Tuesday, February 13, 2018

any war you want

from syria burning by charles glass

"syria's war is anything its fighters want it to be. it is a class war of the suburban proletariat against a state army financed by the bourgeoisie. it is a sectarian war in which the sunni arab majority is fighting to displace an alawi ruling class. it is a holy war of sunni muslims against all manifestations of shiism, especially the alawite variety. the social understandings on which aleppo prided itself are unraveling. muslim fundamentalists have targeted christian churches and shiite mosques. arabs have fought kurds. iraqi shiites and sunnis have crossed the border to fight each other in syria."

Friday, February 2, 2018

a window

from because she never asked by enrique vila-matas

"when i described how the relationship between sophie and me had taken on the structure of a love story (the jealousy of one person not knowing what the other was thinking, which is really what lover's jealousy has always been about: not knowing what the other is thinking; read proust to understand it better), sergi preferred not to wax transcendent and instead mentioned a french song called 'les histoires d'amour', sung by the rita mitsouko duo."

"he said: 'i used to paint, but nobody seemed to care about what i did. so i got fed up one day and asked myself why i painted, and more importantly, why did it matter to me if anyone cared? so, guess what i did. i retired. and then i went on painting, as if nothing had happened, but only in my imagination. take this window, for example. to me it's a still life. there's a dead crow in it. i don't think you can see it. there are days when nothing exists outside the world of my imagination. i give you my word as a retired artist.'"

Friday, January 19, 2018

sulker's fantasy

excerpt from kiss and tell by alain de botton:

biographies are traditionally written without hesitation in crossing lines of age, class, profession and gender. an urban aristocrat captures the life of a rural pauper, a fifty-year-old follows the experience of youthful rimbaud, a timorous academic allies himself to lawrence of arabia. an enviable faith lies behind these enterprises, the idea that men and women remain essentially comprehensible to each other despite a ripple of surface difference.

dr. johnson thought so: 'we are all prompted by the same motives, all deceived by the same fallacies, all animated by hope, obstructed by danger, entangled by desire and seduced by pleasure.' people belonged to the same disparate but unitary family, suggested johnson, and could therefore understand one another on the basis of their passport to the human community. i could understand your motive, because i would find much the same if i looked under my pillow. i could understand a fragment of your experience by finding the same experience within myself. i would know how love had made you suffer, because i had also endured evenings by a phone which had not rung. i would recognize your envy, because i too had known the pain engendered by my insufficiencies.

but there were darker implications to this pillow model of understanding. what if little lay beneath the pillow? adam smith had unwittingly articulated the dilemma in his theory of moral sentiments. 'as we have no immediate experience of what other men feel, we can form no idea of the manner in which they are affected but by conceiving what we ourselves should feel in the like situation. though our brother is upon the rack, as long as we ourselves are at our ease, our senses will never inform us of what he suffers. it is by the imagination only that we can form any conception of what are his sensations. by the imagination we place ourselves in his situation and conceive ourselves enduring all the same torments.'

despite the virtue of suffering with others, the sombre consequence of the pillow theory lies in the need for a sufficient stock of experience genuinely to imagine the experience of others - depressing because our stock can never adequately answer the emotions we encounter beyond ourselves.

what if i had never been on a rack before? what would i then feel for my brother condemned to this fate of unimaginable agony? would i imagine the last time i had been on a crowded underground train and then extend the experience a hundredfold, perhaps mixing it with the recollection of a painful tooth extraction or lanced boil? in other words, how can we understand experiences of which we have no experience?

we may suppose that no experience is so unique as to be incomparable. there are always adjacent experiences to which we can appeal to inform us of the original, we proceed with metaphors when our images run dry. i had never eaten shark, but when isabel informed me that it tasted half like cod and half like tuna, both of which i had bought on occasion, the mystery of the fish receded. when we say that a book has transported us to a foreign land we have never travelled to, we are paradoxically also saying that it has succeeded in reminding us of places that we knew, but had never yet combined.

