already there, for it is a presupposition of the desire to make the journey itself. In this sense s/m takes on both a redemptive and pastoralizing tone, partaking in the discourses of sacrifice, amendment, atonement. Not, however, in the service of those who have 'sinned,' but as compensation for those who have been sinned against."
--Lynda Hart, Between the Body and the Flesh: Performing Sadomasochism


"Between takeoff and landing, we are each in suspended animation, a pause between chapters of our lives. When we stare out the window into the sun's glare, the landscape is only a flat projection with mountain ranges reduced to wrinkles in the continental skin. Oblivious to our passage overhead, other stories are unfolding beneath us. Blackberries ripen in the August sun; a woman packs a suitcase and hesitates at her doorway; a letter is opened and the most surprising photograph slides from between the pages. But we are moving too fast and we are too far away; all the stories escape us, except our own."
--Robin Wall Kimmerer, Gathering Moss: A Natural and Cultural History of Mosses


"I Am an Only Child (Am I Only a Child)"
Occasionally, there is a herd of mares outside my window.
They shout my name over & over. I say back, I say, I don't have
any stories to tell you. They become angry. They throw their
bodies at the walls of my home. Finally I dig a moat. I dig it
deep. All night, there are horses drowning outside my window.
They cry, How could you do this to us? They cry. I lower the blinds
& sleep for a long, long time. When I awake, my bedroom is full
of limp horse bodies. Who put these in here? Who?
but not a single mare stirs. I lift the blinds. The moat is empty.
The face of the water gleams in the sun. I leap out. I lower
my body into the moat. Finally I am alone, I say to myself. I dip
my muzzle into the water, & drink.
--Anaïs Duplan


"Take away my affections and I should be like sea weed out of water; like the shell of a crab, like a husk. All my entrails, marrow, juice, pulp would be gone. I should be blown into the first pubble and drown. Take away the love of my friends and my burning and pressing sense of the importance and lovability of human life and I should be nothing but a membrane, a fibre, uncoloured, lifeless..."
--Virginia Woolf, from a letter to Ethel Smyth


"The future is only an indifferent void no one cares about, but the past is filled with life, and its countenance is irritating, repellent, wounding, and to the point that we want to destroy or repaint it. We want to be masters of the future only for the power to change the past."
--Milan Kundera, The Book of Laughter and Forgetting


"A story with a single ending seems to us a bare and diminished thing, like a tree with a single branch; and each ending seems to us an expression of something that is buried deep within the tale and can be brought to light in that way and no other."
--Steven Millhauser, Little Kingdoms


"Drag"
The dress is an oil slick. The dress
ruins everything. In a hotel room
by the water, I put it on when
he says, I want to watch you take it off.
Zipping me up, he kisses the mile
markers of my spine. I can't afford
this view. From here, I see a city
that doesn't know it's already
drowning. My neck shivers from
the trail of his tongue. I keep my
eyes on the window, just past
his bald spot. He's short. I can see
the rain that has owned us for weeks
already. The dress will survive us.
The dress will be here when men
come in boats to survey the damage.
He makes me another drink, puts
on some jazz, and the dress begins
to move without me. Slow like some-
thing that knows it cannot be stopped,
the dress seeps. The dress slides
with my body floating inside,
an animal caught in the sludge.
If he wraps his arms around me,
it will be the rest of his life.
I don't even know what I am
in this dress; I just sway with
my arms open and wait.
--Saeed Jones


"Night, the Poem"
If you find your true voice, bring it to the land of the dead. There is kindness in the ashes. And terror in non-identity. A little girl lost in a ruined house, this fortress of my poems.

I write with the blind malice of children pelting a madwoman, like a crow, with stones. No--I don't write: I open a breach in the dusk so the dead can send messages through.

What is this job of writing? To steer by mirror-light in darkness. To imagine a place known only to me. To sing of distances, to hear the living notes of painted birds on Christmas trees.

My nakedness bathed you in light. You pressed against my body to drive away the great black frost of night.

