Monthly Archives: July 2008

In the haze your image

In the haze your image
Trembled; it troubled
And eluded me: mistakenly
I said, ‘Good God!’

The name of the Lord — a large bird –
Flew from my breast.
In front: a swirl of mist.
Behind: the empty cage.

– Osip Mandelshtam

In broken images

He is quick, thinking in clear images;
I am slow, thinking in broken images.

He becomes dull, trusting to his clear images;
I become sharp, mistrusting my broken images.

Trusting his images, he assumes their relevance;
Mistrusting my images, I question their relevance.

Assuming their relevance, he assumes the fact;
Questioning their relevance, I question the fact.

When the fact fails him, he questions his senses;
When the fact fails me, I approve my senses.

He continues quick and dull in his clear images;
I continue slow and sharp in my broken images.

He in a new confusion of his understanding;
I in a new understanding of my confusion.

– Robert Graves

Sleep

One can tell a lot about a person, at any given time of their life, from how they sleep: how hard or easy falling asleep is for them; whether they can sleep anywhere or only at home; the postures in which they sleep; how they awake, and how quickly they rise — quite apart from their own statements, let alone the content of their dreams. For some people falling asleep is a welcome respite from tiredness or discomfort, for others it’s a nightly grapple with separation, with death. How much, for example, can lovers not tell about each other from their behaviour before, during and after sleep? I never told you the thoughts I had when, after we’d made love, unable to sleep as I knew I would be in that unfamiliar room, with this still unfamiliar woman beside me, I looked at you sleeping so prettily, your mouth slightly open, your face trusting sleep. I never told you I didn’t sleep that night. I’ve never told you that not a day has passed since then that I haven’t seen your sleeping face in my mind every time I try to fall asleep. Sometimes sleep, when it comes, is a relief, sometimes it’s an enemy that takes my precious image away and replaces it with random ones; and always, when I awake, after I’ve turned in bed all night, your face is clearer to me than ever, and I never want to get up but stay in this dream forever.

Separation

But she, he must see this, surely he saw this, she’d stayed in the heart of their separation, she’d stayed right there, in the same place, in the death which was also her second birth, she’d stayed because she couldn’t go anywhere else, because she had nowhere else to go and no strength to go anywhere had she had anywhere to go, she’d stayed in that death, gone right into it, into the death that had made her who she was today, and who she was today was not the same as who she was then, before she died and was reborn, before she was destroyed and grew back into life, grew herself back out of death and became bigger, a bigger person rooted deeply within herself, he’d see this, surely he’d see this if ever they met again, but if they met again there might be another death waiting for her, their meeting might hold another, final death for her, a final cutting down, so that perhaps it was better to stay, to stay and grow further out of death, in spite of death, after death, to grow, unless they met and all was the same, unless they met again, somehow, and the mist of the years evaporated and the years were as nothing and they fell back together, grew back together in that other kind of death, the death of love itself, the healing death of love, but she mustn’t let herself fall back into that trap, which was the very death she’d grown out of, and in any case, who knew who he was now, maybe he hadn’t grown at all, maybe he hadn’t died at all, but had shrugged her off and skated onto a shallow life with other women, other friends, like so many, like most people seemed to do, maybe she through her strange death had outgrown him and he didn’t even know what this kind of death was, maybe if she tried to tell him he’d only get confused, or bored, in fact maybe she’d never really known him at all, never seen his true self but had fallen in love with a phantom in her mind, maybe all this otherworldly business about death was a consequence of her own personality and she’d have died anyway for any number of reasons, maybe he was incidental and she’d be disappointed if they met again, disappointed at his shallowness, at his distractedness, his failure to understand, to remember, to feel, maybe she’d be confused by her own memories, her own suffering, or even, after regaining her poise, secretly mock him, laugh at him even, or shrug him off as he’d done her.

Against the facts

If we look at a person, we are bound in a short space of time to say what a horrible, what an unbearable person. If we look at Nature, we are bound to say, what a horrible what an unbearable Nature. If we look at something artificial — it doesn’t matter what the artificiality is — we are bound to say in a short space of time what an unbearable artificiality. If we are out walking, we even say after the shortest space of time, what an unbearable walk, just as when we are running we say what an unbearable run, just as when we are standing still, what an unbearable standing still, just as when we are thinking what an unbearable process of thinking. If we meet someone, we think within the shortest space of time, what an unbearable meeting. If we go on a journey, we say to ourselves, after the shortest space of time, what an unbearable journey, what unbearable weather, we say, says Oehler, no matter what the weather is like, if we think about any sort of weather at all. If our intellect is keen, if our thinking is the most ruthless and the most lucid, says Oehler, we are bound after the shortest space of time to say of everything that it is unbearable and horrible. There is no doubt that the art lies in bearing what is unbearable and in not feeling that what is horrible is something horrible. Of course we have to label this art the most difficult of all. The art of existing against the facts, says Oehler, is the most difficult, the art that is the most difficult.

Thomas Berhard

Wisdom on campus

Nervously, and without any real need whatever, Franny pushed back her hair with one hand. ‘I don’t think it would have all got me quite so down if just once in a while — just once in a while — there was at least some polite little perfunctory implication that knowledge should lead to wisdom, and that if it doesn’t, it’s just a disgusting waste of time! But there never is! You never even hear any hints dropped on a campus that that wisdom is supposed to be the goal of knowledge. You hardly ever even hear the word “wisdom” mentioned! Do you want to hear something funny? Do you want to hear something really funny? In almost four years of college — and this is the absolute truth — in almost four years of college, the only time I can remember ever even hearing the expression “wise man” being used was in my freshman year, in Political Science! And do you know how it was used? It was used in reference to some nice old poopy elder statesman who’d made a fortune in the stock market and gone to Washington to be an adviser to President Roosevelt. Honestly, now! Four years of college, almost! I’m not saying that happens to everybody, but I just get so upset when I think about it I could die.’

– J.D Salinger, Franny and Zooey