Not All, But This Much

'Milky Way & Zodiacal Light over Lake Dumbleyung,' by user 'inefekt69' on Flickr

[Image: “Milky Way & Zodiacal Light over Lake Dumbleyung,” by Trevor Dobson (user inefekt69) on Flickr. (Used here under a Creative Commons license.) The photographer’s description says, “Lake Dumbleyung is about 215km south east of Perth. It’s famous for hosting Donald Campbell’s successful world water speed record attempt back in 1964. The lake was much fuller then but I was hoping for at least some water to cover the bottom of the many dead trees that line the shores, I wasn’t lucky though.”]

From whiskey river (italicized lines):

To Live in This World Requires

To live in this world requires
that you leave your house every morning
and step into the wind
Every morning: with all your memories
on file and the future pinned to some wall
you will have to build and tear down and
build again. If you get there. If. If.

Into the wind: first you walk the dog whose
blessed face belies the beast it is built upon
Millennia behind you, that beast enters a cave
and decides whether or not to kill a child sleeping
by a fire. It does not kill the child
because its heart has been surprised by love
Both softened and sharpened by it, inexplicably
Inexplicably, to this day

And on this day, the wind relents
The morning star lifts itself into a changeable sky
and you, carrying extra weight, wearing
last year’s clothes, start walking towards the train
Seeds that grew from ancient science digest in your stomach;
your bones begin to separate because science did not plan
this length of life; your heart slows down and you feel
the pressure of dragging a million, billion years
behind you. A million, billion lie ahead that you
will know nothing about

Thus, harnessed to time, facing the inevitable,
constructed by science and fed on inexplicable events
taking place somewhere in the middle of history,
your day goes by. Miles away, the ocean
murmurs to its own beloved creatures, a mountain
applies pressure to the weaving of a golden seam
And in your house, the dog wonders
if you will make it home again. And each day,
despite or because the performance of this feat
is both a mystery and a triumph, somehow
you will. You do

(Eleanor Lerman [source])


Knowing you are alive is feeling the planet buck under you, rear, kick, and try to throw you; you hang on to the ring. It is riding the planet like a log downstream, whooping. Or, conversely, you step aside from the dreaming fast loud routine and feel time as a stillness about you, and hear the silent air asking in so thin a voice, Have you noticed yet that you will die? Do you remember, remember, remember? [*] Then you feel your life as a weekend, a weekend you cannot extend, a weekend in the country.

(Annie Dillard [source])

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Sweet Mystery

Kitty Kitsch: Jeanette McDonald and Nelson Eddy

[Image above is a “Kitty Kitsch” sculpture by C. David & Ferbie Claudon,
depicting feline versions of Jeanette McDonald and Nelson Eddy
serenading each other in the Canadian wilderness. Click image for more info.]

From whiskey river:

Strange Life

It’s as if you are alone in a room
in an empty house and there’s music
playing somewhere, the kind of
music that you always knew would
accompany a moment like this
The air is heavy. The water in
the pool outside looks like glass
The color of everything can be
described as in the blue hour,
which eventually fades to gray
Yes, it’s a strange life
But wait. It’s getting stranger still

(by Eleanor Lerman)

Not from whiskey river:

The Mystery of Meteors

I am out before dawn, marching a small dog through a
meager park
Boulevards angle away, newspapers fly around like blind
white birds
Two days in a row I have not seen the meteors
though the radio news says they are overhead
Leonid’s brimstones are barred by clouds; I cannot read
the signs in heaven, I cannot see night rendered into fire
And yet I do believe a net of glitter is above me
You would not think I still knew these things:
I get on the train, I buy the food, I sweep, discuss,
consider gloves or boots, and in the summer,
open windows, find beads to string with pearls
You would not think that I had survived
anything but the life you see me living now
In the darkness, the dog stops and sniffs the air
She has been alone, she has known danger,
and so now she watches for it always
and I agree, with the conviction of my mistakes.
But in the second part of my life, slowly, slowly,
I begin to counsel bravery. Slowly, slowly,
I begin to feel the planets turning, and I am turning
toward the crackling shower of their sparks
These are the mysteries I could not approach when I was younger:
the boulevards, the meteors, the deep desires that split the sky
Walking down the paths of the cold park
I remember myself, the one who can wait out anything
So I caution the dog to go silently, to bear with me
the burden of knowing what spins on and on above our heads
For this is our reward:Come Armageddon, come fire or flood,
come love, not love, millennia of portents —
there is a future in which the dog and I are laughing
Born into it, the mystery, I know we will be saved

(also by Eleanor Lerman*)

Finally, this: If you’re familiar with Mel Brooks’s 1974 film Young Frankenstein, you know the scene in which Madeline Kahn’s character — Elizabeth, Dr. F’s fiancee — first meets up with The Monster (played by Peter Boyle). Or rather let’s say, the scene in which The Monster first makes himself known to her. The scene which, uh, climaxes with Kahn’s operatically ecstatic warbling of the first few lines of the song “Sweet Mystery of Life.”

The YouTube clip below takes a different approach with the song. Here, the singer is Mario Lanza; over that glorious voice are interleaved a host of scenes fom Young Frankenstein (except, interestingly, any scenes featuring Madeline Kahn or Peter Boyle).

(By the way, if you’d like to see the Kahn-Boyle moment itself, of course it’s on YouTube as well.)

Update, a little later on 2008-12-12: Over at the inestimable Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast site, coincidentally, Jules is also thinking about great movie-music moments.


* Eleanor Lerman’s work has now made three appearances in two consecutive Friday posts here. (Here‘s last week’s, which includes Lerman’s lovely “Starfish.”) This pretty much makes her the only candidate for the title of RAMH Poet Laureate. I didn’t even know there was such a title.

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Everyday Matters

Giant screw

[Photo of a giant Archimedes screw. Funny, isn’t it — how
a giant screw can be both a problem and a solution?]

From whiskey river:


This is what life does. It lets you walk up to
the store to buy breakfast and the paper, on a
stiff knee. It lets you choose the way you have
your eggs, your coffee. Then it sits a fisherman
down beside you at the counter who says, Last night,
the channel was full of starfish
. And you wonder,
is this a message, finally, or just another day?

Life lets you take the dog for a walk down to the
pond, where whole generations of biological
processes are boiling beneath the mud. Reeds
speak to you of the natural world: they whisper,
they sing. And herons pass by. Are you old
enough to appreciate the moment? Too old?
There is movement beneath the water, but it
may be nothing. There may be nothing going on.

And then life suggests that you remember the
years you ran around, the years you developed
a shocking lifestyle, advocated careless abandon,
owned a chilly heart. Upon reflection, you are
genuinely surprised to find how quiet you have
become. And then life lets you go home to think
about all this. Which you do, for quite a long time.

Later, you wake up beside your old love, the one
who never had any conditions, the one who waited
you out. This is life’s way of letting you know that
you are lucky. (It won’t give you smart or brave,
so you’ll have to settle for lucky.) Because you
were born at a good time. Because you were able
to listen when people spoke to you. Because you
stopped when you should have and started again.

So life lets you have a sandwich, and pie for your
late night dessert. (Pie for the dog, as well.) And
then life sends you back to bed, to dreamland,
while outside, the starfish drift through the channel,
with smiles on their starry faces as they head
out to deep water, to the far and boundless sea.

(by Eleanor Lerman)

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