[identity profile] two-grey-rooms.livejournal.com
"It's so hard to forget pain, but it's even harder to remember sweetness. We have no scar to show for happiness. We learn so little from peace."
--Chuck Palahniuk, Diary

Writing down verses, I got
a paper cut on my palm.
The cut extended my life line
by nearly one-fourth.
--Vera Pavlova

"i am a beggar always"
i am a beggar always
who begs in your mind

(slightly smiling, patient, unspeaking
with a sign on his
BLIND)yes i

am this person of whom somehow
you are never wholly rid(and who

does not ask for more than
just enough dreams to
live on)
after all, kid

you might as well
toss him a few thoughts

a little love preferably,
anything which you can't
pass off on another people: for
instance a
plugged promise-

the he will maybe(hearing something
fall into his hat)go wandering
after it with fingers;till having

what was thrown away
taptaptaps out of your brain, hopes, life
to(carefully turning a
corner)never bother you any more
--e. e. cummings

"War of the Foxes"

Two rabbits were chased by a fox, of all the crazy shit in the world, and the fox kept up the chase,
circling the world until the world caught up with them in some broken-down downtown metropolis.
Inside the warren, the rabbits think fast. Pip touches the only other rabbit listening.

Pip: We're doomed.
Flip: Oh Pip!
Pip: I know where you can hide.
Flip: Are you sure?
Pip: Yes. Here, hide inside me.

This is the story of Pip and Flip, the bunny twins. We say that once there were two and now there is
only one. When the fox sees Pip run past, he won't know that the one is inside the other. He'll think
Well, there's at least one more rabbit in that warren. But no one's left. You know this and I know this.
Together we trace out the trail away from doom. There isn't hope, there is a trail. I follow you.

When a rabbit meets a rabbit, one takes the time to tell the other this story. The rabbits then agree
there must be two rabbits, at least two rabbits, and that in turn there is a trace. I am only repeating
what I heard. This is one love. There are many loves but only one war.

Bird 1: This is the same story.
Bird 2: No, this is the rest of the story.

Let me tell you a story about war. A man found his life to be empty. He began to study Latin.
Latin was difficult for the man to understand. I will study Latin, even though it is difficult, said the man. Yes, even
if it is difficult.

Let me tell you a story about war. A man had a dream about a woman and then he met her. The man
had a dream about the woman's former lover. The former lover was sad, he wanted to fight. The
man said to the woman I will have to comfort your former lover or I will always be fighting him in my dreams. Yes,
said the woman. You will need to comfort him, or we will never be finished with this.

Let me tell you a story about war. A fisherman's son and his dead brother sat on the shore. That is my
country and this is your country and the line in the sand is the threshold between them,
said the dead brother. Yes,
said the fisherman's son.

You cannot have an opponent if you keep saying yes.

Bird 1: This is the wrong story.
Bird 2: All stories are the wrong story when you are impatient.

Let me tell you a story about war. A man says to another man Can I tell you something? The other man
says No. A man says to another man There is something I have to tell you. No, says the other man. No, you

Bird 1: Now we are getting somewhere.
Bird 2: Yes, yes we are.


Let me tell you a story about war:

A boy spills a glass of milk and his father picks him up by the back of the shirt and throws him
against the wall. You killed my wife and you can't even keep a glass on the table. The wife had died of sadness,
by her own hand. The father walks out of the room and the room is almost empty.

The road outside the house lies flat on the ground. The ground surrenders.

The father works late. The dead wife's hand makes fishsticks while the boy sits in the corner where
he fell. The fish in the fishsticks think to themselves This is not what we meant to be.

Its roots in the ground and its branches in the air, a tree is pulled in two directions.

The wife has a dead hand. This is earlier. She is living and her dead hand feeds her pills that don't
work. The boy sleeps on the roof or falls out of trees. The father works late. The wife looks out the
window and thinks Not this.

The boy is a bird, bad bird. He falls out of trees.


Let me tell you a story about war:

The fisherman's son serves drinks to sailors. He stands behind the bar. He listens closely for news of
his dead brother. The sailors are thirsty. They drink rum. Tell me a story, says the fisherman’s son.

"There is nothing interesting about the sea. The water is flat, flat and calm, it seems a sheet of glass.
You look at it, the more you look at it the more you feel like you are looking into your own head,
which is a stranger's head, empty. We listen to the sound with our equipment. I have learned to
understand this sound. When you look there is nothing, with the equipment there is sound. We sit in
rows and listen down the tunnels for the song. The song has red words in it. We write them down on
sheets of paper and pass them along. Sometimes there is noise and sometimes song and often there is
silence, the long tunnel, the sea like glass...

You are a translator, says the fisherman's son.
Yes, says the sailor.
And the sound is the voice of the enemy.
Yes, yes it is.


Let me tell you a story about war:

They went to the museum and wandered the rooms. He saw a painting and stood in front of it for
too long. It was a few minutes before she realized he had gotten stuck. He was stuck looking at a
painting. She stood next to him, looking at his face and then the face in the painting. What do you see?
she asked. I don't know, he said. He didn't know. She was disappointed, then bored. He was looking at
a face and she was looking at her watch. This is where everything changed. There was now a distance
between them. He was looking at a face but it might as well have been a cabbage or a sugar beet.
Perhaps it was something about yellow near pink. He didn't know how to say it. Years later he still
didn't know how to say it, and she was gone.


Let me tell you a story about love:

There was a place on the floor where they could lie together, on the floor together, backs pressed to
the carpet, where they could look out the window together and see only the tops of the trees. They
would do this. They would lie on the floor and say things like Now we are in the country! or Oh, what a far
away place this is!
Then they would stand up and look out the window the way they usually did, the
houses reappearing in the window frame.

She had a soft voice and strong hands. When she sang she would seem too large for the room and
she would play guitar and sing which would make his chest feel huge. Sometimes he would touch her
knee and smile. Sometimes she would touch his face and close her eyes.


Fox rounds the warren but there are no bunnies, jumps up with claws but there are no bunnies,
moves down the road but there are no bunnies. There are no bunnies. He chases a bird instead. All
wars are the same war. The bird flies away.


The fisherman's son knows nothing worth stealing. Perhaps, perhaps.

He once put a cat in a cardboard box but she got out anyway. He once had a brother he lost to the
sea. Brother, dead brother, who speaks to him in dreams. These are a few things worth saying.

He knows that when you snap a mast it's time to get a set of oars or learn how to breathe
underwater. Rely on one thing too long and when it disappears and you have nothing...well, that's
just bad planning. It's embarrassing, to think it could never happen.

A man does work. A machine can, too. Power of agency, agent of what. This is a question we might
ask. An agent is a spy or not. A spy is a promise to God, hidden where only God can find it.

The agents meet at the chain link fence and tell each other stories. A whisper system. To testify
against yourself is an interesting thing, a sacrifice. Some people do it. Some people find money in the
street but you cannot rely on it. The fisherman's son is at the fence, standing there, waiting to see if
he is useful.

You cannot get in the way of anyone's path to God. You can, but is does no good. Every agent
knows this. Some say God is where we put our sorrow. God says Which one of you fuckers can get to me

You cannot get in the way of anyone's path to happiness, it also does no good. The problem is
figuring out which part is the path and which part is the happiness.