My words demand the silence of a wasteland.

Some of them have hands that grip my heart the moment they're written. Some words are doomed like lilacs in a storm. And some are like the precious dead--even if I still prefer to all of them the words for the doll of a sad little girl.
--Alejandra Pizarnik, translated by Cole Heinowitz


"IX Shooting Back"
You load, focus, aim.
The shutter falls like a tiny axe,
Reopens, a blinking eye washed in light.

An image enters the world
Premature, wet, lit like a miracle. The holier ones
Exploit darkness, develop like secrets.

Only the faithful possess
Nerve enough to stand this long, arms crossed,
Fearlessly posed, in the line of fire.

Every shot attempts to capture
The will-to-survive of its target:
High-top fades, hooded sweats, hard stares,

A Gucci background, a wicker chair.
--Thomas Sayers Ellis


"The Corn Baby"
They brought it. It was brought
from the field, the last sheaf, the last bundle

the latest and most final armful. Up up
over the head, hold it, hold it high, it held

the gazer's gaze, it held hope, did hold it.
Through the stubble of September, on shoulders

aloft, hardly anything, it weighed, like a sparrow,
it was said, something winged, hollow, though

pulsing, freed from the field
where it flailed in wind, where it waited, wanted

to be found and bound with cord. It had
limbs, it had legs. And hands. It had fingers.

Fingers and a face peering from the stalks,
shuttered in the grain, closed, though just a kernel

a shut corm. They brought him and autumn
rushed in, tossed its cape of starlings,

tattered the frost-spackled field.
--Mark Wunderlich
[identity profile] two-grey-rooms.livejournal.com
"Bird-Understander"
Of many reasons I love you here is one

the way you write me from the gate at the airport
so I can tell you everything will be alright

so you can tell me there is a bird
trapped in the terminal all the people
ignoring it because they do not know
what do with it except to leave it alone
until it scares itself to death

it makes you terribly terribly sad

You wish you could take the bird outside
and set it free or (failing that)
call a bird-understander
to come help the bird

All you can do is notice the bird
and feel for the bird and write
to tell me how language feels
impossibly useless

but you are wrong

You are a bird-understander
better than I could ever be
who make so many noises
and call them song

These are your own words
your way of noticing
and saying plainly
of not turning away
from hurt

you have offered them
to me I am only
giving them back

if only I could show you
how very useless
they are not
--Craig Arnold


"Lion Dream"
I may have been wounded before I came
to you, I was
I know. A large fierce feline gripped
me by the neck
back before I knew anything of sex or
logic,
like a cat moving kittens, only rougher,
its piercing canines, its carnivorous
breath--
it hasn't let go yet.

When the abrasion of your unconcern,
saying you love, then roughly "I'm
in pain, I suffer, I've got
serotonin deficiency, I don't let that
stop me,"
as if toughing it out answered terror,
answered it, yes, like a brutal
father, I wake with the baked desert
air
in my ear, its throb a dryer,
scratches

at my left arm, mauled memory, etched net of scar
wondering about harm, what it
wants from me.
--Monica Raymond


"Measuring the Tyger"
Barrels of chains. Sides of beef stacked in vans.
Water buffalo dragging logs of teak in the river mud
outside Mandalay. Pantocrator in the Byzantium dome.
The mammoth overhead crane bringing slabs of steel
through the dingy light and roar to the giant shear
that cuts the adamantine three-quarter-inch plates
and they flop down. The weight of the mind fractures
the girders and piers of the spirit, spilling out
the heart's melt. Incandescent ingots big as cars
trundling out of titanic mills, red slag scaling off
the brighter metal in the dark. The Monongahela River
below, night's sheen on its belly. Silence except
for the machinery clanging deeper in us. You will
love again, people say. Give it time. Me with time
running out. Day after day of the everyday.
What they call real life, made of eighth-inch gauge.
Newness strutting around as if it were significant.
Irony, neatness and rhyme pretending to be poetry.
I want to go back to that time after Michiko's death
when I cried every day among the trees. To the real.
To the magnitude of pain, of being that much alive.
--Jack Gilbert


