[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
" 'You hold that anger,' Mistress Weatherwax said, as if reading all of her mind. 'Cup it in your heart, remember where it came from, remember the shape of it, save it until you need it. But now the wolf is out there somewhere in the woods, and you need to see to the flock.' "
--Terry Pratchett, A Hat Full of Sky


" 'Need each other as much as you can bear,' writes Eileen Myles. 'Everywhere you go in the world.'

"I felt the wild need for any or all of these people that night. Lying there alone, I began to feel--perhaps even to know--that I did not exist apart from their love and need of me.

"Of this latter I felt less sure, but it seemed possible, if the equation worked both ways.

"Falling asleep I thought, 'Maybe this, for me, is the hand of God.' "
--Maggie Nelson


now what were motionless move(exists no

miracle mightier than this:to feel)
poor worlds must merely do,which then are done;
and whose last doing shall not quite undo
such first amazement as a leaf-here's one

more than each creature new(except your fear
to whom i give this little parasol,
so she may above people walk in the air
with almost breathing me)-look up:and we’ll

(for what were less than dead)dance,i and you;

high(are become more than alive)above
anybody and fate and even Our
whisper it Selves but don't look down and to

-morrow and yesterday and everything except love
--e. e. cummings


"Prayers"
1.
We pray
and the resurrection happens.
Here are the young
again,
sniping and giggling,
tingly
as ringing phones.
2.
All we ask
is that our thinking
sustain momentum,
identify targets.
The pressure
in my lower back
rising to be recognized
as pain.
The blue triangles
on the rug
repeating.
Coming up,
a discussion
on the uses
of torture.
The fear
that all this
will end.
The fear
that it won't.
--Rae Armantrout


"All witches are selfish, the Queen had said. But Tiffany's Third Thoughts said: Then turn selfishness into a weapon! Make all things yours! Make other lives and dreams and hopes yours! Protect them! Save them! Bring them into the sheepfold! Walk the gale for them! Keep away the wolf! My dreams! My brother! My family! My land! My world! How dare you try to take these things, because they are mine!"
--Terry Pratchett, The Wee Free Men


"The Unexplorer"
There was a road ran past our house
Too lovely to explore.
I asked my mother once--she said
That if you followed where it led
It brought you to the milk-man's door.
(That's why I have not travelled more.)
--Edna St. Vincent Millay


"Let me begin by telling you that I was in love. An ordinary statement, to be sure, but not an ordinary fact, for so few of us learn that love is tenderness, and tenderness is not, as a fair proportion suspect, pity; and still fewer know that happiness in love is not the absolute focusing of all emotion in another: one has always to love a good many things which the beloved must come only to symbolize; the true beloveds of this world are in their lover's eyes lilac opening, ship lights, school bells, a landscape, remembered conversations, friends, a child's Sunday, lost voices, one's favorite suit, autumn and all seasons, memory, yes, it being the earth and water of existence, memory."
--Truman Capote, Other Voices, Other Rooms


"When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives mean the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares."
--Henri J. M. Nouwen


i am accused of tending to the past
as if i made it,
as if i sculpted it
with my own hands. i did not.
this past was waiting for me
when i came,
a monstrous unnamed baby,
and i with my mother's itch
took it to breast
and named it
History.
she is more human now,
learning language every day,
remembering faces, names, and dates.
when she is strong enough to travel
on her own, beware, she will.
--Lucille Clifton


"I learned a long time ago that life introduces young people to situations they are in no way prepared for, even good girls, lucky girls who want for nothing. Sometimes, when you least expect it, you become the girl in the woods. You lose your name because another one is forced on you. You think you are alone until you find books about girls like you. Salvation is certainly among the reasons I read. Reading and writing have always pulled me out of the darkest experiences in my life. Stories have given me a place in which to lose myself. They have allowed me to remember. They have allowed me to forget. They have allowed me to imagine different endings and better possible worlds."
--Roxane Gay, Bad Feminist


"Could Have Danced All Night"
The wolf appointed to tear me apart
is sure making slow work of it.
This morning just one eye weeping,
a single chip out of my back and
the usual maniacal wooden bird flutes
in the brain. Listen to that feeble howl
like having fangs is something to regret,
like we shouldn't give thanks for blood
thirst. Even my idiot neighbor backing out
without looking could do a better job,
even that leaning diseased tree or dream
of a palsied hand squeezing the throat but
we've been at this for years, lying exposed
on the couch in the fat of the afternoon,
staring down the moon among night blooms.
What good's a reluctant wolf anyway?
The other wolves just get it drunk
then tie it to a post. Poor pup.
Here's my hand. Bite.
--Dean Young


"[W]e are not looking for a perfect analysis, but we are looking for
the mark of vulnerability which makes a great text not an authority
generating a perfect narrative, but our own companion, as it were, so
we can share our own vulnerabilities with those texts and move."
--Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak


"A story has no beginning or end: arbitrarily one chooses that moment of experience from which to look back or from which to look ahead."
--Graham Greene, The End of the Affair


"I don't believe in freedom. I think it's an illusion. A nightmare. I think it's bad. I think we depend on the air to breathe, that animals die so that we can eat them, that some one cares for us so that we feel secure, that everything is o.k. so that we have peace. I think we are all dependents! I do think that we have the possibility to have the keys to our own cell, to our own prison. I want to be the owner of my own prison keys. But I don't want to be 'free'. Trying to be 'free' is like trying to be a lone-standing star. The stars shine, but they do not give warmth. And they are very distant. I want heat! I want to be near to others. I want to be human, a prisoner to life."
--Concha Buika


"Leave the door open for the unknown, the door into the dark. That's where the most important things come from, where you yourself came from, and where you will go."
--Rebecca Solnit


"Please Stand a While Longer in the Vast, Amazing Dark"
Maybe don't for another minute be afraid
of anything. Because swimming is really useful
against drowning which you didn't know until
you tried it. And then your life was just massive
regret. And then you thought about three
purple blossoms in the hair
of a beautiful girl. But that's not the part
that aches in a deep kind of place
inside you. Like if your dinner caught fire
in your stomach and then you ran
to the river which was dry. And your friend
was a jerk who doesn't share resources
including a hose. Most things lose
interest when you are quiet
and small. Most things want to be
around other majestic things that make
noise or beauty. Wind plucks a flower
for sailing. You stand there in the presence
of whatever you are not.
--Wendy Xu


"The feeling that something is missing never, ever leaves you--and it can't, and it shouldn't, because something is missing. The missing part, the missing past, can be an opening, not a void. It can be an entry as well as an exit. It is the fossil record, the imprint of another life, and although you can never have that life, your fingers trace the space where it might have been, and your fingers learn a kind of Braille.

"There are markings here, raised like welts. Read them. Read the hurt. Rewrite them. Rewrite the hurt."
--Jeanette Winterson, Why Be Happy When You Can Be Normal?


"If books could have more, give more, be more, show more, they would still need readers who bring to them sound and smell and light and all the rest that can't be in books. The book needs you."
--Gary Paulsen, The Winter Room


"We cannot live in a world that is not our own, in a world that is interpreted for us by others. An interpreted world is not a home. Part of the terror is to take back our own listening, to use our own voice, to see our own light."
--St. Hildegard von Bingen, translator unknown


"Watch This"
1.
Small flame wandering
on its wick.

2.
I had wanted
intimacy, for you to see
what I saw
in my mirror.

3.
Pleasure preferred
in semblance,

sibilance
--Rae Armantrout


"There Are Birds Here"
For Detroit

There are birds here,
so many birds here
is what I was trying to say
when they said those birds were metaphors
for what is trapped
between buildings
and buildings. No.
The birds are here
to root around for bread
the girl's hands tear
and toss like confetti. No,
I don't mean the bread is torn like cotton,
I said confetti, and no
not the confetti
a tank can make of a building.
I mean the confetti
a boy can't stop smiling about
and no his smile isn't much
like a skeleton at all. And no
his neighborhood is not like a war zone.
I am trying to say
his neighborhood
is as tattered and feathered
as anything else,
as shadow pierced by sun
and light parted
by shadow-dance as anything else,
but they won’t stop saying
how lovely the ruins,
how ruined the lovely
children must be in that birdless city.
--Jamaal May


"Poetry wants to make things mean more than they mean, says someone, as if we knew how much things meant, and in what unit of measure."
--Rae Armantrout


"Odd as it may seem, I am my remembering self, and the experiencing self, who does my living, is like a stranger to me."
--Daniel Kahneman, Thinking, Fast and Slow


"What is a quote? A quote (cognate with quota) is a cut, a section, a slice of someone else's orange. You suck the slice, toss the rind, skate away."
--Anne Carson, "Foam (Essay with Rhapsody): On the Sublime with Longinus and Antonioni"


"[...] in trying to heal that wound that never heals, lies the strangeness, the inventiveness of a man's work."
--García Lorca, "Theory and Play of the Duende," translated by A. S. Kline


"The Muse stirs the intellect, bringing a landscape of columns and an illusory taste of laurel, and intellect is often poetry's enemy, since it limits too much, since it lifts the poet into the bondage of aristocratic fineness, where he forgets that he might be eaten, suddenly, by ants, or that a huge arsenical lobster might fall on his head--things against which the Muses who inhabit monocles, or the roses of lukewarm lacquer in a tiny salon, have no power.

"Angel and Muse come from outside us: the angel brings light, the Muse form (Hesiod learnt from her). Golden bread or fold of tunic, it is her norm that the poet receives in his laurel grove. While the duende has to be roused from the furthest habitations of the blood."
--García Lorca, "Theory and Play of the Duende," translated by A. S. Kline


"I believe that words uttered in passion contain a greater living truth than do those words which express thoughts rationally conceived. It is blood that moves the body. Words are not meant to stir the air only: they are capable of moving greater things."
--Natsume Soseki, Kokoro


"The more I wonder, the more I love."
--Alice Walker, The Color Purple
[identity profile] two-grey-rooms.livejournal.com
"The Monument"
Now can you see the monument? It is of wood
built somewhat like a box. No. Built
like several boxes in descending sizes
one above the other.
Each is turned half-way round so that
its corners point toward the sides
of the one below and the angles alternate.
Then on the topmost cube is set
a sort of fleur-de-lys of weathered wood,
long petals of board, pierced with odd holes,
four-sided, stiff, ecclesiastical.
From it four thin, warped poles spring out,
(slanted like fishing-poles or flag-poles)
and from them jig-saw work hangs down,
four lines of vaguely whittled ornament
over the edges of the boxes
to the ground.
The monument is one-third set against
a sea; two-thirds against a sky.
The view is geared
(that is, the view's perspective)
so low there is no "far away,"
and we are far away within the view.
A sea of narrow, horizontal boards
lies out behind our lonely monument,
its long grains alternating right and left
like floor-boards--spotted, swarming-still,
and motionless. A sky runs parallel,
and it is palings, coarser than the sea's:
splintery sunlight and long-fibred clouds.
"Why does the strange sea make no sound?
Is it because we're far away?
Where are we? Are we in Asia Minor,
or in Mongolia?"
An ancient promontory,
an ancient principality whose artist-prince
might have wanted to build a monument
to mark a tomb or boundary, or make
a melancholy or romantic scene of it...
"But that queer sea looks made of wood,
half-shining, like a driftwood, sea.
And the sky looks wooden, grained with cloud.
It's like a stage-set; it is all so flat!
Those clouds are full of glistening splinters!
What is that?"
It is the monument.
"It's piled-up boxes,
outlined with shoddy fret-work, half-fallen off,
cracked and unpainted. It looks old."
--The strong sunlight, the wind from the sea,
all the conditions of its existence,
may have flaked off the paint, if ever it was painted,
and made it homelier than it was.
"Why did you bring me here to see it?
A temple of crates in cramped and crated scenery,
what can it prove?
I am tired of breathing this eroded air,
this dryness in which the monument is cracking."

