nazim hikmet – things I didn’t know i loved (1962)

It’s 1962 March 28th
I’m sitting by the window on the Prague-Berlin train
night is falling
I never knew I liked
night descending like a tired bird on a smoky wet plain
I don’t like
comparing nightfall to a tired bird

I didn’t know I loved the earth
can someone who hasn’t worked the earth love it
I’ve never worked the earth
it must be my only Platonic love

and here I’ve loved rivers all this time
whether motionless like this they curl skirting the hills
European hills crowned with chateaus
or whether stretched out flat as far as the eye can see
I know you can’t wash in the same river even once
I know the river will bring new lights you’ll never see
I know we live slightly longer than a horse but not nearly as long as a crow
I know this has troubled people before
and will trouble those after me
I know all this has been said a thousand times before
and will be said after me

I didn’t know I loved the sky
cloudy or clear
the blue vault Andrei studied on his back at Borodino
in prison I translated both volumes of War and Peace into Turkish
I hear voices
not from the blue vault but from the yard
the guards are beating someone again
I didn’t know I loved trees
bare beeches near Moscow in Peredelkino
they come upon me in winter noble and modest
beeches are Russian the way poplars are Turkish
“the poplars of Izmir
losing their leaves. . .
they call me The Knife. . .
lover like a young tree. . .
I blow stately mansions sky-high”
in the Ilgaz woods in 1920 I tied an embroidered linen handkerchief
to a pine bough for luck

I never knew I loved roads
even the asphalt kind
Vera’s behind the wheel we’re driving from Moscow to the Crimea
Koktebele
formerly “Goktepé ili” in Turkish
the two of us inside a closed box
the world flows past on both sides distant and mute
I was never so close to anyone in my life
bandits stopped me on the red road between Bolu and Geredé
when I was eighteen
apart from my life I didn’t have anything in the wagon they could take
and at eighteen our lives are what we value least
I’ve written this somewhere before
wading through a dark muddy street I’m going to the shadow play
Ramazan night
a paper lantern leading the way
maybe nothing like this ever happened
maybe I read it somewhere an eight-year-old boy
going to the shadow play
Ramazan night in Istanbul holding his grandfather’s hand
his grandfather has on a fez and is wearing the fur coat
with a sable collar over his robe
and there’s a lantern in the servant’s hand
and I can’t contain myself for joy
flowers come to mind for some reason
poppies cactuses jonquils
in the jonquil garden in Kadikoy Istanbul I kissed Marika
fresh almonds on her breath
I was seventeen
my heart on a swing touched the sky
I didn’t know I loved flowers
friends sent me three red carnations in prison

I just remembered the stars
I love them too
whether I’m floored watching them from below
or whether I’m flying at their side

I have some questions for the cosmonauts
were the stars much bigger
did they look like huge jewels on black velvet
or apricots on orange
did you feel proud to get closer to the stars
I saw color photos of the cosmos in Ogonek magazine now don’t
be upset comrades but nonfigurative shall we say or abstract
well some of them looked just like such paintings which is to
say they were terribly figurative and concrete
my heart was in my mouth looking at them
they are our endless desire to grasp things
seeing them I could even think of death and not feel at all sad
I never knew I loved the cosmos

snow flashes in front of my eyes
both heavy wet steady snow and the dry whirling kind
I didn’t know I liked snow

I never knew I loved the sun
even when setting cherry-red as now
in Istanbul too it sometimes sets in postcard colors
but you aren’t about to paint it that way
I didn’t know I loved the sea
except the Sea of Azov
or how much

I didn’t know I loved clouds
whether I’m under or up above them
whether they look like giants or shaggy white beasts

moonlight the falsest the most languid the most petit-bourgeois
strikes me
I like it

I didn’t know I liked rain
whether it falls like a fine net or splatters against the glass my
heart leaves me tangled up in a net or trapped inside a drop
and takes off for uncharted countries I didn’t know I loved
rain but why did I suddenly discover all these passions sitting
by the window on the Prague-Berlin train
is it because I lit my sixth cigarette
one alone could kill me
is it because I’m half dead from thinking about someone back in Moscow
her hair straw-blond eyelashes blue

the train plunges on through the pitch-black night
I never knew I liked the night pitch-black
sparks fly from the engine
I didn’t know I loved sparks
I didn’t know I loved so many things and I had to wait until sixty
to find it out sitting by the window on the Prague-Berlin train
watching the world disappear as if on a journey of no return

19 April 1962
Moscow
__
(Thank you to Lesego Rampolokeng for showing me this poem I didn’t know I loved.❤)

rainer maria rilke – from “requiem for a friend” (1908)

… That’s what you had to come back for: the lament that we omitted. Can you hear me? I would like to fling my voice out like a cloth over the fragments of your death, and keep pulling at it until it is torn to pieces, and all my words would have to walk around shivering, in the tatters of that voice; as if lament were enough.

But now I must accuse: not the man who withdrew you from yourself (I cannot find him; he looks like everyone), but in this one man, I accuse: all men. When somewhere, from deep within me, there arises the vivid sense of having been a child, the purity and essence of that childhood where I once lived: then I don’t want to know it. I want to form an angel from that sense and hurl him upward, into the front row of angels who scream out, reminding God.

For this suffering has lasted far too long; none of us can bear it; it is too heavy — this tangled suffering of spurious love which, building on convention like a habit, calls itself just, and fattens on injustice. Show me a man with a right to his possession. Who can possess what cannot hold its own self, but only, now and then, will blissfully catch itself, then quickly throw itself away, like a child playing with a ball. As little as a captain can hold the carved Nike facing outward from his ship’s prow when the lightness of her godhead suddenly lifts her up, into the bright sea-wind: so little can one of us call back the woman who, now no longer seeing us, walks on along the narrow strip of her existence as though by miracle, in perfect safety — unless, that is, he wishes to do wrong. For this is wrong, if anything is wrong: not to enlarge the freedom of a love with all the inner freedom one can summon. We need, in love, to practice only this: letting each other go. For holding on comes easily; we do not need to learn it.

sulamith wolfling – the little mermaid

Are you still here? Are you standing in some corner? You knew so much of all this, you were able to do so much; you passed through life so open to all things, like an early morning. I know: women suffer; for love means being alone; and artists in their work sometimes intuit that they must keep transforming, where they love. You began both; both exist in that which any fame takes from you and disfigures. Oh you were far beyond all fame; were almost invisible; had withdrawn your beauty, softly, as one would lower a brightly colored flag on the gray morning after a holiday. You had just one desire: a year’s long work — which was never finished; was somehow never finished. If you are still here with me, if in this darkness there is still some place where your spirit resonates on the shallow sound waves stirred up by my voice: hear me: help me. We can so easily slip back from what we have struggled to attain, abruptly, into a life we never wanted; can find that we are trapped, as in a dream, and die there, without ever waking up. This can occur. Anyone who has lifted his blood into a years-long work may find that he can’t sustain it, the force of gravity is irresistible, and it falls back, worthless. For somewhere there is an ancient enmity between our daily life and the great work. Help me, in saying it, to understand it.

