Monday, March 2, 2015

Showing Me Serpents and Thin Flowers

Above, growing up in Wheaton (and other drawings) by Ben Tolman. If you draw a circle from my house with a three mile radius within that circle are downtown Bethesda, downtown Rockville, downtown Silver Spring, and downtown Wheaton. This is related to - and there's no point paraphrasing myself though I admit this is further proof, as if any was needed, I write the same post over and over -automocoblogography and this quote from William Gass' The Tunnel which I always use on his birthday:

The other large carton unpacked in the same way - box into box - but the feeling it gave me was the opposite of that suggested by the endless nest of Russians dollies in otherwise resembled, for what I was opening was a den of spaces which now covered the floor near my feet. It was plain that every ten-by-ten-by eight container contained cubes which were nine by nine by seven, and eight by eight by six, and seven by seven by five, and so on down to three by three by two, as well as many smaller, thinly sided one at every interval in between, so that out of one box a million more might multiply, confirming Zeno's view, although at that age, with an unfurnished mind, I couldn't have known of his paradoxes let alone have been able to describe one with any succinctness. What I had discovered is that every space contains more space than the space it contains.

  • Liberal racism: 25 things he learned about about racism while writing for Daily Kos.
  • On the above.
  • The clueless gooberism of of First Look's fallen heroes.
  • Pierre Omidyar, a primer.
  • Capitalism, motherfuckers.
  • Motherfucking police.
  • Barbara Mikulski, D-Ft Meade, retiring. I'd like to take this moment to thank Babs for her generous contributions to my apostasies.
  • Well, fuck me, eh? The retirement has the potential to reshape both Maryland politics and internal congressional leadership. Several of the seven Maryland Democrats in Congress will likely take a look at the race, including Reps. Chris Van Hollen, Elijah Cummings, Donna Edwards, John Delaney and possibly Rep. John Sarbanes, whose father also served in the Senate. Many in Maryland and on Capitol Hill have long viewed Van Hollen, a former aide on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee who lives in Montgomery County, as a likely candidate for Senate once Mikulski stepped aside. In the last six years, however, Van Hollen has become an increasingly loyal understudy of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who has at times considered retiring herself. That means a Van Hollen bid for the Senate could also scramble the eventual race to replace Pelosi. The Senate seat could also be tempting for former Maryland governor Martin O'Malley (D), who is weighing a 2016 presidential bid that has yet to get any traction. Other names being talked about on the Democratic side include Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake; U.S. Labor Secretary Tom Perez, a former Montgomery County Council member and state-level Cabinet secretary; and former Montgomery County delegate Heather Mizeur, a progressive who performed better than expected in last year’s Democratic gubernatorial primary.​ Names being floated on the Republican side include Rep. Andy Harris (R-Md.) and former Maryland governor Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R).
  • Maggie's weekly links.
  • { feuilleton }'s weekly links.
  • 262, 264, 268.
  • Szymborksa!
  • Riffing on Inherent Vice, the novel and the film.
  • Science fiction short stories, a review, for those of you who do.
  • The Buried Giant. I get mine tomorrow! I confess, I am a totally unreliable reader, I won't trust myself if I love it, I won't trust myself if I meh it, I won't trust myself if I hate it. I must confess: I have a bad feeling about this.
  • The Buried Giant: Here, in no special order of importance or chronology, are some things that happen in Kazuo Ishiguro’s new novel: An old man uses a hoe to fight off thousands of pixies who have attacked his wife as she floats down a river in a basket; an enchanted mist envelops a country, causing an entire people to forget its past; an ogre is found in a ditch, gravely indisposed, having killed and partially eaten a poisoned goat; an ancient widow prosecutes a grievance with a mysterious boatman by methodically slitting the throats of rabbits and spilling their blood on the floor of his childhood home; a past-his-Green-Knight-beheading-prime Sir Gawain faces off against a hell-dog in an underground chamber. I'm afraid 
  • But I did listen to Barn Owl last night!


John Berryman

I put those things there.—See them burn.
The emerald the azure and the gold
Hiss and crack, the blues & greens of the world
As if I were tired. Someone interferes
Everywhere with me. The clouds, the clouds are torn
In ways I do not understand or love.

Licking my long lips, I looked upon God
And he flamed and he was friendlier
Than you were, and he was small. Showing me
Serpents and thin flowers; these were cold.
Dominion waved & glittered like the flare
From ice under a small sun. I wonder.

Afterward the violent and formal dancers
Came out, shaking their pithless heads.
I would instruct them but I cannot now,—
Because of the elements. They rise and move,
I nod a dance and they dance in the rain
In my red coat. I am the king of the dead.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Born Two-Hundred and Five Years Ago, Born Ninety-Four Years Ago

High Egoslavian Holy Day! Chopin, born in 1810 on either February 22nd or March 1st depending on which calendar one uses, I've used both days in the past, arbitrarily chose March 1st this year. I love Chopin, always have, since a kid, my mother playing him on the living room piano.