"An unchangeable colour rules over the melancholic: his dwelling is a space the colour of mourning. Nothing happens in it. No one intrudes. It is a bare stage where the inert I is assisted by the I suffering from that inertia. The latter wishes to free the former, but all efforts fail, as Theseus would have failed had he been not only himself but the Minotaur; to kill him then, he would have had to kill himself. But there are fleeting remedies: sexual pleasures, for instance, can, for a brief moment, obliterate the silent gallery of echoes and mirrors that constitutes the melancholic soul. Even more: they can illuminate the funeral chamber and transform it into a sort of musical box with gaily-coloured figurines that sing and dance deliciously. Afterwards, when the music dies down, the soul will return to immobility and silence. The music box is not a gratuitous comparison. Melancholia is, I believe, a musical problem: a dissonance, a change in rhythm. While on the outside everything happens with the vertiginous rhythm of a cataract, on the inside is the exhausted adagio of drops of water falling from time to tired time. For this reason the outside, seen from the melancholic inside, appears absurd and unreal, and constitutes 'the farce we must all play.' But for an instant--because of a wild music, or a drug, or the sexual act carried to its climax--the very slow rhythm of the melancholic soul does not only rise to that of the outside soul: it overtakes it with an ineffably blissful exorbitance, and the soul then thrills animated by new delirious energies.

"The melancholic soul sees Time as suspended before and after the fatally ephemeral violence. And yet the truth is that time is never suspended, but it grows as slowly as the fingernails of the dead."
--Alejandra Pizarnik, "The Bloody Countess," translated from the Spanish by Alberto Manguel


"Whereas Iser focuses mainly on the realist work, Barthes offers a sharply contrasting account of reading by taking the modernist text, one which dissolves all distinct meaning into a free play of words, which seeks to undo repressive thought-systems by a ceaseless slipping and sliding of language. Such a text demands less a 'hermeneutics' than an 'erotics': since there is no way to arrest it into determinate sense, the reader simply luxuriates in the tantalizing glide of signs, in the provocative glimpses of meaning which surface only to submerge again. Caught up in this exuberant dance of language, delighting in the textures of words themselves, the reader knows less the purposive pleasure of building a coherent system, binding textual elements masterfully together to shore up a unitary self, than the masochistic thrills of feeling that self shattered and dispersed through the tangled webs of the work itself. Reading is less like a laboratory than a boudoir. Far from returning the reader to himself, in some final recuperation of the selfhood which the act of reading has thrown into question, the modernist text explodes his or her secure cultural identity, in a jouissance which for Barthes is both readerly bliss and sexual orgasm."
--Terry Eagleton, Literary Theory: An Introduction


"9"
I've lost my shoes Have you seen them
The winged ones that used to carry me

I've heard that when people die they remember
their mothers and call in the night Carry me

When my son used to say I can do it myself
he was whispering Could you carry me

When the quick rain soaks the shoulders of my shirt
it's saying Just for now Carry me

There's a tenderness around your eyes
Have enough tears said Carry me

All day in this new dream I walk on gravel
and the words you didn't whisper carry me

When my mother arrives at the end of something
it's to faint in my arms and say Carry me

I've known how to walk since before I was born
It's useless to try to carry me

What the dazzle of light says as it touches
the wave swelling Cresting Breaking Carry me

What the secrets say as they line the edges
of my eyes Your eyes Carry me

What the shoeless stammerer doesn't say
as she doesn't step into your arms Carry me
--Suzanne Gardinier, from Today: 101 Ghazals


"19"
Irish tea from Assam and Kericho
Did it change names crossing the border

The smallholders' plots in the rift valley highlands
Sweat becomes pleasure across the border

Two leaves and a bud One girl with a basket
as tall as she Across the border

The bushes smuggled out after partition
The divided ones calling across the border