Do not return. If you can bear to, stay dead with the dead. The dead have their own tasks. But help me, if you can without distraction, since in me what is most distant sometimes helps.

[Translator: Stephen Mitchell]

genna gardini – performance scale (2017)

CN: Chronic illness; Multiple Sclerosis; graphic depictions of bodies and illness.

‘Performance Scale’ is a poem about Genna Gardini’s personal experience of being diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS). It was adapted into a film by three people close to Gardini and personally affected by MS. The film was created as part of Gardini’s 2016 ICA National Fellowship project MS Independent: Diagnosis.

Written by Genna Gardini
Directed by Gary Hartley
Performed by Amy Louise Wilson
Filmed and edited by Francois Knoetze
A Horses’ Heads Production, created with the assistance of the Institute for Creative Arts.

‘Performance Scale’ was nominated by PEN SA for the 2015 New Voices Award. Read an interview with Genna about the poem here.

Performance Scale
The startling fact was this: my body was offering a precise physiological equivalent to what had been going on in my mind.
Joan Didion, The White Album.

1:

I spent so many years attacking my body,
finding fault in faint abundance, obsessing over every lack
that it didn’t surprise me when I woke up one morning
to discover that it was finally fighting me back.

2:

This was the year you kept killing all the machines you owned
and that is what we refer to as a “running motif”
(and that is what we refer to as “dramatic irony”).

3:

You’ll come to,
conked out on some strange cistern in a Southern Suburbs mall,
your legs hinging against the plastic billboard of the bathroom door,
angled in the jamb like damp cardboard
folded and forced into a full stop.

4:

This is paper as metaphor and limbs as punctuation.
This is the reverse of writing.

5:

You’ll find your phone lying, lesioned, next to you,
a fissure fresh down its crustacean container
like a phantom crack. Like a mime at a wall,
bucking but flat.

6:

You’re tipped against a nurse
whose prophylactic palm pats nerved and certain on your neck.
You have heard her tell the others that they are good girls.
You are not a good girl
because when she sets you straight on the mat, then the scale,
she only says, “Try not to hurl”, then
“You must make a note of your weight”.

7:

The zinging technology of your mouth
steams against the frosted door of the consultation room.

8:

She is warm and alive as an urn at the Church fete
and you are the Styrofoam cup
leaning at her tap.

9:

“Look at it this way, at least you’ll be skinny!”
is quite a funny thing to say to someone
when you think they could be dying.

10:

You began to let your bob grow unbidden,
split and wrought
because if a part of your physicality still chooses to thrive
who are you cut it short?

10:

You make these kinds of jokes.

11:

You are convinced that the nails and hair of a corpse
inch out past conclusion, intrepid as weeds, eternal as worms,
eyeless and edging in all directions, past even the last right
to scratch into life. This is poetry, I thought,
before I was told that I was wrong.

12:

You retract back into yourself, creating the illusion of growth,
moving like a skirt hitched above the knee, balking as if in shock
pressed against the back of the closest ablution block.

13:

At 27, I became blind in one eye
but didn’t realise, because I only notice my mouth.
I thought perhaps a crack had formed between my head
and the cheese-cloth membrane of my disbelief.

14:

Speaking is uncertain and pinpricked.
It is shrouded. It is grief.

15:

Every bad thing that’d happened to me before
was because a man had decided to teach me a lesson
and this is why, after I found out,
I had to reconsider atheism.

14:

You are turning a manuscript into a
fan with the bridging press of pleats.
You are not Keats.

15:

The good doctor made eye-contact with me for the whole beat
which I know is supposed to convey the meaningfulness of the moment
because of my expensive acting degree.

16:

Raisins injected with water.

17:

Thinned the way paint under the slow drip of turpentine is.

18:

I pick this bed because of its proximity to the TV. I am surrounded by women who are in various states of collapse. One spends each day lamenting the canteen’s slopped and unbroiled chicken ala king, sending voicenotes to her daughters to remember to let the cat in. The others cannot walk. I do not want to know them. I do not want to admit that I am one of them. At first, I shuffle, hesitantly, like it’s a character choice, until I realise I am not performing and the gimmick has stuck, gammy. My legs lurch and twitch beyond me.

19:

I look up and there is nothing.

I look down at my own arm, which the nurse has stuck so repeatedly, finding me false and veinless, that the blood clotted before it gathered, like I was a boring meeting they wanted to leave and this might be the exit.

I look up and she is staring straight at me.

Her face is wide and aimed. I pull out my earphones but she is whispering. I say her name. She is mouthing something and I do not know the words but I know that what she is saying is help me and I cannot even help myself

which is why I am plugged into a wall like a faulty Blackberry on charge
which is why I am connected to wet metal that looks like a clothes horse,
which is why I am making so many Joan Crawford wire hanger jokes.
This means help me.

