selections from George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion (1912)

The English have no respect for their language, and will not teach their children to speak it. They cannot spell it because they have nothing to spell it with but an old foreign alphabet of which only the consonants — and not all of them — have any agreed speech value. Consequently no man can teach himself what it should sound like from reading it; and it is impossible for an Englishman to open his mouth without making some other Englishman despise him. (3)

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A complete and exact phonetic script is neither practicable nor necessary for ordinary use; but if we enlarge our alphabet to the Russian size, and make our spelling as phonetic as Spanish, the advance will be prodigious. (6)

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I wish to boast that Pygmalion has been an extremely successful play, both on stage and screen, all over Europe and North America as well as at home. It is so intensely and deliberately didactic, and its subject is esteemed so dry, that I delight in throwing it at the heads of the wiseacres who repeat the parrot cry that art should never be didactic. It goes to prove my contention that great art can never be anything else. (6-7)

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Happy is the man who can make a living by his hobby! (17)

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THE NOTE TAKER [explosively] Woman: cease this detestable boohooing instantly; or else seek the shelter of some other place of worship.

THE FLOWER GIRL [with feeble defiance] Ive a right to be here if I like, same as you.

THE NOTE TAKER. A woman who utters such depressing and disgusting sounds has no right to be anywhere — no right to live. Remember that you are a human being with a soul and the divine gift of articulate speech: that your native language is the language of Shakespear and Milton and The Bible: and dont sit there crooning like a bilious pigeon. (18)

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THE NOTE TAKER. Yes, you squashed cabbage leaf, you disgrace to the noble architecture of these columns, you incarnate insult to the English language: I could pass you off as the Queen of Sheba. (18)

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laryngoscope (n.)
an instrument for examining the larynx, or for inserting a tube through it.
In this corner stands a flat writing-table, on which are a phonograph, a laryngoscope, a row of tiny organ pipes with a bellows, a set of lamp chimneys for singing flames with burners attached to a gas plug in the wall by an indiarubber tube, several tuning-forks of different sizes, a life-size image of half a human head, shewing in section the vocal organs, and a box containing a supply of wax cylinders for the phonograph. (23)

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HIGGINS [becoming excited as the idea grows on him] What is life but a series of inspired follies? The difficulty is to find them to do. Never lose a chance: it doesnt come every day. I shall make a duchess of this draggletailed guttersnipe. (29)

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LIZA. Whood marry me?

HIGGINS [suddenly resorting to the most thrillingly beautiful low tones in his best elocutionary style] By George, Eliza, the streets will be strewn with the bodies of men shooting themselves for your sake before Ive done with you. (31)

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PICKERING [in good-humored remonstrance] Does it occur to you, Higgins, that the girl has some feelings?

HIGGINS [looking critically at her] Oh no, I dont think so. Not any feelings that we need bother about. [Cheerily] Have you, Eliza?

LIZA. I got my feelings same as anyone else.

HIGGINS [to Pickering, reflectively] You see the difficulty?

PICKERING. Eh? What difficulty?

HIGGINS. To get her to talk grammar. (32)

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MRS PEARCE. Mr Higgins: youre tempting the girl. It’s not right. She should think of the future.

HIGGINS. At her age! Nonsense! Time enough to think of the future when you havnt any future to think of. No, Eliza: do as this lady does: think of other people’s futures; but never think of your own. Think of chocolates, and taxis, and gold, and diamonds. (33)

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PICKERING. Excuse me, Higgins; but I really must interfere. Mrs Pearce is quite right. If this girl is to put herself in your hands for six months for an experiment in teaching, she must understand thoroughly what she’s doing.

HIGGINS. How can she? She’s incapable of understanding anything. Besides, do any of us understand what we are doing? If we did, would we ever do it? (33-34)

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PICKERING. Excuse the straight question, Higgins. Are you a man of good character where women are concerned?

HIGGINS [moodily] Have you ever met a man of good character where women are concerned?

PICKERING. Yes: very frequently.

HIGGINS [dogmatically, lifting himself on his hands to the level of the piano, and sitting on it with a bounce] Well, I havnt. I find that the moment I let a woman make friends with me, she becomes jealous, exacting, suspicious, and a damned nuisance. I find that the moment I let myself make friends with a woman, I become selfish and tyrannical. Women upset everything. When you let them into your life, you find that the woman is driving at one thing and youre driving at another.

PICKERING. At what, for example?

HIGGINS [coming off the piano restlessly] Oh, Lord knows! I suppose the woman wants to live her own life; and the man wants to live his; and each tries to drag the other on to the wrong track. One wants to go north and the other south; and the result is that both have to go east, though they both hate the east wind. [He sits down on the bench at the keyboard.] So here I am, a confirmed old bachelor, and likely to remain so. (37-38)

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Take care of the pence and the pounds will take care of themselves is as true of personal habits as of money. (40)

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PICKERING. Have you no morals, man?

DOOLITTLE [unabashed] Cant afford them, Governor. Neither could you if you was as poor as me. (45)

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MISS EYNSFORD HILL [who considers Higgins quite eligible matrimonially] I sympathize. I havnt any small talk. If people would only be frank and say what they really think!

HIGGINS [relapsing into gloom] Lord forbid!

MRS EYNSFORD HILL [taking up her daughter's cue] But why?

HIGGINS. What they think they ought to think is bad enough, Lord knows; but what they really think would break up the whole show. Do you suppose it would be really agreeable if I were to come out now with what I really think?

MISS EYNSFORD HILL [gaily] Is it so very cynical?

HIGGINS. Cynical! Who the dickens said it was cynical? I mean it wouldnt be decent.

MRS EYNSFORD HILL [seriously] Oh! I’m sure you dont mean that, Mr Higgins.

HIGGINS. You see, we’re all savages, more or less. We’re supposed to be civilized and cultured — to know all about poetry and philosophy and art and science, and so on; but how many of us know even the meanings of these names? [To Miss Hill] What do y o u know of poetry? [To Mrs Hill] What do y o u know of science? [Indicating Freddy] What does h e know of art or science or anything else? What the devil do you imagine I know of philosophy?

MRS HIGGINS [warningly] Or of manners, Henry? (58)

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HOSTESS. Oh, nonsense! She speaks English perfectly.

