“A Long and Sweet, Delicious Crack of Wood in My Teeth”

'064 - Day 5 Ayeyarwady River - A serene view of Ava Bridge,' by Neville Wootton on Flickr

[Image: “064 – Day 5 Ayeyarwady River – A serene view of Ava Bridge,” by Neville Wootton. Found on Flickr, and used here under a Creative Commons license. (Thank you!) The image’s beauty is proportionate to its scale (click it to enlarge), but at any scale it seems an image of a place remembered, but never actually visited.]

Not from whiskey river:

Theories of Time and Space

You can get there from here, though
there’s no going home.

Everywhere you go will be somewhere
you’ve never been. Try this:

head south on Mississippi 49, one-
by-one mile markers ticking off

another minute of your life. Follow this
to its natural conclusion — dead end

at the coast, the pier at Gulfport where
riggings of shrimp boats are loose stitches

in a sky threatening rain. Cross over
the man-made beach, 26 miles of sand

dumped on a mangrove swamp — buried
terrain of the past. Bring only

what you must carry — tome of memory
its random blank pages. On the dock

where you board the boat for Ship Island,
someone will take your picture:

the photograph — who you were —
will be waiting when you return

(Natasha Trethewey [source])

…and:

Fetch

Go, bring back the worthless stick.
Of memory,” I almostimage added.
But she wouldn’t understand, naturally.
There is the word and the thing

adhering. So far so good.
Metaphor, drawer of drafting tools —
spill it on the study floor, animal says,
that we might at least see

how an expensive ruler tastes.
Yesterday I pissed and barked and ate
because that’s what waking means.
Thus has God solved time

for me — here, here. What you call
memory is a long and sweet,
delicious crack of wood in my teeth
I bring back and bring back and bring back.

(Jeffrey Skinner [source])

[Read more…]

Send to Kindle
Share

The Familiar, the New

'Hiraethm,' by Stewart Black on Flickr

[Image: “Hiraeth,” by Stewart Black. Found it at Flickr.com, and used here under a Creative Commons license. For more on the idea of hiraeth, see the passage below by Paula Petro.]

From whiskey river:

Theories of Time and Space

You can get there from here, though
there’s no going home.

Everywhere you go will be somewhere
you’ve never been. Try this:

head south on Mississippi 49, one-
by-one mile markers ticking off

another minute of your life. Follow this
to its natural conclusion — dead end

at the coast, the pier at Gulfport where
riggings of shrimp boats are loose stitches

in a sky threatening rain. Cross over
the man-made beach, 26 miles of sand

dumped on a mangrove swamp — buried
terrain of the past. Bring only

what you must carry — tome of memory
its random blank pages. On the dock

where you board the boat for Ship Island,
someone will take your picture:

the photograph — who you were —
will be waiting when you return

(Natasha Trethewey [source])

and:

The desire to go home that is a desire to be whole, to know where you are, to be the point of intersection of all the lines drawn through all the stars, to be the constellation-maker and the center of the world, that center called love. To awaken from sleep, to rest from awakening, to tame the animal, to let the soul go wild, to shelter in darkness and blaze with light, to cease to speak and be perfectly understood.

(Rebecca Solnit [source])

and:

The Destination

I wanted something, I wanted. I could not have it.
Irremediable rock of refusal, this world thick with bird song,
tender with starfish and apples.
How calming it is to say, “Turn right at the second corner,”
and be understood,
and see things arrive as they should at their own destination.
Yet we speak in riddles —
“Turn back at the silence.” “Pass me the mountain.”
To the end we each nod, pretending to understand.

(Jane Hirshfield [source])

[Read more…]

Send to Kindle
Share

An Infinity of Reflexive Trajectories

one view of a triple torus

[Image (courtesy of Wikipedia): one of numerous graphic representations of a mathematical (and perhaps physical) space called a 3-torus (also three-torus, or triple torus). For more information, see below.]