Richard Wilbur, whose The Writer provides the title of my favorite post past, present, future (it comes and goes as Planet and I need it), and whose poetry reminds me that spirituality need not have denomination or direct object, was born ninety-four years ago today. I've posted so much Wilbur over the years I'm sure I've posted all of these before, and so?


Richard Wilbur

When you come, as you soon must, to the streets of our city,   
Mad-eyed from stating the obvious,
Not proclaiming our fall but begging us
In God’s name to have self-pity,

Spare us all word of the weapons, their force and range,   
The long numbers that rocket the mind;
Our slow, unreckoning hearts will be left behind,   
Unable to fear what is too strange.

Nor shall you scare us with talk of the death of the race.   
How should we dream of this place without us?—
The sun mere fire, the leaves untroubled about us,   
A stone look on the stone’s face?

Speak of the world’s own change. Though we cannot conceive   
Of an undreamt thing, we know to our cost
How the dreamt cloud crumbles, the vines are blackened by frost,   
How the view alters. We could believe,

If you told us so, that the white-tailed deer will slip   
Into perfect shade, grown perfectly shy,
The lark avoid the reaches of our eye,
The jack-pine lose its knuckled grip

On the cold ledge, and every torrent burn
As Xanthus once, its gliding trout
Stunned in a twinkling. What should we be without   
The dolphin’s arc, the dove’s return,

These things in which we have seen ourselves and spoken?   
Ask us, prophet, how we shall call
Our natures forth when that live tongue is all
Dispelled, that glass obscured or broken

In which we have said the rose of our love and the clean   
Horse of our courage, in which beheld
The singing locust of the soul unshelled,
And all we mean or wish to mean.

Ask us, ask us whether with the worldless rose   
Our hearts shall fail us; come demanding   
Whether there shall be lofty or long standing   
When the bronze annals of the oak-tree close.



Richard Wilbur
After the last bulletins the windows darken   
And the whole city founders readily and deep,   
Sliding on all its pillows
To the thronged Atlantis of personal sleep,

And the wind rises. The wind rises and bowls   
The day’s litter of news in the alleys. Trash   
Tears itself on the railings,
Soars and falls with a soft crash,

Tumbles and soars again. Unruly flights   
Scamper the park, and taking a statue for dead   
Strike at the positive eyes,
Batter and flap the stolid head

And scratch the noble name. In empty lots   
Our journals spiral in a fierce noyade   
Of all we thought to think,
Or caught in corners cramp and wad

And twist our words. And some from gutters flail   
Their tatters at the tired patrolman’s feet,
Like all that fisted snow
That cried beside his long retreat

Damn you! damn you! to the emperor’s horse’s heels.   
Oh none too soon through the air white and dry   
Will the clear announcer’s voice
Beat like a dove, and you and I

From the heart’s anarch and responsible town   
Return by subway-mouth to life again,   
Bearing the morning papers,
And cross the park where saintlike men,

White and absorbed, with stick and bag remove   
The litter of the night, and footsteps rouse   
With confident morning sound
The songbirds in the public boughs.


Richard Wilbur

A striped blouse in a clearing by Bazille   
Is, you may say, a patroness of boughs   
Too queenly kind toward nature to be kin.   
But ceremony never did conceal,
Save to the silly eye, which all allows,
How much we are the woods we wander in.

Let her be some Sabrina fresh from stream,
Lucent as shallows slowed by wading sun,
Bedded on fern, the flowers’ cynosure:
Then nymph and wood must nod and strive to dream   
That she is airy earth, the trees, undone,
Must ape her languor natural and pure.

Ho-hum. I am for wit and wakefulness,   
And love this feigning lady by Bazille.   
What's lightly hid is deepest understood,   
And when with social smile and formal dress   
She teaches leaves to curtsey and quadrille,   
I think there are most tigers in the wood.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

It Skids Away and Drops into Its Own Skeleton

No, I didn't forget. Click Nemerov tag for many more poems.

Howard Nemerov was lucky enough to be born on February 29th, since March 1 belongs to Chopin and Richard Wilbur, I give today to Nemerov, born 23.75 years ago if you only count February 29ths.


This admirable gadget, when it is
Wound on a string and spun with steady force,   
Maintains its balance on most any smooth
Surface, pleasantly humming as it goes.
It is whirled not on a constant course, but still   
Stands in unshivering integrity
For quite some time, meaning nothing perhaps   
But being something agreeable to watch,   
A silver nearly silence gleaning a still-
ness out of speed, composing unity   
From spin, so that its hollow spaces seem   
Solids of light, until it wobbles and   
Begins to whine, and then with an odd lunge   
Eccentric and reckless, it skids away   
And drops dead into its own skeleton.