but there are situations in which we may be granted neither cod nor tuna. others may resist suggesting the nature of their experience out of an assumption that we should know what these are without requiring to have them spelt out. the sulker's fantasy is to be understood without needing to speak, metaphorize or explain, because words embody a defeat of a prior and more intimate level of communication. it is when intuition breaks down that we have to clear our throat, and our voice risks reminding us of our loneliness. we research only what we have not felt.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

tabula rasa

quotes from the coming community by giorgio agamben

"only a power that is capable of both power and impotence, then, is the supreme power. . .in de anima aristotle articulates this theory in absolute terms with respect to the supreme theme of metaphysics. if thought were in fact only the potentiality to think this or that intelligibly, he argues, it would always already have passed through to the act and it would remain necessarily inferior to its own object. but thought, in its essence, is pure potentiality; in other words, it is also the potentiality to not think, and as such, as possible or material intellect, aristotle compares it to a writing tablet on which nothing is written. (this is the celebrated image that the latin translators render with the expression tabula rasa, even if, as the ancient commentators noted, one should speak rather of a rasum tabulae, that is, of the layer of wax covering the tablet that the stylus engraves.)

thanks to this potentiality to not-think, thought can turn back to itself (to its pure potentiality) and be, at its apex, the thought of thought. what it thinks here, however, is not an object, a being-in-act, but that layer of wax, that rasum tabulae that is nothing but its own passivity, its own pure potentiality (to not-think): in the potentiality that thinks itself, action and passion coincide and the writing tablet writes by itself or, rather, writes its own passivity."


"there is in effect something that humans are and have to be, but this something is not an essence nor properly a thing: it is the simple fact of one's own existence as possibility or potentiality. but precisely because of this things become complicated; precisely because of this ethics becomes effective.

since the being most proper to humankind is being one's own possibility or potentiality, then and only for this reason . . . humans have and feel a debt. humans, in their potentiality to be and not-be, are, in other words, always already in debt; they always already have a bad conscience without having to commit any blameworthy act. . .

this is why ethics has no room for repentance; this is why the only ethical experience (which, as such, cannot be a task or a subjective decision) is the experience of being (one's own) potentiality, of being (one's own) possibility -- exposing, that is, in every form one's own amorphousness and in every act one's own inactuality."


"the process of technologization, instead of materially investing the body, was aimed at the construction of a separate sphere that had practically no point of contact with it: what was technologized was not the body, but its image. thus the glorious body of advertising has become the mask behind which the fragile, slight human body continues its precarious existence."

Friday, December 15, 2017


quotes from brave new world by aldous huxley

"one of the principal functions of a friend is to suffer (in a milder and symbolic form) the punishments that we should like, but are unable, to inflict upon our enemies."

"actual happiness always looks pretty squalid in comparison with the overcompensations for misery. and, of course, stability isn't nearly so spectacular as instability. and being contented has none of the glamour of a good fight against misfortune, none of the picturesqueness of a struggle with temptation, or a fatal overthrow by passion or doubt. happiness is never grand."

Sunday, December 3, 2017


excerpt from jack, or the submission, play by eugene ionesco

[they put their arms around each other very awkwardly, jack kisses the noses of roberta II, one after the other, while father jack, mother jack, jacqueline, the grandparents, father robert, and mother robert enter without saying a word, one after the other, waddling along, in a sort of ridiculous dance, embarassing, in a vague circle, around jack and roberta II who remain at stage center, awkwardly enlaced. father robert silently and slowly strikes his hands together. mother robert, her arms clasped behind her neck, makes pirouettes, smiling stupidly. mother jack, with an expressionless face, shakes her shoulders in a grotesque fashion. father jack pulls up his pants and walks on his heels. jacqueline nods her head, then they continue to dance, squatting down, while jack and roberta II squat down too, and remain motionless. the grandparents turn around, idiotically, looking at each other, and smiling; then they squat down in their turn. all this must produce in the audience a feeling of embarrassment, awkwardness, and shame. the darkness increases. on stage, the actors utter vague miaows while turning around, bizarre moans, croakings. the darkness increases. we can still see the jacks and roberts crawling on the stage. we hear their animal noises, then we don't see them any more. we hear only their moans, their sighs, then all fades away, all is extinguished. again, a gray light comes on. all the characters have disappeared, except roberta, who is lying down, or rather squatting down, buried beneath her gown. we see only her pale face, with its three noses quivering, and her nine fingers moving like snakes.]

