[identity profile] two-grey-rooms.livejournal.com
"Lee's hand shook as he filled the delicate cups. He drank his down in one gulp. 'Don't you see?' he cried. 'The American Standard translation orders men to triumph over sin, and you can call sin ignorance. The King James translation makes a promise in 'Thou shalt,' meaning that men will surely triumph over sin. But the Hebrew word, the word timshel—'Thou mayest'— that gives a choice. It might be the most important word in the world. That says the way is open. That throws it right back on a man. For if 'Thou mayest'—it is also true that 'Thou mayest not.' Don’t you see?' "
---John Steinbeck, East of Eden


"That country where it is always turning late in the year. That country where the hills are fog and the rivers are mist; where noons go quickly, dusks and twilights linger, and midnights stay. That country composed in the main of cellars, sub-cellars, coalbins, closets, attics, and pantries faced away from the sun. That country whose people are autumn people, thinking only autumn thoughts. Whose people passing at night on the empty walks sound like rain."
---Ray Bradbury, The October Country


"An editor doesn't just read, he reads well, and reading well is a creative, powerful act. The ancients knew this and it frightened them. Mesopotamian society, for instance, did not want great reading from its scribes, only great writing. Scribes had to submit to a curious ruse: they had to downplay their reading skills lest they antagonize their employer. …. In their fear of readers, ancients understood something we have forgotten about the magnitude of readership. Reading breeds the power of an independent mind. When we read well, we are thinking hard for ourselves—this is the essence of freedom. It is also the essence of editing. Editors are scribes liberated to not simply record and disseminate information, but think hard about it, interpret, and ultimately, influence it."
---Susan Bell


"The poet is someone who is permanently involved with a language that is dying and which he resurrects, not by giving it back some triumphant aspect but by making it return sometimes, like a specter or a ghost: the poet wakes up language and in order to really make the 'live' experience of this waking up, of this return to life of language, one has to be very close to the corpse of the language."
---Jacques Derrida, trans. unknown


"But with that I have to say I don't believe in 'best of' books. It creates a hierarchy, and books are not hierarchy, books are medicine. We read what we need to heal us. There are personal prescriptions, but there's no such thing as 'best.' "
---Sandra Cisneros


"We cannot make ourselves understand; the most we can do is to foster a state of mind, in which understanding may come to us."
---Aldous Huxley


"In what form, asks the writer, can I most truthfully describe the world as it is experienced by this particular self? And it is from that starting point that each writer goes on to make their individual compromise with the self, which is always a compromise with truth as far as the self can know it. That is why the most common feeling, upon re-reading one's own work, is Prufrock's: 'That is not it at all … that is not what I meant, at all…' Writing feels like self-betrayal, like failure."
---Zadie Smith, "Fail Better"


"Bad writing does nothing, changes nothing, educates no emotions, rewires no inner circuitry---we close its covers with the same metaphysical confidence in the universality of our own interface as we did when we opened it. But great writing---great writing forces you to submit to its vision. You spend the morning reading Chekhov and in the afternoon, walking through your neighbourhood, the world has turned Chekhovian; the waitress in the cafe offers a non-sequitur, a dog dances in the street."
---Zadie Smith, "Fail Better"


"The search for an identity is one of the most wholesale phony ideas we’ve ever been sold. In the twenty-first century it’s almost entirely subsumed in its purest form of 'brand identity'—for Levi to be 'more black' would simply involve the purchasing of items connected with the idea of blackness. How can anyone be more black? Or more female? It’s like saying 'I want to be more nose-having, more leg possessing.' People can only be defined by their actions in a world that contains other people. Sitting on a hill alone screaming 'I am a Muslim in the 24–29 age bracket who likes Pepsi and sitcoms about loose bands of interconnected young people in my age group; I am a person who is French and into the things of Frenchness; I am a basketball player; a flower picker…' What does it mean? The Belsey children need to stop worrying about their identity and concern themselves with the people they care about, ideas that matter to them, beliefs they can stand by, tickets they can run on. Intelligent humans make those choices with their brain and hearts and they make them alone. The world does not deliver meaning to you. You have to make it meaningful. The Belseys need to weigh situations as they appear before them, and decide what they want and need and must do. It’s a tough, unimaginably lonely and complicated way to be in the world. But that’s the deal: you have to live; you can’t live by slogans, dead ideas, clichés, or national flags. Finding an identity is easy. It’s the easy way out."
---Zadie Smith, On Beauty


"I want to be loved unreasonably by an unreasonable love because we’ve nearly drowned in the poison of reasonable loving, reasonable liking, reasonable living, reasonable essays, reasonable art and reasonable political discourse."
---Kiese Laymon


"My literature classes didn’t help. My professors stressed the importance of approaching a text with detachment, with a critical gaze rather than an emotional one. There wasn’t a place in academia for gushing or ranting. There wasn’t room to simply say, 'I loved this and I don’t know why.' One had to use academic jargon. One had to be methodical and thorough. It was like listening to a song and wanting so badly to get up and dance, but instead of dancing, you have to sit there and think about why those sounds made you want to dance and consider the exact mechanics behind the formula of a danceable song. And I didn’t want to fucking do that. I just wanted to dance. I just wanted to read. I just wanted to write. I didn’t want to deconstruct lines of poetry or do a close reading of Faulkner’s usage of semicolons."
---Jenny Zhang, "The Importance of Angsty Art"


"On Leaving the Body to Science"
The my becomes
            a the, becomes
                         the state’s

the coroner’s,
            a law’s, something
                         assignable,

by me, alone,
            though it will not
                         be the I

I am on
            leaving it, no
                         longer to be

designated human or
            corpse: cadaver
                         it will be,

nameless patient
           stored in
                        the deep hold

of the hospital
           as in the storage
                       of a ghost ship

run aground —
          the secret in it
                       that will,

perhaps, stir again
          the wind that
                       failed. It

will be preserved,
          kept like larva,
                       like a bullet

sealed gleaming
          in its chamber.
                       They will gather

around it,
          probe and sample,
                        argue — then

return it
          to its between-
                        world, remove

their aprons
          and gloves
                        and stroll, some evenings,

a city block
           for a beer,
                        a glass of chilled

white wine. Even there, they
           will continue
                        to speak of it,

what they
           glean from beneath
                        the narrative

of scars, surgical
           cavities, the
                        wondrous

mess it became
           before I left it
                        to them

with what’s
           left of me, this
                        name, a signature,

a neatened
           suture, perfect, this
                        last, selfish stitch. 

---Claudia Emerson


"The pleasure of recognizing that one may have to undergo the same realizations, write the same notes in the margin, return to the same themes in one’s work, relearn the same emotional truths, write the same book over and over again—not because one is stupid or obstinate or incapable of change, but because such revisitations constitute a life."
---Maggie Nelson, The Argonauts


"My Uncle's Favorite Coffee Shop"
Serum of steam rising from the cup,
what comfort to be known personally by Barbara,
her perfect pouring hand and starched ascot,
known as the two easy eggs and the single pancake,
without saying.
What pleasure for an immigrant—
anything without saying.