It is an artifact
of wood. Wood holds together better
than sea or cloud or and could by itself,
much better than real sea or sand or cloud.
It chose that way to grow and not to move.
The monument's an object, yet those decorations,
carelessly nailed, looking like nothing at all,
give it away as having life, and wishing;
wanting to be a monument, to cherish something.
The crudest scroll-work says "commemorate,"
while once each day the light goes around it
like a prowling animal,
or the rain falls on it, or the wind blows into it.
It may be solid, may be hollow.
The bones of the artist-prince may be inside
or far away on even drier soil.
But roughly but adequately it can shelter
what is within (which after all
cannot have been intended to be seen).
It is the beginning of a painting,
a piece of sculpture, or poem, or monument,
and all of wood. Watch it closely.
--Elizabeth Bishop


"Your whole life you are really writing one book, which is an attempt to grasp the consciousness of your time and place--a single book written from different stages of your ability."
--Nadine Gordimer


"Naming is a difficult and time-consuming process; it concerns essences, and it means power. But on the wild nights who can call you home? Only the one who knows your name."
--Jeanette Winterson, Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit


"I'm a witch woman; high on tobacco and holy water. I'm a woman delighted with her disasters. They give me something to do. A profession of sorts. I have the magic of words."
--Sandra Cisneros


"To give a cause to damage is to contain a mess, to mop up a spillage. The figure of the feminist killjoy is rather like that of the broken jug: she too flies off the handle, an expression used to indicate the suddenness of anger.

"Maybe she snaps. She is snappy.

"Think of when a twig snaps. We might hear that snap as an origin of a movement, as the beginning of violence, because we don't notice the pressure on the twig. A feminist understanding of power attends to what I called in The Cultural Politics of Emotion (2004), 'a history of reaction,' a history that tends to be erased, of bodies that are pressed, contorted, reduced, by what they come up against.

"A snap is not a starting point.

"She snaps; it shatters.

"We can be shattered by what we come up against; we can shatter into a million pieces when we hurl ourselves against those walls, those hardenings of history."
--Sara Ahmed, "Fragility"
[identity profile] two-grey-rooms.livejournal.com
"But each deed you do, each act, binds you to itself and to its consequences, and makes you act again and yet again. Then very seldom do you come upon a space, a time like this, between act and act, when you may stop and simply be. Or wonder who, after all, you are."
--Ursula K. Le Guin, The Farthest Shore


"Everyone was terrified of being alone with himself; yet in company, in spite of the universal assumption of camradeship, these strange beings remained as remote from one another as the stars. For everyone searched his neighbor's eyes for the image of himself, and never saw anything else. Or if he did, he was outraged and terrified."
--Olaf Stapledon, Star Maker


"Threadsuns"
Threadsuns
over the grayblack wasteness.
A tree-
high thought
strikes the light-tone: there are
still songs to sing beyond
humankind.
--Paul Celan, translator unknown


"The endless, useless urge to look on life comprehensively, to take a bird's-eye view of ourselves and judge the dimensions of what we have or have not done: this is life as landscape, or life as résumé. But life is incremental, and though a worthwhile life is a gathering together of all that one is, good and bad, successful and not, the paradox is that we can never really see this one thing that all of our increments (and decrements, I suppose) add up to."
--Christian Wiman, My Bright Abyss


"You don't learn a new language to learn how to say things differently; you learn a new language to learn how to think differently. […] The world rearranges itself according to the language you're speaking."
--Bella Brodzki


"The silence around white supremacy is like the silence around Sauron in The Lord of the Rings, or the Voldemort name which must never be uttered in the Harry Potter novels. And yet here's the rub: if a critique of white supremacy doesn't first flow through you, doesn't first implicate you, then you have missed the mark; you have, in fact, almost guaranteed its survival and reproduction.

"There's that old saying: the devil's greatest trick is that he convinced people that he doesn't exist. Well, white supremacy's greatest trick is that it has convinced people that, if it exists at all, it exists always in other people, never in us."
--Junot Díaz


"I have claimed that Escape is one of the main functions of fairy-stories, and since I do not disapprove of them, it is plain that I do not accept the tone of scorn or pity with which 'Escape' is now so often used. Why should a man be scorned if, finding himself in prison, he tries to get out and go home? Or if he cannot do so, he thinks and talks about other topics than jailers and prison-walls?"
--J.R.R. Tolkien


"My cousin Helen, who is in her 90s now, was in the Warsaw ghetto during World War II. She and a bunch of the girls in the ghetto had to do sewing each day. And if you were found with a book, it was an automatic death penalty. She had gotten hold of a copy of Gone With the Wind, and she would take three or four hours out of her sleeping time each night to read. And then, during the hour or so when they were sewing the next day, she would tell them all the story. These girls were risking certain death for a story. And when she told me that story herself, it actually made what I do feel more important. Because giving people stories is not a luxury. It's actually one of the things that you live and die for."
--Neil Gaiman


"As if you could pick in love, as if it were not a lightning bolt that splits your bones and leaves you staked out in the middle of the courtyard. [...] You don't pick out the rain that soaks you to the skin when you come out of a concert."
--Julio Cortázar, Hopscotch


"A book is a door, you know. Always and forever. A book is a door into another place and another heart and another world."
--Catherynne M. Valente


"Tell me," said Geryon and he intended to ask him, Do people who like sex

have a question about it too?

but the words came out wrong--"Is it true you think about sex every day?"

Herakles' body stiffened.

"That isn't a question it's an accusation." Something black and heavy dropped

between them like a smell of velvet.

Herakles switched on the ignition and they jumped forward onto the back of the night.

Not touching

but joined in astonishment as two cuts lie parallel in the same flesh.
--Anne Carson, Autobiography of Red


"I do believe in an everyday sort of magic--the inexplicable connectedness we sometimes experience with places, people, works of art and the like; the eerie appropriateness of moments of syncronicity; the whispered voice, the hidden presence, when we think we're alone."
--Charles de Lint


"A tough life needs a tough language--and that is what poetry is. That is what literature offers--a language powerful enough to say how it is. It isn't a hiding place. It is a finding place."
--Jeanette Winterson, Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?
[identity profile] two-grey-rooms.livejournal.com
"You don't fall in love like you fall in a hole. You fall like falling through space. It's like you jump off your own private planet to visit someone else's planet. And when you get there it all looks different: the flowers, the animals, the colours people wear. It is a big surprise falling in love because you thought you had everything just right on your own planet, and that was true, in a way, but then somebody signalled to you across space and the only way you could visit was to take a giant jump. Away you go, falling into someone else's orbit and after a while you might decide to pull your two planets together and call it home. And you can bring your dog. Or your cat. Your goldfish, hamster, collection of stones, all your odd socks. (The ones you lost, including the holes, are on the new planet you found.)

"And you can bring your friends to visit. And read your favourite stories to each other. And the falling was really the big jump that you had to make to be with someone you don't want to be without. That's it.

"PS You have to be brave."
--Jeanette Winterson, explaining to children how we fall in love


"We starve at the banquet: We cannot see that there is a banquet because seeing the banquet requires that we see also ourselves sitting there starving--seeing ourselves clearly, even for a moment, is shattering.

"We are not dead but asleep, dreaming of ourselves."
--David Foster Wallace, The Pale King


"You Are Tired"
You are tired
(I think)
Of the always puzzle of living and doing;
And so am I.
Come with me then
And we'll leave it far and far away--
(Only you and I understand!)

You have played
(I think)
And broke the toys you were fondest of
And are a little tired now;
Tired of things that break and-
Just tired.
So am I.

But I come with a dream in my eyes tonight
And knock with a rose at the hopeless gate of your heart--
Open to me!
For I will show you the places Nobody knows
And if you like
The perfect places of Sleep.

Ah come with me!
I'll blow you that wonderful bubble the moon
That floats forever and a day;
I'll sing you the jacinth song
Of the probable stars;
I will attempt the unstartled steppes of dream
Until I find the Only Flower
Which shall keep (I think) your little heart
While the moon comes out of the sea.
--e. e. cummings


"People without hope not only don't write novels, but what is more to the point, they don't read them. They don't take long looks at anything, because they lack the courage. The way to despair is to refuse to have any kind of experience, and the novel, of course, is a way to have experience. The lady that only read books that improved her mind was taking a safe course--and a hopeless one. She'll never know whether her mind is improved or not, but should she ever, by some mistake, read a great novel, she'll know mighty well that something is happening to her."
--Flannery O'Connor, Mystery and Manners: Occasional Prose


"We would often be ashamed of our best actions if the world only knew the motives behind them."
--François de La Rochefoucauld


It might be lonelier
Without the Loneliness--
I'm so accustomed to my Fate--
Perhaps the Other--Peace--

Would interrupt the Dark--
And crowd the little Room--
Too scant--by Cubits--to contain
The Sacrament--of Him--

I am not used to Hope--
It might intrude upon--
Its sweet parade--blaspheme the place--
Ordained to Suffering--

It might be easier
To fail--with Land in Sight--
Than gain--My Blue Peninsula--
To perish--of Delight--
--Emily Dickinson


"You none of you understand how old you are
And death will come to you as a mild surprise,
A momentary shudder in a vacant room."
--T. S. Eliot, The Family Reunion


"I learned very early the difference between knowing the name of something and knowing something."
--Richard Feynman


"War Photograph"
trigger warning: wartime violence, Vietnam War )
--Kate Daniels


"Saint Catherine in an O: a Song about Knives"
trigger warning: wartime violence, mutilation )
--Matt Donovan
[identity profile] two-grey-rooms.livejournal.com
"Our culture has accepted two huge lies. The first is that if you disagree with someone's lifestyle, you must fear or hate them. The second is that to love someone means you agree with everything they believe or do. Both are nonsense. You don't have to compromise convictions to be compassionate."
--Rick Warren


"There is a loneliness in this world so great
that you can see it in the slow movement of
the hands of a clock.

People so tired
mutilated
either by love or no love.

People just are not good to each other
one on one.

The rich are not good to the rich,
the poor are not good to the poor.

We are afraid.

Our educational system tells us
that we can all be
big-ass winners.

It hasn't told us
about the gutters
or the suicides.

