Saturday, June 1, 2013

Saturday commute lxxxii: tossing time

What is more difficult,
to make too much or too
little of the tried and
true temptation to give
tossings to a lake? On
Saturday we hold an an-
cient code, against do-
ing either, playing wil-
ling parts in precious
gravity. We are never
by a lake without infer-
ring the gift, the in-
tention of that body to
dispel any resistance,
to giving it our friend.

    Sure, it's teleology, a
    kind of Whig theory of
    the landscape; or maybe
    Jung or Hobbes has of-
    fered us an answer. But
    we don't lack an answer.
    We answer to the lake.


Friday, May 31, 2013

Suppose it were Friday lxx: becoming the field

Mr Nathaniel Perry teaches
at a distinguished small
college in Virginia and he
is an artist in the medium
of the book. I note, a num-
ber of our colleagues in 
Context are expressing al-
arm for its longevity, and
yet I doubt if anyone will
associate the treasures of
Mr Perry's craft with any
other medium. He received
the American Poetry Review
Honickman First Book Prize,
whose printer is the estim-
able Copper Canyon Press, 
publisher of a translation
from Sophocles, I've al-
ready discussed.

Yes, throughout Nine Acres,
there's the distinct press
of a cultivating instrument
in the sequencing of words;
communicable, communicated
belief, and hope for the fur-
rows' tenacity and fecundity
in time. One could not not
want to hold this structure
of feeling, one could not
airily lay aside in the bi-
nary heaven of the web, such
presence in the hand. We see
better what we touch

Here one can disseminate, but
not expect to plant, a prom-
ising expression of the heart.
So let us not waste fortunate
experience in demure neglect
of each other; we do not, for
ourselves. This is gorgeous
stuff. We take it, we save it,
we savour it without prejudice
as Mr Jefferson observed, in 
usufruct for the living. 

    This rain will fall all day. The boy
    and I are watching it fill the fields,
    which is good for fields. To fill, to feel
    filled will last and be a shield

    against the vacant weeks, the drier
    days. And what are the things that fill
    us up? Little graces, good food,
    the arrows we trade, our small good will?

    We don't know what saves us. Better to be
    a field, the boy and I decide,
    at least he seems to agree. He's filling
    a bucket with everything he finds,

    and he's so pleased when it is full,
    his smile a clutch of raspberries
    in the forest sun - no more worries,
    no more to do, nothing's scary.

Nathaniel Perry
Nine Acres
  Bush and Cane Fruits
Copper Canyon Press
The American Poetry Review, 2011©

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Gaining trust

I agree .. that homosexuality is usually a miserable way of life and that it is the duty of society, if it can, to save any youth from being led into it. I think that that duty has to be discharged although it may mean much suffering by incurable perverts who seem unable to resist the corruption of boys. But if there is no danger of corruption, I do not think that there is any good the law can do that outweighs the misery that exposure and imprisonment causes to addicts who cannot find satisfaction in any other way of life.

Lord Patrick Devlin's groundbreaking masterpiece in The Enforcement of Morals (1965) lies heavily annotated in pencil on my shelf, in the timeless companionship of its peers, from Hart, Mitchell, Berlin and others. At least from the time of Harold Laski's brilliant correspondences with Justice Holmes, the British academic meritocracy has invigorated American jurisprudence beyond the sight of most of our citizens, indeed most of their leadership, only to be discovered by schoolboys seeking models of rational inquiry. How often that misery to which Devlin so movingly avers did lead to preserving him in print at $2.50, for acquisition a decade later on the distant farm of Stanford, is less interesting to us today than his empathy for the crisis of exposure, weathered calmly now.

Devlin's is one of the most bracingly companionable intellects a library can domicile - one cannot say, contain - and his history of Wilson's diplomacy is a glory of the craft, which I've long expected to consider here. I would rather endure the glare of his mistakes than the shelter of all the condescension propagated so uncritically today in the United States, and echoed from its highest bench this Winter, because of the constancy of his poise between morals and their rôle in the law. One learns to trust the fairness of a man who's not an idiot or a sloth, who still would not have dinner at one's table.