A regiment of tea drilling over
the ghost of a forest Across the border

A terrace of pickers The ache in his neck
The cuts on her hands Across the border

The growing tips to the withering trough
Cut Torn Curled Across the border

Three shillings per kilo The smell of her tiredness
What will it sell for across the border

The auction Monday mornings in Mombasa
What leaf plus stoop means across the border

The savor of hunger Of take Of plantation
Can they taste it in Belfast Across the border

Plantation of cocoa Cinnamon Jasmine
The cost of sweet Across the border

Two Mombasa garlands A needle through
each closed blossom's tip Across the border

In an acre five hundred pounds of blossom
Is that Vishnu lifting one Or a girl Across the border

Threaded blossom opening on the neck
of the bride Of the groom Across the border

Or the spent blossoms reddened and crushed in the lawless
lovers' bed Across the border

Two leaves and a bud That dip and pivot
The ache it makes Across the border

Here's a witness Two aches One of absence
and one of partition Across the border
--Suzanne Gardinier


"21"
All night your breath at my neck and this rocking
Carried limp in a lion's mouth

Plush underfoot Arched vault overhead
Template of a palace A lion's mouth

Teeth but you keep them from tearing me
The long night ride in a lion's mouth

Breathing high plains and the deft leapers' heartbeats
Smeared with blood A lion's mouth

Knowing and deep How you come when I'm sleeping
Beyond the settlements A lion's mouth

Shall I show you how brave I am
My head all night in a lion's mouth

The rock of your heartbeat Your paws on my chest
Your tongue Your growling A lion's mouth

Guttering candle lit Not at the hearth
My hips pressed to a lion's mouth

Your voice that makes the bent grass tremble
In danger In darkness A lion's mouth

The chair The whip The emperor's shouting
All for the soft wet lion's mouth

Your prey still pinned open remembers
a little death A lion's mouth
--Suzanne Gardinier


"25"
I must have missed the day this was discussed
Teach me then What is a person

This mask This way This face I've borrowed
from the old ones From you Is the owner a person

The way a stranger is not a stranger
Would I understand this if I were a person

The way this ruled island moves and whispers
and presses against me Does it think I'm a person

A palace Not a tent A hawk Not a perch
A message Not a messenger Is this a person

Who is that sitting across the table
A variation on Body & Soul or a person

The chastened lovers making way
for the ceremony of the chosen person

The individuality documents
I can't seem to keep on my person

To have and to hold the rain on the river
A glint of the unbroken braid A person

A spark in clothing When she comes in a dream
I can smell her So one of us must be a person

Come sit with your half-deaf union-rent comrade
Did you say misprision Or prison Or person
--Suzanne Gardinier


"32"
The slanted light The winter coming
The leaves in drifts the color of honey

The men who believe the cure for shame
is murder Plotting in shops that sell honey

If you hear an airplane meet me in the cellar
The winter walls lined with August honey

After bees roll in the poppies' black dust
over fields of ordnance what's the taste of honey

The winter hive in the rock cleft dust
Is this the presence or absence of honey

The sweep of your legs Your restless pacing
What's between Honor A borrowed lock Honey

Nectar to flight to spit and labor
The dance Life to death Interrupted by honey

Flecked with shrapnel and shirt threads of old children
Broken webs Weapon grease Still Honey

The soldier from the waist down made of steel
She who remembers him made of honey

The gulled harvesters breaking jars in the street
because they forgot the taste of the honey

The one without it who comes at night
and naked and says the prayer for it Honey
--Suzanne Gardinier