I thumb the call button. The station, which perpindiculates next to us is unlike, myself, without staff. I use the IV as a cane and I call out but the movement of my voice is as interrupted as my legs, cramped, boned by pain. There is a sound here, it rings out, clean and to the side as a scalpel. Panic is a disinfected metal knife, it slices me from myself, each thought going into the brain instead of the mouth, bounced like an email sent to the incorrect address. The prospect of the seizure is thick and electric in her bones, I can see it. The day before, her family had come to visit. Two of them explained how this latest bout was caused of the evil thoughts she allowed to enter her head. She must lose them. My own – which buzzed, a constant cortex, old and reliable as a Cortina that has been veering for years, cutting breaks and ties with whoever passed me by – stay stuck. I wish I had a demon but I don’t, I have my legs and I run past corn rows of beds to find some assistance

20:

towards the end.

the window – 29 january 2017

fb_img_1485619224214.jpg
Theatre Arts Admin Collective
Methodist Church Hall, Cnr Milton Road & Wesley Street, Observatory, Cape Town
Doors open 19:30
R50

20:00 – Main Hall – Lliezel Ellick / Roxanne De Freitas / Rosemary Lombard (vocal performance piece)
20:25 – Main Hall – Louise Westerhout /Keenan Chas Ahrends / Nicola van Straaten (word/sound/dance)
20:40 – Minor Hall – Inka Kendzia / Jessica Smith (video and live performance)
BREAK
21:00 – Main Hall – Rhea Dally / Justin Allart (sound/noise performance)
21:20 – Main Hall – Lucy Hazard / Puleng Lange-Stewart / Hannah Walton (video with spoken word performance)
21:35 – Minor Hall – FAITH XVII (video installation)
BREAK
22:00 – Main Hall – Chantelle Gray (performance piece)
22:20 – Main Hall – Debra Pryor / Mark O’ Donovan (performance piece)
Continuous – Meeting Room 1 – Sydelle Willow Smith (photography)
Continuous – Meeting Room 2 – Miranda Moss (installation)
___
THE WINDOW

A window I. A partition. A voyeuristic interface between spaces. A civilizing constraint. Gazing. At the window, through the window, beyond the window. The voyeuristic gaze: preconditioned values, assumptions, desire. The civilizing gaze: conditioning values, assumptions, desire. Gazing. An act of memorializing (it suggests spectatorship, a fetishistic surveying; it suggests participation: in memory, in meaning-making).

A window II. A framing device. Commonly used in art and cinema. To exaggerate part or parts of a figure (forms, tones, shapes, shadows). To recompose an image. To slice up the world into smaller, more wieldy frames. To elicit metaphorical interpretation. (The audience is prompted to step into a world of windows.)

A window III. The window. A composing stratagem. (A perspectival arrangement.) A voyeuristic interface between artist and audience. An invitation to interact with the unknown, the unknowable, the known known. It is not a linear perspective of space, but a cutting up of, slicing into, carving through. (It suggests the existence of another, entirely otherworldly, place.)
__

“A concept is a brick. It can be used to build a courthouse of reason. Or it can be thrown through the window.”
– Gilles Deleuze

moment of tangency: a glimpse of what might have been (2017/1913)

The 18 January 2017 word from the Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows.

This resonated for me with a sentiment Rainer Maria Rilke captured in a poem more than a century earlier, in 1913:

You who never arrived
in my arms, Beloved, who were lost
from the start,
I don’t even know what songs
would please you. I have given up trying
to recognize you in the surging wave of
the next moment. All the immense
images in me — the far-off, deeply-felt
landscape, cities, towers, and bridges, and
unsuspected turns in the path,
and those powerful lands that were once
pulsing with the life of the gods–
all rise within me to mean
you, who forever elude me.

You, Beloved, who are all
the gardens I have ever gazed at,
longing. An open window
in a country house– , and you almost
stepped out, pensive, to meet me.
Streets that I chanced upon,–
you had just walked down them and vanished.
And sometimes, in a shop, the mirrors
were still dizzy with your presence and,
startled, gave back my too-sudden image.
Who knows? Perhaps the same
bird echoed through both of us
yesterday, separate, in the evening…

naomi shihab nye – kindness (1995)

Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth. What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know how desolate the landscape can be between the regions of kindness. How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.

Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road. You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive.

Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.
Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to gaze at bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
It is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you everywhere
like a shadow or a friend.

__

Naomi Shihab Nye was born in St. Louis, Missouri in 1952. Her father was a Palestinian refugee and her mother an American of German and Swiss descent, and Nye spent her adolescence in both Jerusalem and San Antonio, Texas. Read more here.

god is busy with ghosts and grime

Processed with VSCO with c1 presetWhat world to which you do not belong
What barren place, what days are these
What awful thing has laid you down
Betwixt this bed alone, you sleep

In a room of ghosts and grime and sin
With no bedding to curl against your chest
To comfort skin and heart and head
Or find reprieve, remember this:

This world to which you do not belong
Is not of you or Her or He
But a world of them, the scribbled lines
of man and man, now man-machine

What of your bed amidst their house
Do you make it, leave it, invite them in?
Or do you tie the sheets and fashion means
To hang your life, go whispering

Along the corridors where they tried to kiss you
Beneath the beams of others gone
Below the words of men who missed you
And missed the most, your unborn son

What now, what world (you’re standing yet –
You’ve left the bed and room and curse)
“What will you have me do this time
What good is left, what use of verse?”

And yonder still, the One you seek
Forever held in suspension there
Just beyond and just ahead
The endless walk to God knows where

But now the ghosts and grime are yours
Not all have seen that bathroom floor,
Fewer still, been strapped to beds;
Freed their limbs and asked for more

Folly! You live; you’re safe and sound
And most of ghosts have long since left
This talk of lover and beloved, how,
When Aleppo burns, lovers bereft

Of beloved, once in bone and flesh
Oh God (for what is God but wonder)
In what world does hell come breathing thus?
Who tears such limbs and hearts asunder?

But this is mine (you speak of light)
And that is theirs, by karma dealt
If this were true (you once were them)
You’d fall to the floor with all you felt

And further into darkness go,
With mimicry of the darkest yet,
To give all that you could and all that you are
To pray in a place where light had left

Throw glitter, glitter at every bent
Hold lightly prayers for beloved thine
You ask for more but don’t malign
A God who’s busy with ghosts and grime.

italo calvino – the distance of the moon (1965)

‘Like many a critical humanist before him, from Michel de Montaigne to Jonathan Swift, Calvino seems to wonder if our best intellectual efforts, even the sciences, fall subject to “the foibles and fancies of humans,” and to the askew narrative logic of folklore.’  I found this wonderful thing via Open Culture. I had to go and find the story on which the animation is based, and when I did, I had to share it with you, at new moon.

