Saturday, June 11, 2011

Camou, drawstrings, heedless boys

An English dog is a silken little engine that can, if ever there were one. As is true for any dog, his roiling, fluent carriage affords an observer the experience of elation without bounds; and in his case, there is such churn-ing energy behind and exten-sion in the stride, that the flashing feathers of his marbled, spotted coat make an aqueously ravishing splash, in flagrant indulgence of native syncopation. But in repose, as any dog might, he can gather himself and deeply muddle these liquid attributes into a fair semblance of a dappled forest floor, or avian camou-flage. Only the glint in a bright, obsidian eye might give him away.

And then it would be too late, and he would want to play with you, or chase you to the guns.

Mysthill's Geordie Auchinleck
Photo Laurent, Leica M-6
San Francisco, 1992

Anonymous recruit
Another country

Madeleine Peyroux
Careless Love

Saturday commute xxviii: the farm vehicle

fortunatos nimium,
sua si bona norint

Of Professor Highet's famous poets in a land-scape - and in truth, probably among all poets, although thankfully that is unnecessary to say - Virgil is the dearest to me, and most constantly in his Georgics. I live on a farm, and I derive the greater part of my living from farming; but I am not a farmer, except of other people's minds. This is the poet who has done the same with me; has shown me what that means, and that this is farming.

fortunate farmers, if
only they knew how lucky they are

37-30 BC

David Ferry, translation
Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2005©

Janet Lembke, translation
Yale University Press, 2005©

Kimberly Johnson, translation
Penguin Classics, 2009©

Gilbert Highet,
Poets in a Landscape
op. cit.

Photo Bruce Weber

Jockey silks leave an impression

                          not sinister

                          how come

                          aren't  I sup
                          posed   to be


Friday, June 10, 2011

We need a new poetry about this

Why do we seldom see a portrait of a youth enjoying his home on Friday night? Why are they all shown with headphones draping from their neck, a signal like no other that their space is contingent? Why do even our own wonderful blogs on domestic contentment never show a man, enjoying peace in his space, restoration in his pursuits, play with his dog? And yet, we do: we love our library on a Friday evening; we can stay up, endlessly. But we who write on Friday night are conscious of that accident that must take place. Godspeed.

I believe we need a new poetry about this. I believe the accident is immanent now, ubiquit-ously pending, and sub-stantially unsuppressed. But it remains accident, we look for. Improbability, we are blindingly blessed to believe in, and endowed to claim. I expect it, too.

When it's important to be sure, of being unrespectable

we ask the weather to co-operate.

yet we remark on a flutter in our mercury, as if we are regretting it.

is it not enough, to dislike a day, without piling on hypocrisy?

"Until some fool comes shouting"

.. Perhaps the old chic was less barren,
More something to be looked forward to, than this
Morning in the orchards under an unclouded sky,
This painful freshness of each thing being exactly itself.

Perhaps all that is wanted is time.
People cover us, they are older
And have lived before. They want no part of us,
Only to be dying, and over with it.
Out of step with all this passing along with them

But living with it deep into the midst of things.

It is civilization that counts, after all, they seem
To be saying, and we are as much a part of it as anybody else
Only we think less about it, even not at all, until some
Fool comes shouting into the forest at nightfall

John Ashbery
Self-Portrait in a Convex Room
  Voyage in the Blue, stanzas 10-12

Johann Sebastian Bach
Sarabande in G
  French Suite Nr. 5, BWV 816
Wilhelm Kempff
op. cit.

i-iii  ciné

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Off center in a concave return ii

   It is the lumps and trials
   That tell us whether we shall be known
   And whether our fate can be exemplary, like a star.
   All the rest is waiting
   For a letter that never arrives,
   Day after day, the exasperation
   Until finally you have ripped it open not knowing what it is,
   The envelope halves lying on a plate.
   The message was wise, and seemingly
   Dictated a long time ago.

   Its truth is timeless, but its time has still
   Not arrived, telling of danger, and the mostly limited
   Steps that can be taken against danger
   Now and in the future, in cool yards,
   In small quiet houses in the country,
   Our country, in fenced areas, in cool shady streets.

John Ashbery
Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror
  The One Thing That Can
  Save America, stanza iv
Viking, 1975©

Other ambient colours

     white T's
     coded drawstrings
     unexpected green

Rothko, untitled, 1952

Off-center in a concave return

for a brother, I think

I'm happy that nothing does
repeat us, and almost glad,
that alteration binds us. 
We inquire; this is ours,
this altercation.

     I know that I braid too much my own
     Snapped-off perceptions of things as they come to me.
     They are private and always will be.
     Where then are the private turns of event
     Destined to boom later like golden chimes
     Released over a city from a highest tower?
     The quirky things that happen to me, and I tell you,
     And you instantly know what I mean?
     What remote orchard reached by winding roads
     Hides them? Where are these roots?