"Why Some Girls Love Horses"
And then I thought, Can I have more
of this, would it be possible
for every day to be a greater awakening: more light,
more light, your face on the pillow
with the sleep creases rudely
fragmenting it, hair so stiff
from paint and sheet rock it feels
like the dirty short hank
of mane I used to grab on Dandy's neck
before he hauled me up and forward,
white flanks flecked green
with shit and the satin of his dander,
the livingness, the warmth
of all that blood just under the skin
and in the long, thick muscle of the neck--
He was smarter than most of the children
I went to school with. He knew
how to stand with just the crescent
of his hoof along a boot toe and press,
incrementally, his whole weight down. The pain
so surprising when it came,
its iron intention sheathed in stealth, the decisive
sudden twisting of his leg until the hoof
pinned one's foot completely to the ground,
we'd have to beat and beat him with a brush
to push him off, that hot
insistence with its large horse eye trained
deliberately on us, to watch--

Like us, he knew how to announce through violence
how he didn't hunger, didn't want
despite our practiced ministrations: too young
not to try to emphasize
with this cunning: this thing
that was and was not human we must respect
for itself and not our imagination of it: I loved him because
I could not love him anymore
in the ways I'd taught myself,
watching the slim bodies of teenagers
guide their geldings in figure eights around the ring
as if they were one body, one fluid motion
of electric understanding I would never feel
working its way through fingers to the bit: this thing
had a name, a need, a personality; it possessed
an indifference that gave me
logic and a measure: I too might stop wanting
the hand placed on back or shoulder
and never feel the desired response.
I loved the horse for the pain it could imagine

and inflict on me, the sudden jerking
of head away from halter, the tentative nose
inspecting first before it might decide
to relent and eat. I loved
what was not slave or instinct, that when you turn to me
it is a choice, it is always a choice to imagine pleasure
might be blended, one warmth
bleeding into another as the future
bleeds into the past, more light, more light,
your hand against my shoulder, the image
of the one taught me disobedience
is the first right of being alive.
--Paisley Rekdal


"Ballard Locks"
Air-struck, wound-gilled, ladder
upon ladder of them thrashing
through froth, herds of us climb
the cement stair to watch
this annual plunge back to dying, spawn;
so much twisted light
the whole tank seethes in a welter of bubbles:
more like sequined
purses than fish, champagned explosions
beneath which the ever-moving
smolt fume smacks against glass, churns them up
to lake from sea level, the way,
outside, fishing boats are dropped or raised
in pressured chambers, hoses spraying
the salt-slicked undersides a cleaner clean.
Now the vessels
can return to dock. Now the fish,
in their similar chambers, rise and fall
along the weirs, smelling the place
instinct makes for them,
city's pollutants sieved
through grates: keeping fish
where fish will spawn; changing the physics of it,
changing ours as well:
one giant world encased
with plastic rock, seaweed transplanted
in thick ribbons for schools to rest in
before they work their way up
the industrious journey: past shipyard, bus lot,
train yard, past
bear cave, past ice valley; past the place
my father's father once,
as a child, had stood with crowds
and shot at them with guns
then scooped them from the river with a net, such
silvers, pinks crosshatched with black:
now there's protective glass
behind which gray shapes shift: change
then change again. Can you see the jaws
thickening with teeth, scales
beginning to plush themselves with blood: can you see
there is so little distinction here
between beauty, violence, utility?
The water looks like boiling sun.
A child has turned his finger into a gun.
Bang, the ladders say
as they bring up fish into too-bright air, then down again,
while the child watches the glass
revolve its shapes into a hiss of light.
Bang, the boy repeats.
His finger points and points.
--Paisley Rekdal


"Voyeurs"
A horse falls on a girl
in its trailer. The horse
is a thoroughbred
lame with founder. The girl
a girl. You can't
imagine the pain.
You can't
because this story
isn't yours, isn't that
of the woman telling it
either. You watch
her take the basket
of bread, tear it
slice by broken slice.
When the horse
slips in the moving
trailer, it pins the girl
by her torso to the floor.
The woman smiles.
If he tries to rise,
she says, his shoulder
will push downward
to her spine. The dull
thud of the heart
beats against her chest.
She orders another
glass of wine.
You can see
the girl's damp fingers
stroke the silken neck.
You can't imagine why
the woman looks at you
and smiles. The horse
will grind its full weight
into her. In the light,
your thin sleeves sway
like flame. An image
of the time he grabbed
your wrist, twisted
till you cried
that he would break it.
The woman takes the smallest
sip of wine.
Her face is flushed.
A lock of hair is caught
inside your mouth.
One quick twist
of shoulder. Another
glass of wine? Voices
sweep the metal, echo
through the trailer. What
to say of the dim shapes
moving in the dark?
Straw rustles. The breath
grows shallower. You watch
the damp face twist, the hands
reach out to tear
another, broken slice.
--Paisley Rekdal