Or the terror of one person
aching in one place
alone

untouched
unspoken to
watering a plant."
--Charles Bukowski, from "The Crunch"


"How is it that one day life is orderly and you are content, a little cynical perhaps, but on the whole just so, and then without warning you find the solid floor is a trapdoor and you are now in another place whose geography is uncertain and whose customs are strange.

"Travellers at least have a choice. Those who set sail know that things will not be the same as at home. Explorers are prepared. But for us, who travel along the blood vessels, who come to the cities of the interior by chance, there is no preparation. We who were fluent find life is a foreign language."
--Jeanette Winterson, The Passion


"The Villainess"
resembles your mother, at least around the eyes--
treacherous, limpid and seal-like.
Inevitably handsome as a lioness, she
commands ranks, smokes cigarettes,
wears fur, has sex without apologizing.
Sometimes, she looks just like you,
but with crow's feet, more tattoos and better lingerie.

She conjures dragons or viruses,
she can lie easily to police or to you.
And you must love her, though she betrays you in a heartbeat--
you keep accepting the poisoned comb, the spinning wheel,
with open, pale hands.

In Snow White and Sleeping Beauty,
Disney covers up her hair in strange black hoods
afraid that if they don't
you won't distinguish her
from their watery, Barbie-eyed heroines.
--Jeannine Hall Gailey


"The magic show was deceptive: the magicians were hidden. When you looked more closely, a sort of sleight of hand was happening. In reality, the sublime was not an idea that cut the poet down to size. In fact the opposite. It was an idea made by the poet. And so, throughout the show, the poet was behind the curtain, defining the very grandeur he appeared to be awed by, and in the process becoming a steward of it. And so a new kind of poet emerged: A master of secrets, a controller of meaning. And, of course, a stakeholder in perpetuating that grandeur."
--Eavan Boland, "Reading as Intimidation"


"A woman stands over an abyss. She finds her child has survived the worst of history. She takes up pen and paper and records the moment. But the moment refuses to be contained. It flows out and beyond the poem into story and consequence. Looked at from that story and those consequences, the poem appears incomplete. But was it? Is it?

"I don't believe so. The poem is a note from the underworld. It is the first signal from Ceres that she has found her child. All the rest can come later."
--Eavan Boland, "Translating the Underworld"


"A place, a moment. It is the late 1970s. I am up at 7 a.m. I have small children. The morning is chilly. I am in the kitchen, looking out my window at a suburban back garden. For the first five minutes, as I turn on the kettle, watch it steam, pour coffee, I can stare at it uninterrupted.

"Then I turn on the radio. Guns and armaments fill the kitchen. Hoods, handcuffs, ArmaLites--the paraphernalia of urban struggle slides easily in and out of the newsreader's voice. A blackbird flickers down into the grass. I can see neighbors' rooftops. The voice continues. An odd thought forms in my mind, painful and inexact. I look around the kitchen, lost in contradictions. Then I realize what it is. My coffee is the instant variety, closed in a glass jar made in Huddersfield. My marmalade comes from London. My kettle from Holland. My knife from Germany. My radio from Japan. Only the violence, it seems--only that--is truly Irish."
--Eavan Boland, "Domestic Violence"


"Another September"
Dreams fled away, this country bedroom, raw
With the touch of the dawn, wrapped in a minor peace,
Hears through an open window the garden draw
Long pitch black breaths, lay bare its apple trees,
Ripe pear trees, brambles, windfall-sweetened soil,
Exhale rough sweetness against the starry slates.
Nearer the river sleeps St. John's, all toil
Locked fast inside a dream with iron gates.

Domestic Autumn, like an animal
Long used to handling by those countrymen,
Rubs her kind hide against the bedroom wall
Sensing a fragrant child come back again
--Not this half-tolerated consciousness
That plants its grammar in her yielding weather
But that unspeaking daughter, growing less
Familiar where we fell asleep together.

Wakeful moth wings blunder near a chair,
Toss their light shell at the glass, and go
To inhabit the living starlight. Stranded hair
Stirs on still linen. It is as though
The black breathing that billows her sleep, her name,
Drugged under judgement, waned and--bearing daggers
And balances--down the lampless darkness they came,
Moving like women: Justice, Truth, such figures.
--Thomas Kinsella


"My Blue Piano"
At home I have a blue piano.
But I can't play a note.

It's been in the shadow of the cellar door
Ever since the world went rotten.

Four starry hands play harmonies.
The Woman in the Moon sang in her boat.
Now only rats dance to the clanks.

The keyboard is in bits.
I weep for what is blue. Is dead.

Sweet angels I have eaten
Such bitter bread. Push open
The door of heaven. For me, for now--

Although I am still alive--
Although it is not allowed.
--Else Lasker-Schüler, translated from the German


"Can any one poet say poetry was wrong? Can a single writer challenge a collective past? My answer is simple. Not only can, but should. Poetry should be scrubbed, abraded, cleared, and re-stated with the old wash stones of argument and resistance. It should happen every generation. Every half-generation. In every working poet's life and practice.

"As a young poet I stepped back from aesthetics. It was the era of the New Criticism, of modernism, of ordained poetic authority. The critique of the poem, shadowed and strengthened by sciences of reason and textual analysis, seemed powerful but also alien. Only gradually did I begin to realize that this was beside the point: that every poet has to make their own critique. That authority inheres in that; and only that."
--Eavan Boland, "Domestic Violence"


"Rooms"
I remember rooms that have had their part
In the steady slowing down of the heart.
The room in Paris, the room at Geneva,
The little damp room with the seaweed smell,
And that ceaseless maddening sound of the tide--
Rooms where for good or for ill--things died.
But there is the room where we (two) lie dead,
Though every morning we seem to wake and might just as well seem to sleep again
As we shall somewhere in the other quieter, dustier bed
Out there in the sun--in the rain.
--Charlotte Mew


"If the language is occasionally uncertain, the stance of Plath as nature poet is anything but. This is a speaker with a new kind of control: able to command the natural world because she herself is generative of it. As a mother with her child--at the very center of that world--she can speak about seasons and times with a new freedom and invention. She can fit in fabrics and tapestries, the dark outside and the light inside. Despite the hardship and cold of these days, her zest for the world evokes the eloquence of Lucille Clifton's lines from "cutting greens": and i taste in my natural appetite / the bond of live things everywhere.

"Here truly is a female Prospero, speaking from her shipwrecked island, never doubting that the elements will obey her. Where other nature poets have labored for imitation or even awe, she will have none of it. This nature poem is an act of power, not deference."
--Eavan Boland, "The Other Sylvia Plath"


"Nick and the Candlestick"
I am a miner. The light burns blue.
Waxy stalactites
Drip and thicken, tears

The earthen womb

Exudes from its dead boredom.
Black bat airs

Wrap me, raggy shawls,
Cold homicides.
They weld to me like plums.

Old cave of calcium
Icicles, old echoer.
Even the newts are white,

Those holy Joes.
And the fish, the fish--
Christ! They are panes of ice,

A vice of knives,
A piranha
Religion, drinking

Its first communion out of my live toes.
The candle
Gulps and recovers its small altitude,

Its yellows hearten.
O love, how did you get here?
O embryo

Remembering, even in sleep,
Your crossed position.
The blood blooms clean

In you, ruby.
The pain
You wake to is not yours.

Love, love,
I have hung our cave with roses.
With soft rugs--

The last of Victoriana.
Let the stars
Plummet to their dark address,

Let the mercuric
Atoms that cripple drip
Into the terrible well,

You are the one
Solid the spaces lean on, envious.
You are the baby in the barn.
--Sylvia Plath


"And if some awkwardness remains, rather than trying to disguise it, I want to propose an odd and opposite fiction. If most real letters are conversation by other means, think of this as a different version. Imagine a room at dusk, with daylight almost gone. I can do this because I associate that light, that hour, with ease and conversation. I was born at dusk. Right in the center of Dublin in fact, in a nursing home beside Stephen's Green. Big, cracking heaps of sycamore and birch leaves are burned there in autumn and I like to think of the way blue, bitter smoke must have come the few hundred yards or so towards the room where I was born.

"And so I have no difficulty imagining us sitting there and talking in that diminishing light. Maybe the sights of late summer were visible through the window only moments ago. Fuchsia and green leaves, perhaps. But now everything is retreating into skeletal branches and charcoal leaves. My face is in shadow. You cannot see it, although your presence shapes what I am saying. And so in the last light, at the end of the day, what matters is language. Is the unspoken at the edge of the spoken. And so I have made a fiction to sustain what is already a fiction: this talking across time and absence.

"But about what? What name will I give it? In the widest sense, I want to talk about the past. The past, that is, of poetry: the place where so much of the truth and power of poetry is stored. 'Poetry is the past which breaks out in our hearts,' said Rilke, whose name should be raised whenever one poet writes to another. But the past I want to talk about is more charged and less lyrical than that for women poets. It is, after all, the place where authorship of the poem eluded us. Where poetry itself was defined by and in our absence. There has been a debate since I was a young poet, about whether women poets should engage with that past at all. 'For writers, and at this moment for women writers in particular,' Adrienne Rich wrote eloquently in 'When We Dead Awaken,' 'there is the challenge and promise of a whole new psychic geography to be explored. But there is also a difficult and dangerous walking on ice, as we try to find language and images for a consciousness we are just coming into and with little in the past to support us.'

"Then why go there? Why visit the site of our exclusion? We need to go to that past: not to learn from it, but to change it. If we do not change that past, it will change us. And I, for one, do not want to become a grateful daughter in a darkened house. But in order to change the past of poetry, we have to know what happened there. We have to be able to speak about it as poets, and even that can be difficult. Ever since I began as a poet I have heard people say that fixed positions--on gender, on politics of any kind--distort and cloud the question of poetry. In those terms, this letter can seem to be a clouding, a distortion. But poetry is not a pure stream. It will never be sullied by partisan argument. The only danger to poetry is the reticence and silence of poets. This piece is about the past and our right as women poets to avail of it. It is about the art and against the silence. Even so, I still need to find a language with which to approach that past. The only way of doing that, within the terms of this fiction, is to go back to the space you now occupy: in other words, to the beginning."
--Eavan Boland, "Letter to a Young Woman Poet"


"Snapshots of a Daughter-in-Law"
1
You, once a belle in Shreveport,
with henna-colored hair, skin like a peachbud,
still have your dresses copied from that time,
and play a Chopin prelude
called by Cortot: "Delicious recollections
float like perfume through the memory."
Your mind now, moldering like wedding-cake,
heavy with useless experience, rich
with suspicion, rumor, fantasy,
crumbling to pieces under the knife-edge
of mere fact. In the prime of your life.
Nervy, glowering, your daughter
wipes the teaspoons, grows another way.

2
Banging the coffee-pot into the sink
she hears the angels chiding, and looks out
past the raked gardens to the sloppy sky.
Only a week since They said: Have no patience.
The next time it was: Be insatiable.
Then: Save yourself; others you cannot save.
Sometimes she's let the tapstream scald her arm,
a match burn to her thumbnail,
or held her hand above the kettle's snout
right inthe woolly steam. They are probably angels,
since nothing hurts her anymore, except
each morning's grit blowing into her eyes.

