Saturday, January 4, 2014

Let's do O'Hara's deal

Very often nowadays (I think),
we greet each other as hurdles
once again to endure in a path
to higher existence, in virtu-
al refuge known as plans. Nat-
urally, I couldn't conceive of
such a fundamental deformation,
if I were not vulnerable to it.

I observed that not even youth 
and income can defeat the feeb-
leness inherent in common calcu-
lations; and possibly our contem-
porary horror, "social media,"
are augury, in ditziest vacuity,
of this slipstream into anomie.

Knowing better is not being bet-
ter; it's often being worse. But
knowing something utterly is not
a feeble anchorage, for passing
it on neutrally, in closeness to
one's past and present. The scan-
dal of our genius is on-axis to
the honest gaze.

What is so unarguably to be 
known, if not that there is
poetry to taste in standing
still? Don't take mine, one
would say. Take my hearing,
for your extravagantest ex-


       the only truth is face to face, the poem whose
          words become your mouth
       and dying in black and white we fight for what we
          love, not are 

Frank O'Hara
Ode: Salute to the French
  Negro Poets
Donald Allen, editor
The Collected Poems of 
  Frank O'Hara
op. cit.

Edward Mendelson
Review of Selected Poems
  of Frank O'Hara
  Mark Ford, editor
  Knopf, 2008
The New York Review
  of Books
September 25, 2008©

John Latta
Isola di Rifiuti
October 23, 2012©

Saturday commute xcix: Even from the blithest progress

Even from the blithest progress, the most innocent triumphs, attendant upon the handsomest conduct, there emerges always some laundry to be done.

Whence it hath been
discovered, one can
hang it out to dry.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Suppose it were Friday xc: Now let us praise inequality

   Someone's begun
   the day better,
   it often seems.

  What could be less fastidious
  than opulence so giddious,
  as Rolls are Roycing boldly off the     truck;
  and if one thought, insidious,
  our rhyme would climb more hideous,
  It's premature to cluck.

I don't know about you, but the insanity defense of the limerick has stood one in great stead, from time to time, to immunise jest. That shield is like Rolls' splendid wingèd ornament, the Spirit of Ecstasy. It wears the kiss of frolic. Yes?

               It's just possibly conceivable,
               the gods designed retrievable,
               our fret,
               of comfort unbelievable
               in view of how receivable's
               the debt.

  Enough, then, with nos-     trums on the consola-       tions of luxury, one way     or the other. There will     always be a merrier con-     veyance. For them, the       gods have given us the       Insouciant Amphibian,       
  Tadpole to the gentry,
  high compression             element'ry
  in his limbs;
  a busy Port of Entry,
  evident'ry of his whims.

  We think awf'lly well of     Toady, 
  and we love his bonhommie,   but one can't be just a     roadie 
  of commodious esprit.

   That said, it's not un-
   worth mulling upon, I
   grant you. The problem,
   if we must have one, is 
   that inequality is enor-
   mously too interchange-
   able to be dislodged 

Kenneth Grahame
The Wind in the Willows
op. cit.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Eh, bien. Quatorze.

    Or just more
    of Texas?

    Having just shot up a town
    for a sackful of zinc wash-
    ers, Peckinpah's heroes ar-
    rive at the Rio Grande, an
    occasional jurisdictional
    divide. Youth sees Mexico, 
    and calls it lindo. A con-
    noisseur of brigandage is
    not so sure.

   In the satiric satyr,
   Michel Simon, a long
   career in the quay of
   brigandage stretched
   from Jean Vigo through
   Renoir to Marcel Carné.
   The cultivation of the
   distinction, between 
   play and misery, is not
   a struggle of good with 
   evil; and it is a lark
   to participate in reel-
   ing in this understand-
   ing, little by little.

   One never does know what
   will turn up, restaurant
   footfare notwithstanding.


Sam Peckinpah
  and Walon Green,
The Wild Bunch
Warner Brothers, 1969©

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Au revoir, les treize

    They made a
    for butter?

Martin Conte

Jean-Pierre Léaud
Jean Cocteau
François Truffaut

Past red

for a critic
at the exhib-
ition, and
for visitors

  And don't presume you knew the man       you wronged
  so very well. He surely had virtues       you were unaware of;
  nor perhaps are those deep wounds the     ones
  that you imagine (out of ignorance of     his life)
  to be the dreadful blows that came       from you

  Don't count on your feeble memory.
  Temper your remorse, which is always
  so one-sidedly against you, it's           casuistry.

