What Lies Beneath

Image of the Moon's surface, courtesy of NASA's GRAIL mission

[Image: lunar surface, color-enhanced, per results of the NASA GRAIL mission.
For more information, see the note at the foot of this post.]

From whiskey river (italicized portion):

“My soul knows my meat is doing bad things, and is embarrassed. But my meat just keeps on doing bad, dumb things.”

“Your soul and your what?” he said.

“My soul and my meat,” I said.

“They’re separate?” he said.

“I sure hope they are,” I said. I laughed. “I would hate to be responsible for what my meat does.”

I told him, only half joking, about how I imagined the soul of each person, myself included, as being a sort of flexible neon tube inside. All the tube could do was receive news about what was happening with the meat, over which it had no control.

“So when people I like do something terrible,” I said, “I just flense them and forgive them.”

Flense?” he said. “What’s flense?”

“It’s what whalers used to do to whale carcasses when they got them on board,” I said. “They would strip off the skin and blubber and meat right down to the skeleton. I do that in my head to people — get rid of all the meat so I can see nothing but their souls. Then I forgive them.”

(Kurt Vonnegut [source])


Eyes-Shut Facing Eyes-Rolling-Around

Pay close attention to your mean thoughts.

That sourness may be a blessing,
as an overcast day brings rain for the roses
and relief to dry soil.

Don’t look so sourly on your sourness!
It may be it’s carrying what you most deeply need
and want. What seems to be keeping you from joy
may be what leads you to joy.

Don’t call it a dead branch.
Call it the live, moist root.

Don’t always be waiting to see
what’s behind it. That wait and see
poisons your Spirit.

Reach for it.
Hold your meanness to your chest
as a healing root,
and be through with waiting.

(Jelaluddin Rumi (translated by Coleman Barks) [source])


Each person who ever was or is or will be has a song. It isn’t a song that anybody else wrote. It has its own melody, it has its own words. Very few people get to sing their song. Most of us fear that we cannot do it justice with our voices, or that our words are too foolish or too honest, or too odd. So people live their song instead.

(Neil Gaiman [source])

Not from whiskey river:


How easily happiness begins by
dicing onions. A lump of sweet butter
slithers and swirls across the floor
of the sauté pan, especially if its
errant path crosses a tiny slick
of olive oil. Then a tumble of onions.

This could mean soup or risotto
or chutney (from the Sanskrit
chatni, to lick). Slowly the onions
go limp and then nacreous
and then what cookbooks call clear,
though if they were eyes you could see

clearly the cataracts in them.
It’s true it can make you weep
to peel them, to unfurl and to tease
from the taut ball first the brittle,
caramel-colored and decrepit
papery outside layer, the least

recent the reticent onion
wrapped around its growing body,
for there’s nothing to an onion
but skin, and it’s true you can go on
weeping as you go on in, through
the moist middle skins, the sweetest

and thickest, and you can go on
in to the core, to the bud-like,
acrid, fibrous skins densely
clustered there, stalky and in-
complete, and these are the most
pungent, like the nuggets of nightmare

and rage and murmury animal
comfort that infant humans secrete.
This is the best domestic perfume.
You sit down to eat with a rumor
of onions still on your twice-washed
hands and lift to your mouth a hint

of a story about loam and usual
endurance. It’s there when you clean up
and rinse the wine glasses and make
a joke, and you leave the minutest
whiff of it on the light switch,
later, when you climb the stairs.

(William Matthews [source])


Letter to a Lost Friend

There must be a Russian word to describe what has happened
between us, like ostyt, which can be used
for a cup of tea that is too hot, but after you walk to the next room,
and return, it is too cool; or perekhotet,
which is to want something so much over months
and even years that when you get it, you have lost
the desire. Pushkin said, when he saw his portrait by Kiprensky,
“It is like looking into a mirror, but one that flatters me.”
What is the word for someone who looks into her friend’s face
and sees once smooth skin gone like a train that has left
the station in Petersburg with its wide avenues and nights
at the Stray Dog Cafe, sex with the wrong men,
who looked so right by candlelight, when everyone was young
and smoked hand-rolled cigarettes, painted or wrote
all night but nothing good, drank too much vodka, and woke
in the painful daylight with skin like fresh cream, books
everywhere, Lorca on Gogol, Tolstoy under Madame de Sévigné,
so that now, on a train in the taiga of Siberia,
I see what she sees—all my books alphabetized and on shelves,
feet misshapen, hands ribbed with raised veins,
neck crumpled like last week’s newspaper, while her friends
are young, their skin pimply and eyes bright as puppies’,
and who can blame her, for how lucky we are to be loved
for even a moment, though I can’t help but feel like Pushkin,
a rough ball of lead lodged in his gut, looking at his books
and saying, “Goodbye, my dear friends,” as those volumes
close and turn back into oblong blocks, dust clouding
the gold leaf that once shimmered on their spines.

(Barbara Hamby [source])

…and finally, Frank Sinatra offers up a definitive what-lies-beneath tidbit for the week of Valentine’s Day:

[Below, click Play button to begin I’ve Got You Under My Skin. While audio is playing, volume control appears at left — a row of little vertical bars. This clip is 3:31 long.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.



About the image: NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) mission, which concluded in December, mapped the surface of the Moon in a way impossible with mere human senses. The two lunar satellites involved, dubbed Ebb and Flow, set out to determine precise altitudes and densities of the Moon’s surface caused by the impacts of meteors and other rocky space junk over the millennia. (Since the Moon is unprotected by an atmosphere, all this stuff slams into it without burning up or even decelerating.) If you imagine the Moon as a baseball getting hit a gazillion times by debris of stone and metal, you can imagine it must have been dented quite a bit. What’s already there gets compressed at each point of impact, which affects the density of the material, which in turn affects the gravity. As Ebb and Flow circled the Moon together, the gravity ever so slightly pulled them closer together or pushed them further apart: it was this effect which enabled these amazing images. You look at the Moon from down here on a cloudless night, and you see all the impact craters, and you think: Wow. That thing’s been hit a lot! We learned from Ebb and Flow, though, that what we can see doesn’t come anywhere close to a complete picture of the cumulative barrage.

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  1. Loved this. As Mom’s 90th birthday approaches I see her soup as we all try tl ignore the meat.
    a /b

  2. Soul…not soup ..to not tl. I hate typing on the Kindle
    a /b

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