It's a blessing, every day someone shows up at the fence. And when no one shows up, a different
kind of blessing. In the wrong light anyone can look like a darkness.
--Richard Siken


Joppa Churchyard
M.M 1915-1917

--egg-shaped, barely
consonantal. The road
hairpins and plunges,
but I can't stop myself
from stopping here:
sandstone, cedars,
the building's tilt
its eventual undoing.
Where are the things
you touched? Sunlight
through the toppling
chimney stones, a clump
of daffodils. Flute
note, bottle, breath
in a bone. You
matter. You still matter.
--Davis McCombs

"An Horation Notion"
The thing gets made, gets built, and you're the slave
who rolls the log beneath the block, then another,
then pushes the block, then pulls a log
from the rear back to the front
again and then again it goes beneath the block,
and so on. It's how a thing gets made--not
because you're sensitive, or you get genetic-lucky,
or God says: Here's a nice family,
seven children, let's see: this one in charge
of the village dunghill, these two die of buboes, this one
Kierkegaard, this one a drooling

nincompoop, this one clerk, this one cooper.
You need to love the thing you do--birdhouse building,
painting tulips exclusively, whatever--and then
you do it
so consciously driven
by your unconscious
that the thing becomes a wedge
that splits a stone and between the halves
the wedge then grows, i.e., the thing
is solid but with a soul,
a life of its own. Inspiration, the donnée,

the gift, the bolt of fire
down the arm that makes the art?
Grow up! Give me, please, a break!
You make the thing because you love the thing
and you love the thing because someone else loved it
enough to make you love it.
And with that your heart like a tent peg pounded
toward the earth's core.
And with that your heart on a beam burns
through the ionosphere.
And with that you go to work.
--Thomas Lux

"Dorothy Wordsworth"
The daffodils can go fuck themselves.
I’m tired of their crowds, yellow rantings
about the spastic sun that shines and shines
and shines. How are they any different

from me? I, too, have a big messy head
on a fragile stalk. I spin with the wind.
I flower and don’t apologize. There’s nothing
funny about good weather. Oh, spring again,

the critics nod. They know the old joy,
that wakeful quotidian, the dark plot
of future growing things, each one
labeled Narcissus nobilis or Jennifer Chang.

If I died falling from a helicopter, then
this would be an important poem. Then
the ex-boyfriends would swim to shore
declaiming their knowledge of my bulbous

youth. O, Flower, one said, why aren’t you
meat? But I won’t be another bashful shank.
The tulips have their nervous joie-de-vivre,
the lilacs their taunt. Fractious petals, stop

interrupting my poem with boring beauty.
All the boys are in the field gnawing raw
bones of ambition and calling it ardor. Who
the hell are they? This is a poem about war.
--Jennifer Chang

"Snowy Egret"
A boy walks out in the morning with a gun.
Bright air, the smell of grass and leaves
and reeds around the pond October smells.
A scent of apples from the orchard in the air.
A smell of ducks. Two cinnamon teal,
he thinks they are teal, the ones he'd seen
the night before as the pond darkened
and he'd thought the thought that the dark
was coming earlier. He is of an age
when the thought of winter is a sexual thought,
the having thoughts of one's own is sexual,
the two ducks muttering and gliding
toward the deeper reeds away from him,
as if distance were a natural courtesy,
is sexual, which is to say, a mystery, an ache
inside his belly and his chest that rhymes
somehow with the largeness of the night.
The stars conjuring themselves from nothing
but the dark, as if to say it's not as if
they weren't all along just where they were,
ached in the suddenly swifter darkening
and glittering and cold. He's of an age
when the thought of thinking is, at night,
a sexual thought. This morning in the crystal
of the air, dew, and the sunlight that the dew
has caught on the grass blades sparkling at his feet,
he stalks the pond. Three larger ducks,
mallards probably, burst from the reeds
and wheel and fly off south. Three redwings,
gone to their winter muteness, fly three ways
across the pond to settle on three cattails
opposite or crossways from each other,
perch and shiver into place and look around.
That's when he sees the snowy egret
in the rushes, pure white and stone still
and standing on one leg in that immobile,
perfect, almost princely way. He'd seen it
often in the summer, often in the morning
and sometimes at dusk, hunting the reeds
under the sumac shadows on the far bank.
He'd watched the slow, wide fanning
of its wings, taking off and landing,
the almost inconceivably slow way
it raised one leg and then another
when it was stalking, the quick cocking
of its head at sudden movement in the water,
and the swift, darting sureness when it stabbed
the water for a stickleback or frog. Once
he'd seen it, head up, swallowing a gopher,
its throat bulging, a bit of tail and a trickle
of blood just visible below the black beak.
Now it was still and white in the brightness
of the morning in the reeds. He liked
to practice stalking, and he raised the gun
to his shoulder and crouched in the wet grasses
and drew his bead just playfully at first.
--Robert Hass

"On the Coast near Sausalito"
I won't say much for the sea,
except that it was, almost,
the color of sour milk.
The sun in that clear
unmenacing sky was low,
angled off the gray fissure of the cliffs,
hills dark green with manzanita.

Low tide: slimed rocks
mottled brown and thick with kelp
merged with the gray stone
of the breakwater, sliding off
to antediluvian depths.
The old story: here filthy life begins.

ing, as Melville said,
"to purge the spleen,"
to put to task my clumsy hands
my hands that bruise by
not touching
pluck the legs from a prawn,
peel the shell off,
and curl the body twice about a hook.

The cabezone is not highly regarded
by fishermen, except Italians
who have the grace
to fry the pale, almost bluish flesh
in olive oil with a sprig
of fresh rosemary.

The cabezone, an ugly atavistic fish,
as old as the coastal shelf
it feeds upon
has fins of duck's-web thickness,
resembles a prehistoric toad,
and is delicately sweet.

Catching one, the fierce quiver of surprise
and the line's tension
are a recognition.

But it's strange to kill
for the sudden feel of life.
The danger is
to moralize
that strangeness.
Holding the spiny monster in my hands
his bulging purple eyes
were eyes and the sun was
almost tangent to the planet
on our uneasy coast.
Creature and creature,
we stared down centuries.
--Robert Hass

"The Nineteenth Century as a Song"
"How like a well-kept garden is your soul."
John Gray's translation of Verlaine
& Baudelaire's butcher in 1861
shorted him four centimes
on a pound of tripe.
He thought himself a clever man
and, wiping the calves' blood from his beefy hands.
gazed briefly at what Tennyson called
"the sweet blue sky."

It was a warm day.
What clouds there were
were made of sugar tinged with blood.
They shed, faintly, amid the clatter of carriages
new settings of the songs
Moravian virgins sang on wedding days.

The poet is a monarch of the clouds

& Swinburne on his northern coast
"trod," he actually wrote, "by no tropic foot,"
composed that lovely elegy
and then found out Baudelaire was still alive
whom he had lodged dreamily
in a "deep division of prodigious breasts."

Surely the poet is monarch of the clouds.
He hovers, like a lemon-colored kite,
over spring afternoons in the nineteenth century
while Marx in the library gloom
studies the birth rate of the weavers of Tilsit
and that gentle man Bakunin,
home after fingerfucking the countess,
applies his numb hands
to the making of bombs.
--Robert Hass

