Tuesday, December 31, 2019

The name one has

             So that I could mark it, the continuance of
             quality could in some way be that, the time
             of accord. For us, as beneath the falling water
                      we draw breath,
                      look at the sky.
             Talking to the man hitching a lift back
             from the hospital, I was incautious in sympathy:
             will she be back soon I was wishing to
             encourage his will to suppose. I can hardly
             expect her back he said and the water
             fell again, there was this sheet, as the time
                      lag yawned, and quality
                      became the name you have,
             like some anthem to the absent forces of nature.
             Ethnic loyalty, breathe as you like we in fact
             draw it out differently, our breath is gas
             in the mind. That awful image of choking.

The present American government has
challenged the latent ecumenicism in
every honest and inquiring heart, to
recoil into denial of both qualities.
At this, it is said to have succeed-
ed; but how hollowly, how transitor-
ily does that intimidating edict a-
chieve our hearing, given the dial-
ect of the voices which give this
verdict. It is not of the languages
of our continent -- French, Swahili,
Sioux, Spanish, Dutch, German, Gael-
ic, Italian -- but of our illiterate
merchants of obliteration as revenge.

We do not risk choking on the breath
of our descent, but on its aliena-
tion from others who would comprise 

J.H. Prynne
The White Stones
  Concerning Quality, Again
  first verse
New York Review Books, 2016©

Carlo Scarpa

Ivan Terestchenko
  Beach fire

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

A box of captain's biscuits, nearly full

"Rat," he moaned, "how about your supper, you poor, cold, hungry, weary animal? I've nothing to give you - nothing - not a crumb!"

"What a fellow you are for giving in!" said the Rat reproachfully. "Why, only just now I saw a sardine-opener on the kitchen dresser, quite distinctly; and everybody knows that means there are sardines about somewhere in the neighbourhood. Rouse yourself! Pull yourself together, and come with me and forage."

They went and foraged accordingly, hunting through every cupboard and turning out every drawer. The result was not so very depressing after all, though of course it might have been better; a tin of sardines - a box of captain's biscuits, nearly full - and a German sausage encased in silver paper.

"There's a banquet for you!" observed the rat, as he arranged the table. "I know some animals who would give their ears to be sitting down to supper with us tonight!"                             

  Look, what thy memory cannot contain
  Commit to these waste blanks, and
    thou shalt find
  Those children nursed, deliver'd
    from thy brain,
  To take a new acquaintance
    of thy mind.

John Julius Norwich
An English Christmas
  Kenneth Grahame
  The Wind in the Willows
John Murray, 2017©

Christmas Crackers
  Commonplace Selections
    William Shakespeare
    Sonnet 77
Allen Lane/Penguin, 1980©

Monday, December 23, 2019


From up here, nothing of Argia can be
seen; some say, "It's down below there,"
and we can only believe them. The place
is deserted. At night, putting your ear
to the ground, you can sometimes hear a
door slam.

Italo Calvino
Invisible Cities
William Weaver
Einaudi, 1972©
Harcourt, 1974©

Nino Migliori
People of Emilia

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Sunday nibbled sleeve xiii: The stone in our shoe

The plaintiff, giving evidence, said that when he was on the crossing in Chertsey Street, Guildford, he heard a shout. He turned and saw the cow coming pell-mell round a corner. It trampled over him and contin-ued on its way. He did not think it deliberately went for him. 

Mr Patrick O'Connor, for King Bros., submitted that the person in control of a tame animal mansuetae naturaecow was undoubtedly tame - was not liable for damage done by it which was 'foreign to its species'. He would seek to prove the cow attacked the plaintiff; if that were so, there was no liability.

His Lordship - "Is one to abandon every vestige of common sense in approaching this matter?"

Counsel - "Yes, my Lord."

The hearing was adjourned.

The Times [London]
  Law Reports
  date not available

John Julius Norwich
More Christmas Crackers
  1980 - 1989
Viking, 1990©

Jacob Dooley

Beacon Hill

Friday, December 20, 2019

Suppose it were Friday clxxi: Paris reading

I was re-reading The Tenth Muse the
other night, Judith Jones' wonderful
reflections on an active relationship
with food and wine. I wasn't yet sen-
sitized to the moral hazard of people
of means, intruding upon that natural
pursuit, and indeed it wasn't until
I overheard a Presidential candidate
warn of their presence that I was ab-
le to imagine the great risks which
lie in one's path, unless they are ex-
cluded. Suppose they should take an
interest in Paris; there might be a
Tuileries. There might be no end to
manifestations of means, and their
unbearable reminding of inequality.

It was enough to make one remorseful
for one's own appetite, for a com-
petently prepared sorrel soup. What
had been so wrong with that bitter
green, to make me want it luscious?

Thursday, December 19, 2019

How hangs the fruit of Madison?

Many pundits sound worried - worry
being their stock in trade, it has
a happy edge to it - that if the
US Senate is so far gone into the
hollowed out pulp of probity that
it simply cannot conduct a trial -
then the most pervasively corrupt
Administration ever to be deliver-
ed to its dock might simply light
on no more than an expanded feast.