Friday, December 1, 2017


from the short story "a great man's house" by samrat upadhyay, from the book arresting god in kathmandu

"during one session, about two months after the wedding, while i was serving tea to the guests, nani memsaheb interrupted my master while he was speaking. my master had been talking about the nature of the mind, how it moves from one place to another like a monkey, and how in order to reach a higher level, one has to control that monkey. put it on a leash, my master had said, so that it cannot run around. then the mind will become one with the brahman.

'but when once we have the monkey on a leash,' she said, smiling faintly, 'then we too are tethered to the leash, aren't we?'

my master smiled, affectionately, understandingly, as one smiles at a child. 'yes, we are. the trick is to be tethered to that leash while also controlling it.'

'but how is that possible?' she asked. 'it seems to me that the trick is not to have the monkey on a leash at all. let the monkey do whatever it wants. why become attached to it?'"

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

on being good men

by amaud jamaul johnson from red sparrow

because you were a good man,
and we had spent so much
of our adolescence thinking about
being good men, about being better
than our fathers, about proving
the world wrong, that black men
could love, that we could be true
to our wives, strong for our children

because so much had come to pass
how the narcotic night called us
how the streets beneath us ached
from sorrow and we survived

when you said you understood
what made men leave, how you stood
in the doorway, your wife and kids
asleep, your keys like a knife
at your wrist, how you heard your
name echo in the chorus of darkness
and were not afraid

because you were a good man
and i had spent so much of my life
trying to be a good man too
i could see your truth, like all
the truths who turned their backs
on us, the men who jumped
freight trains, the men who drove
for milk and never looked back

how we run from ourselves
from the chaos of our hearts
from our inability to witness
our failures in those we love

Monday, November 13, 2017

a note on the body

by danez smith (from don't call us dead)

your body still your body
your arms still wing
your mouth still a gun

           you tragic, misfiring bird

you have all you need to be a hero
don't save the world, save yourself

you worship too much & you worship too much

when prayer doesn't work:          dance, fly, fire

this is your hardest scene
when you think the whole sad thing might end

but you live           oh, you live

everyday you wake you raise the dead

            everything you do is a miracle

Sunday, November 12, 2017


from the postman (il postino) by antonio skarmeta

"'listen to this poem: 'here on the island, the sea, so much sea. it spills over from time to time. it says yes, then no, then no. it says yes, in blue, in foam, in a gallop. it says no, then no. it cannot be still. my name is sea, it repeats, striking a stone but not convincing it. then with the seven green tongues, of seven green tigers, of seven green seas, it caresses it, kisses it, wets it, and pounds on its chest, repeating its own name.'

he paused with an air of satisfaction. 'what do you think?'

'it's weird.'

'weird? you certainly are a severe critic.'

'no, sir. the poem wasn't weird. what was weird was the way i felt when you recited it.'

'my dear mario, please try to express yourself more clearly. i simply cannot spend the whole morning in your delightful company.'

'how can i explain it to you? when you recited that poem, the words went from over there to over here.'

'like the sea, then!'

'yeah, they moved like the sea.'

'that's the rhythm.'

'and i felt weird because with all that movement, i got dizzy.'

'you got dizzy?'

'of course. i was like a boat tossing upon your words.'

the poet's eyelids rose slowly.

'like a boat tossing upon my words.'


'you know what you just did, mario?'

'no, what?'

'you invented a metaphor.'

'but it doesn't even count, 'cause it just came out by accident.'