From whiskey river:

We are such inward secret creatures, that inwardness is the most amazing thing about us, even more amazing than our reason. But we cannot just walk into the cavern and look around. Most of what we think we know about our minds is pseudo-knowledge. We are all such shocking poseurs, so good at inflating the importance of what we think we value.

(Iris Murdoch [source])

…and:

Every person passing through this life will unknowingly leave something and take something away. Most of this “something” cannot be seen or heard or numbered or scientifically detected or counted. It’s what we leave in the minds of other people and what they leave in ours.

(Robert Fulghum [source])

…and:

Poem to My Daughter

The sky has, is, one exit, one excuse,
and if I’m dead now that I’m saying this,
I can’t vouch for my transition from life
as having been rough or even evident.
Have I tried turning it off and then on again?
Have I tried throwing it against the wall?
Getting to know you, getting to know all
about you getting the mirror to mean
not only me, and thinking I must look
dumber than I look — dumber, then, than prose —
I walk through the laundry room regretting
getting the weekend done this way, as if
backstage, and say the name of your birthplace
as if I’d lost a hundred dollars there,
which I may have … Dear, when nowhere, don’t do
as those of us in nowhere do — just go.

(Graham Foust [source])

[Read more…]

Send to Kindle
Share

In the Land of What’sToCome

[Video: The Hello Strangers, last seen at RAMH in October 2014, released this video cover of Doris Day’s 1956 classic earlier this year — not coincidentally, on Day’s 91st birthday. Also not coincidentally, their grandfather, Ronald Chace, had both sung with Doris Day and played second trombone in Les Brown’s Big Band during Day’s tenure with Brown in the 1940s. The Strangers recorded this song in Chace’s memory.]

From whiskey river:

After Thanksgiving

Lord, as Rilke says, the year bears down toward winter, past
the purification of the trees, the darkened brook.
Only 4:45, and the sky’s sheer black
clasps two clear planets and a skinny moon
as we drive quietly home from the airport,
the last kid gone.

The time of preparation’s over, the time of
harvesting the seed, the husk, the kernel, saving
what can be saved—weaves of sun like
rags of old flannel, provident peach stones,
pies, pickles, berry wines to
hold the sweetness for a few more months.

Now the mountains will settle into their old
cold habits, now the white
birch bones will rise
like all those thoughts we’ve tried to repress:
madness of the solstice, phosphorescent
logic that rules the fifteen-hour night!

Our children, gorged, encouraged, have taken off
in tiny shuddering planes. Plump with stuffing,
we too hurry away, holding hands, holding on.
Soon it’ll be January, soon snow will
shuffle down, cold feathers, swathing us in
inches of white silence—

and the ways of the ice
will be narrow, delicate.

(Sandra M. Gilbert [source])

and:

Language is the element of definition, the defining and descriptive incantation. It puts the coin between our teeth. It whistles the boat up. It shows us the city of light across the water. Without language there is no poetry, without poetry there’s just talk. Talk is cheap and proves nothing. Poetry is dear and difficult to come by. But it poles us across the river and puts a music in our ears. It moves us to contemplation. And what we contemplate, what we sing our hymns to and offer our prayers to, is what will reincarnate us in the natural world, and what will be our one hope for salvation in the What’sToCome.

(Charles Wright [source])

and:

How To Listen

Tilt your head slightly to one side and lift
your eyebrows expectantly. Ask questions.

Delve into the subject at hand or let
things come randomly. Don’t expect answers.

Forget everything you’ve ever done.
Make no comparisons. Simply listen.

Listen with your eyes, as if the story
you are hearing is happening right now.

Listen without blinking, as if a move
might frighten the truth away forever.

Don’t attempt to copy anything down.
Don’t bring a camera or a recorder.

This is your chance to listen carefully.
Your whole life might depend on what you hear.

(Joyce Sutphen [source — click on the ‘Two Poems’ link])

[Read more…]

Send to Kindle
Share

A Direction in Which to Look

[Video: Linda Ronstadt sings “Blue Bayou,” in a performance filmed in September, 1977.
(Lyrics here.)]

