Saturday, December 24, 2011


                      Dear _____,

                      Every year on this day
                      for many years, I rum-
                      inate on this word and
                      at last I have an of-
                      fer to make to you, of
                      how to understand it.
                      I have to admit, this
                      comes on no authority
                      of revelation, but of
                      attrition, against so
                      many suppositions of
                      what hope is.

                      On a Christmas Eve
                      long ago, I watched
                      my mother walk to her
                      desk and sit down.
                      She opened a drawer
                      and withdrew a card
                      of her stationery, 
                      opened her inkwell 
                      and withdrew her pen
                      from its cap, and set
                      about the project of
                      inscribing to me a
                      message to accompany
                      her gift to me.

                      Abruptly, she turned
                      to my father, held up
                      her pen, and said,
                      "Here. That's all I 
                      can do."

                      Within two days, she
                      died of surgeries for
                      an unsuspected tumor
                      of the brain. She had
                      commenced her inscrip-
                      tion, and my father,
                      thinking her only the
                      worse for Champagne,
                      gallantly completed
                      and signed the note.

                      I was terrified; they
                      would be horrified,
                      with this disclosure,
                      but for their know-
                      ing that the nature of
                      my life would mean not
                      raising a family, and
                      having to give their
                      gift to me by other
                      means. I credit them
                      both with this percep-
                      tion, some many years
                      before I could accept
                      it. They didn't like it.
                      But they did love me.

                      Now, I will offer a
                      way of assimilating
                      this popular word. It 
                      is natural, possibly
                      the ultimate struc-
                      turing energy of our
                      system. It is not, I 
                      am viscerally certain,
                      a noun. It is only a
                      verb; not an object,
                      but an aspect of the 
                      act of living that is
                      passed on only congen-
                      itally, and so absurd
                      to address eschatol-

                      I am glad to have a
                      card signed by one of
                      them for them both,
                      with the material
                      verb being the only
                      word my mother was
                      able to write. Es-
                      chewing, as we did,
                      even the pronoun of
                      the first person,
                      that's the only word
                      in her hand and the
                      last one there would

                      Now we come to an oc-
                      casion renowned for its
                      invigoration of what is
                      called, "hope," and one
                      does not demur because it
                      simply isn't possible
                      to interrupt that act.
                      Moreover, anything which
                      encourages an apprecia-
                      tion of its universality
                      is not to be refused.

                      But you and I turn to 
                      lifetimes of seeing this
                      energy enacted in a vari-
                      ety of extremes, no lambs,
                      no shepherds attending, in
                      a very sweet awe at the
                      gift that it is. It is
                      fundamentally maternal,
                      inextinguishably maternal
                      of course, to be conscious
                      of it with almost every
                      breath. But it is assured,
                      it is secured within all
                      human life.

                      I used to worry, that hope
                      is an obligation; I nearly
                      would argue that it is,
                      but one need not. What is,
                      may I propose, an obliga-
                      tion, is the certitude
                      that at the end of the day
                      this is our energy, and
                      that we are its evidence
                      in what we give.

                      Not that one could know.
                      I would just like you,
                      dear _____, to understand
                      I am grateful to be your 
                      contemporary, and to know
                      I am.

Franz Josef Haydn
Die Jahreszeiten
  Komm, holder Lenz!

René Jacobs
RIAS Chamber Choir
Freiburg Baroque Orchestra
Harmonia Mundi, 2004©

Saturday commute l: and where shall we put our car keys?

 If you'd let me
 have my sconces,
 Auguste, I'd never
 have considered
 this figure.

 That's fine,
 Hercule, but
 you've cost us
 a perfectly good
 place for the

Could this be an occasion for advancing our Biography of a chair, simmering in the “Matter” to our right without reference for some time? Oh, I think not. If anything may be depended upon to excite that inchoate cleavage between two peas in a pod, lobes of a single pith, it’s a question of home furnishing; and we can’t wish this upon our Chorus at such an interval, if ever. But as to Hercule and Auguste, are they merely the country day school rug-rats they give such guile-less evidence of being, shuttled in youth from pillar to post in coaches from Mulliner in one season, Pininfarina in another;

or are they, in some advanced maturity, our Rétif de la Bretonne and Casanova, oblivious to the revolution’s chase, in Scola’s flight to Varennes? Who, indeed, would wish to say they aren’t as we’ve always known them, gentle helpmeets in their gender’s quiet journey through experience?
Oh, no. The Reckoning on the Sconces exposed sadly enough, that unnnatural demise of confidence which must lurk inherently in any attachment to fixtures, without insinuating our own seat into the fray. Auguste was wise to indulge Hercule’s excess in redress, even at some compromise of the hall table. This acquisition has more the remedial air of Miss Bullock’s pasturing of a horse in the library in Godfrey, than of any permanent disruption of domestic felicity. 