My uncle slid into his booth.
I cannot tell you—how I love this place.
He drained the water glass, noisily clinking his ice.
My uncle hailed from an iceless region.
He had definite ideas about water drinking.
I cannot tell you—all the time. But then he’d try.

My uncle wore a white shirt every day of his life.
He raised his hand against the roaring ocean
and the television full of lies.
He shook his head back and forth
from one country to the other
and his ticket grew longer.
Immigrants had double and nothing all at once.
Immigrants drove the taxis, sold the beer and Cokes.
When he found one note that rang true,
he sang it over and over inside.
Coffee, honey.
His eyes roamed the couples at other booths,
their loose banter and casual clothes.
But he never became them.

Uncle who finally left in a bravado moment
after 23 years, to live in the old country forever,
to stay and never come back,

maybe it would be peaceful now,
maybe for one minute,
I cannot tell you—how my heart has settled at last.
But he followed us to the sidewalk
saying, Take care, Take care,
as if he could not stand to leave us.

I cannot tell—

how we felt
to learn that the week he arrived,
he died. Or how it is now,
driving his parched streets,
feeling the booth beneath us as we order,
oh, anything, because if we don’t,
nothing will come.
---Naomi Shihab Nye


"I have spent time studying the nature of light. It is part curiosity and part meditation; someday I hope to understand why I see the way I do. Scriveners have studied light, too, and in the books Madding read to me, they claimed that the brightest light—true light—is the combination of all other kinds of light. Red, blue, yellow, more; put it all together and the result is shining white.

"This means, in a way, that true light is dependent on the presence of other lights. Take the others away and darkness results. Yet the reverse is not true: take away darkness and there is only more darkness. Darkness can exist by itself. Light cannot."
---N.K. Jemisin, The Broken Kingdoms


"I overcame myself, the sufferer; I carried my own ashes to the mountains; I invented a brighter flame for myself. And behold, then this ghost fled from me."
---Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra, trans. unknown


"What Came to Me"
I took the last
dusty piece of china
out of the barrel.
It was your gravy boat,
with a hard, brown
drop of gravy still
on the porcelain lip.
I grieved for you then
as I never had before.
---Jane Kenyon


"The Woodlice"
The beauty of one sister
who loved them so
she smuggled the woodlice
into her pockets & then into
the house, after a day’s work
of digging in the yard,
& after the older ones of us
had fed her & washed,
she carried them into
the bed with her, to mother
them, so that they would have
two blankets & be warm, for
this is what she knew of love,
& the beloveds emerged one
by one from their defenses, unfolding
themselves across the bed’s white sheet
like they did over 400 years ago, carried
from that other moonlight,
accidentally, or by children, into
the ship’s dark hold, slowly
adapting to the new rooms
of cloths, then fields, & we,
the elders to that sister,
we, having seen strangers
in our house before, we, being
older, being more ugly & afraid,
we began, then, to teach her the lessons
of dirt & fear.
---Aracelis Girmay


"Certain seeds it will not nurture, certain fruit it will not bear, and when the land kills of its own volition, we acquiesce and say the victim had no right to live."
---Toni Morrison, The Bluest Eye


"Ashes of Life"
Love has gone and left me and the days are all alike;
Eat I must, and sleep I will,—and would that night were here!
But ah!—to lie awake and hear the slow hours strike!
Would that it were day again!—with twilight near!

Love has gone and left me and I don’t know what to do;
This or that or what you will is all the same to me;
But all the things that I begin I leave before I’m through,—
There’s little use in anything as far as I can see.

Love has gone and left me,—and the neighbors knock and borrow,
And life goes on forever like the gnawing of a mouse,—
And to-morrow and to-morrow and to-morrow and to-morrow
There’s this little street and this little house.
---Edna St. Vincent Millay


"Imagine that the world is made out of love. Now imagine that it isn’t. Imagine a story where everything goes wrong, where everyone has their back against the wall, where everyone is in pain and acting selfishly because if they don’t, they’ll die. Imagine a story, not of good against evil, but of need against need against need, where everyone is at cross-purposes and everyone is to blame."
---Richard Siken


"Ignorance in doing science creates the excitement of doing science, and anyone who does it knows that discoveries lead to a further ignorance."
---George Coyne


"I’m working on my own life story. I don’t mean I’m putting it together; no, I’m taking it apart."
---Margaret Atwood, The Tent


"Why we don't die"

In late September many voices
Tell you you will die.
That leaf says it. That coolness.
All of them are right.

Our many souls- what
Can they do about it?
Nothing. They’re already
Part of the invisible.

Our souls have been
Longing to go home
Anyway. “It’s late,” they say.
“Lock the door, let’s go.”

The body doesn’t agree. It says,
“We buried a little iron
Ball under that tree.
Let’s go get it.”
---Robert Bly


"When you are writing laws you are testing words to find their utmost power. Like spells, they have to make things happen in the real world, and like spells, they only work if people believe in them."
---Hilary Mantel, Wolf Hall


"Hatred"
I shall hate you
Like a dart of singing steel
Shot through still air
At even-tide,
Or solemnly
As pines are sober
When they stand etched
Against the sky.
Hating you shall be a game
Played with cool hands
And slim fingers.
Your heart will yearn
For the lonely splendor
Of the pine tree
While rekindled fires
In my eyes
Shall wound you like swift arrows.
Memory will lay its hands
Upon your breast
And you will understand
My hatred.
---Gwendolyn B. Bennett


"Let us take seriously the figure of the feminist kill-joy. Does the feminist kill other people’s joy by pointing out moments of sexism? Or does she expose the bad feelings that get hidden, displaced, or negated under public signs of joy? The feminist is an affect alien: she might even kill joy because she refuses to share an orientation toward certain things as being good because she does not find the objects that promise happiness to be quite so promising."
---Sara Ahmed, "Happy Objects"


"Toward what island-home am I moving"
Toward what island-home am I moving,
not wanting to marry, not wanting
too much of that emptiness at evening,
as when I walked through a field at dusk
and felt wide in the night.
And it was again the evening that drew me
back to the field where I was most alone,
compassed by stems and ruts,
no light of the fixed stars, no flashing in the eyes,
only heather pared by dry air, shedding
a small feathered radiance when I looked away,
an expanse whose deep sleep seemed an unending
warren I had been given, to carry out such tasks—
that I might find nothing dead.
And it was again the evening that drew me
back to the field where I could sense no boundary—
the smell of dry earth, cool arch of my neck, the darkness
entirely within myself.
And when I shut my eyes there was no one.
Only weeds in drifts of stillness, only
stalks and gliding sky.