3
A thinking woman sleeps with monsters.
The beak that grips her, she becomes. And Nature,
that sprung-lidded, still commodious
steamer-trunk of tempora and mores
gets stuffed with it all: the mildewed orange-flowers,
the female pills, the terrible breasts
of Boadicea beneath flat foxes' heads and orchids.
Two handsome women, gripped in argument,
each proud, acute, subtle, I hear scream
across the cut glass and majolica
like Furies cornered from their prey:
The argument ad feminam, all the old knives
that have rusted in my back, I drive in yours,
ma semblable, ma soeur!

4
Knowing themselves too well in one another:
their gifts no pure fruition, but a thorn,
the prick filed sharp against a hint of scorn...
Reading while waiting
for the iron to heat,
writing, My Life had stood--a Loaded Gun--
in that Amherst pantry while the jellies boil and scum,
or, more often,
iron-eyed and beaked and purposed as a bird,
dusting everything on the whatnot every day of life.

5
Dulce ridens, dulce loquens,
she shaves her legs until they gleam
like petrified mammoth-tusk.

6
When to her lute Corinna sings
neither words nor music are her own;
only the long hair dipping
over her cheek, only the song
of silk against her knees
and these
adjusted in reflections of an eye.
Poised, trembling and unsatisfied, before
an unlocked door, that cage of cages,
tell us, you bird, you tragical machine--
is this fertillisante douleur? Pinned down
by love, for you the only natural action,
are you edged more keen
to prise the secrets of the vault? has Nature shown
her household books to you, daughter-in-law,
that her sons never saw?

7
"To have in this uncertain world some stay
which cannot be undermined, is
of the utmost consequence."
Thus wrote
a woman, partly brave and partly good,
who fought with what she partly understood.
Few men about her would or could do more,
hence she was labeled harpy, shrew and whore.

8
"You all die at fifteen," said Diderot,
and turn part legend, part convention.
Still, eyes inaccurately dream
behind closed windows blankening with steam.
Deliciously, all that we might have been,
all that we were--fire, tears,
wit, taste, martyred ambition--
stirs like the memory of refused adultery
the drained and flagging bosom of our middle years.

9
Not that it is done well, but
that it is done at all? Yes, think
of the odds! or shrug them off forever.
This luxury of the precocious child,
Time's precious chronic invalid,--
would we, darlings, resign it if we could?
Our blight has been our sinecure:
mere talent was enough for us--
glitter in fragments and rough drafts.
Sigh no more, ladies.
Time is male
and in his cups drinks to the fair.
Bemused by gallantry, we hear
our mediocrities over-praised,
indolence read as abnegation,
slattern thought styled intuition,
every lapse forgiven, our crime
only to cast too bold a shadow
or smash the mold straight off.
For that, solitary confinement,
tear gas, attrition shelling.
Few applicants for that honor.

10
Well,
she's long about her coming, who must be
more merciless to herself than history.
Her mind full to the wind, I see her plunge
breasted and glancing through the currents,
taking the light upon her
at least as beautiful as any boy
or helicopter,
poised, still coming,
her fine blades making the air wince
but her cargo
no promise then:
delivered
palpable
ours.
--Adrienne Rich


"Diving into the Wreck"
First having read the book of myths,
and loaded the camera,
and checked the edge of the knife-blade,
I put on
the body-armor of black rubber
the absurd flippers
the grave and awkward mask.
I am having to do this
not like Cousteau with his
assiduous team
aboard the sun-flooded schooner
but here alone.

There is a ladder.
The ladder is always there
hanging innocently
close to the side of the schooner.
We know what it is for,
we who have used it.

Otherwise
it is a piece of maritime floss
some sundry equipment.

I go down.
Rung after rung and still
the oxygen immerses me
the blue light
the clear atoms
of our human air.
I go down.
My flippers cripple me,
I crawl like an insect down the ladder
and there is no one
to tell me when the ocean
will begin.

First the air is blue and then
it is bluer and then green and then
black I am blacking out and yet
my mask is powerful
it pumps my blood with power
the sea is another story
the sea is not a question of power
I have to learn alone
to turn my body without force
in the deep element.

And now: it is easy to forget
what I came for
among so many who have always
lived here
swaying their crenellated fans
between the reefs
and besides
you breathe differently down here.

I came to explore the wreck.
The words are purposes.
The words are maps.
I came to see the damage that was done
and the treasures that prevail.
I stroke the beam of my lamp
slowly along the flank
of something more permanent
than fish or weed

the thing I came for:
the wreck and not the story of the wreck
the thing itself and not the myth
the drowned face always staring
toward the sun
the evidence of damage
worn by salt and sway into this threadbare beauty
the ribs of the disaster
curving their assertion
among the tentative haunters.

This is the place.
And I am here, the mermaid whose dark hair
streams black, the merman in his armored body.
We circle silently
about the wreck
we dive into the hold.
I am she: I am he

whose drowned face sleeps with open eyes
whose breasts still bear the stress
whose silver, copper, vermeil cargo lies
obscurely inside barrels
half-wedged and left to rot
we are the half-destroyed instruments
that once held to a course
the water-eaten log
the fouled compass

We are, I am, you are
by cowardice or courage
the one who find our way
back to this scene
carrying a knife, a camera
a book of myths
in which
our names do not appear.
--Adrienne Rich


"Sestina"
September rain falls on the house.
In the failing light, the old grandmother
sits in the kitchen with the child
beside the Little Marvel Stove,
reading the jokes from the almanac,
laughing and talking to hide her tears.

She thinks that her equinoctial tears
and the rain that beats on the roof of the house
were both foretold by the almanac,
but only known to a grandmother.
The iron kettle sings on the stove.
She cuts some bread and says to the child,

It's time for tea now; but the child
is watching the teakettle's small hard tears
dance like mad on the hot black stove,
the way the rain must dance on the house.
Tidying up, the old grandmother
hangs up the clever almanac

on its string. Birdlike, the almanac
hovers half open above the child,
hovers above the old grandmother
and her teacup full of dark brown tears.
She shivers and says she thinks the house
feels chilly, and puts more wood in the stove.

It was to be, says the Marvel Stove.
I know what I know, says the almanac.
With crayons the child draws a rigid house
and a winding pathway. Then the child
puts in a man with buttons like tears
and shows it proudly to the grandmother.

But secretly, while the grandmother
busies herself about the stove,
the little moons fall down like tears
from between the pages of the almanac
into the flower bed the child
has carefully placed in the front of the house.

Time to plant tears, says the almanac.
The grandmother sings to the marvelous stove
and the child draws another inscrutable house.
--Elizabeth Bishop
[identity profile] two-grey-rooms.livejournal.com
"I think people are often quite unaware of their inner selves, their other selves, their imaginative selves, the selves that aren't on show in the world. It's something you grow out of from childhood onwards, losing possession of yourself, really. I think literature is one of the best ways back into that. You are hypnotized as soon as you get into a book that particularly works for you, whether it's fiction or a poem. You find that your defenses drop, and as soon as that happens, an imaginative reality can take over because you are no longer censoring your own perceptions, your own awareness of the world."
--Jeanette Winterson


"Keeping Quiet"
Now we will count to twelve
and we will all keep still.

For once on the face of the earth,
let's not speak in any language;
let's stop for one second,
and not move our arms so much.

It would be an exotic moment
without rush, without engines;
we would all be together
in a sudden strangeness.

Fisherman in the cold sea
would not harm whales
and the man gathering salt
would look at his hurt hands.

Those who prepare green wars,
wars with gas, wars with fire,
victories with no survivors,
would put on clean clothes
and walk about with their brothers
in the shade, doing nothing.

What I want should not be confused
with total inactivity.
Life is what it is about;
I want no truck with death.

If we were not so single-minded
about keeping our lives moving,
and for once could do nothing,
perhaps a huge silence
might interrupt this sadness
of never understanding ourselves
and of threatening ourselves with death.
Perhaps the earth can teach us
as when everything seems dead
and later proves to be alive.

Now I'll count up to twelve
and you keep quiet and I will go.
--Pablo Neruda, translated from the Spanish by Alastair Reid


"Visionary feminism is a wise and loving politics. It is rooted in the love of male and female being, refusing to privilege one over the other. The soul of feminist politics is the commitment to ending patriarchal domination of women and men, girls and boys. Love cannot exist in any relationship that is based on domination and coercion. Males cannot love themselves in patriarchal culture if their very self-definition relies on submission to patriarchal rules. When men embrace feminist thinking and practice, which emphasizes the value of mutual growth and self-actualization in all relationships, their emotional well-being will be enhanced. A genuine feminist politics always brings us from bondage to freedom, from lovelessness to loving."
--bell hooks


"Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout with some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand."
--George Orwell


"Because I'll Never Swim in Every Ocean"
Want is ten thousand blue feathers falling
all around me, and me unable to stomach
that I might catch five but never ten thousand.
So I drop my hands to my sides and wait
to be buried. I open a book and the words
spring and taunt. Flashes--motel, lapidary,
piranha--of every story, every poem I'll never
know well enough to conjure in sleep.
What's the point of words if I can't
own them all? I toss book after book
into my imaginary trashcan fire.
Or I think I'll learn piano. At the first lesson,
we're clapping whole and half notes
and this is childish, I'm better than this.
I'd like to leave playing Ravel. I'd like
to give a concerto on Saturday. So I quit.
I have standards. Then on Saturday,
I have a beer, watch a telethon. Or
we watch a documentary on Antarctica.
The interviewees are from Belarus, Lima, Berlin.
Everyone speaks English. Everyone names
a philosopher, an ethos. One man carries a raft
on his back at all times. I went to Nebraska once
and swore it was a great adventure. It was.
I think of how I'll never go to Antarctica,
mainly because I don't much want to. But
I should want to. I should be the girl
with a raft on her back. When I think
of all the mountains and monuments
and skyscapes I haven't seen, all the trains
I should take, all the camels and mopeds
and ferries I should ride, all the scorching
hikes I should nearly die on, I press
my body down, down into the vast green
couch. If I step out the door, the infinity
of what I've missed will zorro me across
the face with a big L for Lazy. Sometimes
I watch finches at the feeder, their wings small
suns, and have to grab the sill to steady myself.
Metaphorically, of course. I'm no loon.
Look--even my awestruck is half-assed.
But I'm so tired of the small steps--
the pentatonic scale, the frequent flyer
hoarding, the one exquisite sentence
in a forest of exquisite sentences.
There is a globe welling up inside of me.
Mountain ranges ridging my skin,
oceans filling my mouth. If I stay still
long enough, I could become my own world.
--Catherine Pierce


"To collect photographs is to collect the world. Movies and television programs light up walls, flicker, and go out; but with still photographs the image is also an object, light-weight, cheap to produce, easy to carry about, accumulate, store. In Godard's Les Carabiniers (1963), two sluggish lumpen-peasants are lured into joining the King's Army by the promise that they will be able to loot, rape, kill, or do whatever else they please to the enemy, and get rich. But the suitcase of booty that Michel-Ange and Ulysse triumphantly bring home, years later, to their wives turns out to contain only picture postcards, hundreds of them, of Monuments, Department Stores, Mammals, Wonders of Nature, Methods of Transport, Works of Art, and other classified treasures from around the globe. Godard's gag vividly parodies the equivocal magic of the photographic image. Photographs are perhaps the most mysterious of all the objects that make up, and thicken, the environment we recognize as modern. Photographs really are experience captured, and the camera is the ideal arm of consciousness in its acquisitive mood.