NEPOMMUCK. Too perfectly. Can you shew me any English woman who speaks English as it should be spoken? Only foreigners who have been taught to speak it speak it well. (71)

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morganatic (adj.)
of or denoting a marriage in which neither the spouse of lower rank nor any children have any claim to the possessions or title of the spouse of higher rank.
Not necessarily legitimate, of course. Morganatic perhaps. But that is undoubtedly her class. (72)

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HIGGINS. You might marry, you know. [He bites a large piece out of the apple and munches it noisily.] You see, Eliza, all men are not confirmed old bachelors like me and the Colonel. Most men are the marrying sort (poor devils!); and you’re not bad-looking: it’s quite a pleasure to look at you sometimes — not now, of course, because youre crying and looking as ugly as the very devil; but when youre all right and quite yourself, youre what I should call attractive. That is, to the people in the marrying line, you understand. You go to bed and have a good nice rest; and then get up and look at yourself in the glass; and you wont feel so cheap. (78)

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LIZA. I sold flowers. I didnt sell myself. Now youve made a lady of me I’m not fit to sell anything else. I wish youd left me where you found me. (78)

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dudgeon (n.)
a feeling of offense or deep resentment.
He turns on his heel and is about to go in extreme dudgeon. (80)

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I have to live for others and not for myself: that’s middle class morality. (89)

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The difference between a lady and a flower girl is not how she behaves, but how she’s treated. (95)

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HIGGINS [seriously] The great secret, Eliza, is not having bad manners or good manners or any other particular sort of manners, but having the same manner for all human souls: in short, behaving as if you were in Heaven, where there are no third-class carriages, and one soul is as good as another. (99)

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HIGGINS. Would the world ever have been made if its maker had been afraid of making trouble? Making life means making trouble. Theres only one way of escaping trouble; and thats killing things. Cowards, you notice, are always shrieking to have troublesome people killed. (101)

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LIZA. Every girl has a right to be loved. (102)

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HIGGINS. Can he m a k e anything of you? That’s the point.

LIZA. Perhaps I could make something of him. But I never thought of us making anything of one another; and you never think of anything else. I only want to be natural. (102)

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half pipe

clutter, clutter, clutter.

at some point–a few years ago–my cousin Rich and i faced the same dilemma. both wannabe-minimalists, we sought a solution to the never-ending clutter that continually stacked up around us. for him, it was birthday cards, graduation cards, christmas cards, all the well-meaning cardboard letters of love from abuelitas and tias and primas and all the rest of the world, a goddamn menagerie of cards. for me, it was concert programs.

to varying degrees, greeting cards and concert programs represented things that should be kept, but served no real purpose in lying around. they just collect dust.

so, we digitized. we scanned all the things, then tossed their material representations. 0s and 1s are good enough, we deemed.

i only bring this up because i feel this desire to trash semi-important things rising in me. the walk looms, and i don’t want to pay a ton of extra money to store boxes of bullshit for half a year. so, before i throw it away, this is the story of why there’s a fucking foot-and-a-half long half pipe of bamboo sitting on the mirror in my bathroom.

.

.

.

seven years ago, i moved into the Harwood Tower.

it was my sophomore year of college and, thanks to my abysmal room draw number and some very good friends, i moved into the tiniest room of a third-story suite with Allison, Devi, James, and Nick. my room was 99 square feet in the shape of a rectangle with large windows lining the long edge, and i fucking loved it.

none of that is really relevant to this story, but hey.

so one night, Allison, Micah, my girlfriend Meryl, and i took a little something called 2C-B. or at least that’s what my friend back in the Bay had told me it was. he had also told me that because it was so incredibly powerful, it had completely floored him, and so he was going to be careful to give me not-so-massive-but-still-meaningful doses. and so that was the story i told my three comrades as we smiled nervously into this strange new oblivion.

but oblivion never came. we all considered ourselves relatively experienced in this area, and we could all agree: it was nothing more than a heavy drunkenness with a dash of extra-high consciousness. nothing to be afraid of.

curiously enough, we came to this conclusion while standing in the middle of the farm, a peaceful wonderland of dirt and organic growth on the southeastern corner of our little campus. we stared at the stars and swung our bamboo around.

bamboo?

some time earlier, we’d stumbled in the dark upon a bunch of bamboo, and we’d each selected one stalk (or two, in Meryl’s case) to our liking. later we realized how much our choices perfectly reflected ourselves:

Allison had selected a tall and thin stalk, Meryl had selected two pieces to bang together like drum sticks, Micah’s stood robust and wide in girth like a staff for a grizzly bear, and mine… was a foot-and-a-half long half pipe.

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Emily Dickinson favorites (301-500)

at long last, i have returned to ED. here are my favorites from the last 200:

301

I reason, Earth is short –
And Anguish – absolute –
And many hurt,
But, what of that?

I reason, we could die –
The best Vitality,
Cannot excel Decay,
But, what of that?

I reason, that in Heaven –
Somehow, it will be even –
Some new Equation, given –
But, what of that?

302

Like Some Old fashioned Miracle
When Summertime is done –
Seems Summer’s Recollection
And the Affairs of June

As infinite Tradition
As Cinderella’s Bays –
Or Little John – of Lincoln Green –
Or Blue Beard’s Galleries –

Her Bees have a fictitious Hum –
Her Blossoms, like a Dream –
Elate us – till we almost weep –
So plausible – they seem –

Her Memories like Strains – Review –
When Orchestra is dumb –
The Violin in Baize replaced –
And Ear – and Heaven – numb –

310

Give little Anguish –
Lives will fret –
Give Avalanches –
And they’ll slant –
Straighten – look cautious for their Breath –
But make no syllable – like Death
Who only shows his Marble Disc –
Sublimer sort – than Speech –

315

He fumbles at your Soul
As Players at the Keys
Before they drop full Music on –
He stuns you by degrees –
Prepares your brittle Nature
For the Ethereal Blow
By fainter Hammers – further heard –
Then nearer – Then so slow
Your Breath has time to straighten –
Your Brain – to bubble Cool –
Deals – One – imperial – Thunderbolt –
That scalps your naked Soul –

When Winds take Forests in their Paws –
The Universe – is still –

338

I know that He exists.
Somewhere – in Silence –
He has hid his rare life
From our gross eyes.

‘Tis an instant’s play.
‘Tis a fond Ambush –
Just to make Bliss
Earn her own surprise!

But – should the play
Prove piercing earnest –
Should the glee – glaze –
In Death’s – stiff – stare –

Would not the fun
Look too expensive!
Would not the jest –
Have crawled too far!

352

Perhaps I asked too large –
I take – no less than skies –
For Earths, grow thick as
Berries, in my native town –

My Basket holds – just – Firmaments –
Those – dangle easy – on my arm,
But smaller bundles – Cram.

