varick street

          At night the factories
          struggle awake,
          wretched uneasy buildings
          veined with pipes
          attempt their work.
          Trying to breathe,
          the elongated nostrils
          haired with spikes
          give off such stenches, too.
And I shall sell you sell you
sell you of course, my dear, and you’ll sell me.

          On certain floors
          certain wonders.
          Pale dirty light,
          some captured iceberg
          being prevented from melting.
          See the mechanical moons,
          sick, being made
          to wax and wane
          at somebody’s instigation.
And I shall sell you sell you
sell you of course, my dear, and you’ll sell me.

          Lights music of love
          work on. The presses
          print calendars
          I suppose; the moons
          make medicine
          or confectionery. Our bed
          shrinks from the soot
          and hapless odors
          hold us close.
And I shall sell you sell you
sell you of course, my dear, and you’ll sell me.

(Elizabeth Bishop)

aesthetics into economy

“It was a question of pulling aesthetics into economy and of pulling the most rudimentary and fundamental forms of agricultural economy into aesthetics, and so much the better than if I was doing it with produce that came from lands that didn’t even belong to me. It was all in a tradition of dada scandal, the very same tradition of Duchamp’s Fountain, and it was a very very ambitious idea and very very stimulating, at least that’s the way it was for a while, there were absolutely no precedents for it either ideologically or otherwise.”

(Gianfranco Baruchello & Henry Martin, How to Imagine: a narrative on art and agriculture, pp. 38–39.)

an ouroboros

“There are people who think contraception is immoral because the object of copulation is procreation. In a similar way there are people who think the only reason to read a book is to write a book; people should call up books from the dust and the dark and write thousands of words to be sent down to the dust and the dark which can be called up so that other people can send further thousands of words to join them in the dust and the dark. Sometimes a book can be called from the dust and the dark to produce a book which can be bought in shops, and perhaps it is interesting, but the people who buy it and read it because it is interesting are not serious people, if they were serious they would not care about the interest they would be writing thousands of words to consign to the dust and the dark.

There are people who think death a fate worse than boredom.”

(Helen DeWitt, The Last Samurai, p. 19.)


“Suddenly a hundred years will be past; how then can we not practise? How much longer will this life last? Yet still we do not practise, but remain heedless. Those who leave behind the lusts within the mind are called mendicants. Those who do not long for the mundane are called those gone forth into homelessness. A practitioner entangled in the net of the six senses is a dog wearing elephant’s hide. A person on the path who still longs for the world is a hedgehog entering a rat’s den.”

(Wonhyo, trans. Robert Buswell from Hanguk pulgyo chǒsǒ I: 841a–3, p. 21 in Buddhist Scriptures, ed. Donald Lopez.)

autumn day

Lord: it is time. The huge summer has gone by.
Now overlap the sundials with your shadows,
and on the meadows let the wind go free.

Command the fruits to swell on tree and vine;
grant them a few more warm transparent days,
urge them on to fulfillment then, and press
the final sweetness into the heavy wine.

Whoever has no house now, will never have one.
Whoever is alone will stay alone,
will sit, read, write long letters through the evening,
and wander on the boulevards, up and down,
restlessly, while the dry leaves are blowing.

(Rainer Maria Rilke, trans. Stephen Mitchell; more translations here.)

the observing of the observer of the observers

“. . . and the whole thing would be perfect material for a comedy if it didn’t contain a problem that had been troubling him, D., for a long time, a logical problem loosely involving a mirror telescope he had installed in his house in the mountains, an unwieldy thing that he occasionally pointed at a cliff from which he was being observed by people with field glasses, with the effect that, as soon as the people observing him through their field glasses realized that he was observing them through his telescope, they would retreat in a hurry, an empirical confirmation, in short, of the logical conclusion that anything observed requires the presence of an observer, who, if he is observed by what he is observing, himself becomes an object of observation, a banal logical interaction, which, however, transposed into reality, had a destabilizing effect, for the people observing him and discovering that he was observing them through a mirror telescope felt caught in the act, and since being caught in the act produces embarrassment and embarrassment frequently leads to aggression, more than one of these people, after retreating in haste, had come back to throw rocks at his house as soon as he had dismantled the telescope, a dialectical process, said D., that was symptomatic of our time, when everyone observed and felt observed by everyone else, so that a very suitable definition of contemporary man might be that he is man under observation – observed by the state, for one, with more and more sophisticated methods, while man makes more and more desperate attempts to escape being observed, which in turn renders man increasingly suspect in the eyes of the state and the state even more suspect in the eyes of man; similarly each state observes and feels observed by all the other states, and man, on another plane, is busy observing nature as never before, inventing more and more subtle instruments for this purpose . . .”

(Friedrich Dürrenmatt, The Assignement: or, on the observing of the observer of the observers, pp. 15–17.)