Saturday, June 29, 2013

You really can't say, I hadn't warned you, Martin

    It just had always seemed
    that if we were to engage
    we'd only end up, resem-
    bling them.

Friday, June 28, 2013

We had been having, I do remember this, extremely strange weather

   It would not have
   been reasonable
   to have held any-
   one to account,
   even if one could
   have predicted it.

Suppose it were Friday lxxi: becoming the field ii

  And man, that noble insect, restless man
  Whose thoughts scale heaven in its mighty span,
  Pours forth his living soul in many a shade
  And taste runs riot in her every grade.
  While the low herd, mere savages subdued,
  With nought of feeling or of taste imbued
  Pass over sweetest scenes a careless eye
  As blank as midnight in its deepest dye;
  From these, and different far in rich degrees,
  Minds spring as various as the leaves of trees
  And Edens make where deserts spread before.

John Clare
"I Am,"
  The Selected Poetry
  of John Clare
Jonathan Bate, editor
  The Midsummer Cushion
  Shadows of Taste [fragment]
circa 1830
Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2003©

Thursday, June 27, 2013

They give you no points for a summer cold ii

The expedient of the semi-
permanent handkerchief, as-
sociated as much with hos-
pital protocols as it is
with Lord Tennyson and the
pickup games of goodguys &
badguys in the walled gar-
dens of youth, comes natur-
ally to mind when entertain-
ing a black-masked English
dog between his merciful
naps. But surely it must
have been for the symptoms
of the summer cold, if not
a passing plague, that this
hoary improvisation in the
breathable properties of lin-
en made its historic debut.
It is a curiosity to me, how
the mask's properties of con-
cealment and prophylaxis are
entirely lost, in their mig-
ration to the countenance of
a dog, and yet how well the
species carries a contrar-
ian message of candour and
conviviality with this device;
while, one's own experiments
in projecting these unmenacing
qualities tend to prove incon-
clusive at best. Yet the rid-
dle has the scale, one could
say, to match the reduced cap-
acities of a summer cold, as
having flickered through the
head of everyman at one time
or another, muggingly lying in
wait for the full-blown coach
and four of antibiotic relief.

They give you no points for a summer cold

They give a fellow no points
for writing about his summer
cold. Now, I know, having ut-
tered this complaint, one or
more of my colleagues, elo-
quent in discussing symptoms,
will run off a really peachy
report by eluding every dis-
agreable term and phrase, in
a nevertheless poignant way.
But is a summer cold that way,
or is it violent, unnerving,
desolating? I try to suppress
such questions about my own
summer cold, it seeming just
simply bad, cruel, ill-timed.
I could have opened a pleas-
ant Cuvée Louise last even-
ing, in the ordinary course
of celebrating the Supreme
Court's end of term. But the
fact of the matter is, they
left town two days too late.
I supped on a nicely crunchy
gazpacho instead, for which
the only evidence I was giv-
en of its passage across my
palate was the need to wash 
dishes. It took me most of
the evening, just to read a
final chapter of an anti-
fascist thriller of spot-
lessly generic predictabil-
ity; and if I couldn't zip
through a fantasy of pure
consolation, it can't have
been for dread of coming
to that end, but a symptom,
and one of the naughtier,
of an untoward summer cold.

Alan Furst
The Foreign Correspondent
Random House, 2006©

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Reflections in suspense

I believe there are greater
human rights than matrimony,
which is after all a social
convention, revolting as it
may be to withhold it from
anyone. This condition of a
right as a human, not a so-
cial attribute, distinguish-
es it from a baseball bat, 
a law. And we do, continu-
ously, observe it is the
reality of human right, not
what we do with it, which
generates confusion, ambiv-
alence, and sometimes fear.
Beneath all that, there is 
only the brittleness of
tautology, for all to see:
the assertion that there is
no right, because there is
no discrimination, only god.

Thus, among the trust-
worthiest of human respon-
ses, one to another, em-
pathy impresses one as the
masterpiece of philosophy
as well as of marital tech-
nique. A great revolution
which we have been privi-
leged to witness, some to
advance, is in the break-
ing down of the anguish of
separation, under the per-
sistent, sublimely uninten-
ded press of catastrophes
of discrimination. A study
of feeling is irreversible.

Our eyes have seen it. And
we are sustained by those
who give away how they love,
this luminance in everyone.

   From time to time it seems her form and smile,
   sweet and angelic, grow less harsh toward me,
   the air of her fine face
   clears like the sky, her happy eyes grow brighter.

   These sighs, what are they doing with me now,
   that used to come from sorrow
   and once made very clear 
   the desperate, anguished nature of my life?
   Happens I turn my face in her direction
   to try to ease my heart,
   it seems that Love is there
   lending his aid and taking up my cause.

   Yet I don't think this war is going to end
   or any tranquil peace come soothe my heart:
   my passion burns the more
   the more I'm tempted by my hopefulness.

Francesco Petrarca
1304 - 1374
The Poetry of Petrarch
  Sonnet 149
David Young, translation
Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2004©

Your rolling river

      When Lyndon Johnson quit,
      the entire edifice of na-
      tional madness shook with
      one anxious question. Did
      this mean McCarthy or did
      it mean Kennedy?

      It meant more
      not less of

San Francisco Chanticleer
op. cit.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Sourdough rises

From yeasts
borne on the

Not that we'd
be making the
same mistake,

Somebody estim-
ated that the
devices, alone,
of our surveil-
lance state are
doing the work
of 700 million

And how many
times does that
count the mirror?

    A terrorist in his underwear,
    Shaving in the steam, wipes the bathroom mirror clearer.
    I see, while death is near, life is nearer.
    My shaven skin is softer than the air.

Frederick Seidel
Nice Weather
Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2012©