The Distance of the Moon

At one time, according to Sir George H. Darwin, the Moon was very close to the Earth. Then the tides gradually pushed her far away: the tides that the Moon herself causes in the Earth’s waters, where the Earth slowly loses energy.

How well I know! — old Qfwfq cried,– the rest of you can’t remember, but I can. We had her on top of us all the time, that enormous Moon: when she was full — nights as bright as day, but with a butter-colored light — it looked as if she were going to crush us; when she was new, she rolled around the sky like a black umbrella blown by the wind; and when she was waxing, she came forward with her horns so low she seemed about to stick into the peak of a promontory and get caught there. But the whole business of the Moon’s phases worked in a different way then: because the distances from the Sun were different, and the orbits, and the angle of something or other, I forget what; as for eclipses, with Earth and Moon stuck together the way they were, why, we had eclipses every minute: naturally, those two big monsters managed to put each other in the shade constantly, first one, then the other.

Orbit? Oh, elliptical, of course: for a while it would huddle against us and then it would take flight for a while. The tides, when the Moon swung closer, rose so high nobody could hold them back. There were nights when the Moon was full and very, very low, and the tide was so high that the Moon missed a ducking in the sea by a hair’s breadth; well, let’s say a few yards anyway. Climb up on the Moon? Of course we did. All you had to do was row out to it in a boat and, when you were underneath, prop a ladder against her and scramble up.

The spot where the Moon was lowest, as she went by, was off the Zinc Cliffs. We used to go out with those little rowboats they had in those days, round and flat, made of cork. They held quite a few of us: me, Captain Vhd Vhd, his wife, my deaf cousin, and sometimes little Xlthlx — she was twelve or so at that time. On those nights the water was very calm, so silvery it looked like mercury, and the fish in it, violet-colored, unable to resist the Moon’s attraction, rose to the surface, all of them, and so did the octopuses and the saffron medusas. There was always a flight of tiny creatures — little crabs, squid, and even some weeds, light and filmy, and coral plants — that broke from the sea and ended up on the Moon, hanging down from that lime-white ceiling, or else they stayed in midair, a phosphorescent swarm we had to drive off, waving banana leaves at them.

This is how we did the job: in the boat we had a ladder: one of us held it, another climbed to the top, and a third, at the oars, rowed until we were right under the Moon; that’s why there had to be so many of us (I only mentioned the main ones). The man at the top of the ladder, as the boat approached the Moon, would become scared and start shouting: “Stop! Stop! I’m going to bang my head!” That was the impression you had, seeing her on top of you, immense, and all rough with sharp spikes and jagged, saw-tooth edges. It may be different now, but then the Moon, or rather the bottom, the underbelly of the Moon, the part that passed closest to the Earth and almost scraped it, was covered with a crust of sharp scales. It had come to resemble the belly of a fish, and the smell too, as I recall, if not downright fishy, was faintly similar, like smoked salmon.

In reality, from the top of the ladder, standing erect on the last rung, you could just touch the Moon if you held your arms up. We had taken the measurements carefully (we didn’t yet suspect that she was moving away from us); the only thing you had to be very careful about was where you put your hands. I always chose a scale that seemed fast (we climbed up in groups of five or six at a time), then I would cling first with one hand, then with both, and immediately I would feel ladder and boat drifting away from below me, and the motion of the Moon would tear me from the Earth’s attraction. Yes, the Moon was so strong that she pulled you up; you realized this the moment you passed from one to the other: you had to swing up abruptly, with a kind of somersault, grabbing the scales, throwing your legs over your head, until your feet were on the Moon’s surface. Seen from the Earth, you looked as if you were hanging there with your head down, but for you, it was the normal position, and the only odd thing was that when you raised your eyes you saw the sea above you, glistening, with the boat and the others upside down, hanging like a bunch of grapes from the vine.

My cousin, the Deaf One, showed a special talent for making those leaps. His clumsy hands, as soon as they touched the lunar surface (he was always the first to jump up from the ladder), suddenly became deft and sensitive. They found immediately the spot where he could hoist himself up; in fact just the pressure of his palms seemed enough to make him stick to the satellite’s crust. Once I even thought I saw the Moon come toward him, as he held out his hands.

He was just as dextrous in coming back down to Earth, an operation still more difficult. For us, it consisted in jumping, as high as we could, our arms upraised (seen from the Moon, that is, because seen from the Earth it looked more like a dive, or like swimming downwards, arms at our sides), like jumping up from the Earth in other words, only now we were without the ladder, because there was nothing to prop it against on the Moon. But instead of jumping with his arms out, my cousin bent toward the Moon’s surface, his head down as if for a somersault, then made a leap, pushing with his hands. From the boat we watched him, erect in the air as if he were supporting the Moon’s enormous ball and were tossing it, striking it with his palms; then, when his legs came within reach, we managed to grab his ankles and pull him down on board.

Now, you will ask me what in the world we went up on the Moon for; I’ll explain it to you. We went to collect the milk, with a big spoon and a bucket. Moon-milk was very thick, like a kind of cream cheese. It formed in the crevices between one scale and the next, through the fermentation of various bodies and substances of terrestrial origin which had flown up from the prairies and forests and lakes, as the Moon sailed over them. It was composed chiefly of vegetal juices, tadpoles, bitumen, lentils, honey, starch crystals, sturgeon eggs, molds, pollens, gelatinous matter, worms, resins, pepper, mineral salts, combustion residue. You had only to dip the spoon under the scales that covered the Moon’s scabby terrain, and you brought it out filled with that precious muck. Not in the pure state, obviously; there was a lot of refuse. In the fermentation (which took place as the Moon passed over the expanses of hot air above the deserts) not all the bodies melted; some remained stuck in it: fingernails and cartilage, bolts, sea horses, nuts and peduncles, shards of crockery, fishhooks, at times even a comb. So this paste, after it was collected, had to be refined, filtered. But that wasn’t the difficulty: the hard part was transporting it down to the Earth. This is how we did it: we hurled each spoonful into the air with both hands, using the spoon as a catapult. The cheese flew, and if we had thrown it hard enough, it stuck to the ceiling, I mean the surface of the sea. Once there, it floated, and it was easy enough to pull it into the boat. In this operation, too, my deaf cousin displayed a special gift; he had strength and a good aim; with a single, sharp throw, he could send the cheese straight into a bucket we held up to him from the boat. As for me, I occasionally misfired; the contents of the spoon would fail to overcome the Moon’s attraction and they would fall back into my eye.