"The Assimilation of the Gypsies"
In the background, a few shacks & overturned carts
And a gray sky holding the singular pallor of Lent.
And here the crowd of onlookers, though a few of them
Must be intimate with the victim,
Have been advised to keep their distance.
The young man walking alone in handcuffs that join
Each wrist in something that is not prayer, although
It is as urgent, wears
A brown tweed coat flecked with white, a white shirt
Open at the collar.
And beside him, the broad, curving tracks of a bus that
Passed earlier through the thawing mud...they seem
To lead him out of the photograph & toward
What I imagine is
The firing squad: a few distant cousins & neighbors
Assembled by order of the State--beside
The wall of a closed schoolhouse.
Two of the men uneasily holding rifles, a barber
And an unemployed postal clerk,
Are thinking of nothing except perhaps the first snowfall
Last year in the village, how it covered & simplified
Everything--the ruts in the road & the distant
Stubble in the fields--& of how they cannot be,
Now, any part of that. Still,
They understand well enough why
The man murdered the girl's uncle with an axe,
Just as they know why his language,
Because it was not official & had to be translated
Into Czech at the trial, failed to convince
Anyone of its passion. And if
The red-faced uncle kept threatening the girl
Until she at last succumbed under a browning hedge, & if
The young man had to use three strokes with the axe
To finish the job--well, they shrug,
All he had, that day, was an axe.
And besides, the barber & the clerk suspect that this boy,
Whom they have known for half their lives,
Had really intended to kill the girl that evening--
Never the uncle.
In a lost culture of fortune tellers, unemployable
Horse traders, & a frank beauty the world
Will not allow,
It was the time of such things, it was late summer,
And it is summer now, the two executioners agree,
That all of this ended. This is
Jarabina. 1963. And if
Koudelka tells us nothing else about this scene,
I think he is right, if only because
The young man walks outside time now, & is not
So much a murderer as he is, simply, a man
About to be executed by his neighbors...
And so it is important to all of them that he behave
With a certain tact & dignity as he walks
Of his own accord but with shoulders hunched,
Up to the wall of the empty schoolhouse;
And, turning his head
First to one side, then to the other,
He lets them slip the blindfold over his eyes
And secure it with an old gentleness
They have shared
Since birth. And perhaps at this moment
All three of them remember slipping light scarves,
Fashioned into halters,
Over the muzzles of horses, & the quickness of horses.
And if the boy has forgiven them in advance
By such a slight gesture, this turning of his head,
It is because he knows, as they do, too,
Not only that terror is a state
Of complete understanding, but also that
In a few years, this whole village, with its cockeyed
Shacks, tea leaves, promiscuity between cousins,
Idle horse thieves, & pale lilacs used
To cure the insane,
Will be gone--bulldozed away so that the land
Will lie black & fallow & without history.
And nothing will be planted there, or buried,
As the same flocks of sparrows
Will go on gathering, each spring, in the high dark
Of these trees.
Still, it is impossible not to see
That the young man has washed & combed his hair
For this last day on earth; it is impossible
Not to see how one of the policemen has turned back
To the crowd as if to prevent
Any mother or sister from rushing forward--
Although neither one, if she is here, seems
About to move. And in the background,
You can see that a few of the houses are entirely white,
Like a snowfall persisting into spring,
Or into oblivion, though this
May be the fault of the photograph or its development
Under such circumstances....
And now even the children in the crowd, who have gathered
To watch all this, appear to be growing bored
With the procedures & the waiting.
I suppose that the young man's face,
Without looking up, spoke silently to Koudelka as he passed,
Just as it speaks now, to me, from this photograph.
Now that there is nothing either of us can do for him.
His hair is clean & washed, & his coat is buttoned.
Except for his handcuffs, he looks as if
He is beginning a long journey, or going out,
For the first time into the world...
He must have thought he could get away with this,
Or else he must have thought he loved her.
It is too late to inquire.
It is mid-afternoon & twenty years too late,
And even the language he used to explain it all
Is dying a little more, each moment, as I write this--
And as I begin to realize that
This ancient, still blossoming English
Will also begin to die, someday, to crack & collapse
Under its own weight--
Though that will not happen for years & years,
And long after the barber & the clerk
Have lowered their rifles & turned away to vomit
For what seems like a long time, & then,
Because there is nothing else for them to do,
They will walk home together, talking softly in a language
That has never been written down.
If you look closely at the two of them
Sweating in their black wool suits,
You can see how even their daily behavior,
The way they avoid the subject,
Has become an art:
One talks of his daughter, who is learning to dance.
The other mentions his mother, who died, last year--
When the orchards were simple with their fruit,
And ripe--of an undiagnosed illness.
And if the lots they pass are empty because the horses
Were shipped off years ago to Warsaw
For the meat on their backs?
And if there is no hope for this,
Or any poetry?
On their lips the quick syllables of their
Language fly & darken into a few, last
Delicious phrases, arpeggios--
Even though they are talking of country life
As they pass the smells of cooking
Which rise in smoke from the poorest of houses
And even from stoves carried outdoors & burning,
As fuel, the cheap paneling of shacks
Which the government gave them.
Until it seems that all they are
Rises in smoke,
As it always has,
And as it will continue to do in this place
For a few more years.
--Larry Levis
[identity profile] two-grey-rooms.livejournal.com
"Here I am trying to live, or rather, I am trying to teach the death within me how to live."
--Jean Cocteau

"I have suspected many a time that meaning is really something added to verse. I know for a fact that we feel the beauty of a poem before we even begin to think of a meaning."
--Jorge Luis Borges

"Desperation is the raw material of drastic change. Only those who can leave behind everything they have ever believed in can hope to escape."
--William S. Burroughs

"George Orwell got it backward.

"Big Brother isn't watching. He's singing and dancing. He's pulling rabbits out of a hat. Big Brother's busy holding your attention every moment you're awake. He's making sure you're always distracted.

"He's making sure your imagination withers. Until it's as useful as your appendix. He's making sure your attention is always filled.

"And this being fed is worse than being watched. With the world always filling you, no one has to worry about your mind. With everyone's imagination atrophied, no one will ever be a threat to the world."
--Chuck Palahniuk, Lullaby

"He thinks I suffer from depression. But I'm just quiet. Solitude and depression are like swimming and drowning. In school many years ago, I learned that flowers sometimes unfold inside themselves."
--Simon Van Booy

"There were so many different moods and impressions that he wished to express in verse. He felt them within him. He tried to weigh his soul to see if it was a poet's soul. Melancholy was the dominant note of his temperament, he thought, but it was a melancholy tempered by recurrences of faith and resignation and simple joy."
--James Joyce, "A Little Cloud"

"You Were My Death"
You were my death:
you I could hold
when all fell away from me.
--Paul Celan

"More Than Halfway"
I've turned on lights all over the house,
but nothing can save me from this darkness.

I've stepped onto the front porch to see
the stars perforating the milky black clouds

and the moon staring coldly through the trees,
but this negative I'm carrying inside me.

Where is the boy who memorized constellations?
What is the textbook that so consoled him?

I'm now more than halfway to the grave,
but I'm not half the man I meant to become.

To what fractured deity can I pray?
I'm willing to pay the night with interest,

though the night wants nothing but itself.
What did I mean to say to darkness?

Death is a zero hollowed out of my chest.
God is an absence whispering in the leaves.
--Edward Hirsch

"Meadow Turf"
Goldenrod, strawberry leaf, small
bristling aster, all,
Loosestrife, knife-bladed grasses,
lacing their roots, lacing
The life of the meadow into a deep embrace
Far underground, and all their shoots,
wet at the base
With shining dew, dry-crested with sun,
Springing out of a mould years old;
Leaves, living and dead, whose stealing
Odors on the cold bright air shed healing--
Oh, heart, here is your healing, here among
The fragrant living and dead.
--Janet Lewis

"Poem with Two Endings"
Say "death" and the whole room freezes--
even the couches stop moving,
even the lamps.
Like a squirrel suddenly aware it is being looked at.

Say the word continuously,
and things begin to go forward.
Your life takes on
the jerky texture of an old film strip.

Continue saying it, hold it moment after moment inside the mouth,
it becomes another syllable.
A shopping mall swirls around the corpse of a beetle.

Death is voracious, it swallows all the living.
Life is voracious, it swallows all the dead.
neither is ever satisfied, neither is ever filled,
each swallows and swallows the world.

The grip of life is as strong as the grip of death.

(but the vanished, the vanished beloved, o where?)
--Jane Hirshfield

"In Sixth Grade Mrs. Walker"
slapped the back of my head
and made me stand in the corner
for not knowing the difference
between persimmon and precision.
How to choose

persimmons. This is precision.
Ripe ones are soft and brown-spotted.
Sniff the bottoms. The sweet one
will be fragrant. How to eat:
put the knife away, lay down newspaper.
Peel the skin tenderly, not to tear the meat.
Chew the skin, suck it,
and swallow. Now, eat
the meat of the fruit,
so sweet,
all of it, to the heart.

Donna undresses, her stomach is white.
In the yard, dewy and shivering
with crickets, we lie naked,
face-up, face-down.
I teach her Chinese.
Crickets: chiu chiu. Dew: I've forgotten.
Naked: I've forgotten.
Ni, wo: you and me.
I part her legs,
remember to tell her
she is beautiful as the moon.

Other words
that got me into trouble were
fight and fright, wren and yarn.
Fight was what I did when I was frightened,
Fright was what I felt when I was fighting.
Wrens are small, plain birds,
yarn is what one knits with.
Wrens are soft as yarn.
My mother made birds out of yarn.
I loved to watch her tie the stuff;
a bird, a rabbit, a wee man.

Mrs. Walker brought a persimmon to class
and cut it up
so everyone could taste
a Chinese apple. Knowing
it wasn’t ripe or sweet, I didn't eat
but watched the other faces.

