Consolations of the Moment… But Which One?

'Southwest Reservoir Bridge,' by Bascove

[Image: “Southwest Reservoir Bridge,” by Bascove. (The artist also produced — selected and illustrated — the anthology in which I found Muriel Rukeyser’s poem, below.)]

From whiskey river:

A Journal of the Year of the Ox
(excerpt)

I find myself in my own image, and am neither and both.
I come and go in myself
as though from room to room,
As though the smooth incarnation of some medieval spirit
Escaping my own mouth and reswallowed at leisure,
Dissembling and at my ease.

(Charles Wright [source])

…and (italicized portion):

…if I go to sleep after lunch in the room where I work, sometimes I wake up with a feeling of childish amazement—why am I myself? What astonishes me, just as it astonishes a child when he becomes aware of his own identity, is the fact of finding myself here, and at this moment, deep in this life and not in any other. What stroke of chance has brought this about?

(Simone de Beauvoir [source])

…and:

Poem White Page
White Page Poem

Poem white page white page poem
something is streaming out of a body in waves
something is beginning from the fingertips
they are starting to declare for my whole life
all the despair and the making music
something like wave after wave
that breaks on a beach
something like bringing the entire life
to this moment
the small waves bringing themselves to white paper
something like light stands up and is alive

(Muriel Rukeyser [source])

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Crossings

'The Other Side,' by Gisela Giardino on Flickr

[Image: “The Other Side,” by Gisela Giardino on Flickr. (Click image to enlarge.)
Used under a Creative Commons license.]

From whiskey river:

Happiness

A state you must dare not enter
with hopes of staying,
quicksand in the marshes, and all

the roads leading to a castle
that doesn’t exist.
But there it is, as promised,

with its perfect bridge above
the crocodiles,
and its doors forever open.

(Stephen Dunn [source])

and:

The fierce poet of the Middle Ages wrote, “Abandon hope, all ye who enter here,” over the gates of the lower world. The emancipated poets of today have written it over the gates of this world. But if we are to understand the story which follows, we must erase that apocalyptic writing, if only for an hour. We must recreate the faith of our fathers, if only as an artistic atmosphere. If, then, you are a pessimist, in reading this story, forego for a little the pleasures of pessimism. Dream for one mad moment that the grass is green. Unlearn that sinister learning that you think is so clear, deny that deadly knowledge that you think you know. Surrender the very flower of your culture, give up the very jewel of your pride, abandon hopelessness, all ye who enter here.

(G. K. Chesterton [source])

and:

Gone

It’s that, when I’m gone,
(and right off this is tricky)
I won’t be worried
about being gone.
I won’t be here
to miss anything.
I want now, sure,
all I’ve been gathering
since I was born,
but later
when I no longer have it,
(which might be
a state everlasting, who knows?)
this moment right now
(stand closer, love,
you can’t be too close),
is not a thing I’ll know to miss.
I doubt I’ll miss it.
I can’t get over this.

(Lia Purpura [source])

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Only You, and You Alone

'only you can touch me this way,' by user kygp on Flickr

[Image: “only you can touch me this way,” by user kygp on Flickr. (Used under a Creative Commons license.) That thing which looks like an aerial? I believe it’s called a “snow lance,” used for making snow. (See the stuff spraying from the tip? Wikipedia has more information, including a photo of another one.)]

From whiskey river:

Stop worrying about your identity and concern yourself with the people you care about, ideas that matter to you, beliefs you can stand by, tickets you can run on. Intelligent humans make those choices with their brain and hearts and they make them alone. The world does not deliver meaning to you. You have to make it meaningful, and decide what you want and need and must do. It’s a tough, unimaginably lonely and complicated way to be in the world. But that’s the deal: you have to live; you can’t live by slogans, dead ideas, clichés, or national flags. Finding an identity is easy. It’s the easy way out.

(Zadie Smith [source (in slightly different words)])

and:

It Took Time

This is a poem about
how you never get the kiss you want
when you want it,

how time twines around your neck, its thorns
digging into your skin so you can never forget
how clinging to a string of hope, threading it
between your spine, and having it unravel before you
in the span of an hour
is worse than any metaphor on nakedness
that you poets will ever write.

This is my reflection in the mirror. This stanza
is the small gap where my fingers try to touch against
the glass.

You can’t even possess yourself; let alone the person
you see standing before you.

The moon
hasn’t come back from the cleaners yet
and I have nothing to slip into tonight that makes my reflection feel
beautiful.