"To photograph is to appropriate the thing photographed. It means putting oneself into a certain relation to the world that feels like knowledge--and, therefore, like power. A now notorious first fall into alienation, habituating people to abstract the world into printed words, is supposed to have engendered that surplus of Faustian energy and psychic damage needed to build modern, inorganic societies. But print seems a less treacherous form of leaching out the world, of turning it into a mental object, than photographic images, which now provide most of the knowledge people have about the look of the past and the reach of the present. What is written about a person or an event is frankly an interpretation, as are handmade visual statements, like paintings and drawings. Photographed images do not seem to be statements about the world so much as pieces of it, miniatures of reality that anyone can make or acquire."
--Susan Sontag, On Photography


"A way of certifying experience, taking photographs is also a way of refusing it--by limiting experience to a search for the photogenic, by converting experience into an image, a souvenir."
--Susan Sontag


"Taking photographs has set up a chronic voyeuristic relation to the world which levels the meaning of all events."
--Susan Sontag


"Like a car, a camera is sold as a predatory weapon--one that's as automated as possible, ready to spring. Popular taste expects an easy, an invisible technology. Manufacturers reassure their customers that taking pictures demands no skill or expert knowledge, that the machine is all-knowing, and responds to the slightest pressure of the will. It's as simple as turning the ignition key or pulling the trigger.

"Like guns and cars, cameras are fantasy-machines whose use is addictive. However, despite the extravagances of ordinary language and advertising, they are not lethal. In the hyperbole that markets cars like guns, there is at least this much truth: except in wartime, cars kill more people than guns do. The camera/gun does not kill, so the ominous metaphor seems to be all bluff--like a man's fantasy of having a gun, knife, or tool between his legs. Still, there is something predatory in the act of taking a picture. To photograph people is to violate them, by seeing them as they never see themselves, by having knowledge of them they can never have; it turns people into objects that can be symbolically possessed. Just as the camera is a sublimation of the gun, to photograph someone is a sublimated murder--a soft murder, appropriate to a sad, frightened time.

"Eventually, people might learn to act out more of their aggressions with cameras and fewer with guns, with the price being an even more image-choked world. One situation where people are switching from bullets to film is the photographic safari that is replacing the gun safari in East Africa. The hunters have Hasselblads instead of Winchesters; instead of looking through a telescopic sight to aim a rifle, they look through a viewfinder to frame a picture. In end-of-the-century London, Samuel Butler complained that 'there is a photographer in every bush, going about like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour.' The photographer is now charging real beasts, beleaguered and too rare to kill. Guns have metamorphosed into cameras in this earnest comedy, the ecology safari, because nature has ceased to be what it always had been--what people needed protection from. Now nature--tamed, endangered, mortal--needs to be protected from people. When we are afraid, we shoot. But when we are nostalgic, we take pictures.

"It is a nostalgic time right now, and photographs actively promote nostalgia. Photography is an elegiac art, a twilight art. Most subjects photographed are, just by virtue of being photographed, touched with pathos. An ugly or grotesque subject may be moving because it has been dignified by the attention of the photographer. A beautiful subject can be the object of rueful feelings, because it has aged or decayed or no longer exists. All photographs are memento mori. To take a photograph is to participate in another person's (or thing's) mortality, vulnerability, mutability. Precisely by slicing out this moment and freezing it, all photographs testify to time's relentless melt."
--Susan Sontag


"A photograph is both a pseudo-presence and a token of absence. Like a wood fire in a room, photographs--especially those of people, of distant landscapes and faraway cities, of the vanished past--are incitements to reverie. The sense of the unattainable that can be evoked by photographs feeds directly into the erotic feelings of those for whom desirability is enhanced by distance. The lover's photograph hidden in a married women's wallet, the poster photograph of a rock star tacked up over an adolescent's bed, the campaign-button image of a politician's face pinned on a voter's coat, the snapshots of a cabdriver's children clipped to the visor--all such talismanic uses of photographs express a feeling both sentimental and implicitly magical: they are attempts to contact or lay claim to another reality."
--Susan Sontag


"One's first encounter with the photographic inventory of ultimate horror is a kind of revelation, the prototypically modern revelation: a negative epiphany. For me, it was photographs of Bergen-Belsen and Dachau which I came across by chance in a bookstore in Santa Monica in July 1945. Nothing I have seen--in photographs or in real life--ever cut me as sharply, deeply, instantaneously. Indeed, it seems plausible to me to divide my life into two parts, before I saw those photographs (I was twelve) and after, though it was several years before I understood fully what they were about. What good was served by seeing them? They were only photographs--of an event I had scarcely heard of and could do nothing to relieve. When I looked at those photographs, something broke. Some limit had been reached, and not only that of horror; I felt irrevocably grieved, wounded, but a part of my feelings started to tighten; something went dead; something is still crying.

"To suffer is one thing: another thing is living with the photographed images of suffering, which does not necessarily strengthen conscience and the ability to be compassionate. It can also corrupt them. Once one has seen such images, one has started down the road of seeing more--and more. Images transfix. Images anesthetize. An event known through photographs certainly becomes more real than it would have been if one had never seen the photographs--think of the Vietnam War. (For a counter-example, think of the Gulag Archipelago, of which we have no photographs.) But after repeated exposure to images it also becomes less real."
--Susan Sontag


"Photographs, which cannot themselves explain anything, are inexhaustible invitations to deduction, speculation, and fantasy.

"Photography implies that we know about the world if we accept it as the camera records it. But this is the opposite of understanding, which starts from not accepting the world as it looks. All possibility of understanding is rooted in the ability to say no. Strictly speaking, one never understands anything from a photograph. Of course, photographs fill in blanks in our mental pictures of the present and the past: for example, Jacob Riis's images of New York squalor in the 1880s are sharply instructive to those unaware that urban poverty in late-nineteenth-century America was really that Dickensian. Nevertheless, the camera's rendering of reality must always hide more than it discloses. As Brecht points out, a photograph of the Krupp works reveals virtually nothing about that organization. In contrast to the amorous relation, which is based on how something looks, understanding is based on how it functions. And functioning takes place in time, and must be explained in time. Only that which narrates can make us understand."
--Susan Sontag


"Steichen's choice of photographs assumes a human condition or a human nature shared by everybody. By purporting to show that individuals are born, work, laugh, and die everywhere in the same way, 'The Family of Man' denies the determining weight of history--of genuine and historically embedded differences, injustices, and conflicts. Arbus's photographs undercut politics just as decisively, by suggesting a world in which everybody is an alien, hopelessly isolated, immobilized in mechanical, crippled identities and relationships. The pious uplift of Steichen's photograph anthology and the cool dejection of the Arbus retrospective both render history and politics irrelevant. One does so by universalizing the human condition, into joy; the other by atomizing it, into horror."
--Susan Sontag


"The photographer is always trying to colonize new experiences or find new ways to look at familiar subjects--to fight against boredom. For boredom is just the reverse side of fascination: both depend on being outside rather than inside a situation, and one leads to the other."
--Susan Sontag


"The photographer both loots and preserves, denounces and consecrates. Photography expresses the American impatience with reality, the taste for activities whose instrumentality is a machine. 'Speed is at the bottom of it all,' as Hart Crane said (writing about Stieglitz in 1923), 'the hundredth of a second caught so precisely that the motion is continued from the picture indefinitely: the moment made eternal.' Faced with the awesome spread and alienness of a newly settled continent, people wielded cameras as a way of taking possession of the places they visited. Kodak put signs at the entrances of many towns listing what to photograph. Signs marked the places in national parks where visitors should stand with their cameras.

"Sander is at home in his country. American photographers are often on the road, overcome with disrespectful wonder at what their country offers in the way of surreal surprises. Moralists and conscienceless despoilers, children and foreigners in their own land, they will get something down that is disappearing--and, often, hasten its disappearance by photographing it. To take, like Sander, specimen after specimen, seeking an ideally complete inventory, presupposes that society can be envisaged as a comprehensible totality. European photographers have assumed that society has something of the stability of nature. Nature in America has always been suspect, on the defensive, cannibalized by progress. In America, every specimen becomes a relic.

"The American landscape has always seemed too varied, immense, mysterious, fugitive to lend itself to scientism. 'He doesn't know, he can't say, before the facts,' Henry James wrote in The American Scene (1907),

" 'and he doesn't even want to know or to say; the faces themselves loom, before the understanding, in too large a mass for a mere mouthful: it is as if the syllables were too numerous to make a legible word. The illegible word, accordingly, the great inscrutable answer to questions, hangs in the vast American sky, to his imagination, as something fantastic and abracadabrant, belonging to no known language, and it is under this convenient ensign that he he travels and considers and contemplates, and, to the best of his ability, enjoys.'

"Americans feel the reality of their country to be so stupendous, and mutable, that it would be the rankest presumption to approach it in a classifying, scientific way. One could get at it indirectly, by subterfuge--breaking it off into strange fragments that could somehow, by synecdoche, be taken for the whole."
--Susan Sontag
[identity profile] two-grey-rooms.livejournal.com
"The stories we sit up late to hear are love stories. It seems that we cannot know enough about this riddle of our lives. We go back and back to the same scenes, the same words, trying to scrape out the meaning. Nothing else could be more familiar than love. Nothing could elude us so completely."
--Jeanette Winterson


"far memory"
a poem in seven parts

1
convent

my knees recall the pockets
worn into the stone floor,
my hands, tracing against
the wall their original name, remember
the cold brush of brick, and the smell
of the brick powdery and wet
and the light finding its way in
through the high bars.

and also the sisters singing
at matins, their sweet music
the voice of the universe at peace
and the candles their light the light
at the beginning of creation
and the wonderful simplicity of prayer
smooth along the wooden beads
and certainly attended.

2
someone inside me remembers

that my knees must be hidden away
that my hair must be shorn
so that vanity will not test me
that my fingers are places of prayer
and are holy that my body is promised
to something more certain
than myself

3
again

born in the year of war
on the day of perpetual help.

come from the house
of stillness
through the soft gate
of a silent mother.

come to a betraying father.
come to a husband who would one day
rise and enter a holy house.

come to wrestle with you again,
passion, old disobedient friend,
through the secular days and nights
of another life.