355

‘Tis Opposites – entice –
Deformed Men – ponder Grace –
Bright fires – the Blanketless –
The Lost – Day’s face –

The Blind – esteem it be
Enough Estate – to see –
The Captive – strangles new –
For deeming – Beggars – play –

To lack – enamor Thee –
Tho’ the Divinity –
Be only
Me –

359

I gained it so –
By Climbing slow –
By Catching at the Twigs that grow
Between the Bliss – and me –
It hung so high
As well the Sky
Attempt by Strategy –

I said I gained it –
This – was all –
Look, how I clutch it
Lest it fall –
And I a Pauper go –
Unfitted by an instant’s Grace
For the Contented – Beggar’s face
I wore – an hour ago –

361

What I can do – I will –
Though it be as little as a Daffodil –
That I cannot – must be
Unknown to possibility –

370

Heaven is so far of the Mind
That were the Mind dissolved –
The Site – of it – by Architect
Could not again be proved –

‘Tis vast – as our Capacity –
As fair – as our idea –
To Him of adequate desire
No further ’tis, than Here –

371

A precious – mouldering pleasure – ’tis –
To meet an Antique Book –
In just the Dress his Century wore –
A privilege – I think –

His venerable Hand to take –
And warming in our own –
A passage back – or two – to make –
To Times when he – was young –

His quaint opinions – to inspect –
His thought to ascertain
On Themes concern our mutual mind –
The Literature of Man –

What interested Scholars – most –
What Competitions ran –
When Plato – was a Certainty –
And Sophocles – a Man –

When Sappho – was a living Girl –
And Beatrice wore
The Gown that Dante – deified –
Facts Centuries before

He traverses – familiar –
As One should come to Town –
And tell you all your Dreams – were true –
He lived – where Dreams were born –

His presence is Enchantment –
You beg him not to go –
Old Volumes shake their Vellum Heads
And tantalize – just so –

372

I know lives, I could miss
Without a Misery –
Others – whose instant’s wanting –
Would be Eternity –

The last – a scanty Number –
‘T would scarcely fill a Two –
The first – a Gnat’s Horizon
Could easily outgrow –

378

I saw no Way – The Heavens were stitched –
I felt the Columns close –
The Earth reversed her Hemispheres –
I touched the Universe –

And back it slid – and I alone –
A Speck upon a Ball –
Went out upon Circumference –
Beyond the Dip of Bell –

380

There is a flower that Bees prefer –
And Butterflies – desire –
To gain the Purple Democrat
The Humming Bird – aspire

And Whatsoever Insect pass –
A Honey bear away
Proportioned to his several dearth
And her – capacity –

Her face be rounder than the Moon
And ruddier than the Gown
Of Orchis in the Pasture –
Or Rhododendron – worn –

She doth not wait for June –
Before the World be Green –
Her sturdy little Countenance
Against the Wind – be seen –

Contending with the Grass –
Near Kinsman to Herself –
For Privilege of Sod and Sun –
Sweet Litigants for Life –

And when the Hills be full –
And newer fashions blow –
Doth not retract a single spice
For pang of jealousy –

Her Public – be the Noon –
Her Providence – the Sun –
Her Progress – by the Bee – proclaimed –
In sovereign – Swerveless Tune –

The Bravest – of the Host –
Surrendering – the last –
Nor even of Defeat – aware –
When cancelled by the Frost –

398

I had not minded – Walls –
Were Universe – one Rock –
And far I heard his silver Call
The other side the Block –

I’d tunnel – till my Groove
Pushed sudden thro’ to his –
Then my face take her Recompense –
The looking in his Eyes –

But ’tis a single Hair –
A filament – a law –
A Cobweb – wove in Adamant –
A Battlement – of Straw –

A limit like the Veil
Unto the Lady’s face –
But every Mesh – a Citadel –
And Dragons – in the Crease –

409

The dropped like Flakes –
They dropped like Stars –
Like Petals from a Rose –
When suddenly across the June
A wind with fingers – goes –

They perished in the Seamless Grass –
No eye could find the place –
But God can summon every face
On his Repealless – List.

420

You’ll know it – as you know ’tis Noon –
By Glory –
As you do the Sun –
By Glory –
As you will in Heaven –
Know God the Father – and the Son.

By intuition, Mightiest Things
Assert themselves – and not by terms –
“I’m Midnight” – need the Midnight say –
“I’m Sunrise” –Need the Majesty?

Omnipotence – had not a Tongue –
His lisp – is Lightning – and the Sun –
His Conversation – with the Sea –
“How shall you know”?
Consult your Eye!

447

Could – I do more – for Thee –
Wert Thou a Bumble Bee –
Since for the Queen, have I –
Nought but Bouquet?

466

‘Tis little I – could care for Pearls –
Who own the ample sea –
Or Brooches – when the Emperor –
With Rubies – pelteth me –

Or Gold – who am the Prince of Mines –
Or Diamonds – when have I
A Diadem to fit a Dome –
Continual upon me –

478

I had no time to Hate –
Because
The Grave would hinder Me –
And Life was not so
Ample I
Could finish – Enmity –

Nor had I time to Love –
But since
Some Industry must be –
The little Toil of Love –
I thought
Be large enough for Me –

490

To One denied to drink
To tell what Water is
Would be acuter, would it not
Than letting Him surmise?

To lead Him to the Well
And let Him hear it drip
Remind Him, would it not, somewhat
Of His condemned lip?

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Wasted Cinders

i knew it’d be a very American day the minute i lay down in bed, mere moments before rosy-fingered dawn reached above the horizon. my lover lay down beside me, though she didn’t sleep for hours, i later found out. wiry mind, she. thankfully, she eventually did squeeze in some sleep, which we rode peacefully til the early afternoon, not long after my roommate and her mother had departed loudly out the door. when i finally gained enough consciousness, i reached for my phone and read a message from Xanthe: “Tina has a dead mouse outside your door.”

but when i rose from bed, no mouse i saw. i guess they’d cleaned it up. though i felt genuinely grateful and appreciative of their charity, a certain part of me felt slightly guilty for never missing Tina’s gift. ‘twould be like Zeus awaking a god’s length of time after a great Grecian sacrifice and feast, and all the meat already spoiled. oh well, can’t cry over spoilt bull.

back in bed, my lady and i loved. we loved to love and that–too–we loved. her eyes and my mouth and her chest and my belly and her thighs and my ankles trickled like mountain creeks down, down fingertrips. lovely it was. made hungry, we rose easy and happy to the kitchen, where the lady toasted gluten-free bread and mild cheddar cheese while i fried a couple eggs. laid upon a lawn of uncooked spinach, atop the cheese and bread, the eggs burst with the yellow-orange robustness of sundaylight. not long after, Natalie departed down Ocean Ave for dress shopping, leaving me to my literary devices in the orange gray.

i read Emily Dickinson: “To One denied to drink / To tell what Water is / Would be acuter, would it not / Than letting Him surmise? // To lead Him to the Well / And let Him hear it drip / Remind Him, would it not, somewhat / Of His condemned lip?”

in no time at all, it was time for me to leave: i had made a loose engagement with a musician friend to see free live jazz in the city. throwing on the last day’s clothes, i flew out the door to catch the KT inbound, Jack Kerouac in hand. 45 minutes later–and nearly just as many pages deep in The Dharma Bums–i strolled up to the African American Art & Culture Complex, one of those cool, inevitably underappreciated fixtures of civic life. everyone was very mild and polite, and they were serving wine. the show started shakily with nervous, unpolished speeches by the amateur organizers, but, again, everyone was very polite and well-meaning. then the band came out. it was Marcus Shelby–the bassist and bandleader–along with a bunch of kids. 20-year-old maestro on keys, pretty girl w stark bangs on electric, nervous trumpeteer, and the man of men on drums. over the course of an hour and a half, they kicked out Horace Silver, Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, Hart & Rodgers, Louis Armstrong, and Charles Mingus. i was enamored. such a strange, delicious power that musicians wield, to snuff out the awkward noise and feet-shuffling of everyday conversation and pomp with the undeniable rhythm, harmony, melody, and lyric of the infinite void. my, my, how do animals get by? with the show over so quickly and my friend Brendan biking and barting back to the east bay, i felt compelled to let Jack’s jazzy, deathless soul take me by the hand up Market St toward an ancient haunt of mine: It’s Tops.