I still haven’t told you everything, about the things my cousin was good at. That job of extracting lunar milk from the Moon’s scales was child’s play to him: instead of the spoon, at times he had only to thrust his bare hand under the scales, or even one finger. He didn’t proceed in any orderly way, but went to isolated places, jumping from one to the other, as if he were playing tricks on the Moon, surprising her, or perhaps tickling her. And wherever he put his hand, the milk spurted out as if from a nanny goat’s teats. So the rest of us had only to follow him and collect with our spoons the substance that he was pressing out, first here, then there, but always as if by chance, since the Deaf One’s movements seemed to have no clear, practical sense.

There were places, for example, that he touched merely for the fun of touching them: gaps between two scales, naked and tender folds of lunar flesh. At times my cousin pressed not only his fingers but — in a carefully gauged leap — his big toe (he climbed onto the Moon barefoot) and this seemed to be the height of amusement for him, if we could judge by the chirping sounds that came from his throat as he went on leaping. The soil of the Moon was not uniformly scaly, but revealed irregular bare patches of pale, slippery clay.

These soft areas inspired the Deaf One to turn somersaults or to fly almost like a bird, as if he wanted to impress his whole body into the Moon’s pulp. As he ventured farther in this way, we lost sight of him at one point. On the Moon there were vast areas we had never had any reason or curiosity to explore, and that was where my cousin vanished; I had suspected that all those somersaults and nudges he indulged in before our eyes were only a preparation, a prelude to something secret meant to take place in the hidden zones.

We fell into a special mood on those nights off the Zinc Cliffs: gay, but with a touch of suspense, as if inside our skulls, instead of the brain, we felt a fish, floating, attracted by the Moon. And so we navigated, playing and singing. The Captain’s wife played the harp; she had very long arms, silvery as eels on those nights, and armpits as dark and mysterious as sea urchins; and the sound of the harp was sweet and piercing, so sweet and piercing it was almost unbearable, and we were forced to let out long cries, not so much to accompany the music as to protect our hearing from it. Continue reading

lisa hannigan – we, the drowned (live, paste studios, nyc, 8 september 2016)

We, the drowned
Hold our hollow hearted ground
Til we swallow ourselves down
Again

We, the ashes,
We spent our days like matches
And burned ourselves as black as
The end.

We know not the fire in which we burn
But we sing and we sing
And the flames grow higher.
We read not the pages which we turn
But we sing, and we sing, and we sing, and we sing

We, the wrong,
We the sewn up and long gone,
Were before and all along
Like this

We, the drowned
The lost and found out,
We are all finished again.

siphokazi jonas – extraction (2016)

Listen. This woman’s words will transport you beyond the brutality, the sordid pettiness of humanity, and restore to you the depth of timeless Truth, which is Love. Give thanks with every atom of your being.

The stone is a room
Without windows or doors
Or floors.
The stone is a fist – holds
Captive a handful of broken bones
And perfect thorns.
The body of the stone does not conceive
She is a muted womb, a blunt fallopian tube
With a uterus like Jericho,
Her walls are always seven days
Away from falling.

She lies submerged
In an ocean without borders,
A stranger to shores.
Even the bulldozing tide cannot breach her pores,
What! with her lungs unravelled and
Worn like second skin to seal herself
From the influence of
The Spirit which hovers outside like breath.

She no longer desires to
Shatter surfaces and float.

A student to necessities of survival
She has taught herself to harness tornadoes like cattle and
To plow the dark and
Bury her solitude in the saline barrenness
Of the ocean floor –
The silence of the deep
Is graveyard.
From between tombstone lips she counts each body by name:
There is buried Faith.
There rests what is left of Peace,
In that corner is Love
In all its inglorious manifestations
And here lies Hope. Cremated.

She makes home in the company of ghosts
Where she once prayed for their resurrection.

Finds comfort
In the erosion and corrosion
Of a current without conscience
Surrendering to her inability to preserve things
To keep them from hitchhiking
On the tide and sailing away.

She is rooted in shadows here
Is undisturbed here
Wounds are familiar here
Healing is unwelcome here
Pain is a refugee here
Pretends to the point of believing
That the water in her lungs is air. Here.
Who would recognise
The tears of a stone submerged
In an ocean, without borders?

In this reluctant baptism
How can she know, that
She has all of God’s attention?
A Sculptor in love with a drowning stone.

In the beginning was a message in a bottle. He writes:

You say
To face God uncensored
Feels like almost dying
Feels like dying, almost.
Of course, life is a curse to those at
Peace with their death.

You ask
Who could love a stone without form
In the darkness, in the deep?

I have had feelings for you
Since before existence.
I have only created time to mark
Our first encounter.
This first love will not be relegated
To forgetfulness the tombs of memory.
Just
Give me six days to woo you.

For your sake, I will
Disguise myself as language.
My voice is a birth canal
Each word born a seed
That sprouts in speech
Each letter a bristle on a broom
To clear the air

I have always seen you
Crocheted and crafted you
In imagination
Every thread of DNA was designed
In thought
You are what I intended

Let there be light – that you might
See Me too
Hands First
Let them be home
Here the universe sleeps
Without anxiety and
Your name is a constellation that
Pre-dates the stars
Tattooed in nails
These palms are promises
Eager to cradle a rolling stone
These palms are day and revelation
They will anchor you in untethered night
When you do not see me
Acquaint yourself with the fingerprint of my works.

I will abolish the waters at the compulsion
Of my tongue, like a staff
Under the sea my word forges dry ground
And the tide will not go further
Than my command.

I could offer bouquets of flowers exiled from their roots
Or carpet petals at your feet
But the borders of my affection
Traverse generations
That the children of a stone
Might not forget the attention of Sculptor

You will buckle under the weight of my tenderness
Until you transform into flesh then spirit
And the spirit is clay, is soil, is field is fertility.

Let me dress you up from within
Make you an anchor for roots
Here you will yield fruit
like Russian dolls
You will bear
Seeds within seeds within seeds
Within season. A stone will be paradise.
For living things to gather
The site of resurrection for buried things
Wild and tame,
By air or on land.