'all images are accidents, my son.'"

Saturday, November 11, 2017

this side of joyce, who knew

from "the dead" by james joyce (in dubliners)

"moments of their secret life together burst like stars upon his memory. a heliotrope envelope was lying beside his breakfast-cup and he was caressing it with his hand. birds were twittering in the ivy and the sunny web of the curtain was shimmering along the floor: he could not eat for happiness. they were standing on the crowded platform and he was placing a ticket inside the warm palm of her glove. he was standing with her in the cold, looking in through a grated window at a man making bottles in a roaring furnace. it was very cold. her face, fragrant in the cold air, was quite close to his; and suddenly he called out to the man at the furnace:

'is the fire hot, sir?'

but the man could not hear with the noise of the furnace. it was just as well. he might have answered rudely.

a wave of yet more tender joy escaped from his heart and went coursing in warm flood along his arteries. like the tender fire of stars moments of their life together, that no one knew of or would ever know of, broke upon and illumined his memory. he longed to recall to her those moments, to make her forget the years of their dull existence together and remember only their moments of ecstasy. for the years, he felt, had not quenched his soul or hers. their children, his writing, her household cares had not quenched all their souls' tender fire. in one letter that he had written to her then he had said: 'why is it that words like these seem to me so dull and cold? is it because there is no word tender enough to be your name?'

like distant music these words that he had written years before were borne towards him from the past. he longed to be alone with her."

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

bank twenty-two

by laura sims from practice, restraint

the infinite

network of rooms



nobody wants you enough

Thursday, November 2, 2017


excerpt from the short story "old complaints revisited" by susan sontag (from i, etcetera):

the translator is on the verge of talking about sex.

instead of going on about the moral will, i'd rather talk about sex. but there's an obstacle here -- of my own making. i have told you i am married. i have mentioned an adultery. but i don't want to go into too much detail. i'm afraid of your losing the sense of my problem as a general one.

that's why i have made a point of not making it clear whether i'm a man or a woman. and i don't think i will - because, either way, it might subtract from the point of what i'm trying to explain. think about it. if i'm a man, the problem stands but i become a type. i'm too representative, almost an allegorical figure. if i'm a woman, i survive as a singular individual but my dilemma shrinks: it reflects the insecurities of the second sex. if i tell you i'm a woman, you'll write off my problem - still the same problem!- as merely "feminine."

assume i'm a man, if that makes it easier for you to understand the problem as a general one. a man, say, in his mid-thirties, tall, good-looking, sallow, thickening in the waist, etc., who usually wears a suit and tie. lo and behold, everyman. and lee and nicky are women. nicky is probably a blonde, chews gum, and takes a larger size bra than lee. nicky reads rock magazines and smokes pot; lee wears glasses. but it doesn't have to be like that. i could be an adolescent-looking woman in my mid-thirties, with long straight hair, small breasts, fair skin, and nail-bitten hands, who wears jeans and button-down shirts. if i am a woman, lee can be my over-worked, gently reared, soft-spoken husband, and nicky my proletarian, paint-bespattered, beer-swilling, rough-talking lover. in either version, you'll assume, the sex is livelier with nicky than it is with lee. unfortunately, i have to agree with you.

as a translator, i'm aware that this may be the only language in the world that allows me to leave the matter open. (except for having to steer away from the telltale "his" or "her," it shouldn't be hard.) all other languages i know are saturated with gender. a little triumph. i have the pleasure of writing, myself, something that can't be translated. . .

i am reluctant to describe myself at all, for fear that too many particularities will make you take my problem less seriously. but i can describe nicky to you, and that way i'll also, by inversion, be describing myself. nicky has many qualities that i signally lack - for example, an unwillingness to judge others. nothing makes nicky indignant.

in bed this steamy summer, i tried to arouse nicky's sympathy for my longing to quit the organization. all i got for an answer was a smile, although not a callous smile. (it was certainly not the typical response of a nonmember, glad to hear the bad news about us.)