Come, black anchor, let us not be harmed.
The deer leafing in the dark.
The old man at the table, unable to remember.
The children whose hunger is just hunger,
and never desire.
---Joanna Klink


"She loved to read and did so quite uncritically, taking each book as a prescription of sorts, an argument for a certain kind of life."
---Jennifer Egan, The Invisible Circus


Where does the world cease to be itself
and become our longing for it?
---Christopher Howell, "Longing"


"… self-knowledge isn’t the goal I seek. Strength, strength is what I want. Strength not to endure, I have that and it has made me weak— but strength to act—"
---Susan Sontag


"To me, a song is a validation of lyric poetry’s primal nature. Song exists inside time to express individual feeling, but it also has the capacity to transcend time. Song emanates from individuals and rises up out of time. Lyric poetry speaks from the very middle of this mystery. Song and lyric poetry have a lot to do with my thinking about the Book.

"The Book I am imagining is a gigantic anthology filled with every poem and song ever written. All poems and songs feed into it. The Book is an ultimate jukebox, an iPod as big as the moon from which each person can download that playlist that will help them live. We go to it not for entertainment (as the jukebox or iPod metaphor might imply) but to find the words we need to sustain us. The Book is a huge, accessible repository of testimony about the mysteries and catastrophes and wonders that we experience. We’re there to sustain the Book, too, with what we sing, write, and compose. When you write a poem, it’s here in time, functioning in your own individual life, and maybe the lives of the people around you. But your poem also goes into the Book, where it has its own life, the span of which may be much longer and much different than you’ve imagined."
---Gregory Orr


"Full Moon"
Good God!
What did I dream last night?
I dreamt I was the moon.
I woke and found myself still asleep.

It was like this: my face misted up from inside
And I came and went at will through a little peephole.
I had no voice, no mouth, nothing to express my trouble,
except my shadows leaning downhill, not quite parallel.

Something needs to be said to describe my moonlight.
Almost frost but softer, almost ash but wholer.
Made almost of water, which has strictly speaking
No feature, but a kind of counter-light, call it insight.

Like in woods, when they jostle their hooded shapes,
Their heads congealed together, having murdered each other,
There are moon-beings, sound-beings, such as deer and half-deer
Passing through there, whose eyes can pierce through things.

I was like that: visible invisible visible invisible.
There’s no material as variable as moonlight.
I was climbing, clinging to the underneath of my bones, thinking:
Good God! Who have I been last night?
---Alice Oswald


"The Future Is an Animal"
In every kind of dream I am a black wolf
careening through a web. I am the spider
who eats the wolf and inhabits the wolf’s body.
In another dream I marry the wolf and then
am very lonely. I seek my name and they name me
Lucky Dragon. I would love to tell you that all
of this has a certain ending but the most frightening
stories are the ones with no ending at all.
The path goes on and on. The road keeps forking,
splitting like an endless atom, splitting
like a lip, and the globe is on fire. As many
times as the book is read, the pages continue
to grow, multiply. They said, In the beginning,
and that was the moral of the original and most
important story. The story of man. One story.
I laid my head down and my head was heavy.
Hair sprouted through the skin, hair black
and bending toward night grass. I was becoming
the wolf again, my own teeth breaking
into my mouth for the first time, a kind of beauty
to be swallowed in interior bite and fever.
My mind a miraculous ember until I am the beast.
I run from the story that is faster than me,
the words shatter and pant to outchase me.
The story catches my heels when I turn
to love its hungry face, when I am willing
to be eaten to understand my fate.
---Tina Chang


"House Guest"
The sad seamstress
who stays with us this month
is small and thin and bitter.
No one can cheer her up.
Give her a dress, a drink,
roast chicken, or fried fish—
it’s all the same to her.

She sits and watches TV.
No, she watches zigzags.
“Can you adjust the TV?”
“No,” she says. No hope.
she watches on and on,
without hope, without air.

Her own clothes give us pause,
but she’s not a poor orphan.
She has a father, a mother,
and all that, and she’s earning
quite well, and we’re stuffing
her with fattening foods.

We invite her to use the binoculars.
We say, “Come see the jets!”
We say, “Come see the baby!”
Or the knife grinder who cleverly
plays the National Anthem
on his wheel so shrilly.
Nothing helps.

She speaks: “I need a little
money to buy buttons.”
She seems to think it’s useless
to ask. Heavens, buy buttons,
if they’ll do any good,
the biggest in the world—
by the dozen, by the gross!
Buy yourself an ice cream,
a comic book, a car!

Her face is closed as a nut,
closed as a careful snail
or a thousand year old seed.
Does she dream of marriage?
Of getting rich? Her sewing
is decidedly mediocre.

Please! Take our money! Smile!
What on earth have we done?
What has everyone done
and when did it all begin?
Then one day she confides
that she wanted to be a nun
and her family opposed her.

Perhaps we should let her go,
or deliver her straight off
to the nearest convent - and wasn’t
her month up last week, anyway?

Can it be that we nourish
one of the Fates in our bosoms?
Clotho, sewing our lives
with a bony little foot
on a borrowed sewing machine,
and our fates will be like hers,
and our hems crooked forever?
---Elizabeth Bishop


"Everyone’s getting older. When I crossed that line in my mind where I knew I was with the person that I wanted to marry, it was a very heavy thing, because you’re inviting death into your life. You know that that’s hopefully after many, many, many, many years, but the idea of death stops being abstract, because there is someone you can’t bear to lose. when it registers as true, it’s like a little shade of grief that comes in when love is its most real version. Then it contains death inside of it, and then that death contains love inside of it."
---Joanna Newsom


"my dream about being white"
hey music and
me
only white,
hair a flutter of
fall leaves
circling my perfect
line of a nose,
no lips,
no behind, hey
white me
and i’m wearing
white history
but there’s no future
in those clothes
so i take them off and
wake up
dancing.
---Lucille Clifton


"Cutting away what I consider to be the engine of the essay—doubt and the unknown, let’s say—leaves us with articles and theses, facts and information, our side and their side, dreary optimism and even drearier pessimism, but nowhere to turn in a moment of true need."
---Charles D’Ambrosio, "Loitering"


"Professor Johnston often said that if you didn’t know history, you didn’t know anything. You were a leaf that didn’t know it was part of a tree."
---Michael Crichton, Timeline


"One actually thinks in poetry […] It’s a form of thought, not a form of expression, because a form of expression means you have something separate from what’s being expressed."
---Margaret Atwood


"I like Simone Weil’s idea that writing is actually the translation of a text we already carry within us. That notion makes a heavy task lighter. In fact, though, writing is the backbreaking work of hacking a footpath, as in a coal mine; in total darkness, beneath the earth.

"In poetry there are moments of illumination. A streak of light falls in the dark corridor, then the darkness slams shut overhead once more.