inside, the pretty waitress (different face, same pink outfit) said a quick hello while tending to a chocolate shake. i sat at the bar and twirled into Kerouac instead of picking up the menu. a minute later, she picked up the menu in front of my face and laid it next to me with a soft thud. i quickly decided on some items, and then back to Kerouac. “that’s a cool cover for that book,” she said. i looked up and said, “yeah,” and then ordered a tuna melt w coffee. back to the book. she handed me a half cup of coffee and then prepared a new pot. “so what’s your favorite Pink Floyd album?” she asked, referring to my silly, faded t-shirt. “the pig should hint at it,” i said playfully. Animals, she never guessed, though she may have already been thinking it. Meddle was hers, a damn fine one too. and so the whole dinner went, chatting about nothing. then the place filled up again, so i was left to drink coffee after coffee while reading Kerouac, endlessly. to pay for the $12 bill, i gave Rachel all the cash i had ($16) and sauntered out into the street up Market toward Church Station.

down the stairs to the hazy screen to read my KT destiny: 26 minutes. my god, i couldn’t remember the last time i waited so long for a lazy metal slug. oh well, at least i had Kerouac. and so i read and read and read and read in the dirty brick tunnel, boarded the train on time, and read and read. and now, here i am, sipping red wine, listening to Caustic Window, and wondering what’s the point of it all. after all, i’m just typing, not writing. you’re just moving, not living. we’re just doing, not being.

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selections from J.R.R. Tolkien’s translation of Beowulf

‘Fate goeth ever as she must!’ (366)

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‘Fate oft saveth a man not doomed to die, when his valour fails not.’ (464-5)

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Manifest is this truth, that mighty God hath ruled the race of men through all the ages. (571-2)

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There stern and strong the kinsmen of Hygelac watched how that foul thief with his fell clutches would now play his part. And that the slayer was not minded to delay, not he, but swiftly at the first turn seized a sleeping man, rending him unopposed, biting the bone-joints, drinking blood from veins, great gobbets gorging down. Quickly he took all of that lifeless thing to be his food, even feet and hands. (600-6)

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Then have I heard that in the morning many a warlike knight was gathered about his patron’s hall; the chieftains of the people had come from far and near over the distant ways that marvel to behold, and the footprints of that hated one. No grief for his departure from life felt any of those men who looked upon the trail of his inglorious flight, marking how sick at heart he had dragged his footsteps, bleeding out his life, from thence away defeated and death-doomed to the water-demons’ mere. There the waters boiled with blood, and the dread turmoil of the waves was all blended with hot gore, and seethed with battle’s crimson. Therein doomed to die he plunged, and bereft of joys in his retreat amid the fens yielded up his life and heathen soul; there Hell received him. (680-92)

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At whiles a servant of the king, a man laden with proud memories who had lays in mind and recalled a host and multitude of tales of old — word followed word, each truly linked to each — this man in his turn began with skill to treat the quest of Beowulf and in flowing verse to utter his ready tale, interweaving words. (704-9)

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No easy thing is it to escape — let him strive who will; nay, he shall come at last to a place appointed by inevitable fate, made ready for all those who have life, the sons of men dwelling upon earth, where his body still upon its bed of rest shall sleep after the feast. (816-20)

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God was lord then of all the race of men, even as He yet is. Wherefore is understanding and the heart that taketh thought in every time and place the best. Much must he endure of sweet and bitter, who long time here in these days of trouble enjoyeth life in the world! (861-5)

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Up to the clouds swirled that mightiest of destroying fires, roaring before the burial mound. Consumed were their heads, their gaping wounds burst open, the cruel hurts of the body, and the blood sprang forth. Flame devoured them all, hungriest of spirits, all that in place war had taken of either people: their glory had passed away. (914-20)

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torque (n., historical)
a neck ornament consisting of a band of twisted metal, worn esp. by the ancient Gauls and Britons.
To him was the cup borne, and friendship offered in fair words; and the twisted gold was brought forth with all good will, two armlets, a mantle, and rings, and the mightiest of torques that I have heard was ever upon the neck of man on earth. (983-7)

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Grendel’s mother, ogress, fierce destroyer in the form of woman. (1045)

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minish (v., archaic)
to make less (as in size, amount, or degree).
‘That deed of war she hath avenged, that last night thou didst slay in violent wise Grendel with thy gripings hard, for that he too long had minished and destroyed my folk.’ (1113-5)

—————

Beowulf made answer, the son of Ecgtheow: ‘Grieve not, O wise one! Better it is for every man that he should avenge his friend than he should much lament. To each one of us shall come in time the end of life in the world; let him who may earn glory ere his death. No better thing can brave knight leave behind when he lies dead.’ (1154-9)

—————

The sword was wet. (1313)

—————

‘Wondrous ’tis to tell how the mighty God doth apportion in His purpose deep unto the race of men wisdom, lands, and noble estate: of all things He is Lord. At whiles the heart’s thought of man of famous house He suffereth in delight to walk, granteth him in his realm earthly joy ruling over men within his walléd town, maketh the regions of the earth as his to sway, a kingdom vast, so that the end thereof in his unwisdom he cannot himself conceive. He dwells in plenty; no whit do age nor sickness thwart him, nor doth black care grieve his soul, nor strife in any place bring murderous hatred forth; nay, all the world goeth to his desire. He knows nothing of worse fate, until within him a measure of arrogance doth grow and spread. Now sleeps the watchman, guardian of his soul: too sound that sleep in troubles wrapped; the slayer is very nigh who in malice shooteth arrows from his bow. Then beneath his guard he is smitten to the heart with bitter shaft, the strange and crooked biddings of the accurséd spirit; he cannot himself defend. Too little now him seem what long he hath enjoyed, his grim heart fills with greed; in no wise doth he deal gold-plated rings to earn him praise, and the doom that cometh he forgets and heeds no, because God, the Lord of glory, hath before granted him a portion of honour high. Thereafter in the final end it cometh to pass that his fleshly garb being mortal faileth, falls in death ordained. Another succeeds to all, who unrecking scattereth his precious things, the old-hoarded treasures of that man: his wrath he fears not. Defend thee from that deadly malice, dear Beowulf, best of knights, and choose for thyself the better part, counsels of everlasting worth; countenance no pride, O champion in thy renown! Now for a little while thy valour is in flower; but soon shall it be that sickness or the sword rob thee of thy might, or fire’s embrace, or water’s wave, or bite of blade, or flight of spear, or dreadful age; or the flashing of thine eyes shall fail and fade; very soon ’twill come that thee, proud knight, shall death lay low.’ (1447-81)