4
trying to understand this life

who did i fail, who
did i cease to protect
that i should wake each morning
facing the cold north?

perhaps there is a cart
somewhere in history
of children crying "sister
save us" as she walks away.

the woman walks into my dreams
dragging her old habit.
i turn from her, shivering,
to begin another afternoon
of rescue, rescue.

5
sinnerman

horizontal one evening
on the cold stone,
my cross burning into
my breast, did i dream
through my veil
of his fingers digging
and is this the dream
again, him, collarless
over me, calling me back
to the stones of this world
and my own whispered
hosanna?

6
karma

the habit is heavy.
you feel its weight
pulling around your ankles
for a hundred years.

the broken vows
hang against your breasts,
each bead a word
that beats you.

even now
to hear the words
defend
protect
goodbye
lost or
alone
is to be washed in sorrow.

and in this life
there is no retreat
no sanctuary
no whole abiding
sister.

7
gloria mundi

so knowing,
what is known?
that we carry our baggage
in our cupped hands
when we burst through
the waters of our mother.
that some are born
and some are brought
to the glory of this world.
that it is more difficult
than faith
to serve only one calling
one commitment
one devotion
in one life.
--Lucille Clifton


"East Coker"
I

In my beginning is my end. In succession
Houses rise and fall, crumble, are extended,
Are removed, destroyed, restored, or in their place
Is an open filed, or a factory, or a by-pass.
Old stone to new building, old timber to new fires,
Old fires to ashes, and ashes to the earth
Which is already flesh, fur and faeces,
Bone of man and beast, cornstalk and leaf.
Houses live and die: there is a time for building
And a time for living and for generation
And a time for the wind to break the loosened pane
And to shake the wainscot where the field-mouse trots
And to shake the tattered arras woven with a silent motto.

In my beginning is my end. Now the light falls
Across the open field, leaving the deep lane
Shuttered with branches, dark in the afternoon,
Where you lean against a bank while a van passes,
And the deep lane insists on the direction
Into the village, in the electric heat
Hypnotised. In a warm haze the sultry light
Is absorbed, not refracted, by grey stone.
The dahlias sleep in the empty silence.
Wait for the early owl.
In that open field
If you do not come too close, if you do not come too close,
On a Summer midnight, you can hear the music
Of the weak pipe and the little drum
And see them dancing around the bonfire
The association of man and woman
In daunsinge, signifying matrimonie--
A dignified and commodious sacrament.
Two and two, necessarye coniunction,
Holding eche other by the hand or the arm
Whiche betokeneth concorde. Round and round the fire
Leaping through the flames, or joined in circles,
Rustically solemn or in rustic laughter
Lifting heavy feet in clumsy shoes,
Earth feet, loam feet, lifted in country mirth
Mirth of those long since under earth
Nourishing the corn. Keeping time,
Keeping the rhythm in their dancing
As in their living in the living seasons
The time of the seasons and the constellations
The time of milking and the time of harvest
The time of the coupling of man and woman
And that of beasts. Feet rising and falling.
Eating and drinking. Dung and death.

Dawn points, and another day
Prepares for heat and silence. Out at sea the dawn wind
Wrinkles and slides. I am here
Or there, or elsewhere. In my beginning.

II

What is the late November doing
With the disturbance of the spring
And creatures of the summer heat,
And snowdrops writhing under feet
And hollyhocks that aim too high
Red into grey and tumble down
Late roses filled with early snow?
Thunder rolled by the rolling stars
Simulates triumphal cars
Deployed in constellated wars
Scorpion fights against the Sun
Until the Sun and Moon go down
Comets weep and Leonids fly
Hunt the heavens and the plains
Whirled in a vortex that shall bring
The world to that destructive fire
Which burns before the ice-cap reigns.

That was a way of putting it--nor very satisfactory:
A periphrastic study in a worn-out poetical fashion,
Leaving one still with the intolerable wrestle
With words and meanings. The poetry does not matter.
It was not (to start again) what one had expected.
What was to be the value of the long looked forward to,
Long hoped for calm, the autumnal serenity
And the wisdom of age? Had they deceived us
Or deceived themselves, the quiet-voiced elders,
Bequeathing us merely a receipt for deceit?
The serenity only a deliberate hebetude,
The wisdom only the knowledge of dead secrets
Useless in the darkness into which they peered
Or from which they turned their eyes. There is, it seems to us,
At best, only a limited value
In the knowledge derived from experience.
The knowledge imposes a pattern, and falsifies,
For the pattern is new in every moment.
And every moment is a new and shocking
Valuation of all we have been. We are only undeceived
Of that which, deceiving, could no longer harm.
In the middle, not only in the middle of the way
But all the way, in a dark wood, in a bramble,
On the edge of a grimpen, where is no secure foothold,
And menaced by monsters, fancy lights,
Risking enchantment. Do not let me hear
Of the wisdom of old men, but rather of their folly,
Their fear of fear and frenzy, their fear of possession,
Of belonging to another, or to others, or to God.
The only wisdom we can hope to acquire
Is the wisdom of humility: humility is endless.

The houses are all gone under the sea.

The dancers are all gone under the hill.

III

O dark dark dark. They all go into the dark,
The vacant interstellar spaces, the vacant into the vacant,
The captains, merchant bankers, eminent men of letters,
The generous patrons of art, the statesmen and the rulers,
Distinguished civil servants, chairmen of many committees,
Industrial lords and petty contractors, all go into the dark,
And dark the Sun and Moon, and the Almanach de Gotha
And the Stock Exchange Gazette, the Directory of Directors,
And cold the sense and lost the motive of action.
And we all go with them, into the silent funeral,
Nobody's funeral, for there is no one to bury.
I said to my soul, be still, and let the dark come upon you
Which shall be the darkness of God. As, in a theatre,
The lights are extinguished, for the scene to be changed
With a hollow rumble of wings, with a movement of darkness on darkness,
And we know that the hills and the trees, the distant panorama
And the bold imposing façade are all being rolled away--
Or as, when an underground train, in the tube, stops too long between stations
And the conversation rises and slowly fades into silence
And you see behind every face the mental emptiness deepen
Leaving only the growing terror of nothing to think about;
Or when, under ether, the mind is conscious but conscious of nothing--
I said to my soul, be still, and wait without hope
For hope would be hope for the wrong thing; wait without love
For love would be love of the wrong thing; there is yet faith
But the faith and the love and the hope are all in the waiting.
Wait without thought, for you are not ready for thought:
So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing.

Whisper of running streams, and winter lightning.
The wild thyme unseen and the wild strawberry,
The laughter in the garden, echoed ecstasy
Not lost, but requiring, pointing to the agony
Of death and birth.
You say I am repeating
Something I have said before. I shall say it again.
Shall I say it again? In order to arrive there,
To arrive where you are, to get from where you are not,
You must go by a way wherein there is no ecstasy.
In order to arrive at what you do not know
You must go by a way which is the way of ignorance.
In order to possess what you do not possess
You must go by the way of dispossession.
In order to arrive at what you are not
You must go through the way in which you are not.
And what you do not know is the only thing you know
And what you own is what you do not own
And where you are is where you are not.

IV

The wounded surgeon plies the steel
That questions the distempered part;
Beneath the bleeding hands we feel
The sharp compassion of the healer's art
Resolving the enigma of the fever chart.

Our only health is the disease
If we obey the dying nurse
Whose constant care is not to please
But to remind of our, and Adam's curse,
And that, to be restored, our sickness must grow worse.

The whole earth is our hospital
Endowed by the ruined millionaire,
Wherein, if we do well, we shall
Die of the absolute paternal care
That will not leave us, but prevents us everywhere.

The chill ascends from feet to knees,
The fever sings in mental wires.
If to be warmed, then I must freeze
And quake in frigid purgatorial fires
Of which the flame is roses, and the smoke is briars.

The dripping blood our only drink,
The bloody flesh our only food:
In spite of which we like to think
That we are sound, substantial flesh and blood--
Again, in spite of that, we call this Friday good.

V

So here I am, in the middle way, having had twenty years--
Twenty years largely wasted, the years of l'entre deux guerres--
Trying to learn to use words, and every attempt
Is a wholly new start, and a different kind of failure
Because one has only learnt to get the better of words
For the thing one no longer has to say, or the way in which
One is no longer disposed to say it. And so each venture
Is a new beginning, a raid on the inarticulate
With shabby equipment always deteriorating
In the general mess of imprecision of feeling,
Undisciplined squads of emotion. And what there is to conquer
By strength and submission, has already been discovered
Once or twice, or several times, by men whom one cannot hope
To emulate--but there is no competition--
There is only the fight to recover what has been lost
And found and lost again and again: and now, under conditions
That seem unpropitious. But perhaps neither gain nor loss.
For us, there is only the trying. The rest is not our business.

Home is where one starts from. As we grow older
The world becomes stranger, the pattern more complicated
Of dead and living. Not the intense moment
Isolated, with no before and after,
But a lifetime burning in every moment
And not the lifetime of one man only
But of old stones that cannot be deciphered.
There is a time for the evening under starlight,
A time for the evening under the lamplight
(The evening with the photograph album).
Love is most nearly itself
When here and now cease to matter.
Old men ought to be explorers
Here and there does not matter
We must be still and still moving
Into another intensity
For a further union, a deeper communion
Through the dark cold and the empty desolation,
The wave cry, the wind cry, the vast waters
Of the petrel and the porpoise. In my end is my beginning.
--T.S. Eliot


"The Dry Salvages"
I
I do not know much about gods; but I think that the river
Is a strong brown god--sullen, untamed and intractable,
Patient to some degree, at first recognised as a frontier;
Useful, untrustworthy, as a conveyor of commerce;
Then only a problem confronting the builder of bridges.
The problem once solved, the brown god is almost forgotten
By the dwellers in cities--ever, however, implacable,
Keeping his seasons and rages, destroyer, reminder
Of what men choose to forget. Unhonoured, unpropitiated
By worshipers of the machine, but waiting, watching and waiting.
His rhythm was present in the nursery bedroom,
In the rank ailanthus of the April dooryard,
In the smell of grapes on the autumn table,
And the evening circle in the winter gaslight.

The river is within us, the sea is all about us;
The sea is the land's edge also, the granite
Into which it reaches, the beaches where it tosses
Its hints of earlier and other creation:
The starfish, the hermit crab, the whale's backbone;
The pools where it offers to our curiosity
The more delicate algae and the sea anemone.
It tosses up our losses, the torn seine,
The shattered lobsterpot, the broken oar
And the gear of foreign dead men. The sea has many voices,
Many gods and many voices.
The salt is on the briar rose,
The fog is in the fir trees.
The sea howl
And the sea yelp, are different voices
Often together heard; the whine in the rigging,
The menace and caress of wave that breaks on water,
The distant rote in the granite teeth,
And the wailing warning from the approaching headland
Are all sea voices, and the heaving groaner
Rounded homewards, and the seagull:
And under the oppression of the silent fog
The tolling bell
Measures time not our time, rung by the unhurried
Ground swell, a time
Older than the time of chronometers, older
Than time counted by anxious worried women
Lying awake, calculating the future,
Trying to unweave, unwind, unravel
And piece together the past and the future,
Between midnight and dawn, when the past is all deception,
The future futureless, before the morning watch
When time stops and time is never ending;
And the ground swell, that is and was from the beginning,
Clangs
The bell.