"In prose the darknesses are even thicker, the black clods even harder."
---Anna Kamieńska


"Yet how strange a thing is the beauty of music! The brief beauty that the player brings into being transforms a given period of time into pure continuance; it is certain never to be repeated; like the existence of dayflies and other such short-lived creatures, beauty is a perfect abstraction and creation of life itself. Nothing is so similar to life as music."
---Yukio Mishima, The Temple of the Golden Pavilion, trans. unknown


"The Darren language has a word for the attraction one feels to danger: esui. It is esui that makes warriors charge into hopeless battles and die laughing. Esui is also what draws women to lovers who are bad for them—men who would make poor fathers, women of the enemy. The Senmite word that comes closest is ‘lust,’ if one includes ‘bloodlust’ and 'lust for life,’ though these do not adequately capture the layered nature of esui. It is glory, it is folly. It is everything not sensible, not rational, not safe at all—but without ensui, there is no point in living."
---N.K. Jemisin, The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms


"… memory does not so much depend on the completeness of things left behind as on their thoroughly crafted and rough outlines, on their worn surfaces, on their very scars and absences, on mould, rusts, and fragmentations. In other words, ruined things remind us, as archaeologists and students of things, to acknowledge that they do not remember–or at least only reluctantly so–the linear narratives we relentlessly have made them bear witness to. Indeed, such appropriation of things and fragments from the past as ‘historical witness’ may also be seen as yet another aspect of their domestication; a conduct where things are made to serve as loyal contributors to a continuous past which in reality they are ‘blasted’ out of and thus, exist in opposition to."
---Dora Petursdottir and Bjornar Olsen, "Archaeology of Ruins"


"Strange Theater"
You are reading a book at a table on the stage
of a small theater. The theater will be closing
in two months. There are books by Freud, Nietzsche,
and Foucault on the table. You are seven, face
beautifully framed by thick glasses, having read
since four with just one candle. There is nothing
on stage except you, the candle, the books.
The curtain falls. You are crushed between the purple velvet.

Act II, Scene I

Open, A girl in a garden.

She is picking azaleas, placing them into a metal can,
swelling. The bees and the dragonflies won’t leave
her. She swats at them with a small shovel.

The background changes and she is ten years older,
in the army with a rifle. The rifle is always the main character.
Two years later, times have changed. She’s performing
in a sequined number, face covered with pancake and blush,
just a few people in the audience as she sings her final number,
a couple of steps and her stockings fall to her ankles.

Act II, Scene II

The spotlight is focused on someone new. A hustler
with a purple fedora, a cigar, a fat gold cane.
He dances, sidesteps the woman. He is the predator
and she should’ve seen it coming but she had
her childhood glasses on. She is tough and wrestles
the hustler. She has him head-locked under her arm,
the props are falling, they are tumbling down
a hole left of stage.

Act III, Scene I

The hustler is gone. All she has left of him
is his plumage. She is hungry and indicates so
by holding her stomach and grimacing.
She wants to go home.

There is a paper boat that can take her back
to New York but she is not sure it can hold her
weight. The paper boat gondolier pushes her
onto the boat. People wave from the other side.
They wanted her to leave all along, her presence
needed off stage, in the minutes elsewhere.

Epilogue

The journey was under the bright lights,
a floor functioning like an emergency
room in a hospital, gurney and urgency.
She exits and exits again, until she’s
on the street, in a parking lot. How those
faces still light up. She walks through the lot,
as if blindly feeling. She knows them now
in her waking life. They inhabit her, shaking her
down in daylight. The moon never did any good
but light the way to those pale faces.
---Tina Chang


"Wild Invention"
This is a story about a girl who ran,
all night she ran after the wolf, aimed
at its hind legs, then stood above it,
and shot it between the eyes, skinned
it until the soul of the animal departed
from this world. Then the meat stopped
pulsing, then it shined with all its delicate
possibilities.

This is the story of the girl who stalked
the forest with nothing but a shotgun
and compass, due North, hollowed
the animal under moonlight, desire
dripping like blood into a tin pan,
the stars leaking a tonic into her cup.
Her appetite was the forest she traveled.
Though lost, she dragged the wolf
with her like a past surrendering
to a new life. The sun emerging
over the mountain like a heart flayed
open with a light in the middle.

*

The animal must be shot. You must
be hungry enough to skin it without
flinching, must be willing to cook it,
still trembling over the watchful eye
of the fire. You must also be willing
to track yourself down, see the will
of the god who made all beasts fear
for their lives. The rabbit quivers in its
white coat, raises its ears and takes off,
the boar nothing but an exotic pest
roaming the hillsides. You eat, grateful
for the skin that keeps this life in tact,
under the roof beams of your long life,
under a bridge that is a heaven of deer bones.
You are a more wonderful animal
than you could ever imagine: Great flying
loon, foxes coupling in the dark brush.
---Tina Chang


"I pray. I pray a lot. I’m somebody who has a big inner life, and for most of my life it had a lot of darkness in it, and for me prayer is a way of standing in a light. It’s no more complicated than that. So I pray both for people and I do something called the Ignatian Exercises, which are a way of kind of looking at the end of every day at that day and examining places where you saw God, places where God was present for you. If you do that every day over a long period of time, you start to realize that the things you ‘value,’ the things that are supposed to be important to you are often just not that important. And the places that really are sustaining to you in a spiritual way are very surprising — they’re not where you think they’re going to be."
---Mary Karr


"The need to go astray, to be destroyed, is an extremely private, distant, passionate, turbulent truth."
---Georges Bataille, trans. unknown


"Literature does its best to maintain that its concern is with the mind; that the body is a sheet of plain glass through which the soul looks straight and clear, and, save for one or two passions such as desire and greed, is null, and negligible and non-existent. On the contrary, the very opposite is true. All day, all night, the body intervenes; blunts or sharpens, colours or discolours, turns to wax in the warmth of June, hardens to tallow in the murk of February. The creature within can only gaze through the pane - smudged or rosy; it cannot separate off from the body like the sheath of a knife or the pod of a pea for a single instant; it must go through the whole unending process of changes, heat and cold, comfort and discomfort, hunger and satisfaction, health and illness, until there comes the inevitable catastrophe; the body smashes itself to smithereens, and the soul (it is said) escapes. But of this daily drama of the body there is no record."
---Virginia Woolf, "On Being Ill"


"Joy in the Woods"
There is joy in the woods just now,
      The leaves are whispers of song,
And the birds make mirth on the bough
      And music the whole day long,
And God! to dwell in the town
      In these springlike summer days,
On my brow an unfading frown
      And hate in my heart always—

A machine out of gear, aye, tired,
Yet forced to go on—for I’m hired.

Just forced to go on through fear,
      For every day I must eat
And find ugly clothes to wear,
      And bad shoes to hurt my feet
And a shelter for work-drugged sleep!
      A mere drudge! but what can one do?
A man that’s a man cannot weep!
      Suicide? A quitter? Oh, no!

But a slave should never grow tired,
Whom the masters have kindly hired.

But oh! for the woods, the flowers
      Of natural, sweet perfume,
The heartening, summer showers
      And the smiling shrubs in bloom,
Dust-free, dew-tinted at morn,
      The fresh and life-giving air,
The billowing waves of corn
      And the birds’ notes rich and clear:—

For a man-machine toil-tired
May crave beauty too—though he’s hired.