—————

gannet (n.)
1. a large seabird with mainly white plumage, known for catching fish by plunge-diving.
2. BRIT. INFORMAL. a greedy person.
‘Thou hast accomplished that between these peoples, the Geatish folk and spearmen of the Danes, a mutual peace shall be, and strife and hateful enmities shall sleep which erewhile they used, and long as I my wide realm rule, shall precious things between us pass, and many a man shall send over the water where the gannet dives greeting to another with goodly gifts, and vessels ring-adorned over the high seas shall bring offerings and tokens of our love. (1551-9)

—————

Thence Beowulf went, a warrior bold in golden splendour, treading the grassy sward, his heart uplifted with rich gifts. The traverser of the sea awaited its lord and master there on the anchor riding; and as they went oft was the bounty of Hrothgar praised: unrivalled king was he in all things without reproach, until age robbed him of his joyous strength — oft hath it striken many a man. (1574-80)

—————

portreeve (n.)
an historical official in England and Wales possessing authority (political, administrative, or fiscal) over a town.
Swiftly was the portreeve ready beside the sea, who long while now had anxious upon the shore looked out afar for those men beloved. (1605-7)

—————

‘Then, as is noised abroad, I sought out the grim and dreadful guardian of the whirling gulf. There awhile were our hands in duel joined. The deep swirled with blood, and in that abysmal hall I hewed the head of Grendel’s mother with the edges of a mighty sword. Thence hardly did I retrieve my life; but not yet was I doomed to die.’ (1790-5)

—————

This hoarded loveliness did the old despoiler wandering in the gloom find standing unprotected, even he who filled with fire seeks out mounds (of burial), the naked dragon of fell heart that flies wrapped about in flame: him do earth’s dwellers greatly dread. Treasure in the ground it is ever his wont to seize, and there wise with many years he guards the heathen gold — no whit doth it profit him. (1909-15)

—————

Then the serpent awoke! New strife arose. He smelt now along the rock, and grimhearted he perceived the footprint of his foe, who in his stealth had stepped right nigh, yea, close to the dragon’s head. Thus may indeed one whose fate is not to die with ease escape woe and evil lot, if he have the favour of the Lord! (1923-8)

—————

enow (adverb)
ARCHAIC. enough.
She trusted not in her son that he was yet wise enow to defend the seats of his fathers against alien hosts, since Hygelac was dead. (1994-5)

—————

Kinship may nothing set aside in virtuous mind. (2181-2)

—————

ewer (n.)
a large jug with a wide mouth, formerly used for carrying water for someone to wash in.
Then, passing by the seat, that young knight proudhearted, filled with the joy of victory, beheld a host of hoarded jewels, gold glistening that lay upon the ground, marvellous things upon the wall, the very lair of that old serpent in the dim light flying, and ewers standing there, vessels of men of bygone days, reft of those who cared for them, their fair adornment crumbling. (2312-8)

—————

Once more he began to sprinkle him with water, until speech like a sharp pang burst from the prison of his breast. (2343-5)

—————

disport (n.)
ARCHAIC. a pastime, game, or sport.
Never more in disport did he wander through the air at midmost night, nor proud in the possession of fair things reveal his form to men, but was cast upon the earth by the hand and deed of that leader of the host. (2376-80)

—————

God’s Doom was ever the master then of every man in his deeds fulfilled, even as yet now it is. (2398-9)

—————

‘Death is more sweet for every man of worth than life with scorn!’ (2425-6)

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fornyrðislag acid

acid asteroids astound my soul,
entity unseen, elephantine.

life they lend me, love they convey, freedom they hail,
flinging me from bed
a banshee, bound for concrete, shaking stupid,
stopping not at all.
constellation of chemicals jitter, bouncing endless,
below, above
bobbing masses of moving men and women,
asinine apes all addicted.

visions in color, verve in music,
beasts of house billow, swell out,
ricocheting richly and large
vicious, vivacious,
vaulted against the walls.
soul in thunder summoned breaks through dark clouds
deeply drowned in body,
promenading its patient power out the feeble
outer body’s shell.

waking wondrous from weeklong sleep,
anima answers: the anthem is acid.

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selections from Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami

Sometimes fate is like a small sandstorm that keeps changing directions. You change direction but the sandstorm chases you. You turn again, but the storm adjusts. Over and over you play this out, like some ominous dance with death just before dawn. Why? Because this storm isn’t something that blew in from far away, something that has nothing to do with you. This storm is you. Something inside of you. So all you can do is give in to it, step right inside the storm, closing your eyes and plugging up your ears so the sand doesn’t get in, and walk through it, step by step. There’s no sun there, no moon, no direction, no sense of time. Just fine white sand swirling up into the sky like pulverized bones. That’s the kind of sandstorm you need to imagine. (5)

—————

“In traveling, a companion, in life, compassion.” (23)

—————

“According to Aristophanes in Plato’s Symposium, in the ancient world of myth there were three types of people,” Oshima says. “Have you heard about this?”

“No.”

“In ancient times people weren’t just male or female, but one of three types: male/male, male/female, or female/female. In other words, each person was made out of the components of two people. Everyone was happy with this arrangement and never really gave it much thought. But then God took a knife and cut everybody in half, right down the middle. So after that the world was divided just into male and female, the upshot being that people spend their time running around trying to locate their missing other half.”

“Why did God do that?”

“Divide people into two? You got me. God works in mysterious ways. There’s that whole wrath-of-God thing, all that excessive idealism and so on. My guess it was punishment for something. Like in the Bible. Adam and Eve and the Fall and so forth.”

“Original sin,” I say.

“That’s right, original sin.” Oshima holds his pencil between his middle and index fingers, twirling it ever so slightly as if testing the balance. “Anyway, my point is that it’s really hard for people to live their lives alone.” (39-40)

—————

I’m free, I think. I shut my eyes and think hard and deep about how free I am, but I can’t really understand what it means. All I know is I’m totally alone. All alone in an unfamiliar place, like some solitary explorer who’s lost his compass and his map. Is this what it means to be free? I don’t know, and I give up thinking about it. (44)

—————

“There are all kinds of people in the world, and all kinds of cats.” (50)

—————

After changing into shorts and a T-shirt in the locker room, I do some stretching exercises. As my muscles relax, so do I. I’m safe inside this container called me. With a little click, the outlines of this being—me—fit right inside and are locked neatly away. Just the way I like it. I’m where I belong. (55)

