Sunday, February 6, 2011

On longing for a world

What a cool thing it was for legs, when someone discovered we could use them to run. From that astounding, unattributed observation, there emerged the consolations of sport, the gathering of people to do a similar thing at the same time in their own way with their own means, but associating them to accept a common path, a common end. It couldn't have been long before affinities in ways and means brought us little squads of the like-limbed, the like-striding. For those who ran for the quality of the act, this was not a happy event.
Now by happenstance we are at this page, and we are reading for ourselves but we are reading about each other. Suspicion wafts from the page - these are not my ways, this is not my squad - but we come back to see who has red hair today, or back to see who wears what brand. Some people can not trust their own engagement in our race enough to see themselves through our means. Some people feel we are subscribing a new squad.

But anyone can readily see the advantage in the underlying discovery: legs, admittedly useful prehensile instruments for our forebears, offer us a mode of locomotion even more efficient than theirs. What we lost in delight in dangling, we gained in freedom to clasp other things, such as baccalaureate certificates, batons in Nature's great relay.


The jellyfish
float in the bay shallows
like schools of clouds,

a dozen identical--is it right
to call them creatures,
these elaborate sacks

of nothing? All they seem
is shape, and shifting,
and though a whole troop

of undulant cousins
go about their business
within a single wave span

every one does something unlike:
this one a balloon
open at both ends

but swollen to its full expanse,
this one a breathing heart,
this a pulsing flower. ..

What can words do
but link what we know
to what we don't,
and so form a shape? 

Nothing but style.

What binds
one shape to another 

also sets them apart
--but what's lovelier
than the shapeshifting

transparence of like and as:
clear, undulant words?
We look at alien grace,

by any determined form,
and we say: balloon, flower ..

Hear how the mouth,

so full
of longing for the world,
changes its shape?


Mark Doty
  My Alexandria
University of Illinois Press, 1993©


  1. If it were not for men desiring to run and race each other Olympia would be naught!

  2. That first picture is very naughty, Laurent!

  3. Yet, still, David, a plausible mountain range in a remote area south of Vancouver. There was a brewery named for it, and once a nice hotel.

    Now, then, we come to RD's observation - which turns on a tone so variable in its adjective, as to subject its interpretation to wish-fulfillment. Resisting any implication of "zingy goddydarling naughty," we are left with "baddydoggy smacky naughty." I'm afraid he's quite right under either heading, but to be hung for a sheep seems wiser on this occasion, than to go as a lamb. I shall save my Belgians for lighter times.

    Rather than trifling with the layout of this entry I amended it with a clarifying third (3rd) illustration and comment, so that the first one's native point would not be lost. The leg is the subject. An extensive feature, it can scarcely be appraised without reference to its capital and engine, particularly where motility is relevant. We experienced a like circumstance in the discussion of the Blue Fox, whose frogs legs would have been meagre, indeed, without reference to this ingenious sector. Partisans of Muybridge will take the point.

    I draw everyone's attention, then, to the 3rd figure's traversal of the bridge, both as further good faith in illustration of this simple argument, and as a plausible tour-d'horison of the feature in question.

    This will have been the 2nd time in a week or so, when a reader's astute comment has left a whipt dog a wiser dog - an instructional mode we abjure here, to preserve some discrepancy in our own favour. I'm happy to edit under any such guidance.

    But RD would probably not have come to this same finding, IF the original title of the entry had been retained. That original title had been the germ of this entry rather than what we see here, its summary. That title was, "Who's following, who's missing," and so the backward glancing face was the very expression of that inquiry.

    Almost by itself, this blog seems to have coined the term, "gratuitous." Oh, you can't know how frequently the epithet bounces down the stairsteps of an illustrative stack in this place. I shall likely hear it again for this poor illustration, when in fact its presence continues to make sense to one, as calling forth "the" question of the day -- even without the direct mode of address, for which it was ideally suited. Or unsuited, but still suitable.

    I certainly don't mean to make light of a reader's judgment or taste, particularly where such visits so enrich the place. I hope this explanation of the picture's presence is helpful; I know I can't expect it to seem un-naughty. And I do not mean to inquire, in which way.

  4. I am following!
    and I like your spirit and your flame (Flamme I ment)!


  5. Well, you're certainly a sight for sore eyes. Where were you, when the page was being gored for naughtiness? And here, I'd thought you were running a nice little muleta for me of interference.

    Cheers, it's Monday ~