John Ashbery
Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror
  The One Thing That Can
  Save America, stanza iii
Viking, 1975©

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Life friends, faith friends, souls to call one's own

To save myself, I finally had to leave for good. One makes decisions in funny ways; you make a decision without knowing you've made it. I suppose my decision was made when Malcolm X was killed, when Martin Luther King was killed, when Medgar Evers and John and Bobby and Fred Hampton were killed. I loved Medgar. I loved Martin and Malcolm. We all worked together and kept the faith together. Now they are all dead. When you think about it, it is incredible. I'm the last witness - everybody else is dead. I couldn't stay in America. I had to leave.

That thou art blamed shall not be thy defect,
For slander's mark was ever yet the fair;
The ornament of beauty is suspect,
A crow that flies in heaven's sweetest air.
So thou be good, slander doth but approve
Thy worth the greater, being wooed of time;
For canker vice the sweetest buds doth love,
And thou present'st a pure unstainèd prime.

As is widely known to his generation and the one which came after, the government of the United States, and quite especially the governments exposed as unconscionably illegitimate, by Mr Baldwin and the figures he names, undertook to destroy his program of liberation by the very most active repression, overt and covert, against his sexuality as well as his race. Dietrich Bonhoeffer's famous formula for fascism's process of elimination was not practiced sequentially, here, but simultaneously, whence the phrase commie pinko faggot flourished not only in FBI files, but starkly unchallenged in the media. In every Presidential election since that of Richard Nixon in 1968, one Party has openly and exultantly embraced intimidation by bigotry as the calling card of its hardscrabble "base," so that, today, everyone with the slightest prayer of taking vengeance on his fears is a Republican, while Republicans willing to disown them are pathetically shackled. 

Now this Party wishes to stuff Mr George Allen down the throats of Virginians, in the United States Senate again. I encourage readers of this page to greet this reflex of politics by desperate bigotry and unreconstructed superstition as an occasion to take an interest in what it means for yet another generation of absolutely innocent young people, isolated by feder-alism from their own human rights. This page will follow that campaign against humanity with determined attention.

For now, look about you. Shall they leave? Or die in an unjust nation.

Colm Tóibín
Love in a Dark Time
  an interview
  with James Baldwin
Scribner, 2002©

William Shakespeare
Sonnet, LXX, 1-8

iii  Virginia Woolf

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

They tell you, you are to be trotted out and posed


      I? What for?

Christian Ochsenfahrt


Now, Ivan Terestchenko has published one shot of two stones, appreciating the life of a stone and calling to mind Henry Miller's observation, that a wall is as good as a belfry. Above, we have two shots of one life, posed by others as a stone.

Without London, there'd never have been a Charles Dickens

What shall we say, 
about a Daimlerful 
of little ones ..

but that Miss Havisham
has had her way.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Demanding words iii

The sun had climbed into a heaven without once shining directly upon the water. Through a cloud-surface it allowed its beams to diffuse them-selves over everything with a dense coppery hue, turning the water to lead beneath us. It increased our range of sight, how-ever, and with it our speed.

From where he sat at the tiller the captain made a chopping motion with his hand to indicate, in Greek fashion, the fact that we were making better time. The boy came aft and sat for a while to make conversation. Points of water glistened in his beard and hair. 'Patmos' he said, 'you will like it. All foreigners like it. They have good fruit and water.' Then raising himself the better to cup his hands about a box of English matches as he lit a cigar-ette he added, with a touch of medieval wonder: 'And there is a telephone. The Abbot speaks to it every day.'

'Have you ever used it?' I asked him.
'I? What for?'

Lawrence Durrell
Reflections on a Marine Venus
Faber & Faber, Ltd, 1953©

i, ii:  by land by air by sea

It is Whit's birthday today,
and we celebrate by
recommending a super-
lative blog for friends of
this page.

Demanding words ii

In some places in Greece you can pass through all the changes of fifty cen-turies in the space of five minutes. Everything is delineated, sculptured, etched .. You see everything in its uniqueness - a man sitting on a road under a tree: a donkey climbing a path near a mountain: a ship in a harbour in a sea of turquoise: a table on a terrace beneath a cloud. And so on. Whatever you look at you see as if for the first time; it won't run away, it won't be demolished overnight; it won't disintegrate or dissolve or revolutionise itself. Every individual thing that exists, whether made by God or man, whether fortuitous or planned, stands out like a nut in an aureole of light, of time and space.

Even the waste lands have an eternal cast about them. The shrub is the equal of the donkey; a wall is as valid as a belfry; a melon is as good as a man. Nothing is continued or perpetuated beyond its natural time; there is no iron will wreaking its hideous path of power. After a hour's walk you are refreshed and exhausted by the variety of the anomalous and sporadic. By comparison Park Avenue seems insane and no doubt is insane. The oldest building in Herakleion will outlive the newest building in America. Organisms die; the cell lives on. Life is at the roots, embedded in simplicity, asserting itself uniquely.

Henry Miller
The Colossus of Maroussi
New Directions, 1958©

iii photo Tassos Paschalis

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Demanding words

And why should one call oneself anything?
One only deprives other people of their
dearest occupation.

But if you go in for shades, you must
also go in for names. You must distinguish.

From the moment it's the convenience of others,
the signs have to be grosser, the shades begin
to go. That's a deplorable hour ..

Henry James
The Tragic Muse
1890, rev. 1908
Penguin Books, 1978©