The stone is a mine
Of precious things
The stone is mine.

Here are two rings
Their names are sun and moon
Sprinkled with galaxies and stars for gemstones
Encased in velvet heavens
This my proposal
In balls of fire and light
Wear them day or night
Until we reunite.

Now rest.
It is Sabbath.

****

The value of a precious stone
Lies in its cost to the one who will find it
Ask the Saviour of this blue and green culprit
Exchanged His life just to mine it
Day 6 set aside to carve it
With His hands until He fit it
Into His image. There can be no counterfeit
Not when the price was God in
A human outfit

Tell a poet
Who chisels words
Between papers and pens
But she will never be the Word
Only its subsidiary
Remind her
A stone can never earn or diminish
The love of a Rock
That stood before the beginning
All her attempts to give herself value
Are dust. Now mud. Now wrinkled.
The philosophies of one who has
Been in the water too long.

We are stones submerged
In the distortion of waters
Our separations from God are sirens
Singing us into
Resistance and suicide.
Tell that stone resident under your ribs
It is only precious
Because of the love of a Sculptor

7 billion stones drowning
In an ocean without borders
Some reluctant for rescue
Even if we refuse the proposal
The love of an ageless Rock will outlast
The extinction of time itself.

___

Siphokazi’s website is HERE.

michelle mcgrane – cento for leonard cohen (2006)

leonard-cohen-montreal-1973-photo-ralph-gibson

Leonard Cohen, Montreal, 1973. Photo: Ralph Gibson

once there was a path and a girl with chestnut hair – – – we met when we were almost young – – deep in the green lilac park – – you held on to me like i was a crucifix – – as we went kneeling through the dark – – – i loved you in the morning – our kisses deep and warm – – your hair upon the pillow like a sleepy golden storm – – yes – many loved before us – i know that we are not new – – in city and in forest they smiled like me and you – – – let me see you moving like they do in babylon – – show me slowly what i only know the limits of – – dance me very tenderly and dance me very long – – dance me to the wedding now – dance me on and on – – – there’s a concert hall in vienna – – where your mouth had a thousand reviews – – i remember you well in the chelsea hotel – – you were famous – your heart was a legend – – i thought you were the crown prince – – of all the wheels in ivory town – and everywhere that you wandered – – love seemed to go along with you – – – lost among the subway crowds – – i tried to catch your eye – – i saw you there with the rose in your teeth – – i’d been waiting – i was sure – – – but you’d been to the station to meet every train – – – i knew i was in danger of losing what i used to think was mine – – just dance me to the dark side of the gym – – chances are i’ll let you do most anything – – so we’re dancing close – the band is playing stardust – – balloons and paper streamers floating down on us – – – i know you’re hungry – i can hear it in your voice – – and there are many parts of me to touch – you have your choice – – – the women in your scrapbook – – – (i was in that army – yes i stayed a little while – – though i wore a uniform i was not born to fight) – – – now your love is a secret all over the block – – – i’m just a station on your way – – – where are you golden boy – – where is your famous golden touch? – – the sun pours down like honey – – and yes it’s come to this – it’s come to this – – hey prince you need a shave – – – i forget to pray for the angels – – and then the angels forget to pray for us – – – your letters they all say that you’re beside me now – – then why do i feel alone? – – i’m standing on a ledge and your fine spider web – – is fastening my ankle to a stone – – – everybody knows that you love me baby – – everybody knows that you really do – – everybody knows that you’ve been faithful – – ah – give or take a night or two – – everybody knows you’ve been discreet – – but there were so many people you just had to meet – – without your clothes – and everybody knows – – – and i can’t wait to tell you to your face – – and i can’t wait for you to take my place – – – i cannot follow you – my love – – you cannot follow me – – i am the distance you put between – – all of the moments that we will be – – – i choose the rooms that i live in with care – – the windows are small and the walls almost bare – – there’s only one bed and there’s only one prayer – – i listen all night for your step on the stair – – – i don’t like your fashion business mister – – and i don’t like those drugs that keep you thin – – – some women wait for jesus – and some women wait for cain – – i was waiting for a miracle – i waited half my life away – – – lately you’ve started to stutter – as though you had nothing to say – – – you don’t love me quite so fiercely now – – you’re weak and you’re harmless – – you’re sleeping in your harness – – – you thought that it could never happen – – to all the people you became – – the rain falls down on last year’s man – – that’s a crayon in his hand – – – like any dealer he was watching for the card – – that is so high and wild – – he’ll never need to deal another – – – (o you’ve seen that man before) – – his golden arm dispatching cards – – (but now it’s rusted from the elbow to the finger – – and he wants to trade the game he plays for shelter) – – – everybody knows that the dice are loaded – – everybody rolls with their fingers crossed – – everybody knows that the war is over – – everybody knows the good guys lost – – everybody knows the fight was fixed – – the poor stay poor – the rich get rich – – that’s how it goes – everybody knows – – – well – i found a silver needle – i put it into my arm – – it did some good – did some harm – – but the nights were cold – and it almost kept me warm – – – in a dream of hungarian lanterns – – in the mist of some sweet afternoon – – some girls wander by mistake – – into the mess that scalpels make – – – morning came and then came noon – – dinner time a scalpel blade – – lay beside my silver spoon – – those who earnestly are lost – – are lost and lost again – – – i journey down the hundred steps – – the street is still the very same – – was i – was i only limping – was i really lame? – – – i can’t run no more with this lawless crowd – – – you say you’ve been humbled in love – – cut down in your love – – – you say you’ve gone away from me – – (i see you’ve gone and changed your name again) – – but i can feel you when you breathe – – – you stumble into this movie-house – then climb in to the frame – – – your pain is no credential here – – of course you’ll say you can’t complain – – you who wish to conquer pain – – love calls you by your name – – – why do you stand by the window – – abandoned to beauty and pride – – the thorn of the night in your chest – – the spear of the age in your side – – lost in the rages of fragrance – – lost in the rags of remorse – – lost in the waves of a sickness – – that loosens the high silver nerves – – – yes you who must leave everything that you cannot control – – it begins with your family – but soon it comes around to your soul – – – well i’ve been where you’re hanging – i think i can see how you’re pinned – – when you’re not feeling holy – your loneliness says that you’ve sinned – – – it’s four in the morning – the end of december – – it’s dark now and it’s snowing – – the cadillacs go creeping now through the night and the poison gas – – the cities they are broke in half and the middle men are gone – – – all the rocket-ships are climbing through the sky – – the holy books are open wide – – – the blizzard – the blizzard of the world – – has crossed the threshold – – – do you remember all of those pledges – – that we pledged in the passionate night – – ah they’re soiled now – they’re torn at the edges – – like moths on a still yellow light – – no penance serves to renew them – – no massive transfusions of trust – – why not even revenge can undo them – – so twisted these vows and so crushed – – – i’m cold as a new razor blade – – your shirt is all undone – – – will you kneel beside this bed – – that we polished so long ago – – your eyes are wild and your knuckles are red – – and you’re speaking far too low – – – you don’t know me from the wind – – you never will – you never did – – – the crumbs of love that you offer me – – they’re the crumbs i’ve left behind – – – and is this what you wanted – – to live in a house that is haunted – – by the ghost of you and me? – – – i’ve lain by this window long enough – – to get used to an empty room – – and your love is some dust in an old man’s cough – – who is tapping his foot to a tune – – – and why are you so quiet now – – standing there in the doorway? – – you chose your journey long before – – you came upon this highway – – remember when the scenery started fading – – i held you till you learned to walk on air – – so don’t look down the ground is gone – – there’s no one waiting anyway – – the smokey life is practised – -everywhere – – – looks like freedom but it feels like death – – – i balance on a wishing well that all men call the world – – we are so small between the stars – so large against the sky – – – and where do all these highways go – now that we are free? – – the age of lust is giving birth – and both the parents ask – – the nurse to tell them fairytales on both sides of the glass – – – there is a war between the rich and poor – – a war between the man and the woman – – there is a war between the ones who say there is a war – – and the ones who say there isn’t – – – there is a war between the left and right – – a war between the black and white – – a war between the odd and even – – – i can’t pretend i still feel very much like singing – – as they carry the bodies away – – – there’s blood on every bracelet – – you can see it – you can taste it – – – (every heart – every heart – – to love will come but like a refugee) – – – too early for the rainbow – too early for the dove – – these are the final days – this is the darkness – this is the flood – – and there is no man or woman who can’t be touched – – but you who come between them will be judged – – – so the great affair is over but whoever would have guessed – – it would leave us all so vacant and so deeply unimpressed – – – it’s like our visit to the moon or to that other star – – i guess you go for nothing if you really want to go that far – – – it’s over – it ain’t going any further – – i’m sick of pretending – i’m broken from bending – – i’ve lived too long on my knees – – – the river is swollen up with rusty cans – – and the trees are burning in your promised land – – – along with several thousand dreams – – – there’s nothing left to do – – when you know that you’ve been taken – – – it’s closing time.


