Conrad, thank you. The feeling goes both ways.
December 31, 2010
[click to enlarge]
Those old carved pumpkins
on the neighbor’s step
are more human
As if I’d awakened just in time to see this from the window of a train, only to wonder if, years later, it had been a dream.
A Thimbleful of Ash
If you don’t eat your supper,
Santa won’t visit us tonight.
All the cookies will go to waste,
the cards, the toys, the bows.
A fire in the fireplace.
The front door left unlocked.
Somehow, Santa knows.
On the porch, a stack of wood.
Long lives, a thimbleful of ash.
With groggy eyes,
Santa’s looking at his map.
It’s foggy in the San Joaquin.
We’re getting nowhere fast.
On, Donner! On, Blitzen!
On, Stella and Maureen!
I don’t like macaroni.
Why not? You used to.
It squeaks. It squishes.
It isn’t green.
Can I have a cookie now?
No, those are for Santa.
Is Santa fat? Yes. He’s roly-poly.
Can I be roly-poly too?
Not without your macaroni.
The vineyards are asleep.
The neighbors have gone to bed.
In the far distance, a baby cries.
I still remember what he said:
Long lives, a thimbleful of ash.
Last night I read the first few pages of Henrik Ibsen’s play, A Doll’s House. It seemed only right, as I had read earlier on the Internet that the play was first performed on December 22 in 1879. And then this morning, I read that on December 23, 1888, Vincent Van Gogh cut off part of his ear, and that when he wrote to his brother about it later, he ascribed it to “an artist’s fit.” Henrik Ibsen had curly hair and enormous sideburns. I mention this because, if he were seen now on a street somewhere, people would think he was dressed up for a play, or that he was making a public appearance to promote a PBS production of Masterpiece Theater. And speaking of PBS, I am pretty sure I remember seeing a production of A Doll’s House around ten or twelve years ago. But the details are sketchy. It was Christmas in Denmark and very cold outside, but it was even colder inside, despite a warm setting that included the prominent presence of a stove. The main characters were a husband who didn’t understand his wife, and a wife who was just learning to understand herself. And of course the husband didn’t understand himself, either. If he had, he might have realized that his wife was a real person, and not a “twittering lark” or “little squirrel” incapable of adult reason and behavior. While this might sound dull to a modern audience trained to slobber in front of exploding movie screens, it should be mentioned that A Doll’s House caused quite an uproar back in 1879. How could a woman act independently of a man, or do without altogether? Poor Mr. Ibsen was publicly roasted for being an agent of evil — and also heralded as a perceptive genius. Meanwhile, Vincent Van Gogh was listening to the voices in his head, and no one was arguing about him at all. And yet now, we cannot imagine our world without him. Such is the power of art, and the power of those who create it, so often, if not always, at their own expense.
It seems that events are larger than the moment in which they occur and cannot confine themselves in it. Certainly they overflow into the future through the memory that we retain of them, but they demand a place also in the time that precedes them. One may say that we do not then see them as they are to be, but in memory are they not modified also?
Remembrance of Things Past
Vol. 2, Pages 659-660
These tales are not creations of mine. They belong to the soil and to the people of the soil. Like all things that belong, they have their roots deep in the place of their being, deep too in the past. They are an outgrowth; they embody the geniuses of divergent races and peoples who even while fiercely opposing each other blended their traditions. However all this may be, the tales are just tales. As tales I have listened to them in camps under stars and on ranch galleries out in the brush. As tales, without any ethnological palaver, I have tried to set them down.
They called him mad, — the poor, old man,
Whose white hair, worn and thin,
Fell o’er his shoulders, as he played
His cherished violin,
Forever drawing to and fro
O’er silent strings a loosened bow.
At times on his pathetic face
A look of perfect rapture shone,
Intent on some celestial chords,
Discerned by him alone;
And sometimes he would smile and pause,
As if receiving loud applause.
So, many a humble poet dreams
His songs will touch the human heart,
And full of hope his offering lays
Before the shrine of Art;
Poor dreamer, may he never know
That he too draws a silent bow!
“Yes, I have been forced to whittle down the facts, and to be a liar, but it
is not one universe, there are millions, almost as many as the number of human eyes and brains in existence, that awake every morning.”
Marcel ProustRemembrance of Things PastVol. 2, Page 512
Bring me water in a shallow bowl,
Rock crystal or chalcedony
Like the milky curve of the Moon of Frost;
Bring water from a lonely spring
Where the pliant turf is never marked
By any rougher tread
Than the slender hooves of the hornless deer.
Then watch while I unfold
The frail silk paper, while I drop
One by one in the water
These brown and shrunken things—
Queer little mummies of thought.
See them unfold to flower shapes.
They have odd stories to tell
Of things that are old and strange and sad
But still they hold a haunting charm
That may fill a drowsy house
Like the smoky fragrance of leaves
That burn in the autumn dusk.
Read not between the lines,
but from behind them —
winter light, hermit’s cell.
Awake! for Morning in the Bowl of Night
Has flung the Stone that puts the Stars to Flight:
And lo! the Hunter of the East has caught
The Sultan’s Turret in a Noose of Light.
Here with a Loaf of Bread beneath the Bough,
A Flask of Wine, a Book of Verse — and Thou
Beside me singing in the Wilderness —
And Wilderness is Paradise enow.
Oh, come with old Khayyám, and leave the Wise
To talk; one thing is certain, that Life flies;
One thing is certain, and the Rest is Lies;
The Flower that once has blown for ever dies.
Then to this earthen Bowl did I adjourn
My Lip the secret Well of Life to learn:
And Lip to Lip it murmur’d — “While you live Drink! —
for once dead you never shall return.”
And if the Wine you drink, the Lip you press,
End in the Nothing all Things end in — Yes —
Then fancy while Thou art, Thou art but what
Thou shalt be — Nothing — Thou shalt not be less.
on a locomotive’s back
a cry at every
What if we think of words as bells,
each with a sound that’s just arrived
from a great distance — across fields,
down mountains, over graveyards,
swept along alleys and streets,
and of we who ring them
as angels without