From whiskey river:

Imagine yourself streaming through time shedding gloves, umbrellas, wrenches, books, friends, homes, names. This is what the view looks like if you take a rear-facing seat on the train. Looking forward you constantly acquire moments of arrival, moments of realization, moments of discovery. The wind blows your hair back and you are greeted by what you have never seen before. The material falls away in onrushing experience. It peels off like skin from a molting snake. Of course to forget the past is to lose the sense of loss that is also memory of an absent richness and a set of clues to navigate the present by; the art is not one of forgetting but letting go. And when everything else is gone, you can be rich in loss.

(Rebecca Solnit [source])

and (italicized portion):

New Year’s Day

The rain this morning falls
on the last of the snow

and will wash it away. I can smell
the grass again, and the torn leaves

being eased down into the mud.
The few loves I’ve been allowed

to keep are still sleeping
on the West Coast. Here in Virginia

I walk across the fields with only
a few young cows for company.

Big-boned and shy,
they are like girls I remember

from junior high, who never
spoke, who kept their heads

lowered and their arms crossed against
their new breasts. Those girls

are nearly forty now. Like me,
they must sometimes stand

at a window late at night, looking out
on a silent backyard, at one

rusting lawn chair and the sheer walls
of other people’s houses.

They must lie down some afternoons
and cry hard for whoever used

to make them happiest,
and wonder how their lives

have carried them
this far without ever once

explaining anything. I don’t know
why I’m walking out here

with my coat darkening
and my boots sinking in, coming up

with a mild sucking sound
I like to hear. I don’t care

where those girls are now.
Whatever they’ve made of it

they can have. Today I want   
to resolve nothing.

I only want to walk
a little longer in the cold

blessing of the rain,   
and lift my face to it.

(Kim Addonizio [source])

[Read more…]

Send to Kindle
Share

The Trap of What Never (Might Have) Happened

10th July 2008 - The Dream Diary, by practicalowl on Flickr

[Image: “10th July 2008 – The Dream Diary,” by user practicalowl on Flickr.com. (Right-click and view in a new window/tab for a much larger version.)) Used under a Creative Commons license.]

From whiskey river:

Song for the Deer and Myself to Return On

This morning when I looked out the roof window
before dawn and a few stars were still caught
in the fragile weft of ebony night
I was overwhelmed. I sang the song Louis taught me:
a song to call the deer in Creek, when hunting,
and I am certainly hunting something as magic as deer
in this city far from the hammock of my mother’s belly.
It works, of course, and deer came into this room
and wondered at finding themselves
in a house near downtown Denver.
Now the deer and I are trying to figure out a song
to get them back, to get all of us back,
because if it works I’m going with them.
And it’s too early to call Louis
and nearly too late to go home.

for Louis Oliver

(Joy Harjo [source])

and:

Some religions call life a dream, or a dreaming, but what if it is a memory? What if this new world isn’t new at all but a memory of a new world?

What if we really do keep making the same mistakes again and again, never remembering the lessons to learn but never forgetting either that it had been different, that there was a pristine place?

Perhaps the universe is a memory of our mistakes.

(Jeanette Winterson [source])

and:

Birthday
(excerpt)

I know this world is far from perfect.
I am not the type to mistake a streetlight for the moon.
I know our wounds are deep as the Atlantic.
But every ocean has a shoreline
and every shoreline has a tide
that is constantly returning
to wake the songbirds in our hands,
to wake the music in our bones,
to place one fearless kiss
on the mouth of that new born river
that has to run through the center of our hearts
to find its way home.

(Andrea Gibson [source])

and:

Shuttered Windows

To speak of the smell and feel
of books, the erotics of the text,
has begun to sound perverse

One by one, the old places of worship
churches, bookstores, Nature herself
become quaint and are vacated

In their stead a gleaming, ambitious screen
part shuttered window, part distorting mirror
full of wandering, restless spirits

Like so many ghosts in limbo —
free of the tyranny of bodies,
yet aching for their phantom limbs.

