Friday, October 9, 2015

Exchanging a word

I read in the morning
papers of a proposal
to update the text of
Shakespeare, and saw
the thought dismissed
as a waste of time.

What more horrid oth-
er loss can there be?

Who knew, convenience
would offer sanctuary
to simple immortality?

Yet we find this for-
tunate calculation at
work in the odd tree,
not clear-cut from the
mountaintop, and the
mute, unbothered, for
having nothing to say.

         Subtle Plato, patron saint of friendship,
         Scolded those nurslings of the myrtle-bed
         Whose tender souls, first seized by love's madness,

         Then stirred to rapturous frenzies, overnight
         Turn sour, their eyes narrowed with suspicions,
         Sleepless, feverishly refusing company.

         The soul, in constant motion because immortal,
         Again and again is "deeply moved" and flies
         To a new favourite, patrolling the upper air

         To settle briefly on this or that heart-
         Stopping beauty, or flutters vainly around
         The flame of its own image, light of its life.

         Better the friend to whom we're drawn by choice
         And not instinct or the glass threads of passion.
         Better the friend with whom we fall in step

         Behind our proper god, or sit beside
         At the riverbend, idly running a finger
         Along his forearm when the conversation turns

         To whether everything craves its opposite,
         As cold its warmth and bitter its honeydrop,
         Or whether like desires like - agreed? -

         Its object akin to the good, recognizing
         In another what is necessary for the self,
         As one may be a friend without knowing how

         To define friendship, which itself so often slips
         Through hands because ... but he's asleep
         On your shoulder by now and probably dreaming

         Of a face he'd glimpsed on the street yesterday,
         The stranger he has no idea will grow irreplaceable
         And with whom he hasn't yet exchanged a word.

J.D. McClatchy
The Rest of the Way
  Dedicated to 
    James Merrill
  An Essay on Friendship
Alfred A. Knopf, 1992©
op. cit.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Autumn prism

I agreed to join a friend
for lunch outside today, of
truite amandine and haricots
verts, and we settled on a
Loire Valley Pinot Noir in
lieu of the usual white sus-
pects, in view of the ample
use of butter in the sauté
of the fish. Our early sips
rebuked our expectations;
but as the butteriness and
the nuttiness built up, we
appreciated how the wine's
vitality in acidity, as we
could have expected from a
fine Riesling or Chablis,
was gainfully augmented by
the bonding tannins in the
Loire Valley flux, without
more butter of Chardonnay
evolved in oak. We linger-
ed in open shade, admiring
the softer sun of this won-
derful season, and I don't
think we will forget the
grace notes of persistent
earth in the gentle, warm,
allusive red.

    as the sun goes down over Ballyknick and Ballymacnab
    and a black-winged angel takes flight.

Paul Muldoon
Moy Sand and Gravel
  [first verse, fragment]
Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2002©

Monday, October 5, 2015

To be truthfully told

A Dijonnais schoolboy rips off
Charlie Parker LP's during the
siege of Dien Bien Phu, and ac-
cedes, against all odds, to his
hereditary portion of l'esprit

Along the way he endures cler-
ical erotic manipulation, self-
inflicted incest, coitus inter-
tuptus at the hands of his sib-
lings, and all manner of other
unspeakable ordeals, common, we
begin to notice, to Everyman.
But the same priest protects
him, the incestuous parent lib-
erates him, his siblings exalt 
him, as he arrives in bare feet.

We notice ruefully, and then for-
givingly, in seeing the travails
of Western man catalogued for us
as early as 1971, that only their
typifications change, not their
substance; and we begin to ques-
tion whether we are only in a
more harshly uncomprehending era,
for all the candour of our com-

I had no doubt, when I opened
this blog under the sobriquet, 
Laurent, that Louis Malle had
captured in the career of his
defining hero a certain spark
which I've never not admired,
but might have patronised.

Returning to Le souffle au
coeur again for a recent post,
we all saw how much less guilt
there is in this world, than
our heightened consciousness
seems to permit us to accept.
It's no exoneration of the
demagogues, to lighten up on
their claque. We have all
missed something.

I think now, more than when
the movie appeared, it bears
the attention of progressives,
as an admonishment against o-
verdoing the schtick of juris-
prudence in regard to manners,
and in particular, their proud

It follows, as one follows
Laurent, his career of obser-
vation and engagement must al-
low for a suspension of cate-
gories even more vigorously,
not less, because their recon-
ciliaton is likelier than our 
menaces drive us to fear, and

Louis Malle
Le souffle au coeur
  Murmur of the Heart
Nouvelles Éditions de Films