(cento: a composition made up of quotations from other authors; latin: patchwork garment)

lyrics taken from:
songs of leonard cohen: suzanne; master song; winter lady; stranger song; sisters of mercy; so long marianne; hey, that’s no way to say goodbye; stories of the street; teachers
i’m your man: first we take manhattan; ain’t no cure for love; everybody knows; take this waltz
songs of love and hate: avalanche; last year’s man; dress rehearsal rag; diamonds in the mine; love calls you by your name; famous blue raincoat
the future: the future; waiting for the miracle; closing time; anthem; light as the breeze; death of a ladies’ man: iodine; paper thin hotel; memories; death of a ladies’ man
songs from a room: the old revolution; the butcher; you know who i am; tonight will be fine
new skin for the old ceremony: is this what you wanted; chelsea hotel #2; there is a war
various positions: dance me to the end of love
recent songs: the guests; humbled in love; the window; the gypsy’s wife; the smokey life

for whom the bell curve tolls

“No man is an Iland, intire of it selfe; every man is a peece of the Continent, a part of the maine; if a Clod bee washed away by the Sea, Europe is the lesse, as well as if a Promontorie were, as well as if a Mannor of thy friends or of thine owne were; any mans death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankinde; And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee.”

– John “I’m done” Donne. Meditation 17, from Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions, 1624

galway kinnell – little sleep-head’s sprouting hair in the moonlight (1971)

galway-kinnell-book-of-nightmares1
You scream, waking from a nightmare.
When I sleepwalk
into your room, and pick you up,
and hold you up in the moonlight, you cling to me
hard,
as if clinging could save us. I think
you think
I will never die, I think I exude
to you the permanence of smoke or stars,
even as
my broken arms heal themselves around you.

2
I have heard you tell
the sun, don’t go down, I have stood by
as you told the flower, don’t grow old,
don’t die. Little Maud,
I would blow the flame out of your silver cup,
I would suck the rot from your fingernail,
I would brush your sprouting hair of the dying light,
I would scrape the rust off your ivory bones,
I would help death escape through the little ribs of your body,
I would alchemize the ashes of your cradle back into wood,
I would let nothing of you go, ever,
until washerwomen
feel the clothes fall asleep in their hands,
and hens scratch their spell across hatchet blades,
and rats walk away from the cultures of the plague,
and iron twists weapons toward the true north,
and grease refuses to slide in the machinery of progress,
and men feel as free on earth as fleas on the bodies of men,
and lovers no longer whisper to the presence beside them in the
dark, O corpse-to-be …
And yet perhaps this is the reason you cry,
this the nightmare you wake screaming from:
being forever
in the pre-trembling of a house that falls.

3
In a restaurant once, everyone
quietly eating, you clambered up
on my lap: to all
the mouthfuls rising toward
all the mouths, at the top of your voice
you cried
your one word, caca! caca! caca!
and each spoonful
stopped, a moment, in midair, in its withering
steam.
Yes,
you cling because
I, like you, only sooner
than you, will go down
the path of vanished alphabets,
the roadlessness
to the other side of the darkness,
your arms
like the shoes left behind,
like the adjectives in the halting speech
of old men,
which once could call up the lost nouns.

4
And you yourself,
some impossible Tuesday
in the year Two Thousand and Nine, will walk out
among the black stones
of the field, in the rain,
and the stones saying
over their one word, ci-gît, ci-gît, ci-gît,
and the raindrops
hitting you on the fontanel
over and over, and you standing there
unable to let them in.