—————

I take a bus back to the station and have a steaming bowl of udon in the same diner as the day before. I take my time, gazing out the windows as I eat. The station’s packed with people streaming in and out, all of them dressed in their favorite clothes, bags or briefcases in hand, each one dashing off to take care of some pressing business. I stare at this ceaseless, rushing crowd and imagine a time a hundred years from now. In a hundred years everybody here—me included—will have disappeared from the face of the earth and turned into ashes or dust. A weird thought, but everything in front of me starts to seem unreal, like a gust of wind could blow it all away. (56)

—————

Nakata let his body relax, switched off his mind, allowing things to flow through him. This was natural for him, something he’d done ever since he was a child, without a second thought. Before long the borders of his consciousness fluttered around, just like the butterflies. Beyond these borders lay a dark abyss. Occasionally his consciousness would fly over the border and hover over that dizzying, black crevass. But Nakata wasn’t afraid of the darkness or how deep it was. And why should he be? That bottomless world of darkness, that weighty silence and chaos, was an old friend, a part of him already. Nakata understood this well. In that world there was no writing, no days of the week, no scary Governor, no opera, no BMWs. No scissors, no tall hats. On the other hand, there was also no delicious eel, no tasty bean-jam buns. Everything is there, but there are no parts. Since there are no parts, there’s no need to replace one thing with another. No need to remove anything, or add anything. You don’t have to think about difficult things, just let yourself soak it all in. For Nakata, nothing could be better. (85)

—————

There’re plenty of reasons why someone might get bloody, and most of the time it’s not nearly as bad as it looks. I’m a girl, so I’m used to seeing blood—I see that much every month. You know what I mean? (88)

—————

[A]s individuals each of us is extremely isolated, while at the same time we are all linked by a prototypical memory. (96)

—————

The military’s always the same, whether Japanese or American. (97)

—————

Most things are forgotten over time. Even the war itself, the life-and-death struggle people went through, is now like something from the distant past. We’re so caught up in our everyday lives that events of the past, like ancient stars that have burned out, are no longer in orbit around our minds. There are just too many things we have to think about every day, too many new things we have to learn. New styles, new information, new technology, new terminology . . . But still, no matter how much time passes, no matter what takes place in the interim, there are some things we can never assign to oblivion, memories we can never rub away. They remain with us forever, like a touchstone. And for me, what happened in the woods that day is one of these. (98)

—————

“It’s like Goethe said: Everything’s a metaphor.” (107)

—————

“If you play Schubert’s sonatas, especially this one straight through, it’s not art. Like Schumann pointed out, it’s too long and too pastoral, and technically too simplistic. Play it through the way it is and it’s flat and tasteless, some dusty antique. Which is why every pianist who attempts it adds something of his own, something extra. Like this—hear how he articulates it there? Adding rubato. Adjusting the pace, modulation, whatever. Otherwise they can’t hold it all together. They have to be careful, though, or else all those extra devices destroy the dignity of the piece. Then it’s not Schubert’s music anymore. Every single pianist who’s played this sonata struggles with the same paradox.”

He listens to the music, humming the melody, then continues.

“That’s why I listen to Schubert while I’m driving. Like I said, it’s because all the performances are imperfect. A dense, artistic kind of imperfection stimulates your consciousness, keeps you alert. If I listen to some utterly perfect performance of an utterly perfect piece while I’m driving, I might want to close my eyes and die right then and there.” (111-112)

—————

Everything sparkles in a newborn golden glow.

[...]

The morning light pours down through the tall trees onto the open space in front of the cabin, sunbeams everywhere and mist floating like freshly minted souls. (130-131)

—————

Silence, I discover, is something you can actually hear. (138)

—————

“When a war starts people are forced to become soldiers. They carry guns and go to the front lines and have to kill soldiers on the other side. As many as they possibly can. Nobody cares whether you like killing other people or not. It’s just something you have to do. Otherwise you’re the one who gets killed.” Johnnie Walker pointed his index finger at Nakata’s chest. “Bang!” he said. “Human history in a nutshell.” (142)

—————

Johnnie Walker narrowed his eyes and gently stroked the cat’s head. He ran the tip of his index finger up and down the cat’s belly, then picked up a scalpel in his right hand and without any warning made an incision straight down the stomach. It all happened in an instant. The belly split wide open and reddish guts spilled out. The cat tried to scream but barely made any sound at all. His tongue, after all, was numb, and he could hardly open his mouth. But his eyes were contorted in terrible pain. And Nakata could well imagine how awful this pain was. A moment later blood gushed out, wetting Johnnie Walker’s hands and running down his vest. But he didn’t pay attention. Still to the accompaniment of “Heigh-Ho,” he thrust his hand inside the cat’s body and with a small scalpel skillfully cut loose the tiny heart.

He placed the gory lump on his palm and held it out for Nakata to see. “Take a peek. It’s still beating.”

Then, as if it were the most natural thing in the world, he popped the heart into his mouth and began chewing silently, leisurely savoring the taste. His eyes glistened like a child enjoying a pastry hot from the oven.

He wiped the blood from his mouth with the back of his hand and carefully licked his lips clean. “Fresh and warm. And still beating in my mouth.” (144-145)

—————

“Now that you’ve said hello, I’m afraid we move right into farewells. Hello, good-bye. Like flowers scattered in a storm, man’s life is one long farewell, as they say.” (146)

—————

“There’s only one kind of happiness, but misfortune comes in all shapes and sizes. It’s like Tolstoy said. Happiness is an allegory, unhappiness a story.” (157)

—————

As Nakata sat there, umbrella and canvas bag in hand, office workers streamed back inside after their lunch hour. Another scene he’d never laid eyes on before in his life. As if by mutual consent, all the people were well dressed—ties, shiny briefcases, and high heels, everyone rushing off in the same direction. For the life of him Nakata couldn’t understand what so many people like this could possibly be up to. (186)

—————

Oshima gazes deep into my eyes. “Listen, Kafka. What you’re experiencing now is the motif of many Greek tragedies. Man doesn’t choose fate. Fate chooses man. That’s the basic worldview of Greek drama. And the sense of tragedy—according to Aristotle—comes, ironically enough, not from the protagonist’s weak points but from his good qualities. Do you know what I’m getting at? People are drawn deeper into tragedy not by their defects but by their virtues. Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex being a great example. Oedipus is drawn into tragedy not because of laziness or stupidity, but because of his courage and honesty. So an inevitable irony results.” (199)

—————

“The world of the grotesque is the darkness within us. Well before Freud and Jung shined a light on the workings of the subconscious, this correlation between darkness and our subconscious, these two forms of darkness, was obvious to people. It wasn’t a metaphor, even. If you trace it back further, it wasn’t even a correlation. Until Edison invented the electric light, most of the world was totally covered in darkness. The physical darkness outside and the inner darkness of the soul were mixed together, with no boundary separating the two. They were directly linked. Like this.” Oshima brings his two hands together tightly. (225)

—————

Tales of Moonlight and Rain was written in the late Edo period by a man named Ueda Akinari. It was set, however, in the earlier Warring States period, which makes Ueda’s approach a bit nostalgic or retro. Anyway, in this particular story two samurai become fast friends and pledge themselves as blood brothers. For samurai this was very serious. Being blood brothers meant they pledged their lives to each other. They lived far away from each other, each serving a different lord. One wrote to the other saying no matter what, he would visit when the chrysanthemums were in bloom. The other said he’d wait for his arrival. But before the first one could set out on the journey, he got mixed up in some trouble in his domain, was put under confinement, and wasn’t allowed to go out or send a letter. Finally summer is over and fall is upon them, the season when the chrysanthemums blossom. At this rate he won’t be able to fulfill his promise to his friend. To a samurai, nothing’s more important than a promise. Honor’s more important than your life. So this samurai commits hara-kiri, becomes a spirit, and races across the miles to visit his friend. They sit near the chrysanthemums and talk to their heart’s content, and then the spirit vanishes from the face of the earth. It’s a beautiful tale.” (226-227)

—————

“Have you ever been in love?” I ask.