---Claude McKay


"I, too, overflow; my desires have invented new desires, my body knows unheard-of songs. Time and again I, too, have felt so full of luminous torrents that I could burst."
---Hélène Cixous, The Laugh of the Medusa, trans. unknown


"Still Life"
Down by the pond, addicts sleep
on rocky grass half in water, half out,
and there the moon lights them
out of tawny silhouettes into the rarest
of amphibious flowers I once heard called striders,
between, but needing, two worlds.
Of what can you accuse them now,
                                                    beauty?

---Katie Ford


"How does one hate a country, or love one?…I lack the trick of it. I know people, I know towns, farms, hills and rivers and rocks, I know how the sun at sunset in autumn falls on the side of a certain plowland in the hills; but what is the sense of giving a boundary to all that, of giving it a name and ceasing to love where the name ceases to apply?"
---Ursula K. Le Guin, The Left Hand of Darkness


"I love borders. August is the border between summer and autumn; it is the most beautiful month I know. Twilight is the border between day and night, and the shore is the border between sea and land. The border is longing; when both have fallen in love but still haven’t said anything. The border is to be on the way. It is the way that is the most important thing."
---Tove Jansson, trans. unknown


"What is love of one’s country; is it hate of one’s uncountry? Then it’s not a good thing. Is it simply self-love? That’s a good thing, but one mustn’t make a virtue of it, or a profession."
---Ursula K. Le Guin, The Left Hand of Darkness


"No matter how voraciously or widely we read, it can still be hard to articulate the exquisite sensation of finding a book that grabs us; whose narrative causes us to lose all sense of time—of our bodies, even—and stay up reading longer than the morning’s commitments make sensible. It’s a bit like being in love, in that sense: even when we know we ought to be doing something else, that the story will still be waiting for us if we step away for an hour or two, it doesn’t seem to matter—we pine, distracted and eager, as in the earliest, deepest stages of infatuation, conducting a whirlwind romance that starts with a word and ends with the rosy afterglow of the last page turned. This is the deepest magic of stories, and its most important: the conjuration of an empathy so pure, it all but tumbles us out of our skins and into someone else’s."
---Foz Meadows


"Because We Love Bare Hills and Stunted Trees"
Because we love bare hills and stunted trees
we head north when we can,
past taiga, tundra, rocky shoreline, ice.

Where does it come from, this sparse taste
of ours? How long
did we roam this hardscape, learning by heart
all that we used to know:
turn skin fur side in,
partner with wolves, eat fat, hate waste,
carve spirit, respect the snow,
build and guard flame?

Everything once had a soul,
even this clam, this pebble.
Each had a secret name.
Everything listened.
Everything was real,
but didn’t always love you.
You needed to take care.

We long to go back there,
or so we like to feel
when it’s not too cold.
We long to pay that much attention.
But we’ve lost the knack;
also there’s other music.
All we hear in the wind’s plainsong
is the wind.
---Margaret Atwood


"One aspect of literature is that it calls us to empathize. Another is that it requires great amounts of time alone, in solitude, thinking one’s own thoughts. If she is not careful, the writer might focus on the second and forget the first. The writing practice, especially when we are apprenticing, especially when we are young, can draw us into the infinite mirror of our self-reflective consciousness. Beware, is all I have to say. Don’t be that guy. Get a job washing dishes. Or work admissions at the local A.I.D.S. clinic. The living, wrought world can not be found in your head."
---Rebecca Gayle Howell


"I had been in recent correspondence with Wendell Berry, in whom I had confided how anxiety-filled I was about the suffering I thought some of us, mostly the poor, would experience in this coming climate change, how I was beginning to think nothing could be done to relieve what was to come. And he told me that I must not give into despair. That hoping was what could be done, actually. And that hope would bring work; work, hope. That I should find, and I’m paraphrasing here, a little job to do—a poem to write, a speech to give.

"Not immediately, but soon thereafter, the first How To poems came, and I followed them. I followed the words, the sentences and lines, like bread crumbs back to shelter. I understood, eventually, I was in the middle of a book, the same way one might understand she’s woken in the middle of a field. One of my teachers, Jean Valentine, told me if I listened for what was true, the poems would write themselves. I tried to do that when I was writing Render. I still do."
---Rebecca Gayle Howell


"For the old-time people, time was not a series of ticks of a clock, one following the other. For the old-time people time was round–like a tortilla; time had specified moments and specific locations so that the beloved ancestors who had passed on were not annihilated by death, but only relocated….All times go on existing side by side for all eternity. No moment is lost or destroyed. There are no future times or past times; there are always all the times, which differ slightly, as the locations on the tortilla differ slightly."
---Leslie Marmon Silko, "Notes on Almanac of the Dead"


"The ordinary response to atrocities is to banish them from consciousness. Certain violations of the social compact are too terrible to utter aloud: this is the meaning of the word unspeakable.
Atrocities, however, refuse to be buried. Equally as powerful as the desire to deny atrocities is the conviction that denial does not work. Folk wisdom is filled with ghosts who refuse to rest in their graves until their stories are told. Murder will out. Remembering and telling the truth about terrible events are prerequisites both for the restoration of the social order and for the healing of individual victims."
---Judith Herman, Trauma and Recovery


"From this disappearing middle I strolled. I had my curiosity mainly and my stubbornness. They passed as a passion. Everything, happy and unhappy, has resulted from these two traits."
---Lisa Robertson, "Essay on Origins"


"On a Passenger Ferry"
The deck is big, and crowded. In one corner,
an old woman, sick, on chemo, not in pain, is
writing in an elementary-school notebook.
Nobody else saw her, but I saw her.
I had seen her before. Her round, kind face,
smiling and still as a photograph
outside a window—
---Jean Valentine


"This is how I figure it: the ladder is neither immobile nor empty. It is animated. It incorporates the movement it arouses and inscribes. My ladder is frequented. I say my because of my love for it: it’s climbed by those authors I feel a mysterious affinity for; affinities, choices, are always secret."
---Hélène Cixous, qtd. by Marci Vogel in "Line of Sight: Lineage as Vision"


"I have a little talk I give sometimes about windows and mirrors, that children—and humans, everybody—all need both windows and mirrors in their lives: mirrors through which you can see yourself and windows through which you can see the world."
---Lucille Clifton, qtd. by Marci Vogel in "Line of Sight: Lineage as Vision"
[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
"You're spending your life talking, writing things, getting bills through, missing what seems natural. Still, there's the mind of the widow--the affections; those you leave untouched. But you waste your own. I would point out that a human being is not a set of compartments, but an organism. Imagination, Miss; use your imagination; that's where you fail. Conceive the world as a whole."
--Virginia Woolf


"Sonnet LXV"
Matilde, where are you? Down there I noticed,
under my necktie and just above the heart,
a certain pang of grief between the ribs,
you were gone that quickly.

I needed the light of your energy,
I looked around, devouring hope.
I watched the void without you that is like a house,
nothing left but tragic windows.