My mother said every persimmon has a sun
inside, something golden, glowing,
warm as my face.

Once, in the cellar, I found two wrapped in newspaper,
forgotten and not yet ripe.
I took them and set both on my bedroom windowsill,
where each morning a cardinal
sang, The sun, the sun.

Finally understanding
he was going blind,
my father sat up all one night
waiting for a song, a ghost.
I gave him the persimmons,
swelled, heavy as sadness,
and sweet as love.

This year, in the muddy lighting
of my parents' cellar, I rummage, looking
for something I lost.
My father sits on the tired, wooden stairs,
black cane between his knees,
hand over hand, gripping the handle.
He's so happy that I've come home.
I ask how his eyes are, a stupid question.
All gone, he answers.

Under some blankets, I find a box.
Inside the box I find three scrolls.
I sit beside him and untie
three paintings by my father:
Hibiscus leaf and a white flower.
Two cats preening.
Two persimmons, so full they want to drop from the cloth.

He raises both hands to touch the cloth,
asks, Which is this?

This is persimmons, Father.

Oh, the feel of the wolftail on the silk,
the strength, the tense
precision in the wrist.
I painted them hundreds of times
eyes closed. These I painted blind.
Some things never leave a person:
scent of the hair of one you love,
the texture of persimmons,
in your palm, the ripe weight.
--Li-Young Lee

"Things My Son Should Know after I've Died"
I was young once. I dug holes
near a canal and almost drowned.
I filled notebooks with words
as carefully as a hunter loads his shotgun.
I had a father also, and I came second to an addiction.
I spent a summer swallowing seeds
and nothing ever grew in my stomach.
Every woman I kissed,
I kissed as if I loved her.
My left and right hands were rivals.
After I hit puberty, I was kicked out of my parents' house
at least twice a year. No matter when you receive this
there was music playing now.
Your grandfather isn't
my father. I chose to do something with my life
that I knew I could fail at.
I spent my whole life walking
and hid such colorful wings
--Brian Trimboli

We carry the dead in our hands.
There is no other way.

The dead are not carried in our memories. They died
in another age, long before this moment.
We shape them from the wounds
they left on the inanimate,
ourselves, as falling water
will turn stone into a bowl.

There is no room in our hearts
for the dead, though we often imagine that there is,
or wish it to be so,
to preserve them in our warmth,
our sweet darkness, where their fists
might beat at the soft contours of our love.
And though we might like to think
that they would call out to us, they could never do so,
being there. They would never dare to speak,
lest their mouths, our names, fill
quietly with blood.

We carry the dead in our hands
as we might carry water--with a careful,
reverential tread.
There is no other way.

How easily, how easily their faces spill.
--John Glenday

"Autumn Perspective"
Now, moving in, cartons on the floor,
the radio playing to bare walls,
picture hooks left stranded
in the unsoiled squares where paintings were,
and something reminding us
this is like all other moving days;
finding the dirty ends of someone else’s life,
hair fallen in the sink, a peach pit,
and burned-out matches in the corner;
things not preserved, yet never swept away
like fragments of disturbing dreams
we stumble on all day...
in ordering our lives, we will discard them,
scrub clean the floorboards of this our home
lest refuse from the lives we did not lead
become, in some strange, frightening way, our own.

And we have plans that will not tolerate
our fears--a year laid out like rooms
in a new house–the dusty wine glasses
rinsed off, the vases filled, and bookshelves
sagging with heavy winter books.
Seeing the room always as it will be,
we are content to dust and wait.
We will return here from the dark and silent
streets, arms full of books and food,
anxious as we always are in winter,
and looking for the Good Life we have made.

I see myself then: tense, solemn,
in high-heeled shoes that pinch,
not basking in the light of goals fulfilled,
but looking back to now and seeing
a lazy, sunburned, sandaled girl
in a bare room, full of promise
and feeling envious.

Now we plan, postponing, pushing our lives forward
into the future--as if, when the room
contains us and all our treasured junk
we will have filled whatever gap it is
that makes us wander, discontented
from ourselves.

The room will not change:
a rug, or armchair, or new coat of paint
won’t make much difference;
our eyes are fickle
but we remain the same beneath our suntans,
pale, frightened,
dreaming ourselves backward and forward in time,
dreaming our dreaming selves.

I look forward and see myself looking back.
--Erica Jong

"Death Is Only an Old Door"
Death is only an old door
Set in a garden wall.
On gentle hinges it gives, at dusk,
When the thrushes call.
Along the lintel are green leaves,
Beyond the light lies still;
Very willing and weary feet
Go over that sill.
There is nothing to trouble any heart;
Nothing to hurt at all.
Death is only a quiet door
In an old wall.
--Nancy Byrd Turner

Weaker and weaker, the sunlight falls
In the afternoon. The proud and the strong
Have departed.

Those that are left are the unaccomplished,
The finally human,
Natives of a dwindled sphere.

Their indigence is an indigence
That is an indigence of the light,
A stellar pallor that hangs on the threads.

Little by little, the poverty
Of autumnal space becomes
A look, a few words spoken.

Each person completely touches us
With what he is and as he is,
In the stale grandeur of annihilation.
--Wallace Stevens

trigger warning: september 11th )

"The Lightkeeper"
A night without ships. Foghorns called into walled cloud, and you
still alive, drawn to the light as if it were a fire kept by monks,
darkness once crusted with stars, but now death-dark as you sail inward.
Through wild gorse and sea wrack, through heather and torn wool
you ran, pulling me by the hand, so I might see this for once in my life:
the spin and spin of light, the whirring of it, light in search of the lost,
there since the era of fire, era of candles and hollow-wick lamps,
whale oil and solid wick, colza and lard, kerosene and carbide,
the signal fires lighted on this perilous coast in the Tower of Hook.
You say to me stay awake, be like the lensmaker who died with his
lungs full of glass, be the yew in blossom when bees swarm, be
their amber cathedral and even the ghosts of Cistercians will be kind to you.
In a certain light as after rain, in pearled clouds or the water beyond,
seen or sensed water, sea or lake, you would stop still and gaze out
for a long time. Also when fireflies opened and closed in the pines,
and a star appeared, our only heaven. You taught me to live like this.
That after death it would be as it was before we were born. Nothing
to be afraid. Nothing but happiness as unbearable as the dread
from which it comes. Go toward the light always, be without ships.
--Carolyn Forché

"somewhere i have never traveled"
somewhere i have never traveled, gladly beyond
any experience, your eyes have their silence:
in your most frail gesture are things which enclose me,
or which i cannot touch because they are too near

your slightest look easily will unclose me
though i have closed myself as fingers,
you open always petal by petal myself as Spring opens
(touching skilfully, mysteriously) her first rose

or if your wish be to close me, i and
my life will shut very beautifully, suddenly,
as when the heart of this flower imagines
the snow carefully everywhere descending;

nothing which we are to perceive in this world equals
the power of your intense fragility: whose texture
compels me with the colour of its countries,
rendering death and forever with each breathing

(i do not know what it is about you that closes
and opens; only something in me understands
the voice of your eyes is deeper than all roses)
nobody, not even the rain, has such small hands
--e. e. cummings

"Where I Live"
Up the street,
past the house with the
Persian-tiled driveway,
the private dental practice,
the heavy brambled roses,
the hairdresser is falling in love
with the day's final customer.
The chip seller is all aching feet.
The greengrocer is daydreaming
of summer: eggplant and avocado,
his wife's cool, slender hands.

Turn right at the corner
with the scaffolding,
and count four windows
on your left. Here,
by the hydrangeas still unsure
what shade of purple
to turn, is my front door.
The lock is fairly old.
The trick is to push the key
to the uppermost corner
of the lock cylinder,
until the grooves align.
There you go.