He stares at me, taken aback. “What do you think? I’m not a starfish or a pepper tree. I’m a living, breathing human being. Of course I’ve been in love.” (227)

—————

“From time immemorial, symbolism and poetry have been inseparable. Like a pirate and his rum.” (244)

—————

The pure present is an ungraspable advance of the past devouring the future. In truth, all sensation is already memory.” (273)

—————

At the same time that ‘I’ am the content of a relation, ‘I’ am also that which does the relating..”

“Hmm . . .”

“Hegel believed that a person is not merely conscious of self and object as separate entities, but through the projection of the self via the mediation of the object is volitionally able to gain a deeper understanding of the self. All of which constitutes self-consciousness.”

“I don’t know what the heck you’re talking about.”

“Well, think of what I’m doing to you right now. For me I’m the self, and you’re the object. For you, of course, it’s the exact opposite—you’re the self to you and I’m the object. And by exchanging self and object, we can project ourselves onto the other and gain self-consciousness. Volitionally.”

“I still don’t get it, but it sure feels good.”

“That’s the whole idea,” the girl said. (274)

—————

“You still don’t get it, do you? We’re talking about a revelation here,” Colonel Sanders said, clicking his tongue. “A revelation leaps over the borders of the everyday. A life without revelation is no life at all. What you need to do is move from reason that observes to reason that acts. That’s what’s critical. Do you have any idea what I’m talking about, you gold-plated whale of a dunce?” (275)

—————

“Tell me something,” Hoshino began.

“What?”

“Are you really Colonel Sanders?”

Colonel Sanders cleared his throat. “Not really. I’m just taking on his appearance for a time.”

“That’s what I figured,” Hoshino said. “So what are you really?”

“I don’t have a name.”

“How do you get along without one?”

“No problem. Originally I don’t have a name or shape.”

“So you’re kind of like a fart.” (283)

—————

“Listen—God only exists in people’s minds. Especially in Japan, God’s always been kind of a flexible concept. Look at what happened after the war. Douglas MacArthur ordered the divine emperor to quit being God, and he did, making a speech saying he was just an ordinary person. So after 1946 he wasn’t God anymore. That’s what Japanese gods are like—they can be tweaked and adjusted. Some American chomping on a cheap pipe gives the order and presto change-o—God’s no longer God. A very postmodern kind of thing. If you think God’s there, He is. If you don’t, He isn’t. And if that’s what God’s like, I wouldn’t worry about it. (286-287)

—————

“Listen, every object’s in flux. The Earth, time, concepts, love, life, faith, justice, evil—they’re all fluid and in transition. They don’t stay in one form or in one place forever. The whole universe is like some big FedEx box.” (287)

—————

“Anton Chekhov put it best when he said, ‘If a pistol appears in a story, eventually it’s got to be fired.’” (287)

—————

“Yeah, but if you look at it like that we’re all pretty much empty, don’t you think? You eat, take a dump, do your crummy job for your lousy pay, and get laid occasionally, if you’re lucky. What else is there? Still, you know, interesting things do happen in life—like with us now. I’m not sure why. My grandpa used to say that things never work out like you think they will, but that’s what makes life interesting, and that makes sense. If the Chunichi Dragons won every single game, who’d ever watch baseball?” (306)

—————

“That backpack’s like your symbol of freedom,” he comments.

“Guess so,” I say.

“Having an object that symbolizes freedom might make a person happier than actually getting the freedom it represents.”

“Sometimes,” I say.

“Sometimes,” he repeats. “You know, if they had a contest for the world’s shortest replies, you’d win hands down.”

“Perhaps.”

“Perhaps,” Oshima says, as if fed up. “Perhaps most people in the world aren’t trying to be free, Kafka. They just think they are. It’s all an illusion. If they really were set free, most people would be in a real bind. You’d better remember that. People actually prefer not being free.”

“Including you?”

“Yeah. I prefer being unfree, too. Up to a point. Jean-Jacques Rousseau defined civilization as when people build fences. A very perceptive observation. And it’s true—all civilization is the product of a fenced-in lack of freedom. The Australian Aborigines are the exception, though. They managed to maintain a fenceless civilization until the seventeenth century. They’re dyed-in-the-wool free. They go where they want, when they want, doing what they want. Their lives are a literal journey. Walkabout is a perfect metaphor for their lives. When the English came and built fences to pen in their cattle, the Aborigines couldn’t fathom it. And, ignorant to the end of the principle at work, they were classified as dangerous and antisocial and were driven away, to the outback. So I want you to be careful. The people who build high, strong fences are the ones who survive the best. You deny that reality only at the risk of being driven into the wilderness yourself.” (315-316)

—————

When I’m with the Buddha, I always feel I’m where I belong. (326)

—————

Life’s crappy, no matter how you cut it. (326)

—————

“The world would be a real mess if everybody was a genius. Somebody’s got to keep watch, take care of business.” (326)

—————

Listening to Fournier’s flowing, dignified cello, Hoshino was drawn back to his childhood. He used to go to the river every day to catch fish. Nothing to worry about back then, he reminisced. Just live each day as it came. As long as I was alive, I was something. That was just how it was. But somewhere along the line it all changed. Living turned me into nothing. Weird . . . People are born in order to live, right? But the longer I’ve lived, the more I’ve lost what’s inside me—and ended up empty. And I bet the longer I live, the emptier, the more worthless, I’ll become. Something’s wrong with this picture. Life isn’t supposed to turn out like this! Isn’t it possible to shift direction, to change where I’m headed? (328)

—————

Oshima’s silent for a time as he gazes out at the forest, eyes narrowed. Birds are flitting from one branch to the next. His hands are clasped behind his head. “I know how you feel,” he finally says. “But this is something you have to figure out on your own. Nobody can help you. That’s what love’s all about, Kafka. You’re the one having those wonderful feelings, but you have to go it alone as you wander through the dark. Your mind and body have to bear it all. All by yourself.” (351)

—————

“Do you know where the idea of a labyrinth first came from?”

I shake my head.