Out of sheer taciturnity the ceiling listens
to the fall of the ancient leafless rain,
to feathers, to whatever the night imprisoned:

so I wait for you like a lonely house
till you will see me again and live in me.
Till then my windows ache.
--Pablo Neruda


"You cannot save people. You can only love them."
--Anaïs Nin


"Motion Sickness"
Rain in New Jersey devouring the landscape
like those mythic dragons of another time,
another country. The train window frames it

like ink scrolls of brooding masters,
and now the shingle-roofed towns unroll
one after the other, panoramas

of domestic assurances, warm rooms,
nights with beer and TV. I'm only looking in,
and fictive homes are turning on their lamps,

and I remember mother taking me on the train
out of Manila-–I was four or five, and we sat
at the station and she said you could hear it coming,

first the thunder and then the charged heat
and full stop to stillness. We were running away
but never too far nor too long, because each time

there was nowhere far enough to go.
Her face was purple with bruises, which she hid
with paste the color of early sky. In a day or two

father would be weeping in her arms,
then we'd be home watching TV. Here you feel
the pull of perpetual motion, the blunt gunmetal

of the tracks and the empty stations, the fierce
rush towards and away from absence.
In Eliseo Subiela's Hombre Mirando al Sudeste

an alien has chosen to come to an asylum
to study the earth, and wonders why so much beauty
leaves us emptier, more solitary. And when he finds

no answers, he dies like humans do,
numb with morphine, unable to dissect
the filaments of love. Mother and I always came back

on the same train: the same fake leather seats,
the smell of condiments and rotten produce,
the landscape unreeling backwards. Thirty years later

I am still watching tracks, I try not to look back
too much, I believe beauty is a hint of storm
but it could be anything, the way the alien found it

everywhere, in Beethoven or a frozen brain–
dawn, the perfect ink of it, the nervous arrival
of familiars, and the stillness recurring without fail.
--Eric Gamalinda


"Something Bright, Then Holes"
I used to do this, the self I was
used to do this

the selves I no longer am
nor understand.

Something bright, then holes
is how a girl, newly-sighted, once

described a hand. I reread
your letters, and remember

correctly: you wanted to eat
through me. Then fall asleep

with your tongue against
an organ, quiet enough

to hear it kick. Learn everything
there is to know

about loving someone
then walk away, coolly

I'm not ashamed
Love is large and monstrous

Never again will I be so blind, so ungenerous
O bright snatches of flesh, blue

and pink, then four dark furrows, four
funnels, leading into a infinite ditch

The heart, too, is porous;
I lost the water you poured into it
--Maggie Nelson


"It suck to be poor, and it sucks to feel that you somehow deserve to be poor. You start believing that you're poor because you're stupid and ugly. And then you start believing that you're stupid and ugly because you're Indian. And because you're Indian you start believing you're destined to be poor. It's an ugly circle and there's nothing you can do about it.

"Poverty doesn't give you strength or teach you lessons about perseverance. No, poverty only teaches you how to be poor."
--Sherman Alexie, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian


" 'Listen,' he said one afternoon in the library. 'You have to read a book three times before you know it. The first time you read it for the story. The plot. The movement from scene to scene that gives the book its momentum, its rhythm. It's like riding a raft down a river. You're just paying attention to the currents. Do you understand that?'

" 'Not at all,' I said.

" 'Yes, you do,' he said.

" 'Okay, I do,' I said. I really didn't, but Gordy believed in me. He wouldn't let me give up.

" 'The second time you read a book, you read it for its history. For its knowledge of history. You think about the meaning of each word, and where that word came from. I mean, you read a novel that has the word 'spam' in it, and you know where that word comes from, right?'

" 'Spam is junk e-mail,' I said.

" 'Yes, that's what it is, but who invented the word, who first used it, and how has the meaning of the word changed since it was first used?'

" 'I don't know,' I said.

" 'Well, you have to look all that up. If you don't treat each word that seriously then you're not treating the novel seriously.'

"I thought about my sister in Montana. Maybe romance novels were absolutely serious business. My sister certainly thought they were. I suddenly understood that if every moment of a book should be taken seriously, then every moment of a life should be taken seriously as well.

" 'I draw cartoons,' I said.

" 'What's your point?' Gordy asked.

" 'I take them seriously. I use them to understand the world. I use them to make fun of the world. To make fun of people. And sometimes I draw people because they're my friends and family. And I want to honor them.'

" 'So you take your cartoons as seriously as you take books?'

" 'Yeah, I do,' I said. 'That's kind of pathetic, isn't it?'

" 'No, not at all,' Gordy said. 'If you're good at it, and you love it, and it helps you navigate the river of the world, then it can't be wrong.'

"Wow, this dude was a poet. My cartoons weren't just good for giggles; they were also good for poetry. Funny poetry, but poetry nonetheless. It was seriously funny stuff.

" 'But don't take anything too seriously, either,' Gordy said.

"The little dork could read minds, too. He was like some kind of Star Wars alien creature with invisible tentacles that sucked your thoughts out of your brain.

" 'You read a book for the story, for each of its words,' Gordy said, 'and you draw your cartoons for the story, for each of the words and images. And, yeah, you need to take that seriously, but you should also read and draw because really good books and cartoons give you a boner.'

"I was shocked:

" 'Did you just say books should give me a boner?'

" 'Yes, I did.'

" 'Are you serious?'

" 'Yeah...Don't you get excited about books?'

" 'I don't think you're supposed to get that excited about books.'

" 'You should get a boner! You have to get a boner!' Gordy shouted. 'Come on!'

"We ran into the Reardan High School Library.

" 'Look at all these books,' he said.

" 'There aren't that many,' I said. It was a small library in a small high school in a small town.

" 'There are three hundred four thousand and twelve books here,' Gordy said. 'I know that because I counted them.'

" 'Okay, now you're officially a freak,' I said.

" 'Yes, it's a small library. It's a tiny one. But if you read one of these books a day, it would still take you almost ten years to finish.'

" 'What's your point?'

" 'The world, even the smallest parts of it, is filled with things you don't know.'

"Wow. That was a huge idea.

"Any town, even one as small as Reardan, was a place of mystery. And that meant that Wellpinit, that smaller, Indian town, was also a place of mystery.

" 'Okay, so it's like each of these books is a mystery. Every book is a mystery. And if you read all the books ever written, it's like you've read one giant mystery. And no matter how much you learn, you just keep on learning there is so much more you need to learn.'

" 'Yes, yes, yes, yes,' Gordy said. 'Now doesn't that give you a boner?'

" 'I am rock hard,' I said.

"Gordy blushed.

" 'Well, I don't mean boner in the sexual sense,' Gordy said. 'I don't think you should run through life with a real erect penis. But you should approach each book--you should approach life--with the real possibility that you might get a metaphorical boner at any point.'

" 'A metaphorical boner!' I shouted. 'What the heck is a metaphorical boner?'

"Gordy laughed.

" 'When I say boner, I really mean joy,' he said.