actually, what i wanted to be - when i was a child - was a saint. with the full awareness of how ridiculous this was. people who want, desperately, often want to be either angels or saints. unfortunately, angels are not saints. and saints are not angels. nicky (fortunately?) was an angel.

once, nicky explained to me how it was possible to get through the day without judging. the art is in not letting any time elapse between events and one's acting upon them. a judgment, said nicky, is a cry of impotence. when people can't do anything to change a situation, what's left but to judge it? but isn't judging necessary in order to act, i asked, when we are acting rationally? isn't there, in all our acts, at least an implicit judgment? "no," nicky replied. judgment is no more implicit in acts, according to nicky, than impotence is implicit in potency.

as for judging oneself - one of my favorite occupations - you can imagine what nicky thought of that.

the portrait nicky started painting toward the end of our affair did not judge me. it observed me, it recorded me - in my mid-thirties, tall and well formed, etc, or with long hair and small breasts and nail-bitten hands, it doesn't matter. . . i kept wanting nicky to add something. "what more do you want?" nicky asked. "it's the face," i replied. "i'm not as calm as you portray me."

"do you want me to paint doubt?" asked nicky. "grief?" as nicky left the canvas to get a beer from the refrigerator, i shook my head. "i want you to show someone in the process of becoming someone else. but do it without making the portrait any less linear and figurative. don't let the paint drip or smudge or blur."

"you can't become other than what you are. only more or less what you are. you can't walk over your own feet."

"i can, i can, nicky," i murmured. "that's just what i have to do."

nicky was right, of course. but that didn't prevent me from returning to lee. it wasn't guilt that brought me back. it was a very peculiar kind of homesickness: a longing for the word. nicky and i could have a certain kind of laconic, aphoristic conversation. but the full-blooded verbal union that i had with lee finally counted for more. returning to lee, i was plunged back into the warm bath of talk that i'll never be able to do without.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

spires of form

quotes from spires of form: glimpses of evolution by victor b scheffer

"sex ambivalence is rare among vertebrate animals, being known only in certain fishes, in one family of turtles, and in one species of alligator. it is not, however, uncommon among lower animals. for example, the larva of the marine echiurid worm, bonellia, is sexually indifferent. if it happens to settle in a population where females are abundant it becomes a male, and vice versa. 'thus,' writes evolutionist george williams, 'each individual adjusts its sex to the opportunities presented by its demographic environment.'"

"i wish to make clear that it is first the individual silverside or echiurid worm, and second its group, that benefits from the ability to mature either as male or female. "

"slugs and earthworms (for example), although not self-fertilizing, are equipped with both ovaries and testes. copulating individuals line up belly to belly with their heads pointing in opposite directions, to mutually discharge sperms into the other's body."

"so, unisexual reproduction is a strategy that quickens the reproductive rate of a species. breeding while still in the larval stage is another. paedogenesis (literally, 'descent through children') is practiced by the aquatic tadpoles of a mexican salamander. called locally an axolotl, each tadpole matures sexually, engages in courtship, and produces eggs or sperms before it reaches adulthood. however, an axolotl can be forced to metamorphose into a dry-land adult by treating it with thyroxin and by lowering the water level of its pond, thus making gill breathing more difficult and lung breathing easier.

when the axolotl was discovered it was thought to represent a new, strictly aquatic, gill-breathing race. later it was found capable of maturing into a land dwelling tiger salamander very like those that breed over much of north america. thus an 'axolotl' is simply an aberrant tiger salamander which, constrained by the poverty of its habitat, begins to reproduce as soon as it can, even before it has reached its potential adult size."

"in his study of crowding, calhoun looked also at the spatial distribution of wild, free-living mammals such as mice, shrews, and gophers, that typically defend individual territories. ideally, each territory would be six-sided, for the hexagon is the ideal unit in a tightly packed, two-dimensional configuration. (witness the honeycomb cell.) noting that an animal living in a field of hexagonal territories has six nearest and eighteen next-nearest neighbors (total twenty-four), calhoun suggested that the magic number six has left its imprint on man's society."