"Sideshow"
We only shelled out a buck,
knew The Snake Man

was a sham and Electra,
someone's mother. We were promised

The Smallest Woman in the World,
but expected some specimen in a jar.

Instead, The Smallest Woman in the World
asked for money to buy a wheelchair, said

she was from Trinidad.
We'd never heard of it.
--Sommer Browning


"Either Way I'm Celebrating"
They're saying irony is dead.
And for a few minutes I thought

I might die too--a woman
who would buy a fifth of liquor
and a pregnancy test just to see
the look on the clerk's face.

It's always strange to be born
before the cusp of some new age,
hanging onto nothing as if it were

Los Angeles. I remember glaring
through the windshield of the family
Pacer, watching a thirty-foot man
crack jokes on the screen.

My parents were laughing,
but I didn't get the way something
huge and astonishing could be flat,
could not exist at all.
--Sommer Browning


"Revel"
I have difficult or painful chest pain.

I have difficulty swallowing.

I open my eyes. I write open for hope.
I write difficult for swallowing. At what point

do I wish for swallowing. For difficult or painful
chest pain. I open my chest at this point.

I write hope for open. I have difficult or swallowing
chest pain. My eyes at this point

have difficulty swallowing. I have painful
difficulty swallowing. For hope or open

my chest at this point. I have painful or
swallowing eye pain. At what point

do I wish for chest pain. I open
my chest. I write difficult eye pain

for open.

I have difficulty writing.
--Sommer Browning
[identity profile] two-grey-rooms.livejournal.com
"The sorcerer suddenly remembered the god's words. He remembered that of all the creatures on the earth, Fire was the only one who knew that his son was a phantasm. That recollection, comforting at first, soon came to torment him. He feared that his son would meditate upon his unnatural privilege and somehow discover that he was a mere simulacrum. To be not a man, but the projection of another man's dream--what incomparable humiliation, what vertigo! Every parent feels concern for the children he has procreated (or allowed to be procreated) in happiness or in mere confusion; it was only natural that the sorcerer should fear for the future of the son he had conceived organ by organ, feature by feature, through a thousand and one secret nights.

"The end of his meditations came suddenly, but it had been foretold by certain signs: first (after a long drought), a distant cloud, as light as a bird, upon a mountaintop; then, toward the South, the sky the pinkish color of a leopard's gums; then the clouds of smoke that rusted the iron of the nights; then, at last, the panicked flight of the animals--for that which had occurred hundreds of years ago was being repeated now. The ruins of the sanctuary of the god of Fire were destroyed by fire. In the birdless dawn, the sorcerer watched the concentric holocaust close in upon the walls. For a moment he thought of taking refuge in the water, but then he realized that death would be a crown upon his age and absolve him from his labors. He walked into the tatters of flame, but they did not bite his flesh--they caressed him, bathed him without heat and without combustion. With relief, with humiliation, with terror, he realized that he, too, was but appearance, that another man was dreaming him."
--Jorge Luis Borges, "The Circular Ruins"