“It was the ancient Mesopotamians. They pulled out animal intestines—sometimes human intestines, I expect—and used the shapes to predict the future. They admired the complex shapes of intestines. So the prototype for labyrinths is, in a word, guts. Which means that the principle for the labyrinth is inside you. And that correlates to the labyrinth outside.”

“Another metaphor,” I comment.

“That’s right. A reciprocal metaphor. Things outside you are projections of what’s inside you, and what’s inside you is a projection of what’s outside. So when you step into the labyrinth outside you, at the same time you’re stepping into the labyrinth inside. Most definitely a risky business.” (352)

—————

“Good idea. Talking over things is important. Whether you’re talking with people, or things, or whatever, it’s always better to discuss things. You know, when I’m driving trucks I often talk to the engine. You can hear all kinds of things if you listen closely.” (357)

—————

“Music doesn’t bother me. To me it’s like the wind.” (358)

—————

Hoshino switched on the TV and watched the news to see if there were any developments in the murder case. But there wasn’t a word about it. Just other news—a kidnapping of an infant girl, the usual Israeli and Palestinian reprisals, a massive traffic accident on a highway in western Japan, a carjacking ring headed by foreigners, some cabinet minister’s stupid discriminatory remark, layoffs at companies in the communication industry. Not a single upbeat story. (358)

—————

“Like the saying goes, if a dog walks on, it’s bound to bump into a stick.” (363)

—————

“Mr. Hoshino,” Nakata said after a while.

“Yeah?”

“You can look at ants working for a long time and never tire of it.”

“I suppose you’re right,” Hoshino replied. (364)

—————

Yesterday, today, tomorrow—they’d all blur into one. Like an anchorless ship, time floats aimlessly across the broad sea. (366)

—————

“Without these peak experiences our lives would be pretty dull and flat. Berlioz put it this way: A life without reading Hamlet is like a life spent in a coal mine.” (379)

—————

The more you think about illusions, the more they’ll swell up and take on form. And no longer be an illusion. (384)

—————

Why do people wage war? Why do hundreds of thousands, even millions of people group together and try to annihilate each other? Do people start wars out of anger? Or fear? Or are anger and fear just two aspects of the same spirit? (386)

—————

“Listen up—there’s no war that will end all wars,” Crow tells me. “War breeds war. Lapping up the blood shed by violence, feeding on wounded flesh. War is a perfect, self-contained being. You need to know that.” (387)

—————

“Can nothingness increase?” (405)

—————

Cops, Hoshino concluded, not for the first time in his life, are just gangsters who get paid by the state. (409)

—————

“Surfing’s a more profound kind of sport than it looks. When you surf you learn not to fight the power of nature, even if it gets violent.” (459)

—————

“People are mostly a product of where they were born and raised. How you think and feel’s always linked to the lay of the land, the temperature. The prevailing winds, even.” (461)

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Bookends

1

spent the night fueling. drinking water. cooked a salmon w Xanthe’s guidance, raw segments of flesh lining the thicker bits. soft orzo mixed in w onion, garlic, and mushrooms on the side. very filling. tons of water. whiskey. laughter, a shower, and confidence.

walked to BART. into the Mission. above to the streets.

the drugged and the homeless on their wayward trips. a few blocks to Public Works and there i was, for the first time in a year, encircled by youth, liquor, and deeply throbbing bass. church.

i ordered a whiskey ginger, which i sipped while swaying to the sultry beats alongside Mark and Marie. Mark disappeared but Marie and i continued dancing; the music like a phoenix burned into grey ashes and rose again within moments to thumping New York City leftfield disco, fat w bass, happy w horns, alive w love. perfect. dance. music. so we danced.

then we stepped outside for a brief smoke, awaiting the arrival of our much beloved Norwegian prince, Todd Terje. when we reentered, “Delorean Dynamite.”

Mark and Marie edged into an unfortunate section so i ditched them for something more suitable, sonically speaking. as i pushed in from the back left corner of the crowd, a pretty girl nudged me and, when i turned, said, “you have the most incredible aura.”

and so i danced.

2

worked all day, dressed so sharp. same blue levi’s but the deer print tee had been replaced by a blue pinstripe button down. hair ain’t down, it’s all the way up. dreadbun.

Cab Calloway’s big band’s banging away in my headphones as i step onto the BART car, as the pretty girl sitting there eyes me and smiles. i smile back, standing near her. she glances up at me (or tries not to) one too many times, so i pull an earphone off and ask, “should i remember your name?”

“no.. i just like your energy.”

“ah.. i see. well, thanks, but shouldn’t you be up in the desert with all those other energy-reading folk?”

she laughs, then asks, “what are you listening to?”

i laugh too, and hand her the headphones. 1930s jazz strikes her eardrums, and from the very first moment she’s surprised, but i’m not.

“wasn’t expecting that,” she says.

“i know,” i laugh.

some silence.

“you know,” i say, “this is really funny because it’s the second time it’s happened to me in the past few days.”

i tell her something about the girl at Public Works. i proceed to pontificate about how i’m more freaked out about someone commenting on aura because it implies that they’re literally seeing colors in the air around my body like i’m the bloody virgin mary, but then i think about Meryl and realize that it might not be so farfetched. i say all of this, minus mentioning Meryl, plus all the added doubting and philosophy. i also, during this time, notice her hairy armpits.

and she never stops smiling. i got on at Montgomery, she bounces at Civic Center, and that’s that.

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the food and the abstract truth

so tonight for dinner i ate:

  • two corn tortillas
  • a can of refried pinto beans
  • a half cup of rice
  • three eggs
  • a tablespoon of soy sauce, and
  • a teaspoon of Mexican hot sauce,

amounting to about:

  • 887 calories
  • 22 g fat
  • 561 mg cholesterol
  • 2871 mg sodium
  • 129 g carbohydrates
    • 30 g dietary fiber
    • 11 g sugar
  • 49 g protein,

which, based on the standard 2,000-calorie intake, means i got:

  • 44% of my daily calories
  • 34% of my daily total fat
  • 187% of my daily cholesterol
  • 120% of my daily sodium
  • 43% of my daily carbohydrates, and
    • 120% of my daily dietary fiber,

in addition to:

  • 17% of my vitamin A
  • 25% of my calcium
  • 16% of my iron
  • 33% of my vitamin D
  • 18% of my vitamin B-6
  • 30% of my vitamin B-12, and
  • 5% of my magnesium.

in short, i’m just guilty of liking salty, eggy dinners. and sometimes science isn’t especially groundbreaking.

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walking birds in stereo

two channels of life transmitted
3000 miles across America in stereophonic sound—

two of hearts, one infinitesimal diamond
walking along the country’s deep black grooves

dreaming, “Rhythm is Rhythm—Rhythm is Life—
Music is Zen—systems, strife.” day

and night, sometimes skipping, sometimes
losing the beat but losing it together

and then finding it together on the b-side
of the very same thought, not a measure too soon.

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