Sunday, November 10, 2013

I may take in a new lens sometime

  To judge the appearances
  that we receive of ob-
  jects, we would need a
  judicatory instrument;
  to verify this instru-
  ment, we need a demon-
  stration; to verify the
  demonstration, an ins-
  trument: there we are
  in a circle.

.. Something cleaves to form
until the last minute, past it,

and though the vet's needle was an act
of mercy, the life needed to continue,

the life was larger than cruelty,
the life denied the obliterating gesture

where only kindness had been expected.

the life takes it in and says more,

and the flooding darkness. The life doesn't care.
The life only wants, the fugitive life.

Sometimes our judicatory instrument
is that supreme essayist of succul-
ence, Montaigne, a son of Bordeaux
and of the early family of Château
d'Yquem. Of him Emerson wrote, Cut
these words, and they would bleed;
they are vascular and alive. Flau-
bert admired his style as a fruit
that fills the mouth and throat,
so succulent that the juice goes
right to your heart.

When it comes time to identify the
judicatory instrument Montaigne en-
visioned, Sainte-Beuve points us
right: Thought and image, with him,
it is all one. Montaigne senses; yet
it is his mode of judgment, which is
celebrated. Between the camera and
the refractometer, both unknown to
his century but not to his imaging, 
he would have chosen the latter, to 
study the impact of the object on 
the light, not the other way 'round.
It is the winegrower's choice, of any
who thirst to match their taste. It
is the choice of Alexandrians, from
Cavafy to Durrell to Doty.

The refractometer, which can measure
suspended sugar in a drop of grape
juice by its refraction of light, re-
lies upon technology impervious to
solids suspended in the air, such as
fog and its less seemly corollaries.
The painter, the photographer incor-
porate them. When it comes to it, we
will breathe what is there; the soul
will come before disdain.

Michel de Montaigne
Apology for Raymond Sebond
Donald Frame, editor and
The Complete Essays of
Stanford University Press, 1958©

Mark Doty
My Alexandria
  With Animals

i  photo Laurent

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