"This monism or complete idealism invalidates all science. If we explain (or judge) a fact, we connect it with another; such linking, in Tlön, is a later state of the subject which cannot affect or illuminate the previous state. Every mental state is irreducible: the mere fact of naming it--i.e., of classifying it--implies a falsification. From which it can be deduced that there are no sciences on Tlön, not even reasoning. The paradoxical truth is that they do exist, and in almost uncountable number. The same thing happens with philosophies as happens with nouns in the northern hemisphere. The fact that every philosophy is by definition a dialectical game, a Philosophie des Als Ob, has caused them to multiply. There is an abundance of incredible systems of pleasing design or sensational type. The metaphysicians of Tlön do not seek for the truth or even for verisimilitude, but rather for the astounding. They judge that metaphysics is a branch of fantastic literature. They know that a system is nothing more than the subordination of all aspects of the universe to any one such aspect. Even the phrase 'all aspects' is rejectable, for it supposes the impossible addition of the present and of all past moments. Neither is it licit to use the plural 'past moments,' since it supposes another operation...One of the schools of Tlön goes so far as to negate time: it reasons that the present is indefinite, that the future has no reality other than as a present memory. Another school declares that all time has already transpired and that our life is only the crepuscular and no doubt falsified mutilated memory or reflection of an irrecoverable process. Another, that the history of the universe--and in it our lives and the most tenuous detail of our lives--is the scripture produced by a subordinate god in order to communicate with a demon. Another, that the universe is comparable to those cryptographs in which not all the symbols are valid and that only what happens every three hundred nights is true. Another, that while we sleep here, we are awake elsewhere and that in this way every man is two men."
--Jorge Luis Borges, "Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius"


"I foresee that man will resign himself each day to more atrocious undertakings; soon there will be no one but warriors and brigands; I give them this counsel: The author of an atrocious undertaking ought to imagine that he has already accomplished it, ought to impose upon himself a future as irrevocable as the past. Thus I proceeded as my eyes of a man already dead registered the elapsing of that day, which was perhaps the last, and the diffusion of the night."
--Jorge Luis Borges, "The Garden of Forking Paths"


"The instructions to turn always to the left reminded me that such was the common procedure for discovering the central point of certain labyrinths. I have some understanding of labyrinths: not for nothing am I the great grandson of that Ts'ui Pên who was governor of Yunnan and who renounced worldly power in order to write a novel that might be even more populous than the Hung Lu Meng and to construct a labyrinth in which all men would become lost. Thirteen years he dedicated to these heterogeneous tasks, but the hand of a stranger murdered him--and his novel was incoherent and no one found the labyrinth. Beneath English trees I meditated on that lost maze: I imagined it inviolate and perfect at the secret crest of a mountain; I imagined it erased by rice fields or beneath the water; I imagined it infinite, no longer composed of octagonal kiosks and returning paths, but of rivers and provinces and kingdoms...I thought of a labyrinth of labyrinths, of one sinuous spreading labyrinth that would encompass the past and the future and in some way involve the stars. Absorbed in these illusory images, I forgot my destiny of one pursued. I felt myself to be, for an unknown period of time, an abstract perceiver of the world. The vague, living countryside, the moon, the remains of the day worked on me, as well as the slope of the road which eliminated any possibility of weariness. The afternoon was intimate, infinite. The road descended and forked among the now confused meadows. A high-pitched, almost syllabic music approached and receded in the shifting of the wind, dimmed by leaves and distance. I thought that a man can be an enemy of other men, of the moments of other men, but not of a country: not of fireflies, words, gardens, streams of water, sunsets."
--Jorge Luis Borges, "The Garden of Forking Paths"