5
If one day it happens
you find yourself with someone you love
in a café at one end
of the Pont Mirabeau, at the zinc bar
where white wine stands in upward opening glasses,
and if you commit then, as we did, the error
of thinking,
one day all this will only be memory,
learn,
as you stand
at this end of the bridge which arcs,
from love, you think, into enduring love,
learn to reach deeper
into the sorrows
to come – to touch
the almost imaginary bones
under the face, to hear under the laughter
the wind crying across the black stones. Kiss
the mouth
which tells you, here,
here is the world. This mouth. This laughter. These temple bones.
The still undanced cadence of vanishing.

6
In the light the moon
sends back, I can see in your eyes
the hand that waved once
in my father’s eyes, a tiny kite
wobbling far up in the twilight of his last look:
and the angel
of all mortal things lets go the string.

7
Back you go, into your crib.
The last blackbird lights up his gold wings: farewell.
Your eyes close inside your head,
in sleep. Already
in your dreams the hours begin to sing.
Little sleep’s-head sprouting hair in the moonlight,
when I come back
we will go out together,
we will walk out together among
the ten thousand things,
each scratched too late with such knowledge, the wages
of dying is love.

__
from The Book of Nightmares by Galway Kinnell (Mariner Books, 1971). Thank you Kelly Rosenthal for sharing this on Facebook this morning.

an excerpt from louise gluck’s ‘disruption, hesitation, silence’ (1995)

In my generation, most of the poets I admire are interested in length. By which I mean that they want to write long lines. long stanzas, long poems, poems which cover an extended sequence of events. To all this I feel an instant objection, whose sources I’m not confident I know. Some of the sources may lie in character, in my tendency to reject all ideas I didn’t think of first, which habit creates a highly charged adversarial relationship with the new. What is positive in this process is that it creates an obligation to articulate an argument.

What I share with my friends is ambition; what I dispute is its definition. I do not think that more information always makes a richer poem. I am attracted to ellipsis, to the unsaid, to suggestion, to eloquent, deliberate silence. The unsaid, for me, exerts great power: often I wish an entire poem could be made in this vocabulary. It is analogous to the unseen; for example, to the power of ruins, to works of art either damaged or incomplete. Such works inevitably allude to larger contexts; they haunt because they are not whole, though wholeness is implied: another time, a world in which they were whole, or were to have been whole, is implied. There is no moment in which their first home is felt to be the museum. A few years ago, I saw a show of Holbein drawings; most astonishing were those still in progress. Parts were entirely finished. And parts were sketched, a fluent line indicating arm or hand or hair, but the forms were not filled in. Holbein had made notes to himself: this sleeve blue, hair, auburn. Though the terms were other–not the color in the world, but the color in paint or chalk. 
What these unfinished drawings generated was a vivid sense of Holbein at work, at the sitting; to see them was to have a sense of being back in time, back in the middle of something. Certain works of art become artifacts. By works of art, I mean works in any medium. And certain works of art do not. 

It seems to me that what is wanted, in art, is to harness the power of the unfinished. All earthly experience is partial. Not simply because it is subjective, but because that which we do not know, of the universe, of mortality, is so much more vast than that which we do know. What is unfinished or has been destroyed participates in these mysteries. The problem is to make a whole that does not forfeit this power.

The argument for completion, for thoroughness, for exhaustive detail, is that it makes an art more potent because more exact–a closer recreation of the real. But the cult of exhaustive detail, of data, needs scrutiny. News stories are detailed. But they don’t seem, at least to me, at all real. Their thoroughness is a reprimand to imagination. And yet they don’t say this is what it was to be here.

I belong, so it appears, to a generation suspicious of the lyric, of brevity, of the deception of stopped time. And impatient with beauty, which is felt to be an inducement to stupor. Certainly there is stupor everywhere; it is an obvious byproduct of anxiety. But narrative poetry, or poetry packed with information, is not the single escape from the perceived constrictions of the lyric. A number of quite different writers practice in various ways another method.

enrico caruso sings massenet’s “élégie” (1913)

Enrico Caruso sings “Elegie” composed by Jules Massenet.
Mischa Elman, violin
Percy B. Kahn, piano
20.III.1913

Ô doux printemps d’autrefois, vertes saisons,
vous avez fui pour toujours!
Je ne vois plus le ciel bleu;
je n’entends plus les chants joyeux des oiseaux!
En emportant mon bonheur,
ô bien-aimé tu t’en es allé!
Et c’est en vain que revient le printemps!
Oui, sans retour.
Avec toi le gai soleil,
les jours riants sont partis!
Comme en mon coeur tout est sombre et glacé!
Tout est flétri!
Pour toujours!

samuel taylor coleridge on what elegy is (1835)

“Elegy is a form of poetry natural to the reflective mind. It may treat of any subject, but it must treat of no subject for itself; but always and exclusively with reference to the poet. As he will feel regret for the past or desire for the future, so sorrow and love became the principal themes of the elegy. Elegy presents every thing as lost and gone or absent and future.”

– S. T. Coleridge, Specimens of the Table Talk of the late Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1835), vol 2, p. 268

tichborne’s elegie (1586)

Tychbornes Elegie, written with his owne hand in the Tower before his execution*

hollaendischer-druck_gunpowder-plot_1605_blogMy prime of youth is but a frost of cares,
My feast of joy is but a dish of paine,
My Crop of corne is but a field of tares,
And al my good is but vaine hope of gaine.
The day is past, and yet I saw no sunne,
And now I live, and now my life is done.

My tale was heard, and yet it was not told,
My fruite is falne, & yet my leaves are greene:
My youth is spent, and yet I am not old,
I saw the world, and yet I was not seene.
My thred is cut, and yet it is not spunne,
And now I live, and now my life is done.

I sought my death, and found it in my wombe,
I lookt for life, and saw it was a shade:
I trod the earth, and knew it was my Tombe,
And now I die, and now I was but made.
My glasse is full, and now my glasse is runne,
And now I live, and now my life is done.

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*Chidiock Tichborne was one of fourteen convicted in 1586 in the plot to kill Queen Elizabeth 1 of England.