They could be right, you say. Rare
is the advancement of putrefaction
so lacking in suspense, as to hold
no further nibble for the lowest
taste of the foulest appetite. But
who wishes to prove that verdict?

No, the keener problem, as it
appears to our view, is that
the context of judgment might
now have shifted from its or-
iginal morbidity of predation,
to a kind of hilarity of pre-
monitory release, as if some
hideously fulminated orange
were about to plop free from
its self-executing branch, on-
ly to roll into the nursery 
as mythologically mistreated.

It seems as if we no longer
quibble over how repulsive a
fruit can become, that's over-
stayed its season. Rather, at
issue is to avoid the re-runs.

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Origins of Wednesday cvi: Time to get dressed

The President of the United States, in the best maudlin air of his narcissist king-predecessor, Richard Second, issued a hand-emblazoned diatribe to the Congress on the crime of oversight which is to befall him today.

He never did expect
there would come a
time to get dressed.

Don Worth
Mt Baker, Washington
  gelatin silver print

William Shakespeare
Richard II
  III, 2

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

A room at the Post Office, anyone?

Everyone's agog over Larry Tribe's
inspiration, to tease the US Senate
with articles of Presidential im-
peachment, without delivering them.
that you can't do anything about an-
other branch of government in an e-
lection year. No Justice Garland? 
No rush to waste the People's time
with a President who's on the way
out. Unless, that is, he isn't. All
the time in the world, for the Sen-
ate to decide to run an honest bar. 

Needless to say, there is a middle
ground, which is to send over a few
articles every month, until the e-
lection, to see how they play by way
of attrition and the confusion of his
alibis. There is the merit, too, of
tying up the Chief Justice, who must
preside, so that his ill-gotten ma-
jority of ideologues will be strained
to ruin the nation in the next year,
as M'lord of casuistry incarnate su-
pervises his elected understudies.

Heaven knows, there is an abundance
of impeachable incidents to haul the
fellow up on, and we're not going
away. A room at the Trump, anyone?

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Sunday nibbled sleeve xii: Connecticut young

 Newtown High beat Darien yesterday,
 in the final seconds of a game that
 was tied, 7-7. Seven years ago, the
 same players survived a conflict we
 couldn't save them from, without an
 abuse of some Constitutional right.
 Whose rites were written in heaven?

Monday, December 9, 2019

Suppose Aeneas were American

How far our migrant always is from
setting up shop on destiny's shore.

In the meantime, there would be
a tiresome quality to his trials
if they were not flush with daz-
zling perpetuity, the indefatig-
able mechanism of surreptitious
poetry sending furtive messages
of being seen somewhere before.

      See to it that the Trojans
      Will never find their dwelling place and home
      In Italy. You know the ways to do it.
      You can make brother living in harmony
      With brother in concord turn on each other and bring
      Their house in hatred down around their heads.
      You know the way to bring the funeral torch.
      Your ways to hurt have a thousand different names.
      Your heart is full of possibilities.
      Shake them all loose at once. Do all of them.
      Tear peace to pieces. Sow the seeds of war.
      Make all the young men mad to take up arms.

Suppose Aeneas were American, and that a great last stand against him were invoked from the highest offices of trust, by resort to sowing permutations of confusion. We would see this, and tire of mentioning it, tire of thinking of it, every day an effluent of bombastic, vain alarms cranked from acrid tidal pools, demanding to be heeded. A shipwreck explained, as if it were contained in this day's drip.

I think it's more polite to recognize the familiar in what is irksome than to strive to copyright an anxious shot in the dank of expertise. We revisit Juno's speech to Allecto in Book Seven of Aeneas' story to see if anything's changed. 

Thomas Gainsborough
  Gainsborough Dupont
ca 1772

The Aeneid
David Ferry
University of Chicago Press

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Origins of Wednesday cv: Blueblood in the headlights

   To grandmother's house we go, of
   course, but what a fateful route
   we take. A friend of mine collid-
   ed with two deer on successive
   nights on the same open road in
   our part of the world last week.
   Deer just have no sense at all.

   You never see one wearing blue.

Joshua Reynolds
  Joshua Reynolds
National Portrait Gallery

Sunday, November 24, 2019

Sunday myths to recycle while U wait

  We have been approached by credible
  sources to lend our conduit of pub-
  lic service announcements to an ad-
  visory from the highest floor, off-
  chart: auditions have resumed for a
  new Ukrainian server, to replace an
  unfortunately faulty impersonation. 

Monday, November 18, 2019

Alibis we've begun to question

Fighting corruption, the story
Al Capone's boys gave for per-
petrating the St Valentine's
Day disturbance on Chicago's
near North Shore, rat-a-tat
artillery billowing fumes of
credibility as they spoke,
strikes us all these days as
a likelier story than the ex-
cuse of setting out for a set
of tennis in a sweater of met-
aphors so garbled as to sport
a hemstitched tartan collar,
juxtaposed with a "US" logo-
type, above a tweed waistband,
with one ear at least plugged
with surveillance gear, and a
necklace dangling pathetically
shorter than a garish red tie.

Bartek Szmigulski
Kit Butler rolls his eyes