Friday, October 14, 2011

Suppose it were Friday xlii: by our rivers to our bay


My notion, I don't mind to say, of water's like the Pacific,
which simply crashes in without seeming to be fed by a terrestrial source. This is all wrong for Virginia, which is a confluence of riparian syringes into its Chesapeake, infusing intentions. Icthyology is natural down here, and even if it weren't, is so hoarily breastbeaten into the myths of masculine society that I could possibly be the first tenant heard to confide, that I don't drop a line into the water in that way. In truth, nobody does any-thing Virginian who didn't start doing it as a child, or does it except with those he's always done it with. This makes perfect sense, and explains, among other things, George Allen.

A Californian, nevertheless, will go to the water; and so, because of where icthyology transpires, the possibility of running into Virginians has to be accepted. They'll drop everything, to satisfy themselves that one is just passing through; but once that aspiration is assuaged, their vigilance relaxes, and you can see it in the ripples from their boats, not as a flickering stern or a bobbing prow, but as an emanation of the keel, churning the darkness of secrets. It isn't this way, everywhere - and one can go to the water down here for the same reason one might take a book to a coffeehouse: it is legible.

            And the huge ruts of the ebb tide
            Swirl toward the east,
            Toward the pillars of the forest,
            Toward the timbers of the pier,
            Whose angle is struck by whirlpools of light.

Rimbaud's term for these whirl-
pools - tourbillons - is so close
to turbidity, that, that he should
have found them illuminating, al-
lowed him to will their illumina-
tion. It's as if he'd gone fish-
ing here.

Jean Nicolas Arthur Rimbaud
  Marine [fragment]
John Ashbery, translation
op. cit.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Feeling like Geary Street, Union Square above

The new Fall sweater makes the season official, and 
is to a guy's insouciance a luscious supercharger. 
The jaguars you see, out in the middle of the road, 
invite you to be thrilled, in exchange for your pa-
tience. I don't think the feeling of being brilliant, 
in this way, is quite the offense that some do. 

Now, to think of it is enough for me, 
for the exact impression rushes back; 
and I'm jaywalking to Baccarat, be-
cause their glass is balanced, doux,
blithe instead of scrupulous. I want
the precious dangers of Fall. I want
their bright perfection. In Rimbaud
there will be two red holes in one's
right side.


       Anything but thanksgiving.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Memo to Tomas

Assez vu. La vision s'est rencontrée à tous les airs.
Assez eu. Rumeurs des villes, le soir, et au soleil, et toujours.
Assez connu. Les arrêts de la vie. 
O Rumeurs et visions!
Départ dans l'affection et le bruit neufs!

Enough seen. The vision has been encountered in all skies.
Enough had. Sounds of cities, in the evening, and in sunlight, always.
Enough known. The stations of life.
O Sounds and Visions!
Departure amid new noise and affection!


Jean Nicolas Arthur Rimbaud
John Ashbery, translation
op. cit.

ii Valéry Lorenzo, photography

It should be like a Californian ii: Cavafy for perspective

           Rightly they will praise you: what a sincere fellow!
           But put some water in your wine: don't presume
           since (as you know) "Nothing about the Lacedaemonians."


            nor perhaps are those wounds the ones
            that you imagine (out of ignorance of his life)
            to be the dreadful blows that came from you.

C.P. Cavafy
The Unfinished Poems
  Nothing about the Lacedaemonians
Daniel Mendelsohn, translation
Knopf, 2009©

It should be like a Californian, giving up oranges

I must have been taught, or somehow learned early in my life, to break easily away from intimacy. When Massi and I split, no matter what pain there was, I did not fight back. We parted almost too casually .. Massi said that sometimes, when things overwhelmed me, there was a trick or a habit I had: I turned myself into something that did not belong anywhere. I trusted nothing I was told, not even what I witnessed .. It was, she said, as if I had grown up believing that everything was perilous. A deceit must have done that .. 

'Your goddamn cautious heart. Who did you love that did this to you?'

'I loved you."

'I said I loved you.'
'I don't think so. Someone damaged you. Tell me what happened when you came to England.'

'I went to school.'
'No, when you came. Because something must have happened' ..

'I said I loved you.'

'Yeah, loved. You're leaving my life, aren't you.'

In this way, valid or not, 
we burned the few good 
things remaining between us.