My flat's the one on the right
on the first floor corridor.
Some afternoons, sunlight
lets itself into the kitchen
when I'm not looking:
splashes all over
the clean white bowls
on the drying rack,
slides into every
last crevice,
almost convinces me
I'm home.
--Camilla Chen

In Josef Koudelka's photograph, untitled & with no date
Given to help us with history, a man wearing
Dark clothes is squatting, his right hand raised slightly,
As if in explanation, & because he is talking,
Seriously now, to a horse that would be white except
For its markings--the darkness around its eyes, muzzle
Legs & tail, by which it is, technically, a gray, or a dapple gray,
With a streak of pure white like heavy cream on its rump.
There is a wall behind them both, which, like most walls, has
No ideas, & nothing to make us feel comfortable...
After a while, because I know so little, &
Because the muted sunlight on the wall will not change,
I begin to believe that the man's wife and children
Were shot & thrown into a ditch a week before this picture
Was taken, that this is still Czechoslovakia, & that there is
The beginning of spring in the air. That is why
The man is talking, & as clearly as he can, to a horse.
He is trying to explain these things,
While the horse, gray as those days at the end
Of winter, when days seem lost in thought, is, after all,
Only a horse. No doubt the man knows people he could talk to:
The bars are open by now, but he has chosen
To confide in this gelding, as he once did to his own small
Children, who could not, finally, understand him any better.
This afternoon, in the middle of his life & in the middle
Of this war, a man is trying to stay sane.
To stay sane he must keep talking to a horse, its blinders
On & a rough snaffle bit still in its mouth, wearing

Away the corners of its mouth, with one ear cocked forward to listen,
While the other ear tilts backward slightly, inattentive,
As if suddenly catching a music behind it. Of course,
I have to admit I have made all of this up, & that
It could be wrong to make up anything. Perhaps the man is perfectly
Happy. Perhaps Koudelka arranged all of this
And then took the picture as a way of saying
Good-bye to everyone who saw it, & perhaps Josef Koudelka was
Only two years old when the Nazis invaded Prague.
I do not wish to interfere, Reader, with your solitude--
So different from my own. In fact, I would take back everything
I've said here, if that would make you feel any better,
Unless even that retraction would amount to a milder way
Of interfering; & a way by which you might suspect me
Of some subtlety. Or mistake me for someone else, someone
Not disinterested enough in what you might think
Of this. Of the photograph. Of me.
Once, I was in love with a woman, & when I looked at her
My face altered & took on the shape of her face,
Made thin by alcohol, sorrowing, brave. And though
There was a kind of pain in her face, I felt no pain
When this happened to mine, when the bones
Of my own face seemed to change. But even this
Did not do us any good, &, one day,
She went mad, waking in tears she mistook for blood,
And feeling little else except for this concern about bleeding

Without pain. I drove her to the hospital, & then,
After a few days, she told me she had another lover...So,
Walking up the street where it had been raining earlier,
Past the darkening glass of each shop window to the hotel,
I felt a sensation of peace flood my body, as if to cleanse it,
And thought it was because I had been told the truth...But, you see,
Even that happiness became a lie, & even that was taken
From me, finally, as all lies are...Later,
I realized that maybe I felt strong that night only
Because she was sick, for other reasons, & in that place.
And so began my long convalescence, & simple adulthood.
I never felt that way again, when I looked at anyone else;
I never felt my face change into any other face.
It is a difficult thing to do, & so maybe
It is just as well. That man, for instance. He was a saboteur.
He ended up talking to a horse, & hearing, on the street
Outside that alley, the Nazis celebrating, singing, even.
If he went mad beside that wall, I think his last question
Was whether they shot his wife and children before they threw him
Into the ditch, or after. For some reason, it mattered once,
If only to him. And before he turned into paper.
--Larry Levis

"Twenty-Pound Stone"
It nests in the hollow of my pelvis, I carry it with both hands, as if
offering my stomach, as if it were pulling me forward.

At night the sun leaks from it, it turns cold. I sleep with it
beside my head, I breathe for it.

Sometimes I dream of hammers.

I am hammering it back into the sand, the sand we melt into glass,
the glass we blow into bottles.

This stone is fifteen green bottles with nothing inside.

It never bleeds, it never heals, it is a soup can left on the back shelf,
the label worn off.

It is the corner of a house, the beginning of a wall.

At night it changes shape, it lies on one side, casting jagged shadows.

It brightens where my tongue touches it.

Richard's eyes were this color, a pale fruit, honeydew.

When I swing it over my head I swear it could lift me.

If I jump from a bridge it would drag me down, the current couldn't
carry us, it has no lungs, no pockets of air.

If I could walk it to the center of a frozen pond & leave it,
in the spring it would be gone.
--Nick Flynn

"The poet's job is to develop an ear, not a voice."
--James Hoch
[identity profile] two-grey-rooms.livejournal.com
"Here in the bathroom with me are razor blades. Here is iodine to drink. Here are sleeping pills to swallow. You have a choice. Live or die.

"Every breath is a choice.

"Every minute is a choice.

"To be or not to be.

"Every time you don't throw yourself down the stairs, that's a choice."
--Chuck Palahniuk

"The Chimney Sweeper"
A little black thing in the snow,
Crying "weep! weep!" in notes of woe!
"Where are thy father and mother? Say!"--
"They are both gone up to the church to pray.

"Because I was happy upon the heath,
And smiled among the winter's snow,
They clothed me in the clothes of death,
And taught me to sing the notes of woe.

"And because I am happy and dance and sing,
They think they have done me no injury,
And are gone to praise God and his priest and king,
Who make up a heaven of our misery."
--William Blake
[identity profile] two-grey-rooms.livejournal.com
"Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear--not absence of fear. Except a creature be part coward, it is not a compliment to say it is brave; it is merely a loose misapplication of the word. Consider the flea!--incomparably the bravest of all the creatures of God, if ignorance of fear were courage. Whether you are asleep or awake he will attack you, caring nothing for the fact that in bulk and strength you are to him as are the massed armies of the earth to a sucking child; he lives both day and night and all days and all nights in the very lap of peril and the immediate presence of death, and yet is no more afraid than is the man who walks the streets of a city that was threatened by an earthquake ten centuries before. When we speak of Clive, Nelson, and Putnam as men who 'didn't know what fear was,' we ought always to add the flea--and put him at the head of the procession."
--Mark Twain, Pudd'nhead Wilson

"Statistics show that we lose more fools on [July 4] than in all the other days of the year put together. This proves, by the number left in stock, that one Fourth of July per year is now inadequate, the country has grown so."
--Mark Twain, Pudd'nhead Wilson

"Phone Call"
Maybe I overdid it
when I called my father an enemy of humanity.
That might have been a little strongly put,
a slight overexaggeration,

an immoderate description of the person
who at the moment, two thousand miles away,
holding the telephone receiver six inches from his ear,
must have regretted paying for my therapy.

What I meant was that my father
was an enemy of my humanity
and what I meant behind that
was that my father was split
into two people, one of them

living deep inside of me
like a bad king, or an incurable disease-
blighting my crops,
striking down my herds,
poisoning my wells – the other
standing in another time zone,
in a kitchen in Wyoming,
with bad knees and white hair sprouting from his ears.

I don't want to scream forever,
I don't want to live without proportion
like some kind of infection from the past,

so I have to remember the second father,
the one whose TV dinner is getting cold
while he holds the phone in his left hand
and stares blankly out the window

where just now the sun is going down
and the last fingertips of sunlight
are withdrawing from the hills
they once touched like a child.
--Tony Hoagland

And yet one arrives somehow,
finds himself loosening the hooks of
her dress
in a strange bedroom -
feels the autumn
dropping its silk and linen leaves
about her ankles.
The tawdry veined body emerges
twisted upon itself
like a winter wind...!
--William Carlos Williams

"The Rose"
The rose is obsolete
but each petal ends in
an edge, the double facet
cementing the grooved
columns of air - The edge
cuts without cutting
meets - nothing - renews
itself in metal or porcelain -
whither? It ends -

But if it ends
the start is begun
so that to engage roses
becomes a geometry -

Sharper, neater, more cutting
figured in majolica -
the broken plate
glazed with a rose

Somewhere the sense
makes copper roses
steel roses -

The rose carried weight of love
but love is at an end - of roses
It is at the edge of the
petal that love waits

Crisp, worked to defeat
laboredness - fragile
plucked, moist, half-raised
cold, precise, touching


The place between the petal's
edge and the

From the petal's edge a line starts
that being of steel
infinitely fine, infinitely
rigid penetrates
the Milky Way
without contact - lifting
from it - neither hanging
nor pushing -

The fragility of the flower
penetrates space.
--William Carlos Williams

"I Have News for You"
There are people who do not see a broken playground swing
as a symbol of ruined childhood

and there are people who don't interpret the behavior
of a fly in a motel room as a mocking representation of their thought process.