"limulus, the horseshoe crab, is the last of an ancient line. it is little changed from ancestors who swarmed in the triassic seas more than 300 million years ago. now ageless, suspended in time, it stands apart, neither a proper crustacean (among the crabs and their kin) nor a proper arachnid (among the spiders and their kin). . .  to reflect on the endurance of limulus is to wonder, does evolution move in one direction or does it occasionally reverse itself? does 'progress' describe its motion through time? because natural selection depends in part on opportunism, reverse evolution or devolution is theoretically possible."

"almost no animal organ performs quite the same function for which it was earlier adapted. the flippers of whales and the wings of bats, now used in swimming and flying, stem from the forepaws of terrestrial mammals, and still earlier from the forefins of fishes. parts of the gill-bearing skeleton of ancient fishes, now transformed and scarcely recognizable, are the bones and cartilages of the adam's apple you can feel at the base of your throat. and the three small bones in the human ear that carry sound from the eardrum to the auditory nerve have direct antecedents in reptilian jawbones."

Monday, October 30, 2017

not that. never that.

from the short story/novella "westward the course of empire takes its way" by david foster wallace (from girl with curious hair)

"in the story he wants to make up, the one that doesn't stab him, he'd just be an object -- of irritation, accusation, desire: response. he wouldn't be a subject. not that. never that. to be a subject is to be Alone. trapped. kept from yourself. nechtr and sternberg and dehaven steelritter all know this horror: that you can kiss anyone's spine but your own. make love to anybody or anything except. . .

but mark can never know that other boys know this, too. he never talks about himself, see. this silence, for which he is loved, radiates cry-like from his central delusion and contemporary flaw. if his young companions have their own special delusions -- d.l.'s that cynicism and naivete are mutually exclusive, sternberg's that a body is a prison and not a shelter -- mark's is that he's the only person in the world who feels like the only person in the world. it's a solipsistic delusion."

Sunday, October 29, 2017


quotes from a brief history of yes by micheline aharonian marcom

"'you are right,' she says, 'that if i am to give you succor, i must give it you as you would like, and not as i prefer it.' and maria begins to leave the lover in some small measure before he leaves her in august, and although she lies with him on the bed, she lies also with new future lovers in her mind, she is inside the maelstrom of the not-know not-feel grey salt earth. she is revenging, she will leave her lover one day (even though it is he who leaves her) just as she left pai to die alone in lisbon, in that old city with its back to europe, its gaze pressed to the river and the atlantic."

* * *

"hello despair, she does not say (only the next day when others ask her of her holiday and she begins to weep).

hello sea, air, sky, and black cormorants.

there is nothing good today in my heart. all is lost, all forsaken. my son with his father and the horsy faced girl. me on these bluffs one-hundred-and-fifty miles from a city which is not my natal city, pai gone, my uncles aunts cousins across the atlantic in an old small inconsequential country where my old memories were made. i loved a tall, blond, blue-eyed american man; eventually he did not love me back. looks again at the sea. looks again at the sky. lies next to the bush and would like to be the bush, the sky, the sea, seaweed, and cold autumn air.


and of course what she notices, what is evident, is how this affair and its demise, its rupture, his 'i am not in-love with you, mariazinha,' and i don't believe you, she tells him, so that her pride gets up, turns, and then stands taller, she recants: i believe you, i don't want to feel like this, i can't bear it -- takes he closer to the imperceptible edges of things. and she begins to feel that she could go mad, and in english it is to lose one's mind, and i want to lose mine, the portuguese girl thinks, lose it lose it, for it plagues me, it takes me down into the vile place, the place where pai berated me as a girl in the old city on the far outer western edges of a continent. the sun's light is lisbon's body; the tagus its spine. maria's gift to the blond was the manner in which she loved him -- seeing his wound, the brittle place, and holding him from across the ocean, keeping her hands pressed to his back, telling him that the heart is its own country and they its loving countrymen.

