The Line Between Should and Do

Modal verbs

[Image: The English translation — with original emphasis — is, “Daughter, you have to go out and become rich.” Found it at the Grimm Grammar site of the University of Texas, which uses 36 characters from the classic fairy tales to illustrate how German grammar works; the characters above are Cinderella’s stepmother and a (bored, dissolute) stepsister. This illustration accompanies the discussion of modal verbs.]

From whiskey river:

We continually look and hope for a new, special thing that is going to last or make us happy, fulfill our needs, answer all our questions. In actuality, what are we going to get? We will get more seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, touching, and thinking. That’s it. That’s what life is.

(Jack Kornfield [source])


What the Living Do

…We want the spring to come and the winter to pass. We want
whoever to call or not call, a letter, a kiss — we want more and more and then more of it.

But there are moments, walking, when I catch a glimpse of myself in the window glass,
say, the window of the corner video store, and I’m gripped by a cherishing so deep

for my own blowing hair, chapped face, and unbuttoned coat that I’m speechless:
I am living…

(Marie Howe [source])


The Moment

Oh, the coming-out-of-nowhere moment
when,   nothing
no what-have-I-to-do-today-list

maybe  half a moment
the rush of traffic stops.
The whir of I should be, I should be, I should be
slows to silence,
the white cotton curtains hanging still.

(Marie Howe [source])

Not from whiskey river:

One morning last winter a small item appeared in my local newspaper, announcing the birth of an extraordinary animal. A team of researchers at Texas A&M University had succeeded in cloning a whitetail dear. Never before done. The fawn, known as Dewey, was developing normally and seemed to be healthy. He had no mother, just a surrogate who had carried his fetus to term. He had no father, just a “donor” of all his chromosomes. He was the genetic duplicate of a certain trophy buck out of south Texas whose skin cells had been cultured in a laboratory. One of those cells furnished a nucleus that, transplanted and rejiggered, became the DNA core of an egg cell, which became an embryo, which became Dewey. So he was wildlife, in a sense, but in another sense elaborately synthetic. This is the sort of news, quirky but epochal, that can cause a person with a mouthful of toast to pause and marvel. What a dumb idea, I marveled.

(David Quammen [source])


(This Line Intentionally Left Blank)

we all got tickets to The Truth
finally we thought finally
when the curtain fell away
our indrawn breaths could be heard
even in the next theater
even the gasp of the mime
who had slipped in among us
a loud whushing like reams of litter
whirling upward in a gale
hands shot to mouths and mouths
fell open I couldn’t say within
how many seconds
all our minds shut some
slamming others just a click
like 300 parallel
rows of tipped dominoes
a racket of almost unison

believe me we wouldn’t
have resisted anything
but the truth
so instantly and universally
yet we sat there and waited
for something else
which you could say we also got
if you count the mime’s
unpleasant remark
so she wasn’t even a real mime
probably part of what was
clearly just a performance

(J. Allyn Rosser [source])


What does this sound like:

Where I held my finger to the window and warmed a small circle in the frost this morning, a new flower has grown. The new flower began in the shape of a star. Codium fragile. Silver-leaved. I am only writing what is true — true to form — when I say the flower, whose fronds are in motion, grew from a star. To say every scrap of matter bears a trace of the beginning of the universe, that a star lives in our blood, a star with its fingers in the riverbed of our bloodstream, tributaries, filigree, silver-etched, is a fern, an ice crystal, to say that the star’s disappearance, ongoing, is what we see at night — sounds unbelievable.

This sounds unbelievable.

But sitting down to this work, this work, too, seems unlikely: that particulars mingle, particulars assert, conspire, assemble. That what I didn’t know I knew was somewhere … waters be gathered, waters bring forth … and how, what seems in the end like intention, arrives only piecemeal. How what seems in the end inevitable, is a trail of particulars finding each other.

(Lia Purpura [source])


Murray Dreaming

It’s not the sharks
Sliding mere inches from his upturned face
Through warps of water where the tunnel arcs
Transparent overhead,
Their lipless jaws clamped shut, extruding teeth,
Their eyes that stare at nothing, like the dead,
Staring at him; it’s not the eerie grace
Of rays he stood beneath,
Gaping at their entranced slow-motion chase

That is unending;
It’s not the ultra-auditory hum
Of ET cuttlefish superintending
The iridescent craft
Of their lit selves, as messages were sent,
Turning the sight of him they photographed
To code: it is not this that left him dumb
With schoolboy wonderment
Those hours he wandered the aquarium.

It is that room,
That room of Murray River they had walled
In glass and, deep within the shifting gloom
And subtle drifts of sky
That filtered down, it seemed, from the real day
Of trees and bird light many fathoms high,
The giant Murray cod that was installed
In stillness to delay
All that would pass. The boy stood there enthralled.

Out in the day
Again, he saw the famous streets expound
Their theories about speed, the cars obey,
Racing to catch the sun,
The loud fast-forward crowds, and thought it odd
That in the multitudes not everyone
Should understand as he did the profound
Profession of the cod,
That held time, motionless, unknown to sound.

In bed at night,
Are his eyes open or is this a dream?
The room is all dark water, ghosted light,
And midway to the ceiling
The great fish with its working fins and gills
Suspended, while before it glide the reeling
And see-through scenes of day, faintly agleam,
Until their passage stills
And merges with the deep unmoving stream.

(Stephen Edgar [source])

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