Now we hear it said, the law can't lead the way, the oppressed have enough friends without troubling our Justices; and, Pilate-like, the jurisdiction over morals is a problem for the satraps in their states. Oh, give me reason, deeply tainted, before gaudy cowardice. The law is the act, opinion is its shadow.

I should not care, any more than
my critics would, to have my per-
sonal morality equated with that
which gains the highest measure 
of popular approval. But the ques-
tion is not how a person is to as-
certain the morality which he ad-
opts and follows, but how the law
is to ascertain the morality which
it enforces.

God save the Queen's Bench, and pro-
tect her Lords of Appeal.

Patrick Devlin
Late Fellow of the British Academy
The Enforcement of Morals
  Based on his Maccabaean Lectures, 1958,
  and debates on the Wolfenden Report, 1957
Oxford University Press, 1965©

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

An open pander to the southern hemisphere

Having only yesterday celebrated
the seersucker season, I mean to
inflict no more than routine dis-
orientation upon the friends of
this page, in snapping up a wor-
sted for our friends across the
Equator. I did avoid saying, be-
neath, but only because I was on
my mark at the moment. I'm sure,
I've lapsed into that hierarchic-
al frame of reference for which
we would like to deny credit to
discredited imperialisms, espec-
ially inasmuch as we accept Sr
Magellan's hypothesis, that in
a round-ish sort of globe, we
know no up, no down. We care-
fully do not express astonish-
ment, that Australians don't
fall off.

But I have to share with you,
the dismaying failure of this
publication to engage, in any
constant way, the subordinate
hemisphere. You can't possibly
know, my delight to find Peru,
lighting up on my blogger map;
I've already remarked, on south
east Asia. Only the other day,
India reported a sighting, and
I supposed Terestchenko was on
some romantic shoot behind our
backs, or an engineer from Ham-
burg had been called to consult
with Jaguar's new proprietors.

Now, silent, India reverts to
form, and Peru is sealed away.
So I present this stalwart im-
pression of counter-seasonal
attire, in sympathy for the
cooling sector of our orb, in
hope that no one minds if we
have warmth. One can't be too

Kevin Flamme

Tree, casting

  The way they quiver
  At the slightest breath of wind,
  The way they thrill,
  And shudder almost individually,
  One of them beginning to shake
  While the others are still quiet,
  Unaccountably, unreasonably -

What am I saying?
One leaf in a million more fearful,
More happy,
Than all the others?

On this oak tree casting
Such deep shade,
And my lids closing sleepily
With that one leaf twittering
Now darkly, now luminously.                            


Charles Simic
New and Selected Poems
op. cit.

ii Photo Valéry Lorenzo

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Seersucker and at long last, juniper

We remember our first seersucker suit as almost a pair of jammies we'd never leave; but then, one has to, does one not? In this light, the advent of the gin season is mere coincidence, of course, but I still do reckon the dates on their permits as coinciding, in which the demise of the second semester affirms their sense of liberty. 

  You know, 'Fidelio' is       really a pretty shitty       opera.

  Well, that could be. But     it is full of Beethoven.

No preceptors, no deans; drinx and easy dinner now in weather they foresaw.

Bastian van Gaalen

And it is always friendly fire

Forgive me.

I would have done the same thing.
French or German .. duty is duty.

Are you in pain?

I would not have believed a bullet in the stomach could hurt so much.

I was aiming at your leg ..

More than fifty yards away, very bad light .. And then I was running ..

Please, no excuses! 

Of us two, it isn't I who should complain the most. I, I'll be finished soon, but you .. haven't finished ..

Not finished dragging out a useless existence.

For a man of the people, it's terrible to die in war. For you and me, it was a good solution.

I have missed it.

Jean Renoir, director
Jean Renoir and
  Charles Spaak, screenplay
La grande illusion
Réalisations d'Art
  Cinématographique, 1937©
Marianne Alexandre and
  Andrew Sinclair, translation
Lorrimer Publishing, Ltd., 1968©

ii  Photo Hedi Slimane