There are people who don't walk past an empty swimming pool
and think about past pleasures irrecoverable

and then stand there blocking the sidewalk for other pedestrians.
I have read about a town somewhere in California where human beings

do not send their tuberous feeder roots
deep into the potting soil of others' emotional lives

as if they were greedy six-year-olds
sucking the last half inch of milkshake up through a noisy straw;

and other persons in the Midwest who can kiss without
unpacking the imperialist baggage of heterosexuality.

Do you see that creamy, lemon-yellow moon?
There are some people, unlike me and you,

who do not yearn after love or fame or quantities of money as
unattainable as that moon;

Thus, they do not later
have to waste more time
defaming the object of their former ardor.

Or consequently run and crucify themselves
in some solitary midnight Starbucks Golgotha.

I have news for you:
there are people who get up in the morning and cross a room

and open a window to let the sweet breeze in
and let it touch them all over their faces and bodies.
--Tony Hoagland

"Final Faith"
Is it possible that we are so twisted
there is no salvation for any of us,
and that ideas have become wingless
in an age of winged rockets?

Is it possible that a crippled birch,
bending over to the last river,
will see the last man
in its boiling water?

Is it possible there'll be no Big Ben,
Saint Basil's, or Notre Dame
and that neutron foam will gush
over our final steps?

But that planet, cherry trees,
birds, and children will perish,
I don't believe. This disbelief
is my final faith.

Skull after skull will not
be piled up in towers again.
The final Nuremberg approaches us
before, not after the war.

And the last soldier on earth
will throw his shoulder strap in a stream,
and watch how peacefully
dragonflies sit on it.

All rascality will end.
All people will understand--we are a family.
The last government
will abolish itself.

The last exploiter,
opening his toothless mouth,
will gobble the last money
furtively like a delicacy.

The last cowardly editor
will be doomed forever
to read from the stage in sequence
everything that he destroyed.

So that the last bureaucrat
can rest and be silent,
his gullet will be stuffed in payment
with the last rubber stamp.

And the earth will turn
without fear of the last years,
there never will be born
the last great poet.
--Yevgeny Yevtushenko, translated by Albert C. Todd.

"History is nothing except monsters or victims. Or witnesses."
--Chuck Palahniuk, Rant

"Gone. The saddest word in the language. In any language."
--Mark Slouka, God's Fool

ROS: A compulsion towards philosophical introspection is his chief characteristic, if I may put it like that. It does not mean he is mad. It does not mean he isn't. Very often, it does not mean anything at all. Which may or may not be a kind of madness.
GUIL: It really boils down to symptoms. Pregnant replies, mystic allusions, mistaken identities, arguing his father is his mother, that sort of thing; intimations of suicide, forgoing of exercise, loss of mirth, hints of claustrophobia not to say delusions of imprisonment; invocations of camels, chameleons, capons, whales, weasels, hawks, handsaws - riddles, quibbles and evasions; amnesia, paranoia, myopia; day-dreaming, hallucinations; stabbing his elders, abusing his parents, insulting his lover, and appearing hatless in public - knock-need, droop-stockinged and sighing like a lovesick schoolboy, which at his age is coming on a bit strong.
ROS: And talking to himself.
GUIL: And talking to himself.
--Tom Stoppard, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead

on October 12, the Discovery: "It was wonderful to find America, but it would have been more wonderful to miss it."
--Mark Twain
[identity profile] two-grey-rooms.livejournal.com
"You can always count on a murderer for a fancy prose style. Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, exhibit number one is what the seraphs, the misinformed, simple, noble-winged seraphs, envied. Look at this tangle of thorns."
--Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita

"I know why there is no glass in front of the watercolor picture of blue irises, and why the window only opens partly and why the glass in it is shatterproof. It isn't running away they're afraid of. We wouldn't get far. It's those other escapes, the ones you can open in yourself, given a cutting edge."
--Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid's Tale

"And sometimes a euphemism just isn't. Sometimes a euphemism is more true than what it's supposed to hide.

"And this really wasn't about sex."
--Chuck Palahniuk, Choke

"What did you New Agers expect? You think magic is so easy to explain? You come running to the reservations, to all these places you've decided are sacred. Jeez, don't you know that every place is sacred? You want your sacred land in warm places with pretty views. You want the sacred places to be near malls and 7-Elevens, too."
--Sherman Alexie

"The stories in books hate the stories in newspapers, David's mother would say. Newspaper stories were like newly caught fish, worthy for attention only for as long as they remained fresh, which was not very long at all. They were like the street urchins hawking the evening editions, all shouty and insistent, while stories--real stories, proper made-up stories--were like stern but helpful librarians in a well-stocked library. Newspaper stories were as insubstantial as smoke, as long-lived as mayflies. They did not take root but were instead like weeds that crawled along the ground, stealing sunlight from more deserving tales."
--John Connolly, The Book of Lost Things

" 'Because death is in the air,' he said gently. 'It is liberating suppressed material. It is getting us closer to things we haven't learned about ourselves. Most of us have probably already seen our own death but haven't known how to make the material surface. Maybe when we die, the first thing we'll say is, 'I know this feeling. I was here before.' "
--Don DeLillo, White Noise
[identity profile] two-grey-rooms.livejournal.com
"Political correctness is an idea that emerges from the well-meaning attempt in social movements to bring the unsatisfactory present into line with the utopian future. But when the radical becomes the correct, it becomes conservative. The politically correct comes to resemble what it tries to change."
--James T. Sears

"History will be kind to me for I intend to write it."
--Winston Churchill

"It is not how things are in the world that is mystical, but that it exists."
--Ludwig Wittgenstein

"You'll find, my friend, that in the gutters of this floating world, much of the trash consists of fallen flowers."
--Eiji Yoshikawa

"Any chance to mock the humorless is worth the effort."
--Scott Adams

"A life. You know what that is? It's the shit that happens while you wait for moments that never come."
--David Simon and George Pelecanos, The Wire

"There can be no restoration of the past, not because the past never existed as we imagine it to have been (an irrelevant issue) but because we know it is a restoration."
--John Haiman

"On his death bed, he was asked to renounce Satan and said, 'This is no time to be making a new enemy.' "
--Niccolo Machiavelli

"This is you trying to make the past be everything, mean everything. You don't even want to think about the here-and-now. Shame ain't worth as much as you think. Let it go."
--David Simon and David Mills, The Wire

"To steal a book is an elegant offense."
--Chinese proverb

"Though my soul may set in darkness, it will rise in perfect light;
I have loved the stars too fondly to be fearful of the night."
--Sarah Williams, "The Old Astronomer to His Pupil"

"Second April"
To what purpose, April, do you return again?
Beauty is not enough.
You can no longer quiet me with the redness
Of little leaves opening stickily.
I know what I know.
The sun is hot on my neck as I observe
The spikes of the crocus.
The smell of the earth is good.
It is apparent that there is no death.
But what does that signify?
Not only underground are the brains of men
Eaten by maggots.
Life in itself
Is nothing,
An empty cup, a flight of uncarpeted stairs.
It is not enough that yearly, down this hill,
Comes like an idiot, babbling and strewing flowers.
--Edna St. Vincent Millay

"You buy furniture. You tell yourself, this is the last sofa I will ever need in my life. Buy the sofa, then for a couple years you're satisfied that no matter what goes wrong, at least you've got your sofa issue handled. Then the right set of dishes. Then the perfect bed. The drapes. The rug.

"Then you're trapped in your lovely nest, and the things you used to own, now they own you."
--Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club, pg. 44

"With enough soap, you could blow up the whole world."
--Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club, pg. 73

"We are God's middle children, according to Tyler Durden, with no special place in history and no special attention.

"Unless we get God's attention, we have no hope of damnation or redemption.