              An obstacle was there and it distorted
              my actions and the way I lived my life.
              An obstacle was there and it stopped me
              on many occasions when I was going to speak.

  But perhaps it's not worth
  so much care and trouble on
    puzzling me out.
  Afterwards - in some more
    perfect society -
  someone else who's fashioned
    like me
  will surely appear and be free
    to do as he pleases.

C.P. Cavafy
  i Remorse
  1925, unfinished
  ii - iii Hidden
  1908, unpublished
Daniel Mendelsohn
  editor and translator
C.P. Cavafy
  The Unfinished Poems
    The First English Translation
op. cit.

Authentication failure and I

Have I kept secret my relation-
ship with social media? I don't
mean D&B or Dilatory Domiciles,
much less alumni publications.
I mean, as you'd suppose, the
darling upstart industries with
GPS impertinence, which captured
friends I knew once, whom I nev-
er hear from anymore, because I
refuse authentication. Every day,
it's the same distraught message
from the leading app du jour, ex-
claiming that my authentication
has failed, in the belief (I'm 
only guessing) that I should be
sufficiently alarmed to leap in-
to corrective engulfment, to be
ratified as real, as if one's
surgeons, themselves, could not
be trusted to find a heartbeat
without this evidentiary trail.

Not to be pompous about it, it
suits me to dissatisfy entreat-
ies for absorption in this new
standard of trust. I remember
methods that work well enough
for that; and for recognition,
too. I do wish my telephones
would accept this reassurance,
but they persist in urging me,
disturbing me, distracting me
and worse, to immerse myself 
in a daisy chain illusion of
sustaining my relationships.
Not extremely likely, anyway,
that I'd be a fit for any-
one's corsage of intimates.
Who would forget Forster -

It would require a botanist
to do justice to these flow-
ers, but fortunately there
is no occasion to do justice
to flowers.

Oh, yes, indeed. I'm aware of
how much leverage I'm refus-
ing, how much linkage I am
squandering, for the projec-
tion of one's face into the
grand tier - or was it, upon
the stage, my cap's supposed
to be set? O, mirror, mirror,
marry me, at least my merry
effigy, today, lest all of
my society despair of improp-
riety in play. One does feel
somewhat Waldenish at times,
while others seem genuinely 
to thrill to this mindlessly
acquisitive, exhibitionist 
structuring of friendships. 
It lacks the requisite dignity
even for abstention to imply 
characteristic of life, or any 
remark one could intend. 

                  Then the camel will shuffle 
                  up and down, dragging after 
                  him a wooden plough, and the 
                  Bedouin, guiding it, will sing 
                  tunes to the camel that he can 
                  only sing to the camel, because 
                  in his mind the tune and the 
                  camel are the same thing.

E.M. Forster
Pharos and Pharillon
Creative Arts Book
  Company, Berkeley, 1980©

Monday, December 30, 2013

Absolutist surveillance, anyone?


   ... unless a statesman
   feels some sense of re-
   vulsion when he has to
   choose to commit a nec-
   essary evil, he is far
   more likely to commit
   an evil when it is not

Noel Annan could capture the Wodehousian enchantedness of Comrade Stalin perhaps better than the master, himself, given the latter's absorption in record-keeping. In the surreal ditziness of the doddering ornithologist, Saxby senior, there were flashes of unanswerable penetration, resembling Stalin's on hearing that his spy, Kim Philby, was being a huge success in Spain, even as Franco was advancing. That isn't logical, Stalin objected. It's rather the way one feels to be given excuses of endearing innocence for a President, on the strength of his liking for Topolobampo, who's amassing a dossier on the entire world. Nice taco, Comrade?

 It's enough to engender the ennui
 on which repression always relies,
 to be greeted with the identical
 intimidations one voted against, 
 all one's life, as the culture's
 descent into the paranoia of the
 Cold War climaxed in the incred-
 iblest confection of invisible e-
 mergencies, in every corner of a
 soccer child's locker room. Al-
 ways there was the complaisantly
 clever "reformer," who'd promise
 relief from domestic injustice in
 broad daylight, who'd dare us to
 risk our lives and our hopes with
 worse. Now we admit, this isn't
 logical, and with the clear-eyed,
 crazy ornithologist, we observe, 
 there's no such bogey in the sky.

 It's where we go to breathe.


Noel Annan
Dean of the Cold War
The New York Review of Books©

P.G. Wodehouse
Cocktail Time
op. cit.