Time is falling through the holes in my pocket. January
is coming soon, and I have a feeling he’s never going to fall
out of love with December.

He’ll still write her love letters. He’ll send her
white orchids on every lonely holiday and pretend that love too
is a place you can cross state lines to get back to,

but it’s that time of the year again, and
calendar sales keep reminding us all that we can never get back
to where we once wanted so bad to lose ourselves in
for good.

(Shinji Moon [source])

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Unseen in September

'Autumn Rhythm (Number 30) :: 1950 :: Jackson Pollock'

[Image: Autumn Rhythm (Number 30) :: 1950 :: Jackson Pollock, by Chris Van Pelt on Flickr]

From whiskey river (excerpted there; this is the whole poem):

Three Songs at the End of Summer

A second crop of hay lies cut
and turned. Five gleaming crows
search and peck between the rows.
They make a low, companionable squawk,
and like midwives and undertakers
possess a weird authority.

Crickets leap from the stubble,
parting before me like the Red Sea.
The garden sprawls and spoils.

Across the lake the campers have learned
to water ski. They have, or they haven’t.
Sounds of the instructor’s megaphone
suffuse the hazy air. “Relax! Relax!”

Cloud shadows rush over drying hay,
fences, dusty lane, and railroad ravine.
The first yellowing fronds of goldenrod
brighten the margins of the woods.

Schoolbooks, carpools, pleated skirts;
water, silver-still, and a vee of geese.

*

The cicada’s dry monotony breaks
over me. The days are bright
and free, bright and free.

Then why did I cry today
for an hour, with my whole
body, the way babies cry?

*

A white, indifferent morning sky,
and a crow, hectoring from its nest
high in the hemlock, a nest as big
as a laundry basket…
In my childhood
I stood under a dripping oak,
while autumnal fog eddied around my feet,
waiting for the school bus
with a dread that took my breath away.

The damp dirt road gave off
this same complex organic scent.

I had the new books — words, numbers,
and operations with numbers I did not
comprehend — and crayons, unspoiled
by use, in a blue canvas satchel
with red leather straps.

Spruce, inadequate, and alien
I stood at the side of the road.
It was the only life I had.

(Jane Kenyon [source])

and:

We are living in a culture entirely hypnotized by the illusion of time, in which the so-called present moment is felt as nothing but an infinitesimal hairline between an all-powerfully causative past and an absorbingly important future. We have no present. Our consciousness is almost completely preoccupied with memory and expectation. We do not realize that there never was, is, nor will be any other experience than present experience. We confuse the world as talked about, described, and measured with the world which actually is.

(Alan Watts [quoted various places (e.g. here), apparently from a book called The Way of Liberation])

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Getting There, Happily

[Image: A-Maze-ing Laughter, by Yue Minjun. More info in the note at the foot of this post.]

From whiskey river:

If someone gave you a device with which you could see entire worlds just by holding it in front of your eyes, worlds of such beauty and complexity that they took your breath away, wouldn’t you want to show this device to everyone you knew?

(Ann Patchett [source])

and:

Late August

This is the plum season, the nights
blue and distended, the moon
hazed, this is the season of peaches

with their lush lobed bulbs
that glow in the dusk, apples
that drop and rot
sweetly, their brown skins veined as glands

No more the shrill voices
that cried Need Need
from the cold pond, bladed
and urgent as new grass

Now it is the crickets
that say Ripe Ripe
slurred in the darkness, while the plums

dripping on the lawn outside
our window, burst
with a sound like thick syrup
muffled and slow

The air is still
warm, flesh moves over
flesh, there is no

hurry

(Margaret Atwood [source])

and:

A great many people don’t know how to laugh at all. A man can give himself away completely by his laughter, so that you suddenly learn all of his innermost secrets. Laughter calls first of all for sincerity, and where does one find sincerity? Sincere and unspiteful laughter is mirth. A man’s mirth is a feature that gives away the whole man, from head to foot. Someone’s character won’t be cracked for a long time, then the man bursts out laughing somehow quite sincerely, and his whole character suddenly opens up as if on the flat of your hand. Only a man of the loftiest and happiest development knows how to be mirthful infectiously, that is, irresistibly and goodheartedly. I’m not speaking of his mental development, but of his character, of the whole man. And so, if you want to discern a man and know his soul, you must look, not at how he keeps silent, or how he speaks, or how he weeps, or even how he is stirred by the noblest ideas, but you had better look at him when he laughs. If a man has a good laugh, it means he’s a good man.

(Fyodor Dostoyevsky [source (slightly different wording)]

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