so that maria begins to take photographs of herself daily to see what she looks like, to affirm she exists, to see what grief looks like in her face, what sadness, what a portuguese woman from lisbon in america long enough to have a (mostly) american accent and to remember the sunlight of her natal city and not-remember all the language which fades each year more and more, from likeness to likeness, word to word and colloquial phrase to phrase, so that it is now awkward, a child's tongue, a kitchen language, to say simple things to mae with and for speaking to herrelatives on the phone who remained there in that place on occasion -- distant and more foreign seeming all of the time. and to think that a man, blond, blue-eyed, who she has known long enough for the earth to complete its orbit around the sun, has unleashed in her the old place. i must travel to that place now, she thinks; all of my life i have labored not to enter into that place for fear and in fear my fear became a magnet, brought me the old husband, the other lovers, and now this blond who leaving, says, i leave you at the threshold of your madness, the monster: pass over; go down; see.

another conversation:

'yes, with the lover, the blond blue-eyed, i felt constrained (as i had in my marriage) and i didn't want to admit to myself this feeling for i am always talking with myself as if to the mirror of my thoughts, and the mind talks its incessant etceteras and constraint was a feeling, not a talking, although i am talking now: as if to a tree, have i told you of the maple outside my window, we speak to one another without speaking, and the tree was terribly pruned by a gardener, a man i invented (for i never knew him), who violently pruned the maple before i purchased the house (cut the top of the tree off as if removing the head of it, took an electric saw and flat-topped the maple for an unobstructed window's view) and prunes in my mind and in my mind the invented gardener grafts my blond blue-eyed lover to pai, one inside the other, violently -- the two become one and the one always saying you are not right, no good, correct your style, your language, your ---.'

madness either destroys you at the abyss, or from there a new form is made, something else is born.


she says, 'i would describe the feeling as a hollow.

'and, i love this feeling as i love love. do not confuse it with a desiccated sensation, this after-love feeling.' she is running around town and using phrases such as running around town when she is driving in her car and saying,

'i would like to kill myself.' but she knows that her son will suffer and in her suffering she thinks that this, what she calls suffering, will not end and her mind here is doing all of the talking and naming and categorizing of things and events of after-love narratives and the girl is watching the mind talking away like running around when she is driving and the dialogue is inside of dialogue tags, is realer than reality, realer than her bills which lie unpaid, and her parking tickets accumulating, debt amounts which grow taller than the maple in her garden, the tree which was pruned back to respectable neighborly viewing heights,

'i would like to die. i am lonely and i will always be lonely and how could he leave me and then leave me only so that he can find other girls and i hate him (would die for him) and he was not right for me and i didn't want my old husband who then married the horsy faced girl who is no longer my friend and i will be alone and why can't someone, why can't i find someone who can hold me at night, hold my abdomen where the pain is hollowing out the tunnels of rage (pain), unrequited love (rage), and a presence so fierce and strong a light so black that only death will allay it.'

. . .

what then illusion, what then love. what real from what the mind speaks, thinks, the mind still speaking saying: 'and he never loved me and he is selfish and cruel and he made me feel small and he abused me, a misuse, and.' where is the real of it? in the groin, in the lower intestine, in the chest cavity, concaved or round.

i am waiting for
i will kill myself
i will walk along the cliff's edge
there is no man for me now
there is only the futures of inestimable estimates

now there is a japanese maple pressed against the windowpane, it is still green; presses as if a girl lying on a bed in a lover's embrace: the girl embraced now not by her lover or a stranger or love, but by her own mind; her woman's unstoppable grief at the unrequited love; by the end of something which never existed, perchance.

'you are beautiful. you are strong. a good person.' henry responds to her question when she is speaking with him on the telephone.