II

Where is there an end of it, the soundless wailing,
The silent withering of autumn flowers
Dropping their petals and remaining motionless;
Where is there an end to the drifting wreckage,
The prayer of the bone on the beach, the unprayable
Prayer at the calamitous annunciation?

There is no end, but addition: the trailing
Consequence of further days and hours,
While emotion takes to itself the emotionless
Years of living among the breakage
Of what was believed in as the most reliable--
And therefore the fittest for renunciation.

There is the final addition, the failing
Pride or resentment at failing powers,
The unattached devotion which might pass for devotionless,
In a drifting boat with a slow leakage,
The silent listening to the undeniable
Clamour of the bell of the last annunciation.

Where is the end of them, the fishermen sailing
Into the wind's tail, where the fog cowers?
We cannot think of a time that is oceanless
Or of an ocean not littered with wastage
Or of a future that is not liable
Like the past, to have no destination.

We have to think of them as forever bailing,
Setting and hauling, while the North East lowers
Over shallow banks unchanging and erosionless
Or drawing their money, drying sails at dockage;
Not as making a trip that will be unpayable
For a haul that will not bear examination.

There is no end of it, the voiceless wailing,
No end to the withering of withered flowers,
To the movement of pain that is painless and motionless,
To the drift of the sea and the drifting wreckage,
The bone's prayer to Death its God. Only the hardly, barely prayable
Prayer of the one Annunciation.

It seems, as one becomes older,
That the past has another pattern, and ceases to be a mere sequence--
Or even development: the latter a partial fallacy,
Encouraged by superficial notions of evolution,
Which becomes, in the popular mind, a means of disowning the past.
The moments of happiness--not the sense of well-being,
Fruition, fulfillment, security, or affection,
Or even a very good dinner, but the sudden illumination--
We had the experience but missed the meaning,
And approach to the meaning restores the experience
In a different form, beyond any meaning
We can assign to happiness. I have said before
That the past experiences revived in the meaning
Is not the experience of one life only
But of many generations--not forgetting
Something that is probably quite ineffable:
The backward look behind the assurance
Of recorded history, the backward half-look
Over the shoulder, towards the primitive terror.
Now, we come to discover that the moments of agony
(Whether, or not, due to misunderstanding,
Having hoped for the wrong things or dreaded the wrong things,
Is not in question) are likewise permanent
With such permanence as time has. We appreciate this better
In the agony of others, nearly experienced,
Involving ourselves, than in our own.
For our own past is covered by the currents of action,
But the torment of others remains an experience
Unqualified, unworn by subsequent attrition.
People change, and smile: but the agony abides.
Time the destroyer is time the preserver,
Like the river with its cargo of dead Negroes, cows and chicken coops,
The bitter apple and the bite in the apple.
And the ragged rock in the restless waters,
Waves wash over it, fogs conceal it;
On a halcyon day it is merely a monument,
In navigable weather it is always a seamark
To lay a course by: but in the sombre season
Or the sudden fury, is what it always was.

III

I sometimes wonder if that is what Krishna meant--
Among other things--or one way of putting the same thing:
That the future is a fated song, a Royal Rose or a lavender spray
Of wistful regret for those who are not yet here to regret,
Pressed between yellow leaves of a book that has never been opened.
And the way up is the way down, the way forward is the way back.
You cannot face it steadily, but this thing is sure,
That time is no healer: the patient is no longer here.
When the train starts, and the passengers are settled
To fruit, periodicals and business letters
(And those who saw them off have left the platform)
Their faces relax from grief into relief,
To the sleepy rhythm of a hundred hours.
Fare forward, travellers! not escaping from the past
Into different lives, or into any future;
You are not the same people who left that station
Or who will arrive at any terminus,
While the narrowing rails slide together behind you,
You shall not think "the past is finished"
Or "the future is before us."
At nightfall, in the rigging and the aerial,
Is a voice descanting (though not to the ear,
The murmuring shell of time, and not in any language)
"Fare forward, you who think that you are voyaging;
You are not those who saw the harbour
Receding, or those who will disembark.
Here between the hither and the farther shore
While time is withdrawn, consider the future
And the past with an equal mind.
At the moment which is not of action or inaction
You can receive this: 'on whatever sphere of being
The mind of a man may be intent
At the time of death'--that is the one action
(And the time of death is every moment)
Which shall fructify in the lives of others:
And do not think of the fruit of action.
Fare forward.

O voyagers, O seamen,
You who come to port, and you whose bodies
Will suffer the trial and judgement of the sea,
Or whatever event, this is your real destination."
So Krishna, as when he admonished Arjuna
On the field of battle.
Not fare well,
But fare forward, voyagers.

IV

Lady, whose shrine stands on the promontory,
Pray for all those who are in ships, those
Whose business has to do with fish, and
Those concerned with every lawful traffic
And those who conduct them.

Repeat a prayer also on behalf of
Women who have seen their sons or husbands
Setting forth, and not returning:
Figlia del tuo figlio,
Queen of Heaven.

Also pray for those who were in ships, and
Ended their voyage on the sand, in the sea's lips
Or in the dark throat which will not reject them
Or wherever cannot reach them the sound of the sea bell's
Perpetual angelus.

V

To communicate with Mars, converse with spirits,
To report the behaviour of the sea monster,
Describe the horoscope, haruspicate or scry,
Observe disease in signatures, evoke
Biography from the wrinkles of the palm
And tragedy from fingers; release omens
By sortilege, or tea leaves, riddle the inevitable
With playing cards, fiddle with pentagrams
Or barbituric acids, or dissect
The recurrent image into pre-conscious terrors--
To explore the womb, or tomb, or dreams; all these are usual
Pastimes and drugs, and features of the press:
And always will be, some of them especially
When there is distress of nations and perplexity
Whether on the shores of Asia, or in the Edgware Road.
Men's curiosity searches past and future
And clings to that dimension. But to apprehend
The point of intersection of the timeless
With time, is an occupation for the saint--
No occupation either, but something given
And taken, in a lifetime's death in love,
Ardour and selfishness and self-surrender.
For most of us, there is only the unattended
Moment, the moment in and out of time,
The distraction fit, lost in a shaft of sunlight,
The wild thyme unseen, or the winter lightning
Or the waterfall, or music heard so deeply
That it is not heard at all, but you are the music
While the music lasts. These are only hints and guesses,
Hints followed by guesses; and the rest
Is prayer, observance, discipline, thought and action.
The hint half guessed, the gift half understood, is Incarnation.
Here the impossible union.
Of spheres of existence is actual,
Here the past and future
Are conquered, and reconciled,
Where action were otherwise movement
Of that which is only moved
And has in it no source of movement--
Driven by daemonic, chthonic
Powers. And right action is freedom
From past and future also.
For most of us, this is the aim
Never here to be realised;
Who are only undefeated
Because we have gone on trying;
We, content at the last
If our temporal reversion nourish
(Not too far from the yew-tree)
The life of significant soil.
--T.S. Eliot


"Little Gidding"
I

Midwinter spring is its own season
Sempiternal though sodden towards sundown,
Suspended in time, between pole and tropic.
When the short day is brightest, with frost and fire,
The brief sun flames the ice, on pond and ditches,
In windless cold that is the heart's heat,
Reflecting in a watery mirror
A glare that is blindness in the early afternoon.
And glow more intense than blaze of branch, or brazier,
Stirs the dumb spirit: no wind, but pentecostal fire
In the dark time of the year. Between melting and freezing
The soul's sap quivers. There is no earth smell
Or smell of living thing. This is the spring time
But not in time's covenant. Now the hedgerow
Is blanched for an hour with transitory blossom
Of snow, a bloom more sudden
Than that of summer, neither budding nor fading,
Not in the scheme of generation.
Where is the summer, the unimaginable
Zero summer?

If you came this way,
Taking the route you would be likely to take
From the place you would be likely to come from,
If you came this way in may time, you would find the hedges
White again, in May, with voluptuary sweetness.
It would be the same at the end of the journey,
If you came at night like a broken king,
If you came by day not knowing what you came for,
It would be the same, when you leave the rough road
And turn behind the pig-sty to the dull façade
And the tombstone. And what you thought you came for
Is only a shell, a husk of meaning
From which the purpose breaks only when it is fulfilled
If at all. Either you had no purpose
Or the purpose is beyond the end you figured
And is altered in fulfillment. There are other places
Which also are the world's end, some at the sea jaws,
Or over a dark lake, in a desert or a city--
But this is the nearest, in place and time,
Now and in England.

If you came this way,
Taking any route, starting from anywhere,
At any time or at any season,
It would always be the same: you would have to put off
Sense and notion. You are not here to verify,
Instruct yourself, or inform curiosity
Or carry report. You are here to kneel
Where prayer has been valid. And prayer is more
Than an order of words, the conscious occupation
Of the praying mind, or the sound of the voice praying.
And what the dead had no speech for, when living,
They can tell you, being dead: the communication
Of the dead is tongued with fire beyond the language of the living.
Here, the intersection of the timeless moment
Is England and nowhere. Never and always.

II

Ash on an old man's sleeve
Is all the ash the burnt roses leave.
Dust in the air suspended
Marks the place where a story ended.
Dust inbreathed was a house--
The wall, the wainscot and the mouse.
The death of hope and despair,
This is the death of air.

There are flood and drouth
Over the eyes and in the mouth,
Dead water and dead sand
Contending for the upper hand.
The parched eviscerate soil
Gapes at the vanity of the toil,
Laughs without mirth.
This is the death of earth.

Water and fire succeed
The town, the pasture and the weed.
Water and fire deride
The sacrifice that we denied.
Water and fire shall rot
The marred foundations we forgot,
Of sanctuary and choir.
This is the death of water and fire.

In the uncertain hour before the morning
Near the ending of interminable night
At the recurrent end of the unending
After the dark dove with the flickering tongue
Had passed below the horizon of his homing
While the dead leaves still rattled on like tin
Over the asphalt where no other sound was
Between three districts whence the smoke arose
I met one walking, loitering and hurried
As if blown towards me like the metal leaves
Before the urban dawn wind unresisting.
And as I fixed upon the down-turned face
That pointed scrutiny with which we challenge
The first-met stranger in the waning dusk
I caught the sudden look of some dead master
Whom I had known, forgotten, half recalled
Both one and many; in the brown baked features
The eyes of a familiar compound ghost
Both intimate and unidentifiable.