Over the last weekend, in Williamsburg, Virginia, I struck up an acquaintance with a fellow from Calcutta, now residing in Singapore, of lively and learned interest in living pleasantly. A sweetly temperate Fall day was drawing toward a soft, Poussin sunset as we thought of throwing together some dinner. Out of thin air, he asked me, What's your favourite fruit? Disliking questions like this (given that they always depend on too many contingencies), I replied that he seemed to be asking what fruit's disappearance would darken the world, for me; and to this stipulation, he agreed. This was what he was asking. I said, well, for me, it might be what an apple is to a Norman, or a gooseberry to a New Zealander. I would have to say, an orange, of whose absence I viscerally refuse to think. With this, he whole-heartedly agreed, and said, Yes, and to me it would be a banana, or a mango.

He and I, enjoying a glass of wine, laughed that it hadn't come down to the grape in a Pinot Noir, or Chardonnay - or, indeed, the coffee berry; and then we reasoned, that part of the beauty of these vinous fruits is that they show the prospect of a universal common ground at the deepest plausible level - and if not, of an amiable evening with strangers. But to approach the universal it is necessary to discover the particular. It simply does not work, the other way around.

Just sayin'.

Michael Ondaatje
The Cat's Table
op. cit.

George Balanchine
New York City Ballet
Chase Finlay

Monday, October 10, 2011

"Do I really deserve Monday?"

Auguste, do you suppose
it is wiser to argue a
theory of justice from
authority, or desire?

                    I suppose it might
                    depend, Hercule, on
                    whether we want men
                    to love justice, or
                    to fear it. 

Would you believe, simply on faith, there is a Canada?

Well, you take my point. It's one thing, to find this
large, pink expanse on the map, accounting for most of
our approaches to the North Pole. Something has to be
up there, if only as a place holder. But one doesn't
seriously entertain the proposition, that there are
people up there, you know, who wouldn't long ago have 
made the sensible decision to inhabit our great re-
publican project for the benefit of mankind, rather 
than loitering in some caricature of Minnesota. How 
would they have got there in the first place, do you 
suppose, if not by passing through Ellis Island? Was 
it nice, not to melt into our pot, or, while they were 
at it, to leave their goddy sweaters as security, for 
living disconcertingly above us? 

On Canadian Thanksgiving, 
I am glad they are there.

Homo ludens, home again

Out of the corner of my eye I apprehended, the other day, that Tassos is back in Porto Rafti, after another of his grueling estivations on Paros. "There," I noticed myself sighing, "went the neighborhood." I was put in mind of the lads in Ondaatje's The Cat's Table, who amuse themselves by miming the gestures of a romantic shipboard character, whom they cannot resist teasing for his lack of inhibition. 

We were laughing and laughing at all the poses he struck. But suddenly the three of us ran away from him. We screamed as we raced through the women's badminton semi-finals, and leapt cannonballing, with all our clothes on, into the swimming pool. We even got out and dragged a few deck chairs back in with us .. we released all the breath from our bodies and sank to the bottom and stood there waving our arms softly like Mr Daniels' palm trees, wishing he could see us.

Proof that it is Tassos' blog, by which this one only waves to be seen, is scattered throughout his comments box for the last several years, and can be traced to our launching in one of his extended absences. Ondaatje's proof, also, that an admirer can master the morality but not the disposition of an inspiring figure, is not lacking, here or there. But our lyricist of the lazy morning is also, thank goodness, among its more diligent practitioners, or many of us would not have a page to flap our limbs in mimicry.

It was only too humiliating, then, for him to pre-empt a suitable celebration of this annual resumption of his page, with a remark here first, the other day, echoing a beloved image from Lorca to twist the blade ~ el niño come naranjas. I know of no one who can write of oranges while Tassos is at home. 

Having been late to acknowledge that this rootstock blog of many upstart vines has been restored, I'll not be among those who could speculate where it might lead. Gone are the words to mark the occasion; Homer's given us the return of Odysseus and the coffee is still hot. Here's a dram of agiorgitiko for a playful morning mug, and much anticipation of a season of high spirits. Already, the most quicksilver smile in blogging has resumed its signature pace, and we are repatriated to the tannic bite of reading.

Sunday, October 9, 2011


    That was a small lesson I learned on the journey.
    What is interesting and important happens mostly
    in secret, in places where there is no power. 
    Nothing much of lasting value ever happens at the
    head table, held together by familiar rhetoric.
    Those who already have power continue to glide
    along the familiar rut they have made for themselves.

Whatever we did had 
no possibility of permanence.

Michael Ondaatje
The Cat's Table
Knopf, 2011©