Saturday, January 24, 2015

Saturday commute ci: Where is James traveling?

The little watering-place of
Ilfracombe is seated at the
lower verge of one of these
seaward-lunging valleys, be-
tween a couple of magnificent
headlands which hold it in a
hollow slope and offer it se-
curely to the caress of the
Bristol Channel..

                 My chief conclusion, perhaps,
                 from all these things was that
                 the English are masters of the
                 art of not losing sight of ease
                 and convenience in the pastoral
                 life - unlike our own people,
                 who, when seeking rural beguile-
                 ment, are apt but to find a new
                 rudeness added to nature.

  I'm honestly not one of
  those admirers of James
  who insist that he real-
  ly meant to be gross,
  and crude and awful, but
  was constrained and ruin-
  ed in life and in art by
  conditioning. I just cop-
  ied, above the previous
  illustration, a classic
  example of his gift for
  appreciation, because it
  renewed my apprehension
  that our "sympathy" only
  substantiates his impres-
  sion of the second excerpt.
  I urge a truce with James,
  even at the beach.

                                and then, in dreaming,
The clouds methought would open, and show
              Ready to drop upon me; that, when I wak'd,
              I cried to dream again.

Henry James
English Hours

William Shakespeare
The Tempest
  III, ii, 138-41
op. cit.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Amherst echoes, plain and clear

                 It makes no difference abroad -
                 The Seasons - fit - the same -
                 The mornings blossom into Noons -
                 And split their Pods of Flame -

I tried this at home,
reluctant to go to
Guantánamo; and rang
up Yoo and Addington,
Tenet and Dick Cheney, 
for technical advice;
alas, to no avail.

One can just imagine
these guys' dismay,
not to be continuing:

                     Auto da Fe - and Judgment -
                     Are nothing to the Bee -
                     His separation from his Rose -
                     To Him - sums Misery -

The papers are all full of the frolic the President enjoyed the other night in Congress, at his hosts' expense. But you know, the papers. I didn't see him being called out on his immaculately empty boast of ending torture, in his announcement that he wouldn't stoop to it. Others have, others may, with his permission; and he knows there's ink to spill on his unconscionable, if not complicit reduction of those crimes to a poster of his propriety.

Until this man secures passage of effective legislation to criminal-ize torture, not blinking past it, he's up to his tanline in it. Na-ture's creatures call his conduct to account. A Presidency is not a podcast, it's a primordial trust.

                Wild flowers - kindle in the Woods -
                The Brooks slam - all the Day -
                No Black bird bates His Banjo -
                For passing Calvary -

Emily Dickinson
Number 686
  i    verse 1 of  3
  ii   verse 3
  iii  verse 2

Helen Vendler
  Selected Poems 
  and Commentaries
Harvard University Press, 2010©

Thursday, January 22, 2015


   How can it? O how can Love's eye be true,
   That is so vexed with watching and with tears?
   No marvel then though I mistake my view:
   The sun itself sees not till heaven clears.

   The eye undergoes such sustained
   trial in the Sonnets that it was
   only polite of Shakespeare to ad-
   dress what gets in its way. That
   said, I'm practical enough to un-
   derstand, in the English renais-
   sance, that one could get into a
   very great deal of hot water, by
   being too certain of what heaven
   is. To cite it as crossing paths
   with sight is no less daring now
   than it was, then; yet if coming
   far, were to eclipse the Sonnets,
   security would seize their place.
   We know its gaze. It hasn't love;
   and of all the euphemisms author-
   itarianism has to answer for, it
   is the most basic, the most base.

William Shakespeare
Sonnet 148
op. cit.

Aaron Lynch

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Weigh enough!

    when the long haul
    is up or when mis-
    adventure catches
    ignominious resis-
    tance in the water.

    The President sug-
    gested fairness in
    an oar dipping in-
    to implacable cur-
    rents, off-camera.

    Improvidently, he
    neglected to call
    for sectarian side-
    shows to cloak his
    policies. This was
    Military frivolity,
    too, was minimalist.

                         There was a stir-
                         ring competition,
                         for a frothing at
                         the mouth. Global
                         debauch emerged,
                         as a Bold Idea. It 
                         was an early night.

Ingmar Bergman
Through a Glass, Darkly

Listening at the Monteleone viii: iron lace

Walker Evans placed himself in a
window of his apartment in Paris
in 1923 for this self-portrait.
Find me. Answer me, are implica-
tions of these projects in men,
so far as I know, having created
such a thing - published above -
using one's shadow on a sunstruck
terrace on Telegraph Hill. 

We notice the same thing in what
we collect, so far as I know; but
what of the collections assembled
for us by the generations before?
The other day, I encountered an
etching in a box in my basement,
of iron lace -- balconies framed
in wrought iron, prefiguring Wil-
San Francisco -- by the merchant
artist Morris Henry Hobbs, whose
works in New Orleans in the first
half of the last century lent him
a certain renown for sentiment.

On seeing it, I supposed it had
been collected by my grandmother,
whose memory launched this series
from the Monteleone. My research
ruled out this possibility, as
she predeceased this creation by
several years. It would have been
purchased by her mother, or by
mine, either of them reinforcing
in their way, the friendship with
a family in New Orleans, of whom
a visit she paid them would hold
great relevance, by descent, to 
both of her survivors.

I have my own friends in New Or-
leans now, a young couple of ca-
pacity for enjoying the world of
their time, to whom I thought to
send this along. You see the mis-
take before I did; you see the
power of inherited custom, more
than of inheritance, per se, be-
fore I did. One, two, possibly
three ladies from whom I'm des-
cended acquired this etching to
delight themselves in friendship.

Plopped here, upon a spontaneous
nail in the wall, the etching e-
licits a smile of remembrance of
the present, even of the perme-
ability of the past. It may be,
in a way, a strand of their lace.

Find me.
Answer me.


Sunday, January 18, 2015

Members of the wedding

   swept by here


  The Associated Press and
  San Francisco Chronicle
  have submitted a map of
  a starkly political dis-
  location of a fundamental
  human right in the United
  States. I don't mind con-
  ceding Exxon Mobil's right
  to marry, now that corpor-
  ations are people. It will
  be fun to see what Roberts
  thinks of shareholders.

San Francisco Chronicle
January 17, 2015©