So I assumed a double part, and cried
And heard another's voice cry: 'What! are you here?'
Although we were not. I was still the same,
Knowing myself yet being someone other--
And he a face still forming; yet the words sufficed
To compel the recognition they preceded.
And so, compliant to the common wind,
Too strange to each other for misunderstanding,
In concord at this intersection time
Of meeting nowhere, no before and after,
We trod the pavement in a dead patrol.
I said: 'The wonder that I feel is easy,
Yet ease is cause of wonder. Therefore speak:
I may not comprehend, may not remember.'
And he: 'I am not eager to rehearse
My thought and theory which you have forgotten.
These things have served their purpose: let them be.
So with your own, and pray they be forgiven
By others, as I pray you to forgive
Both bad and good. Last season's fruit is eaten
And the fullfed beast shall kick the empty pail.
For last year's words await another voice.
But, as the passage now presents no hindrance
To the spirit unappeased and peregrine
Between two worlds become much like each other,
So I find words I never thought to speak
In streets I never thought I should revisit
When I left my body on a distant shore.
Since our concern was speech, and speech impelled us
To purify the dialect of the tribe
And urge the mind to aftersight and foresight,
Let me disclose the gifts reserved for age
To set a crown upon your lifetime's effort.
First, the cold friction of expiring sense
Without enchantment, offering no promise
But bitter tastelessness of shadow fruit
As body and soul begin to fall asunder.
Second, the conscious impotence of rage
At human folly, and the laceration
Of laughter at what ceases to amuse.
And last, the rending pain of re-enactment
Of all that you have done, and been; the shame
Of motives late revealed, and the awareness
Of things ill done and done to others' harm
Which once you took for exercise of virtue.
Then fools' approval stings, and honour stains.
From wrong to wrong the exasperated spirit
Proceeds, unless restored by that refining fire
Where you must move in measure, like a dancer.'
The day was breaking. In the disfigured street
He left me, with a kind of valediction,
And faded on the blowing of the horn.

III

There are three conditions which often look alike
Yet differ completely, flourish in the same hedgerow:
Attachment to self and to things and to persons, detachment
From self and from things and from persons; and, growing between them, indifference
Which resembles the others as death resembles life,
Being between two lives--unflowering, between
The live and the dead nettle. This is the use of memory:
For liberation--not less of love but expanding
Of love beyond desire, and so liberation
From the future as well as the past. Thus, love of a country
Begins as attachment to our own field of action
And comes to find that action of little importance
Though never indifferent. History may be servitude,
History may be freedom. See, now they vanish,
The faces and places, with the self which, as it could, loved them,
To become renewed, transfigured, in another pattern.

Sin is Behovely, but
All shall be well, and
All manner of thing shall be well.
If I think, again, of this place,
And of people, not wholly commendable,
Of no immediate kin or kindness,
But some of peculiar genius,
All touched by a common genius,
United in the strife which divided them;
If I think of a king at nightfall,
Of three men, and more, on the scaffold
And a few who died forgotten
In other places, here and abroad,
And of one who died blind and quiet,
Why should we celebrate
These dead men more than the dying?
It is not to ring the bell backward
Nor is it an incantation
To summon the spectre of a Rose.
We cannot revive old factions
We cannot restore old policies
Or follow an antique drum.
These men, and those who opposed them
And those whom they opposed
Accept the constitution of silence
And are folded in a single party.
Whatever we inherit from the fortunate
We have taken from the defeated
What they had to leave us--a symbol:
A symbol perfected in death.
And all shall be well and
All manner of thing shall be well
By the purification of the motive
In the ground of our beseeching.

IV

The dove descending breaks the air
With flame of incandescent terror
Of which the tongues declare
The one discharge from sin and error.
The only hope, or else despair
Lies in the choice of pyre or pyre--
To be redeemed from fire by fire.

Who then devised the torment? Love.
Love is the unfamiliar Name
Behind the hands that wove
The intolerable shirt of flame
Which human power cannot remove.
We only live, only suspire
Consumed by either fire or fire.

V

What we call the beginning is often the end
And to make an end is to make a beginning.
The end is where we start from. And every phrase
And sentence that is right (where every word is at home,
Taking its place to support the others,
The word neither diffident nor ostentatious,
An easy commerce of the old and the new,
The common word exact without vulgarity,
The formal word precise but not pedantic,
The complete consort dancing together)
Every phrase and every sentence is an end and a beginning,
Every poem an epitaph. And any action
Is a step to the block, to the fire, down the sea's throat
Or to an illegible stone: and that is where we start.
We die with the dying:
See, they depart, and we go with them.
We are born with the dead:
See, they return, and bring us with them.
The moment of the rose and the moment of the yew-tree
Are of equal duration. A people without history
Is not redeemed from time, for history is a pattern
Of timeless moments. So, while the light fails
On a winter's afternoon, in a secluded chapel
History is now and England.
With the drawing of this Love and the voice of this Calling

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
Through the unknown, remembered gate
When the last of earth left to discover
Is that which was the beginning:
At the source of the longest river
The voice of the hidden waterfall
And the children in the apple-tree
Not known, because not looked for
But heard, half-heard, in the stillness
Between two waves of the sea.
Quick now, here, now, always--
A condition of complete simplicity
(Costing not less than everything)
And all shall be well and
All manner of thing shall be well
When the tongues of flame are in-folded
Into the crowned knot of fire
And the fire and the rose are one.
--T.S. Eliot
[identity profile] two-grey-rooms.livejournal.com
"I think we ought to read only the kind of books that wound and stab us. If the book we are reading doesn't wake us up with a blow on the head, what are we reading it for? ...[W]e need the books that affect us like a disaster, that grieve us deeply, like the death of someone we loved more than ourselves, like being banished into forests far from everyone, like a suicide. A book must be the axe for the frozen sea inside us."
--Franz Kafka


"Look up. This is the season of shooting stars. Light, two thousand years old, still dazzling. Let me see your face. Your face lit up by twenty centuries. Who told me you had stars in your eyes? Let me see your heavenly body. Star-proof I am not. From a hundred billion others, you hurled yourself down in gassy form; no definite boundaries, no fixed volume. You could have filled any space but the space you filled was me."
--Jeanette Winterson


"Maybe the star doesn't even exist anymore. Yet sometimes that light seems more real to me than anything."
--Haruki Murakami


"Carentan O Carentan"
Trees in the old days used to stand
And shape a shady lane
Where lovers wandered hand in hand
Who came from Carentan.

This was the shining green canal
Where we came two by two
Walking at combat-interval.
Such trees we never knew.

The day was early June, the ground
Was soft and bright with dew.
Far away the guns did sound,
But here the sky was blue.

The sky was blue, but there a smoke
Hung still above the sea
Where the ships together spoke
To towns we could not see.

Could you have seen us through a glass
You would have said a walk
Of farmers out to turn the grass,
Each with his own hay-fork.

The watchers in their leopard suits
Waited till it was time,
And aimed between the belt and boot
And let the barrel climb.

I must lie down at once, there is
A hammer at my knee.
And call it death or cowardice,
Don't count again on me.

Everything's all right, Mother,
Everyone gets the same
At one time or another.
It's all in the game.

I never strolled, nor ever shall,
Down such a leafy lane.
I never drank in a canal,
Nor ever shall again.

There is a whistling in the leaves
And it is not the wind,
The twigs are falling from the knives
That cut men to the ground.

Tell me, Master-Sergeant,
The way to turn and shoot.
But the Sergeant's silent
That taught me how to do it.

O Captain, show us quickly
Our place upon the map.
But the Captain's sickly
And taking a long nap.

Lieutenant, what's my duty,
My place in the platoon?
He too's a sleeping beauty,
Charmed by that strange tune.

Carentan O Carentan
Before we met with you
We never yet had lost a man
Or known what death could do.
--Louis Simpson
[identity profile] two-grey-rooms.livejournal.com
"How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live."
--Henry David Thoreau


"someone should write me a love poem, but i'm stuck doing it myself"
1. when i was in high school, i had to memorize the
conjugation of the latin verb "to love."

2. i have no idea what happened to my mother's wedding
ring. last night at 12:17 a.m., i really needed to know.

3. "beautiful" and "amazing" just mean "beautiful" and
"amazing." nothing more.

4. i memorized the latin verb by singing the forms to the
tune of "the mexican hat dance":

amo
amas
amat

amamus
amatis
amant


5. someone called at 1:19 in the morning. the area code is
from somewhere in arizona. i don't think i know anyone
in arizona. there wasn't a message.

6. if someone lets you sleep over and has to go to work while
you're still asleep and they let you sleep in even though
they don't really know you, it's nice to leave a thank you
note. or make their bed.

7. i haven't been beautiful in days and need more sleep.
don't think about it too much. it doesn't mean a thing.

8. i have had my shirts altered so i can wear my heart on my
sleeve.

9. told me i'm beautiful and amazing and where are you,
who told me i'm beautiful and amazing, next time please
write it down, i will be beautiful all day after i make the
bed, amazing after i throw the latex away; how is it, the
everywhere of our hands and no trace of handwriting
anywhere

10. i still sing:

amo
amas
amat

amamus
amatis
amant

--Daphne Gottlieb


"I was happy but happy is an adult word. You don't have to ask a child about happy, you see it. They are or they are not. Adults talk about being happy because largely they are not. Talking about it is the same as trying to catch the wind. Much easier to let it blow all over you. This is where I disagree with the philosophers. They talk about passionate things but there is no passion in them. Never talk happiness with a philosopher."
--Jeanette Winterson, The Passion


"We had everything to say to each other, but no ways to say it.

"He wrote, Are you OK?

"I told him, My eyes are crummy.

"He wrote, But are you OK?

"I told him, That's a very complicated question.

"I asked, Are you OK?

"He wrote, Some mornings I wake up feeling grateful."
--Jonathan Safran Foer


"I have never loved a woman for herself alone, but because I was caught up in the time with her, between train arrivals and train departures and other commitments. I have loved because she was beautiful and we were two humans lying in the forest at the edge of a dark lake or because she was not beautiful and we were two humans walking between buildings who understood something about suffering. I have loved because so many loved her or because so many were indifferent to her, or to make her believe she was a girl in a meadow upon whose approved knees I laid my head or to make her believe that I was a saint and that she had been loved by a saint. I never told a woman I liked her and when I wrote the words 'My love,' I never meant it to mean 'I love you.' "
--Leonard Cohen, Poems Written/While Dying of Love


"Autumnal--nothing to do with leaves. It is to do with a certain brownness at the edges of the day...Brown is creeping up on us, take my word for it...Russets and tangerines shades of old gold flushing the very outside edges of the senses...deep shining orchers, burnt umber amid parchments of baked earth--reflecting on itself and through itself, filtering the light. At such times, perhaps, coincidentally, the leaves might fall, somewhere by repute. Yesterday was blue, like smoke."
--Tom Stoppard, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead


"When you can't bear something but it goes on anyway, the person who survives isn't you anymore; you've changed and become someone else, a new person, the one who did bear it after all."
--Austin Grossman, Soon I Will Be Invincible


"A novel is not an allegory, I said as the period was about to come to an end. It is the sensual experience of another world. If you don't enter that world, hold your breath with the characters and become invested in their destiny, you won't be able to empathize, and empathy is at the heart of the novel. This is how you read a novel: you inhale the experience. So start breathing. I just want you to remember this. That is all; class dismissed."
--Azar Nafísi, Reading Lolita in Tehran

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