(Yahia Lababidi [source])

[Read more…]

Send to Kindle
Share

Still, Life

'Snow Face, Straight On' (2011): Gus, the Labradoodle, in a winter photo by Janet Nezon

[Image: “Snow Face, Straight On” (2011): Gus, the Labradoodle, in a wintry photo
by Janet Nezon at her
Lessons from Gus blog]

From whiskey river:

…It’s more like, if you can think of times in your life that you’ve treated people with extraordinary decency and love, and pure uninterested concern, just because they were valuable as human beings. The ability to do that with ourselves. To treat ourselves the way we would treat a really good, precious friend. Or a tiny child of ours that we absolutely loved more than life itself. And I think it’s probably possible to achieve that. I think part of the job we’re here for is to learn how to do it… I know that sounds a little pious.

(David Foster Wallace [source]

…and:

Motto

In the dark times
Will there also be singing?
Yes, there will also be singing
About the dark times.

(Bertolt Brecht [source])

…and:

Pleasures

First look from morning’s window
The rediscovered book
Fascinated faces
Snow, the change of the seasons
The newspaper
The dog
Dialectics
Showering, swimming
Old music
Comfortable shoes
Comprehension
New music
Writing, planting
Traveling
Singing
Being friendly.

(Bertolt Brecht [source])

[Read more…]

Send to Kindle
Share

Perfect Moments: The Girl Group on the Bus

[Image: The Boy and his classmates, en route from childhood, almost all of them apparently terrified. Click image to enlarge to a less eye-strainingly viewable version, or choose an alternate blowup: left side, full-size (1.0MB); right side, full-size (1.0MB); entire original scanned version (2MB). The Boy sits, flat-headed and a little jug-eared, in the back row, second from left.]

If you’re a blogger: did you ever have that one post which you never thought you’d write? (If you’re not a blogger, just bear with me a moment.) I don’t mean a post too controversial and/or confidential in subject matter. I mean a post about a subject you just didn’t think you could do justice to: it would be too long, or too difficult to write, would take too much out of you. That ever happen to you?

I’ve had this post on my mind for years. Running After My Hat is over four-and-a-half-years old, and I’ve thought about this post that whole time. (The subject, and the incident which the story describes, has been lurking in my head since boyhood, unforgettable and pretty much never far out of reach.) It’s not controversial and it’s not confidential. But boy did I want to write about it. And boy did I want to do right by it…

The photo above was always going to be included with the post. So for a while, I had an excuse for not writing it: I hadn’t scanned the photo. Then I lost the photo for a few years. Then I found it again. I eventually scanned it, a few months ago… And then I dithered.

I’ve been working on the post now for weeks. (Hence, another reason for my recent all-but-invisibility online.) It is, I think, about as done as it will ever get. But at 3,000-plus words (seven pages if printed), it’s way too long to include in a real post — not very nice for anyone who reads RAMH via email or RSS subscription. So I’ve put it all in a separate standalone page of its own. I’ve included the first couple of paragraphs below. If I haven’t scared you away from it by emphasizing its length, I hope you’ll enjoy the entire piece there.

And thanks — not just to readers (that should go without saying), but especially to the post’s never-forgotten subjects.

That last year of elementary school would be forever, in The Boy’s mind, dotted with the footprints of change, of some things started anew and others overturned. Among other upheavals which touched him, he paid attention to a Presidential election for the first time; The Addams FamilyBewitched and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer premiered on TV; the Warren Commission report came out; his friend Lindsay moved away; the Yankees (Lindsay’s favorite team) played their last World Series for a looong time and, shockingly, lost; a country named Vietnam first entered his consciousness; and with the rest of the eighth-grade class, he visited The Museum for the first time ever.