"Which is worse, hell or nothing?

"Only if we're caught and punished can we be saved.

" 'Burn the Louvre,' the mechanic says, 'and wipe your ass with the Mona Lisa. This way at least, God would know our names.'

"The lower you fall, the higher you'll fly. The farther you run, the more God wants you back.

" 'If the prodigal son had never left home,' the mechanic says, 'the fatted calf would still be alive.'

"It's not enough to be numbered with the grains of sand on the beach and the stars in the sky."
--Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club, pg. 141

"Tyler was pulling driftwood logs out of the surf and dragging them up the beach.

"What Tyler had created was the shadow of a giant hand, and Tyler was sitting in the palm of a perfection he'd made himself.

"And a moment was the most you could ever expect from perfection."
--Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club, pg. 173

"Only in death will we have our own names since only in death are we no longer part of the effort. In death we become heroes."
--Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club, pg. 178

"I've met God across his long walnut desk with his diplomas hanging on the wall, behind him, and God asks me, 'Why?'

"Why did I cause so much pain?

"Didn't I realize that each of us is a sacred, unique snowflake of special unique specialness?

"Can't I see how we're all manifestations of love?

"I look at God behind his desk, taking notes on a pad, but God's got this all wrong.

"We are not special.

"We are not crap or trash, either.

"We just are.

"We just are, and what happens just happens.

"And God says, 'No, that's not right.'

"Yeah. Well. Whatever. You can't teach God anything.

"God asks me what I remember.

"I remember everything."
--Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club, pg. 207
[identity profile] two-grey-rooms.livejournal.com
"Nothing is more dangerous than an idea when it's the only one you have."
--Emile Chartier

"Today Is the Piano's Birthday"
Today is the piano's birthday. Yesterday it was found weeping in the garden. Mother was not there, father was gone. But today is the piano's birthday...

Under the balalaika tree the children touch it. The piano's first pedals hum.

Hurrah! shout the children. The piano is on holiday! They sing the birthday song. They bound up and down. They strike the exact note without looking, without looking the piano writes a song for the children...

Plinking, planking, plonk--the piano conducts the children through a small wood of ivory. The children sing with their feet. They call to mother who is dreaming on the lawn, to father who is at the office polishing his machines...

The piano falls into a dream. The children listen. From far off, birds with the faces of women enter the garden. They lie down. They call to the children. The children listen. They lean into the darkness. They decide. They curl inside the piano's birthday. The children are the size of a crotchet. The piano grows around them.

The piano is being dreamed. The children are the stories. They are listening...to mother wake on the lawn and touch the space around her...to father close the office door...
And today is the piano's birthday.

If we listen--we can hear mother call them, we can hear father enter the house, carefully. If we listen--we can hear the very first song the children sing, the very first dream the piano dreams...we can hear...mother and father touch each other with wonder...
--Michael Harlow

"Sometimes it's better to light a flamethrower than curse the darkness."
--Terry Pratchett, Men at Arms

"Vimes grinned. Funny, he thought, how I never feel really alive until someone tries to kill me. That's when you notice that the sky is blue. Actually, not very blue right now. There's big clouds up there. But I'm noticing them."
--Terry Pratchett, Men at Arms

"Now I know at last what it felt like to be in love: like a bruised pomelo, like a drowned cat, like a toothache, like a lost button, like a mop."
--Gilda Cordero-Fernando

"How do people, like, not curse? How is it possible? There are all these gaps in speech where you just want to put a 'fuck.' I'll tell you who the most admirable people in the world are: newscasters. If that was me, I'd be like, 'And the motherfuckers flew the fucking plane right into the Twin Towers.' How could you not, if you're a human being? Maybe they're not so admirable. Maybe they're robot zombies."
--Nick Hornby, A Long Way Down

"Find value in what we've been taught is worthless. Find good in what the world says is evil."
--Chuck Palahniuk

"He who fights with monsters might take care lest he thereby become a monster. And if you gaze for long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you."
--Friedrich Nietzsche

"There Is Only One of Everything"
Not a tree but the tree,
we saw, it will never exist, split by the wind and bending down
like that again. What will push out of the earth

later, making it summer, will not be
grass, leaves, repetition, there will
have to be other words. When my

eyes close language vanishes. The cat
with the divided face, half black half orange
rests in my scruffy fur coat, I drink tea,

fingers curved around the cup, impossible
to duplicate these flavors. The table
and freak plates glow softly, consuming themselves,

I look out at you and you occur
in this winter kitchen, random as trees or sentences,
entering me, fading like them, in time you will disappear

but the way you dance by yourself
on the tile floor to a worn song, flat and mournful,
so delighted, spoon waved in one hand, wisps of roughened hair

sticking up from your head, it's your surprised
body, pleasure I like. I can even say it,
though only once and it won't

last: I want this. I want
--Margaret Atwood

"Life happens too fast for you ever to think about it. If you could just persuade people of this, but they insist on amassing information."
--Kurt Vonnegut

"You recognize a true friend by how he lies to you."
--Alessandro Morandotti
[identity profile] two-grey-rooms.livejournal.com
"As I was riding the Q recently to meet a friend, I idly pulled my ponytail out and ran my fingers through my hair.

"A man behind me leaned around and said, 'Your hair looks just fine. It looks good.'

"I laughed and said, 'Thank you; your hair looks good, too.'

"We chatted a bit and he eventually asked me very politely, 'Are you married?' I said no.

" 'How is that? A fine lady like you?'

" 'It just happens that way sometimes.'

" 'No man got lucky enough, huh?' I laughed again.

" 'So would I be able to get hold of you?' He had been polite, so I politely answered, 'I'm not interested in being gotten hold of just now.'

" 'You're not interested in a relationship at this point in your life?'

" 'Nope.'

"He seemed to understand and turned back around.

"After a minute he turned to me again: 'Well, can I have a dollar?' "
--Kim Hewitt, "The Metropolitan Diary," The New York Times

"A good essay must have this permanent quality about it; it must draw its curtain 'round us, but it must be a curtain that shuts us in, not out."
--Virginia Woolf

"Talent hits a target no one else can hit; genius hits a target no one else can see."
--Arthur Schopenhauer


Go placidly amid the noise and haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible without surrender
be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
and listen to others,
even the dull and the ignorant;
they too have their story.

Avoid loud and aggressive persons,
they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain and bitter;
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.

Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs;
for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals;
and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself.
Especially, do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love;
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment
it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years,
gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline,
be gentle with yourself.

You are a child of the universe,
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God,
whatever you conceive Him to be,
and whatever your labors and aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful.
Strive to be happy.
--Max Ehrmann

"I took a turn to myself
And I was surprised because I saw everyone who ever I had loved
I felt a whole lot better after that"
--Belle and Sebastian, "We Are the Sleepyheads"

"At an early age I decided that living a life of pious misery in the hope of going to heaven when it's over is a lot like keeping your eyes shut all through a movie in the hope of getting your money back at the end."
--A. Whitney Brown

"If you expect to find people who will understand you, you will grow murderous with disappointment. The best you'll ever do is to understand yourself, know what it is that you want, and not let the cattle stand in your way."
--Janet Fitch

"My memory is strange that way. I often remember people I've never met and places I've never been. I don't think I'm some mystical bastard. I just think I pay attention to the details."
--Sherman Alexie

"You gain power by pretending to be weak. By contrast, you make people feel strong. You save people by letting them save you. All you have to do is be fragile and grateful."
--Chuck Palahniuk

"Helen of Troy Does Contertop Dancing"

The world is full of women
who'd tell me I should be ashamed of myself
if they had the chance. Quit dancing.
Get some self-respect
and a day job.
Right. And minimum wage,
and varicose veins, just standing
in one place for eight hours
behind a glass counter
bundled up to the neck, instead of
naked as a meat sandwich.
Selling gloves, or something.
Instead of what I do sell.
You have to have talent
to peddle a thing so nebulous
and without material form.
Exploited, they'd say. Yes, any way
you cut it, but I've a choice
of how, and I'll take the money.