" 'Then why didn't you say joy? You didn't have to say boner. Whenever I think about boners, I get confused.'

" 'Boner is funnier. And more joyful.' "
--Sherman Alexie


"When anybody, no matter how old they are, loses a parent, I think it hurts the same as if you were only five years old, you know? I think all of us are always five years old in the presence and absence of our parents."
--Sherman Alexie


" 'You can do it,' Coach said.

" 'I can do it.'

" 'You can do it.'

" 'I can do it.'

"Do you understand how amazing it is to hear that from an adult? Do you know how amazing it is to hear that from anybody? It's one of the simplest sentences in the world, just four words, but they're the four hugest words in the world when they're put together."
--Sherman Alexie


"Acts of Disappearance"
It was a world where a moose
could pull a squirrel out of his hat,

children disappeared down holes,
and the lake outside your window

could suddenly go missing.
You sip your coffee and ponder:

abduction, subduction...

~

Freud said, when we look at the sea,
something like the sea opens in us--

which might explain Scully
drowning in himself or the night

Bobby didn't make it home, and why
I feel like a slick of mud.

Freud was talking about God,
not wax-winged punks shooting up

in a three-story walk-up, not a boy
building a fort--the hammer, the needle,

the report driven hellward.

~

It was a trick no one showed you--
how one could turn a lung into a lake,

a boy into air, carp on their sides,
the prevalence of sinkholes.

They keep asking for more;

the sea, of course, is not endless,
it only feels that way.
--James Hoch


"Antarctica"
Like nights we knelt on the dirt floor
of a dugout, leaned our heads back,
eyes twitching gone, and popped nitrous

canisters into the communion shapes
of our mouths, slipped inside where
everything seemed to be falling snow,

ice, the time split between chasing flies
through a darkened park and sprawling
in a sycamore bark--how clean that abyss

we drifted in, like dew, more like pollen,
on our skins; and, beneath, a want
for touch, a kiss, a return. Like nothing,

back then, to break an arm latching on
to the bumper of an Impala, or settling back
as the car took us as far as the salted bridge,

before letting the ride go with a mitten
caught behind the chrome waving
from the other side of the river. Like this,

you said, sliding a needle, watching
dope plunge, the body's rush and tow
until you felt something like an angel

hovering above, but it was only pigeon
feathers deviling the air. Those friends
are gone: some dead, dying, locked up

or jailed in themselves; and when I see
some kids running in the heat of a taillight
swirling behind them, I remember we

wanted only to quiet our bodies, their
unnatural hum, a vague pull inward,
some thin furrows gliding over the snow.
--James Hoch


"Problems with Windows"
Leave them closed, clear of curtains,
inevitably a sparrow ends itself

on the glass. You must imagine
how sudden everything is

for the sparrow keening away from a jay:
There's somewhere to go,

rectangle of light, glint, reflection,
then nothing. The bird

doesn't hear the thud of its skull,
twitch of its neck; that's for the air.

~

Leave them open long enough,
sparrows simply fly in. This one

must've tired of the heat beneath
the elms where young couples

grope in the shade under each
other's shirts before it shuttled

through the museum window hexed
with iron bars, and perched on

a light above Caravaggio's boy
holding a fruit basket, the way he looks

alone, almost burdened.

~

We had windows like that in a kitchen
I once worked, above a table

where we boned and skinned cases
of chickens that bobbed and thawed

in a sink, floating there, headless, wingless,
as if the birds had never been birds.

Shit can fly in, Franky would say, closing
the window, heat, and chickens in on us.

~

Franky, who was skinny but dangerous,
who lived by the river, had a knack for it

and, like Caravaggio, a penchant for blades.
You see, you had to break them open,

yank out the sternum, knife between
rib and tendon, leave no shard, then mallet

the meat until you could make out
the grain of wood beneath.

~

Nothing catastrophic happened.
The sparrow didn't crap on the painting

nor try to end itself in the shaft of light
behind the boy's head. It shuttled

room to room, passed Bernini's Apollo,
above the armless statues in the portico,

and out a window at the other end,
though such a rush, it felt torn;

which is to say, it filled me with memory.

~

Sometimes I look at a painting and forget
what to live for: the histories

perpetuated in the face of the boy,
or for the aloneness, the jitteringly nervous

suspension of a bird. I don't know
if Franky ended the way everyone thought.

The thing I remember is his eyes:
if they looked at you, shit was going down,

and if he stood still long enough,
they trembled like two dark pools.

~

And I imagine if you looked in the eye
of that sparrow, you would see the same

and a window of blue reflected
and curved and vulnerable

over its surface. Of course, to do so,
you'd first have to capture it, learn how to

hold a thing without crushing it.
--James Hoch


"XIII"
In the museum of the perverse,
in Mütter's turn-of-the-century

collection of elephantic scrotums,
cumuli of colon, gray hearts

conjoined and floating in jars,
they have a child drying

in an exhibit case, strung by
wire, drawn by wrist, like

he's levitating. What wasted
him was not clear, for years,

only that he grew rapidly old,
but tacked and splayed as if

being converted or slaughtered,
arms flung like that, how could

Christ or Icarus not come to mind;
yet cured, aged thin, the grain of bone

seems carved, Etruscan or, older,
the size of ones sunk in bogs,

woven in glaciers; though posed
like the dead in the tombs of Fayum,

you have to face them, have to
wait for a pure gaze, a figment

of soul, an image exact enough
the next world will know him.

Somehow the body keeps us
looking beyond form, keeps us

marveling over its hollows: empty
skull, depressed sockets--absences

we tend to, as we tend to narrative:
ash, grind, leaf, until he's only

a child again, selfsame--Look,
he's riding a bicycle, no-hands.

No, he's trying to hug the air.

--James Hoch


"Painting of a Cart"
It's like some ancient machine brought from storage, another age,
and if it weren't selling imported flowers, you'd think the cart was
something you'd throw a few bodies on and haul through town,
regular enough its wheels warn of pestilence, poverty, reliable
as a church tower; and if you close your eyes and forgive the blossoms
the old stench might come wafting back, like a distant field feculent
and Dutch, spreading as the cart makes its way down the rancid
alleys, an odor thick as myrrh, slowly rising to a window, a kitchen
where you imagine you are chopping parsley, obliterating the leaves
into a stain of green; how you say to yourself, the wood, the knife knock,
the delinquent kids dragging a cart, clobbering the stones smooth with
their tiny hooves, how could this have ever been so lovely?
--James Hoch


"All Things End in Fragrance"
Out the window, starlings
fidget in the wasted eaves

of a bar burned down last summer.
They pilfer, figure,
engineer

charred wire, booth cushion,
anything light enough

to haul by beak, wedge high
between blackened 2 x 4.