Tuesday, October 17, 2017

good people

quotes from lady widermere's fan by oscar wilde

"Lord Darlington.  [Still seated L.C.]  Oh, nowadays so many conceited people go about Society pretending to be good, that I think it shows rather a sweet and modest disposition to pretend to be bad.  Besides, there is this to be said.  If you pretend to be good, the world takes you very seriously.  If you pretend to be bad, it doesn’t.  Such is the astounding stupidity of optimism."

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . 

"Lord Darlington.  Do you know I am afraid that good people do a great deal of harm in this world.  Certainly the greatest harm they do is that they make badness of such extraordinary importance.  It is absurd to divide people into good and bad.  People are either charming or tedious.  I take the side of the charming, and you, Lady Windermere, can’t help belonging to them."

Monday, October 16, 2017

nothing but

excerpt from creatures of a day by irvin d yalom

"there's also something very sad about your comments, helena. it's sad how billy, this vital, precious man, this lifelong friend, has been reduced to a diagnosis. and your entire youth with him -- all those wonderful exciting experiences -- also reduced to being 'nothing but,' nothing but an expression of mania. perhaps he had some mania, but, from what you tell me, he seems so much more than that label."
"i know, i know, but i can't get past that right now."
"let me tell you what's going through my mind right now. when you said that your entire youthful life with him was 'nothing but' mania, i shuddered a bit. i imagined applying this 'nothing but' approach to what's transpiring right now between you and me. i guess one might say that this is nothing but a commercial transaction and that i'm being paid for listening and responding to you. or perhaps one might say that it helps me to feel stronger and more effective by helping you feel better. or that i get life meaning from helping you attain meaning. and yes, all these things may be true. but to say therapy is 'nothing but' any of these things is so very far from the truth. i feel that you and i have encountered one another, that something real is occurring between us, that you're sharing so very much of yourself with me, and that i am moved and engaged by your words. i don't want us to be reduced, and i don't want billy reduced. i like the thought of his miraculous midsummer smile."

Thursday, October 12, 2017

a legal poem for once

we are not the crime
we are the evidence

by māhealani perez-wendt from effigies

they've dusted us
from toe to top
well nigh
two hundred years:
their fingerprints
all over us
uncontroverted, clear;
the walls and floors
glow eerily
inside our
chastened cell;
they've kicked the chair
from under us
acquitted themselves well
they've kicked the chair
from under us
ignored the tolling bell
they've kicked the chair
from under us
consigned themselves to hell
they've kicked the chair
from under us
etc. etc.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

secret agent

from the spy who came in from the cold by john le carre:

"a man who lives apart, not to others but alone, is exposed to obvious psychological dangers. in itself, the practice of deception is not particularly exacting; it is a matter of experience, of professional expertise, it is a facility most of us can acquire. but while a confidence trickster, a play-actor, or a gambler can return from his performance to the ranks of his admirers, the secret agent enjoys no relief. for him, deception is first a matter of self-defence. he must protect himself not only from without but from within, and against the most natural of impulses; though he earn a fortune, his role may forbid him the purchase of a razor, though he be erudite, it can befall him to mumble nothing but banalities; though he be an affectionate husband and father, he must under all circumstances withhold himself from those in whom he should naturally confide.

aware of the overwhelming temptations which assail a man permanently isolated in his deceit, leamas resorted to the course which armed him best; even when he was alone, he compelled himself to live with the personality he had assumed. it is said that balzac on his deathbed enquired anxiously after the health and prosperity of characters he had created. similarly leamas, without relinquishing the power of invention, identified himself with what he had invented. the qualities he exhibited to fiedler, the restless uncertainty, the protective arrogance concealing shame, were not approximations but extensions of qualities he actually possessed; hence also the slight dragging of the feet, the aspect of personal neglect, the indifference to food, and an increasing reliance on alcohol and tobacco. when alone, he remained faithful to these habits. he would even exaggerate them a little, mumbling to himself about the iniquities of his service.

only very rarely, as now, going to bed that evening, did he allow himself the dangerous luxury of admitting the great lie he lived."