I do give value.
Like preachers, I sell vision,
like perfume ads, desire
or its facsimile. Like jokes
or war, it's all in the timing.
I sell men back their worst suspicions:
that everything's for sale,
and piecemeal. They gaze at me and see
a chain-saw murder just before it happens,
when thigh, ass, inkblot, crevice, tit, and nipple
are still connected.
Such hatred leaps in them,
my beery worshipers! That, or a bleary
hopeless love. Seeing the rows of heads
and upturned eyes, imploring
but ready to snap at my ankles,
I understand floods and earthquakes, and the urge
to step on ants. I keep the beat,
and dance for them because
they can't. The music smells like foxes,
crisp and heated metal
searing the nostrils
or humid as August, hazy and languorous
as a looted city the day after,
when all the rape's been done
already, and the killing,
and the survivors wander around
looking for garbage
to eat, and there's only a bleak exhaustion.
Speaking of which, it's the smiling
that tires me out the most.
This, and the pretense
that I can't hear them.
And I can't, because I'm after all
a foreigner to them.
The speech here is all warty gutturals,
obvious as a slab of ham,
but I come from the province of the gods
where meanings are lilting and oblique.
I don't let on to everyone,
but lean close, and I'll whisper:
My mother was raped by a holy swan.
You believe that? You can take me out to dinner.
That's what we tell all the husbands.
There sure are a lot of dangerous birds around.

Not that anyone here
but you would understand.
The rest of them would like to watch me
and feel nothing. Reduce me to components
as in a clock factory or abattoir.
Crush out the mystery.
Wall me up alive
in my own body.
They'd like to see through me,
but nothing is more opaque
than absolute transparency.
Look--my feet don't hit the marble!
Like breath or a balloon, I'm rising,
I hover six inches in the air
in my blazing swan-egg of light.
You think I'm not a goddess?
Try me.
This is a torch song.
Touch me and you'll burn.
--Margaret Atwood
[identity profile] two-grey-rooms.livejournal.com
"In most cases, people, even wicked people, are far more naive and simple-hearted than one generally assumes. And so are we."
--Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Brothers Karamazov

"When I saw the prisoner step aside to avoid the puddle, I saw the mystery, the unspeakable wrongness of cutting a life short when it is in full tide. This man was not dying, he was alive just as we were alive. All the organs of his body were working--bowels digesting food, skin renewing itself, nails growing, tissues forming--all toiling away in solemn foolery. His nails would still be growing when he stood on the drop, when he was falling through the air with a tenth of a second to live. His eyes saw the yellow gravel and the grey walls, and his brain still remembered, foresaw, reasoned--reasoned even about puddles. He and we were a party of men walking together, seeing, hearing, feeling, understanding the same world; and in two minutes, with a sudden snap, one of us would be gone--one mind less, one world less."
--George Orwell, A Hanging

"She knew that this dark, messy, inexplicably beautiful entanglement was a choice. It was not fated, and she could leave anytime she liked. If she were to stay, she would have to do so knowing that a life with him was but one option out of a million.

"But then, life is a constant withering of possibilities. Some are stolen with the lives of people you love. Others are let go, with regret and reluctance and deep, deep sorrow. But there is compensation for lives unlived in the intoxicating joy of knowing that the life you have--right here, right now--is the one you have chosen. There is power in that, and hope."
--Emily Maguire, Taming the Beast

"Hell is killing us. The moral decline of a religion begins when it creates a Hell, a place of punishment and torment where those who are different must go. As soon as religions create such places, they inevitably create the outsiders who go there, giving themselves tacit permission to do to them whatever they wish. Hell is killing us. It starts by killing our moral sensitivity. It ends, almost always, in the death of others."
--Phillip Gulley

"This is just what humans beings do--turn objects into people, people into objects."
--Chuck Palahniuk

"If death meant leaving the stage long enough to just change costumes and become a new character, would you speed up? Or slow down?"
--Chuck Palahniuk

"No matter how much you think you love somebody, you'll step back when the pool of their blood edges up too close."
--Chuck Palahniuk

"Until you find something to fight for, you settle for something to fight against."
--Chuck Palahniuk

"The joke is we all have the same punch line."
--Chuck Palahniuk

"Since change is constant, you wonder if people crave death because it is the only way they can really get anything finished."
--Chuck Palahniuk

"The only way to find true happiness is to risk being completely cut open."
--Chuck Palahniuk

"Nothing of me is original. I am the combined effort of everybody I've ever known."
--Chuck Palahniuk
[identity profile] two-grey-rooms.livejournal.com
"It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live, remember that."
--Dumbledore, HP and the SS by J.K. Rowling

"What happened down in the dungeons between you and Professor Quirrel is a complete secret, so, naturally, the whole school knows."
--Dumbledore, HP and the SS by J.K. Rowling

"After all, to the well-organized mind, death is but the next great adventure."
--Dumbledore, HP and the SS by J.K. Rowling

"You know, the Stone was really not such a wonderful thing. As much money and life as you could want! The two things most human beings would choose above all--the trouble is, humans do have a knack of choosing precisely those things that are worst for them."
--Dumbledore, HP and the SS by J.K. Rowling

"Fear of a name increases fear of the thing itself."
--Dumbledore, HP and the SS by J.K. Rowling

"The truth.[...]It is a beautiful and terrible thing, and should therefore be treated with great caution."
--Dumbledore, HP and the SS by J.K. Rowling

"The artist is a receptacle for emotions that come from the sky, from the earth, from a scrap of paper, from a passing shape, from a spider's web."
--Pablo Picasso

"All art is experimental, or it isn't art."
--Gene Youngblood

"Even in literature and art, no man who bothers about originality will ever be original: whereas if you simply try to tell the truth (without caring twopence how often it has been told before) you will, nine times out of ten, become original without ever having noticed it."
--C.S. Lewis

"The past does not repeat itself, but it rhymes."
--Mark Twain

"Sometimes I think the surest sign that intelligent life exists elsewhere in the universe is that none of it has tried to contact us."
--Bill Watterson

"I have seen the life on this planet, and that is exactly why I am looking elsewhere."
--Mulder, The X-Files

"I do not believe that sheer suffering teaches. If suffering alone taught, all the world would be wise, since everyone suffers. To suffering must be adding mourning, understanding, patience, love, openness, and the willingness to remain vulnerable."
--Joseph Addison

"All poetry is supposed to be instructive but in an unnoticeable manner; it is supposed to make us aware of what it would be valuable to instruct ourselves in; we must deduce the lesson on our own, just as with life."
--Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

"Art is telling the truth, and then maybe even a secret."

"The image is not a certain meaning,
expressed by the director,
but the entire world
reflected as in a drop of water."
--Andrei Tarkovsky

"I think that what a person normally goes to the cinema for is time: for time lost or spent or not yet had. He goes there for living experience; for cinema, like no other art, widens, enhances, and concentrates a person's experience--and not only enhances it but makes it longer, significantly longer. That is the power of cinema: 'stars,' story-lines, and entertainment have nothing to do with it."
--Andrei Tarkovsky

"The longer you look at an object, the more abstract it becomes, and, ironically, the more real."
--Lucian Freud

"Art is an activity you do while having some other career."
--Vito Acconci

"The first step--especially for young people with energy and drive and talent, but not money--the first step to controlling your world is to control your culture. To model and demonstrate the kind of world you demand to live in. To write the books. Make the music. Shoot the films. Paint the art."
--Chuck Palahniuk

"Creativity is to introduce order into the randomness of nature."
--Eric Hoffer

"I think my think, and then I make my think."
--a small child

"If an idea is any good, it's on the verge of being stupid."
--Michel Gondry

"After silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music."
--Aldous Huxley

"The only thing that scares me more than space aliens is the idea that there aren't any space aliens. We can't be the best that creation has to offer. I pray we're not all there is. If so, we're in big trouble."
--Ellen Degeneres

"Love much. Earth has enough of bitter in it."
--Ella Wheeler Wilcox

"Happiness is always a by-product. It is probably a matter of temperament, and for anything I know it may be glandular. But it is not something that can be demanded from life, and if you are not happy you had better stop worrying about it and see what treasures you can pluck from your own brand of unhappiness."
--Robertson Davies


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November 2015



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