A nest,
a bed for the dying
or just born--
The birds shuttle,

their feathers taking on
what they inhabit,

the way, Dear Witness, the silk
in your shirts took asafetida,

mustard oil burning
in a skillet, as this letter

makeshift and late
receives
the leaden face of broken type,

a shape which, for now, says
Stay. Live here awhile

before rising into some other sorrow.
--James Hoch
[identity profile] two-grey-rooms.livejournal.com
"Recipe For Happiness Khaborovsk or Anyplace"
One grand boulevard with trees
with one grand cafe in sun
with strong black coffee in very small cups.

One not necessarily very beautiful
man or woman who loves you.

One fine day.
--Lawrence Ferlinghetti


"From Blossoms"
From blossoms comes
this brown paper bag of peaches
we bought from the boy
at the bend in the road where we turned toward
signs painted Peaches.

From laden boughs, from hands,
from sweet fellowship in the bins,
comes nectar at the roadside, succulent
peaches we devour, dusty skin and all,
comes the familiar dust of summer, dust we eat.

O, to take what we love inside,
to carry within us an orchard, to eat
not only the skin, but the shade,
not only the sugar, but the days, to hold
the fruit in our hands, adore it, then bite into
the round jubilance of peach.

There are days we live
as if death were nowhere
in the background; from joy
to joy to joy, from wing to wing,
from blossom to blossom to
impossible blossom, to sweet impossible blossom.
--Li-Young Lee


"The Trifler"
Death's the lover that I'd be taking;
Wild and fickle and fierce is he.
Small's his care if my heart be breaking--
Gay young Death would have none of me.

Hear them clack of my haste to greet him!
No one other my mouth had kissed.
I had dressed me in silk to meet him--
False young Death would not hold the tryst.

Slow's the blood that was quick and stormy,
Smooth and cold is the bridal bed;
I must wait till he whistles for me--
Proud young Death would not turn his head.

I must wait till my breast is wilted.
I must wait till my back is bowed,
I must rock in the corner, jilted--
Death went galloping down the road.

Gone's my heart with a trifling rover.
Fine he was in the game he played--
Kissed, and promised, and threw me over,
And rode away with a prettier maid.
--Dorothy Parker


"7. But what kind of love is it, really? Don't fool yourself and call it sublimity. Admit that you have stood in front of a little pile of powdered ultramarine pigment in a glass cup at a museum and felt a stinging desire. But to do what? Liberate it? Purchase it? Ingest it? There is so little blue food in nature--in fact blue in the wild tends to mark food to avoid (mold, poisonous berries)--that culinary advisers generally recommend against blue light, blue paint, and blue plates when and where serving food. But while the color may sap appetite in the most literal sense, it feeds it in others. You might want to reach out and disturb the pile of pigment, for example, first staining your fingers with it, then staining the world. You might want to dilute it and swim in it, you might want to rouge your nipples with it, you might want to paint a virgin's robe with it. But still you wouldn't be accessing the blue of it. Not really."
--Maggie Nelson, Bluets


"71. I have been trying, for some time now, to find dignity in my loneliness. I have been finding this hard to do.

"72. It is easier, of course, to find dignity in one's solitude. Loneliness is solitude with a problem."
--Maggie Nelson


"88. Like many self-help books, The Deepest Blue is full of horrifyingly simplistic language and some admittedly good advice. Somehow the women in the book all learn to say: That's my depression talking. It's not 'me.'

"89. As if we could scrape the color off the iris and still see."
--Maggie Nelson


"134. It calms me to think of blue as the color of death. I have long imagined death's approach as the swell of a wave--a towering wall of blue. You will drown, the world tells me, has always told me. You will descend into a blue underworld, blue with hungry ghosts, Krishna blue, the blue faces of the ones you loved. They all drowned, too. To take a breath of water: does the thought panic or excite you? If you are in love with red then you slit or shoot. If you are in love with blue you fill your pouch with stones good for sucking and head down to the river. Any river will do."
--Maggie Nelson


"137. It is unclear what Holiday means, exactly, when she sings, 'But now the world will know/She's never gonna sing 'em no more/No more.' What is unclear: whether she is moving on, shutting up, or going to die. Also unclear: the source of her triumphance.

"138. But perhaps there is no real mystery here at all. 'Life is usually stronger than people's love for it' (Adam Phillips): this is what Holiday's voice makes audible. To hear is to understand why suicide is both so easy and so difficult: to commit it one has to stamp out this native triumphance, either by training oneself, over time, to dehabilitate or disbelieve it (drugs help here), or by force of ambush."
--Maggie Nelson


"156. 'Why is the sky blue?'--A fair enough question, and one I have learned the answer to several times. Yet every time I try to explain it to someone or remember the question alone, as it reminds me that my mind is essentially a sieve, that I am mortal.

"157. The part I do remember: that the blue of the sky depends on the darkness of empty space behind it. As one optics journal puts it, 'The color of any planetary atmosphere viewed against the black of space and illuminated by a sunlike star will also be blue.' In which case blue is something of an ecstatic accident produced by void and fire."
--Maggie Nelson


"181. Pharmakon means drug, but as Jacques Derrida and others have pointed out, the word in Greek famously refuses to designate whether poison or cure. It holds both in the bowl. In the dialogues Plato uses the word to refer to everything from an illness, its cause, its cure, a recipe, a charm, a substance, a spell, artificial color, and paint. Plato does not call fucking pharmakon, but then again, while he talks plenty about love, Plato does not say much about fucking.

"182. In the Phaedrus, the written word is also notoriously called pharmakon. The question up for debate between Socrates and Phaedrus is whether the written word kills memory or aids it--whether it cripples the mind's power, or whether it cures it of its forgetfulness. Given the multiple meanings of pharmakon, the answer is, in a sense, a matter of translation."
--Maggie Nelson


"216. Today is the fifth anniversary, the radio says, of the day on which 'everything changed.' It says this so often that I turn it off. Everything changed. Everything changed. Well, what changed? What did the blade reveal? For whom did it come? 'I grieve that grief can teach me nothing,' wrote Emerson.

"217. 'We're only given as much as the heart can endure,' 'What does not kill you makes you stronger,' 'Our sorrows provide us with the lessons we most need to learn'; these are the kinds of phrases that enrage my injured friend. Indeed, one would be hard-pressed to come up with a spiritual lesson that demands becoming a quadriparalytic. The tepid 'there must be a reason for it' notion sometimes floated by religious or quasi-religious acquaintances or bystanders, is, to her, another form of violence. She has no time for it. She is too busy asking, in this changed form, what makes a liveable life, and how she can live it.

"218. As her witness, I can testify to no reason, no lesson. But I can say this: in watching her, sitting with her, helping her, weeping with her, touching her, and talking with her, I have seen the bright pith of her soul. I cannot tell you what it looks like, exactly, but I can say that I have seen it."
--Maggie Nelson

Profile

scrapofpaper: (Default)
scrapofpaper

November 2015

S M T W T F S
1234567
891011121314
15161718192021
22232425262728
2930     

Syndicate

RSS Atom

Most Popular Tags

Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags
Page generated Jul. 27th, 2017 04:39 am
Powered by Dreamwidth Studios