In another day or so, once the figure’s demands of maintenance have disabused its admirer of its expediency of affect, no doubt a suitable base-ment corner will be discovered, and the book review restored to its marmoreal plinth, avoir-dupois diminished as you’d suppose. 

Still, we must hope that Auguste’s leniency to the underlying gesture will not have transmogrified into any greater acceptance. We all know the zeal of the convert.

We adopt, then, confidence in that purgative aspect of expenditure’s depletions in this season, as the probable and sufficient restorative of comity we would wish for Hercule and Auguste, and take our leave of their foyer with no more than a quiet laying of our card, corner bent in homage to our passing through. They are, especially today, entitled to their nap, to which we commend all readers in their ways.

At a winery this afternoon I saw a tableful of undergraduates

There were 5, huddled about a small rectangular table. All had a glass, but there was a dead silence, every one with his telephone in both hands, thumbs fluffing their screens. This is why I noticed; the screens were very bright. I think they must have had a driver. I couldn't guess why he stopped.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Revenons à nos montagnes

.. with that air of not trying to console
which is its own consolation .. beginning
on a wayward harmony, the music transcended 
mere wistfulness by suggesting to the inner
ear even after the final cadence that it was
still going on endlessly, forever slanted a-
way from resolution. It imprinted its splen-
dour on the landscape of dawn, drawing the
eye up the dark pyramid of its foothills to-
wards the peak from whose glittering snows
the wind drew a plume of ice crystals like
smoke across the pale blue sky. 

Sometimes the mountain was there; often it 
vanished completely for weeks or even months 
as if worn out by having to transcend so in-
imical a climate, so unpromising a place ..

For the companions of this casual
project, who come here because you 
want to and rebound so resiliently:
I admire you. This is the behaviour
of the mountain - not of the sheep. 

James Hamilton-Paterson
1989 Whitbread Prize
Soho Press, 1991©

Robert Schumann
Davidsbündlertänze, Op. 6
Maurizio Pollini
Deutsche Grammophon, 2001©

Lionel André, Weisshorn

" .. that at each of them stands a figure with a pair of eyes .. "

imagine a literature
of power without force

He is alertly conscious of
being one pair of these eyes. 
We see the natural amendments
he adopts in his stance, for
the vantage that's allotted
him. Comparatively slight as
adjustments, he relishes how
they allow him stability, re-
pose he must lack when he can-
not restore himself to them.
They portray his freedom, and
are warrants of his honesty. 

How more Watteau could he be,

A house of fiction has in short not one window, but a million - a number of possible windows not to be reckoned, rather .. These apertures, of dissimilar shape and size, hang so, all together, over the human scene that we might have expected of them a greater sameness of report than we find. They are but windows at the best, mere holes in a dead wall, disconnected, perched aloft .. But they have this mark of their own that at each of them stands a figure with a pair of eyes .. a unique instrument, insuring to the person making use of it an impression distinct from every other .. the pierced aperture, either broad or balconied or slit-like and low-browed, is the "literary form"; but they are, singly or together, as nothing without the posted presence of the watcher - without, in other words, the consciousness of the artist.

                   Tell me what the artist is, and
                   I will tell you of what he has
                   been conscious.

                   Thereby I shall express to you 
                   at once his boundless freedom 
                   and his "moral" reference.

Henry James
  The Portrait of a Lady
The Art of the Novel
op. cit.

You remember how we met our naughty Wittgenstein

It was back in early April. A lady had requested a naked cowboy, which came back to me with a posting she entered at her blog this week, on this unspeakably ravishing dress. 
I'm not sure I care for a dress which so strips me of the treasure of suspense, but when it's all for a cause this good, I don't suppose I can object. We don't hold that against the naked cowboy; after all, it's his job, and many are called, et cetera. No one's obliged to disrobe a lady, but a dress which does, can rather make one's day, to summon a way to hang it.

One couldn't get so close in one's approach to Christmas without acknowledging the generous wit who unsuspect-ingly gave life to Naughty Wittgenstein. Our little agent provocateur has gone far toward redeeming an otherwise unlucullan page with spice from time to time. How soon we forget, he began life by proposing a dance, and it would be churlish of any now to pretend to decline it. Particularly as we veer so near to giving's famous fount of precious parcels, it's past time to give a nod to the least fatiguable page on line, of that becoming disposition. I'm crazy about the little nemesis in a corner of my mind, but I toast all 4 of hers ~

  Tanti auguri,


Jean-Paul Gaultier, 2000
Richard Avedon

Crazy Horse Saloon, 1968
Václav Chochola

Suppose it were Friday xlviii: quick hot chocolate with the hunters

Going down to the country store just now, that's nearest where I live, we still had stars out, all over the sky, and the earth was very warm from a saturating rain. I stood outside with one of the hunters who does occasional work for me, and watched a pale blue come up behind a silhouette of woods. "Look at that," someone said. "Great day. It's nice to see it at this hour."

"You're right," another answered. "It is."