The Museum was one of two large and world-famous museums of science in the nearest city. It specialized in what was called “natural history,” a subject of which The Boy had made a hobby since, well, since he was The Little Boy: rocks and minerals, plant life, dinosaurs, birds and animals… For this reason alone, The Boy looked forward to this field trip. He couldn’t imagine how the excursion could affect him more deeply.

As would become his habit in life, however, The Boy failed to anticipate the large inner events to be found in real-world ones, no matter how small or how outsized…

continue reading “Perfect Moments: The Girl Group on the Bus” —

Send to Kindle
Share

You Are (Barely) Here

Sometimes when working on the Saturday Propagational Library serial I get a little overwhelmed thinking about the distances and time scales involved. While I try to keep things roughly “factual” — or factual-ish, anyhow — by referring as needed to one online source or another, it can really help to have a graphical tool available to bring it into perspective.

The Number Sleuth site has conveniently provided one such tool, with its “Magnifying the Universe” feature:

(For a more static but a little more easily digestible view, they also offer a plain old enormously long poster-style image.)

This perspective of relative sizes can change your perspective of everything: what’s important, what’s fair, what “change” means, what’s “old” and “young,” what’s worth remembering (and worth forgetting), what it means to age, what’s funny vs. deadly serious…

And I like the implied interrelationship between space and time, especially at the most gigantic scales. Let’s say you’ve got a way to measure the distances from yourself to greatly distant objects — some way which does not (obviously) require you yourself to travel that distance (using an odometer which clicks over every giga-parsec or so). Let’s say you take as a given the (still conventional) notion that nothing can move faster than light. One implication of this is that the universe is not just at least as far across (in radius) as the most distant object you can see; it’s that the universe is also at least that old. So if the most distant visible object in the heavens is a light-year away, the light from that object has taken a whole year to reach your eyes… and the universe is at least that old.

Therefore, if (as seems to be the case) the most distant visible object is around fourteen billion light-years away, then…

We can also infer the presence of objects even farther than we can actually see, from the effects of those yet-farther objects on what we can see. Imagine Aeolus, the God of Intergalactic Breezes, sitting on his throne way the hell out there beyond observable limits. We can’t see him but can guess he’s there, because of the way the most-distant-visible objects dance around every time Aeolus sighs (probably out of loneliness) in this direction.

If your head can stand even more interestingness, consider the theory that the universe is expanding, and indeed accelerating in its rate of expansion. According to this theory, although the speed of light still marks an upper limit, it does so locally, on a more or less “small” scale — implying that the space between objects may expand more rapidly than light speed. Thus, at that fourteen-billion-light-years horizon, things are constantly crossing over the line into invisibility and, ultimately, unknowability.

Consider the similarities between all this and (say) the way in which things, people, and experiences pass from our individual (or collective) memory.

Consider the grand themes of art, literature, and music, from the small and personal to the most sweepingly “universal.”

Consider sharing those themes with Aeolus and, if Aeolus creates art of his own, his sharing his themes with us

 

Send to Kindle
Share

“Basking in the Glow of an Imagined Future”

[Image: illustration from a December 20101 post, “The Time Travelling Brain,” at the Neuroskeptic blog. The orange-highlighted region of the brain is apparently used both in remembering the past, and imagining the future. See also this article in Discover.]

in spite of everything
which breathes and moves, since Doom
(with white longest hands
neatening each crease)
will smooth entirely our minds

— before leaving my room
i turn, and (stooping
through the morning) kiss
this pillow, dear
where our heads lived and were.

(E.E. Cummings)

…and:

Those hours given over to basking in the glow of an imagined future, of being carried away in streams of promise by a love or a passion so strong that one felt altered forever and convinced that even the smallest particle of the surrounding world was charged with purpose of impossible grandeur; ah, yes, and one would look up into the trees and be thrilled by the wind-loosened river of pale, gold foliage cascading down and by the high, melodious singing of countless birds; those moments, so many and so long ago, still come back, but briefly, like fireflies in the perfumed heat of summer night.

(Mark Strand)

[Read more…]

Send to Kindle
Share