Saturday, November 23, 2013

We, in our perfectly civilised discussions

    tend among our
    peers suddenly
    to turn to piz-

   it is no respecter
   of hours, pizza, a
   demonically versa-
   tile distracter in
   its many parts and

   and how their melt
   resists resistance
   is not merely aro-
   matically indicat-

   in the way one can

Eddie Redmayne
  John Logan

Saturday commute xciv: one's own chariot

  On the path to the water, I found an ugly weed
  growing between rocks. The wind was stroking it,
  saying, 'My weed, my weed.' Its solid,
  hairy body rose up, with big silver leaves
  that rubbed off on me, like sex. At first,
  I thought it was a lamb's ear, but it wasn't.
  I'm not a member of the ugly school,
  but I circled around it and looked a lot,
  which is to say, I was just being, and it seemed to me -
  in a higher sense - to represent the sanity of living.
  It was twilight. Planets were gathering.
  'Mr Weed,' I said, 'I'm competitive,
  I'm afraid, I'm isolated, I'm bright.
  Can you tell me how to survive?'

Henri Cole
Pierce the Skin
  Selected Poems 1982 - 2007
  My Weed
Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2010©

Friday, November 22, 2013

Of all days

         What is the late November doing
         With the disturbance of the spring
         And creatures of the summer heat,
         And snowdrops writhing under feet
         And hollyhocks that aim too high
         Red into grey and tumble down
         Late roses filled with early snow?

          .. The poetry does not matter
It was not (to start again) what one had expected.
What was to be the value of the long looked forward to ..?

.. There is, it seems to
At best, only a limited value
In the knowledge derived from experience.
The knowledge imposes a pattern, and falsifies,
For the pattern is new in every moment
And every moment is a new and shocking
Valuation of all we have been.

T.S. Eliot
Four Quartets
  East Coker
Harcourt, Brace, 1943©

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Steppes song

It's not just that a lot of people believed in the system even after they were repressed in the Soviet Union. It is that, in general, those who were pun-
ished were quite sure there had been some kind of mistake. 

And if that is what you think, it can only be because you hold the system itself to be fundamentally sound. You are the victim of a judicial mistake, whereas your fellow prisoners are surely criminals. You see your own case as exceptional, and that seems to rescue the victims of the universal system.

.. the experience of communism leaves its intellectual survivors peculiarly preoccupied with their own beliefs -  more than they are with the crimes themselves: in retrospect, it is the delusory allegiance which accounts for their trauma, more than anything they have suffered at the hands of their jailors. The title of Annie Kriegel's memoir, What I Thought I Understood, nicely captures it. It is the sense of reiterated self-interrogation: did I misunderstand it?
.. most were arrested in the middle of the night, individual-
ly. This left them and their families in no position to under-
stand what had happened .. that terrifying grayness, indefinite uncertainty, remains part of the landscape of memory ..

Tony Judt
Timothy Snyder
Thinking the Twentieth Century
op. cit.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Prairie oilcloth blues

As if wearing Werther.

I was listening to a con-
cert version of Tom Pet-
ty's I won't back down, 
and heard the audience 
whistle for a defiant 
guitar pick in that bal-
lad of redneck indigna-
tion; it was exactly how 
Gustavo Santaolalla open-
ed the film of Brokeback 

There is being isolated,
and there is feeling iso-
lated; islanded. Pride 
and contempt will sound:
who would sing of fear?

I wonder if we might be cutting off the fascists from real continuities in European thought. The idea that one's nation is not the people living in the country but rather those who speak a language, or associate with a tradition, or worship in a certain church, derives quite directly from the Romantics .. the intonations of the latter appear naïve and somehow harmless to us when read today, but nevertheless, there does seem to be a continuity .. between Fichte and Herder and fascists a century later.

Thinking the Twentieth Century
op. cit.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Tuesday in our field ii

The fascists were able to have their way in early experiments with the welfare state because they were unencumbered by the Marxist disagreements about reform versus revolution, unconcerned by orthodoxies of any kind. And so they were free to say: perhaps we should plan, the Soviets do it, it seems to work; or, perhaps we should steal from the Jews and redistribute, that seems practical.

To do them justice, there was also a more sophis-
ticated consideration: why don't we instrumen-
talize the state to plan and impose economic policies, rather than go through the tedious mech-
anisms of parliamentary politics. In the fu-
ture, let us simply pronounce the policy, rather than seek support for it.

Tony Judt
Timothy Snyder
Thinking the Twentieth Century
Penguin, 2012©

Tuesday in our field

I am not left-handed,
and my trousers don't
fall; but I've posted
this cropping before,
and readers liked it.

Is this portrait rec-
ognisable to you; was
it taken of you, when
no one saw it happen?
Did a companion chase
what you threw, or is
this heroic, easy arc
Were the sage piquant
that day, or were the
breezes full of salt?

The field fairly hums
We note the stallion,
snorting in the mead-
ow dawn, depicting a-
romatics he absorbed,
and emanated; but who
would write the pleas-
ure in the swiping of
it all? Yet we gather
a subjective harvest. 

I think this is cool:
that a face should be
first to draw the bal-
sam of the setting of
our thirst, and speak
of restoration in our
unenvisioned escapade.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Morning watch

     Some guys
     really do
     come just
     for a cof-
     fee. Some
     poetry is
     not about
     them; but
     not much.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Gaps and walls and needs to know

    How was your time
    last night?
    Who'd you see?
    No one you know.

Every dawn that follows Saturday rises with such a filial, incompetent question. What cherishes incompetence before inherent hunger?

We are getting answers now, that lift false tissue, not just from history, but from the protected mind.

         The problem with divorcing vengeance from its wid-
         er context is that it makes it impossible to under-
         stand why people acted the way they did in the af-
         termath of the war. From a modern, political point 
         of view it also creates a competition over victim-
         hood.. Sooner or later the arguments tend to break 
         down along national or political lines.


  They stood in the street
  not looking at one anoth-

  'Why did you ask that ques-
  tion, the question about 
  her father?'

  Sometimes Leclerc seemed
  neither to hear nor to
  feel; he drifted away,
  listening for a sound,
  like a man who having
  learnt the steps had 
  been deprived of the mu-
  sic; this mood read like 
  a deep sadness, like the
  bewilderment of a man be-

  'I don't want anyone to

Ian Buruma
Year Zero
  A History of 1945
Penguin Press, 2013©

(i) Keith Lowe
Savage Continent
  Europe in the After-
  math of Word War II
St Martin's Press, 2012©
Picador, 2013©

(ii) John Le Carré
The Looking Glass War
Penguin Books, 2012©