"Before unearthing this letter, I had questioned myself about the ways in which a book can be infinite. I could think of nothing other than a cyclic volume, a circular one. A book whose last page was identical with the first, a book which had the possibility of continuing indefinitely. I remembered too that night which is at the middle of the Thousand and One Nights when Scheherazade (through a magical oversight of the copyist) begins to relate word for word the story of the Thousand and One Nights, establishing the risk of coming once again to the night when she must repeat it, and thus on to infinity. I imagined as well a Platonic. hereditary work. transmitted from father to son, in which each new individual adds a chapter or corrects with pious care the pages of his elders. These conjectures diverted me; but none seemed to correspond, not even remotely, to the contradictory chapters of Ts'ui Pên. In the midst of this perplexity, I received from Oxford the manuscript you have examined. I lingered, naturally, on the sentence: I leave to the various futures (not to all) my garden of forking paths. Almost instantly, I understood: 'the garden of forking paths' was the chaotic novel; the phrase 'the various futures (not to all)' suggested to me the forking in time, not in space. A broad rereading of the work confirmed the theory. In all fictional works, each time a man is confronted with several alternatives, he chooses one and eliminates the others; in the fiction of Ts'ui Pên, he chooses--simultaneously--all of them. He creates, in this way, diverse futures, diverse times which themselves also proliferate and fork. Here, then, is the explanation of the novel's contradictions. Fang, let us say, has a secret; a stranger calls at his door; Fang resolves to kill him. Naturally, there are several possible outcomes: Fang can kill the intruder, the intruder can kill Fang, they both can escape, they both can die, and so forth. In the work of Ts'ui Pên, all possible outcomes occur; each one is the point of departure for other forkings. Sometimes, the paths of this labyrinth converge: for example, you arrive at this house, but in one of the possible pasts you are my enemy, in another, my friend."
--Jorge Luis Borges, "The Garden of Forking Paths"


" 'In a riddle whose answer is chess, what is the only prohibited word?'

"I thought a moment and replied, 'The word chess.'

" 'Precisely,' said Albert. 'The Garden of Forking Paths is an enormous riddle, or parable, whose theme is time; this recondite cause prohibits its mention. To omit a word always, to resort to inept metaphors and obvious periphrases, is perhaps the most emphatic way of stressing it. That is the tortuous method preferred, in each of the meanderings of his indefatigable novel, by the oblique Ts'ui Pên. I have compared hundreds of manuscripts, I have corrected the errors that the negligence of the copyists has introduced, I have guessed the plan of this chaos, I have re-established--I believe I have reestablished--the primordial organization, I have translated the entire work: it is clear to me that not once does he employ the word 'time.' The explanation is obvious: The Garden of Forking Paths is an incomplete, but not false, image of the universe as Ts'ui Pên conceived it. In contrast to Newton and Schopenhauer, your ancestor did not believe in a uniform, absolute time. He believed in an infinite series of times, in a growing, dizzying net of divergent, convergent and parallel times. This network of times which approached one another, forked, broke off, or were unaware of one another for centuries, embraces all possibilities of time. We do not exist in the majority of these times; in some you exist, and not I; in others I, and not you; in others, both of us. In the present one, which a favorable fate has granted me, you have arrived at my house; in another, while crossing the garden, you found me dead; in still another, I utter these same words, but I am a mistake, a ghost."
--Jorge Luis Borges, "The Garden of Forking Paths"


"The History of Violets: XXIX"
At the age of ten
I was that tall blonde girl
beneath the potato piles my father lifted
beside the rosebushes and the moon.
The crops were burning, and the golden hay, and the unknown white horses,
that came in the evening to visit us,
their hair to the ground, the same as mine,
their eyes like sapphire medallions
their mouths filled with tremendous pearls,
they flew up over the evening,
above the dew-covered night;
they stood like kings, soldiers
of a victory we did not share.
I do not know if they were fifty or just one,
I never managed to count them.
They passed by like clouds, like dreams,
breaking the garden's porcelain heart,
owls, giants, leaning out, staring at them
but they fit in my hands
galloping sweetly
inside my grandmother's cupboards.
--Marosa di Giorgio, translated from the Spanish by Jeannine Marie Pitas


"For Janis Joplin"
sing sweetly, then die
no: bark.

as Rousseau's gypsy sleeps
so you also sing the lessons of terror.

we must cry until we break
to create or to say a little song
scream loud enough to cup the holes of an absence
you did that. I did too
maybe this made matters worse

you did well to die
this is why I'm speaking to you, why
I'm confiding in a monstrous little girl.
--Alejandra Pizarnik

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