the language

Locate I
love you
some-
where in

teeth and
eyes, bite
it but

take care not
to hurt, you
want so

much so
little. Words
say everything.

I
love you

again,

then what
is emptiness
for. To

fill, fill.
I heard words
and words full
of holes
aching. Speech
is a mouth.

(Robert Creeley)

autoisolation

“In Thomas More’s Utopia separation was the founding gesture: Utopus Rex commanded a trench be dug to cut Utopia off from the mainland. A friend of Erasmus, reviewing Moore’s Utopia, described this in a dedicatory poem:

Me, once a peninsula,
Utopus Rex made an island.
Alone among all nations,
without complex abstraction
I set the philosophical city
before the human reader.

I give freely;
and if you have better ideas

I’m all ears.

Erasmus and friends were perpetuating a hoax – or perhaps it would be more accurate to say they were suggesting one – refusing to dispel the thought formed by some naifs that Utopia was a real place.”

(Bob Perelman, pp. 117–118 in The Grand Piano, part 4.)

there are times

“There are times when every act, no matter how private or unconscious, becomes political. Whom you live with, how you wear your hair, whether you marry, whether you insist that your child take piano lessons, what are the brand names on your shelf; all these become political decisions. At other times, no act – no campaign or tract, statement or rampage – has any political charge at all. People with the least sense of which times are, and which are not, political are usually most avid about politics. At six one morning Will went out in jeans and frayed sweater to buy a quart of milk. A tourist bus went by. The megaphone was directed at him. ‘There’s one,’ it said. That was in the 1960’s. Ever since, he’s wondered. There’s one what?”

(Renata Adler, Speedboat, pp. 36–37.)

stupid (as were all the giants)

“It is our need that is crying out, that and our immense wealth, the product of fear,—a torment to the spirit; we sell—but carefully—to see blessings abroad. And this wealth, all that is not pure accident—is the growth of fear.

It is this which makes us the flaming terror of the world, a Titan, stupid (as were all the giants), great, to be tricked or tripped (from terror of us) with hatred barking at us by every sea—and by those most to whom we give the most. In the midst of wealth, riches, we have the inevitable Coolidge platform: “poorstateish”—meek. THIS is his cure before the world: our goodness and industry. THIS will convince the world that we are RIGHT. It will not. Make a small mouth. It is the acme of shrewdness, of policy. It will work. We shall have more to give. Logical reasoning it is: generous to save and give. It is bred of fear. It is as impossible for a rich nation to convince any one of its generosity as for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle. Puritanical; pioneer; ‘out of the small white farm-house’—the product of delay. The characteristic of American life is that it holds off from embraces, from impacts, gaining by fear, safety and time in which to fortify its prolific carcass—while the spirit, with tongue hanging out, bites at its bars—its object just out of reach. Wilson grazed heaven by his lewdness; the door stood open till it was slammed close. I relish the back door gossip that made him impossible.”

(William Carlos Williams, “Jacataqua”, pp. 174–175 in In the American Grain.)

with puppies

“Being desirous to furnish himself with a Dog he applied himself to buy one of this Martin, who had a Bitch with Whelps in her House. But she was not letting him have his choice, he said, he would supply himself then at one Blezdels. Having mark’d a Puppy, which he lik’d at Blezdel’s, he met George Martin, the Husband of the Prisoner, going by, who asked him, Whether he would not have one of his Wife’s Puppies? and he answered, No. The same Day, one Edmond Eliot, being at Martin’s House, heard George Martin relate, where this Kembal had been, and what he had said, whereupon Susanna Martin replied, If I live, I’ll give him Puppies enough! Within a few days after, this Kembal, coming out of the Woods, there arose a little Black Cloud in the North West and Kembal immediately felt a force upon him, which made him not able to avoid running upon the stumps of Trees, that were before him, albeit he had a broad, plain Cart-way, before him; but tho’ he had his Ax also on his Shoulder, to endanger him in his Falls, he could not forbear going out of his way to stumble over them. When he came below the Meeting House, there appeared unto him, a little thing like a Puppy, of a Darkish Colour; and it shot backwards and forwards between his Legs. He had the Courage to use all possible Endeavours of Cutting it with his Ax; but he could not Hit it; the Puppy gave a jump from him, and went, as to him it seem’d into the Ground. Going a little further, there appeared unto him a Black Puppy, somewhat bigger than the first, but as Black as a Cole. Its Motions were quicker than those of his Ax; it flew at his Belly, and away; then at his Throat; so, over his Shoulder one way, and then over his Shoulder another way. His Heart now began to fail him, and he thought the Dog would have tore his Throat out. But he recovered himself, and called upon God in his Distress; and naming the Name of JESUS CHRIST, it vanished away at once. The Depondent spoke not one Word of these Accidents, for fear of affrighting his Wife. But the next Morning, Edmond Eliot, going into Martin’s House, this Woman asked him where Kembal was? He replied, At home a Bed for ought he knew. She returned, They say, he was frighted last Night. Eliot asked, With what? She answered, With Puppies. Eliot asked, Where she had heard of it, for he had heard nothing of it? She rejoined, About the Town. Altho’ Kembal had mentioned the Matter to no Creature living.”

(from “Cotton Mather’s Wonders of the Invisible World,” pp. 96–98 in William Carlos Williams’s In the American Grain.)

copies of copies

“ ‘You know, strictly speaking, your copy won’t be a copy.’

‘Why not?’

‘Because,’ she shifts her weight as she turns to face him, ‘copying has always been part of the culture of the icon. These zographs travelled . . .’

‘Zoo graphs?’

‘Zographs: icon painters. Vitan, Nedelko, Chevinodola, the Zaharievs, and hundred of minor ones whose names I can’t remember . . . . They travelled around carrying little more than their tools and the Hermeneia, and they . . .’

‘Carrying the what? The Ermenia?’

‘The Hermeneia, with an H: the zographs’ rule book. It supposedly originated on Mount Athos, in Greece. They’d travel around, redoing already existing subjects: literally copying older paintings. So you get the same images repeating down centuries, mutating slightly with each iteration.’

‘So Anton’s one’s a copy too?’

‘Well, yes – but beyond that, for zographs, copies aren’t secondary pieces. They’re iterations of the same sacred event. Each time you iterate you partake of the event: belong to it, as much as the last iterator did. But . . .’ ”

(Tom McCarthy, Men in Space, p. 111.)

the model

Generally, reading palms or handwriting or faces
     Is a job of translation, since the kind
          Gentleman often is
     A seducer, the frowning schoolgirl may
          By dying to be asked to stay;
But the body of this old lady exactly indicates her mind;

Rorschach or Binet could not add to what a fool can see
     From the plain fact that she is alive and well;
          For when one is eighty
     Even a teeny-weeny bit of greed
          Makes one very ill indeed,
And a touch of despair is instantaneously fatal;

Whether the town once drank bubbly out of her shoes or whether
     She was a governess with a good name
          In Church circles, if her
     Husband spoiled her or if she lost her son,
          Is by this time all one.
She survived whatever happened; she forgave; she became.

So the painter may please himself; give her an English park,
     Rice fields in China, or a slum tenement;
          Make the sky light or dark;
     Put green plush behind her or a red brick wall.
          She will compose them all,
Centering the eye on their essential human element.

(W. H. Auden)