The bones had to set when we broke them and we set them in the earth amid the burn in the skeletons of former homes still smoking to grow new cells we needed––
hold still they told us meaning faith but without work it looked half dead in the mirrors
we listened for wolves and saved the prints in boxes for someday when we would sort them all
out into a proper display but what happens when the waters rise
is that sometimes you have to jump to the next roof and hope it holds.
Hey Siri, asked in secret, What do you know of shelter?
It was something to do when knowing you had no service did not preclude the need to speak
ready for the next ledge she might have said you can wait until its dark
Siri we might have answered, I believe, to heal our unbeliefs.
Like a Polaroid shaken in the light, details of the once-beloved artist emerge. This happens just before the record of his life is erased by time and war. His students remember.
He was called unclassifiable, a sphinx without a riddle, a gentle man uninterested in greatness. He loved invented worlds and claimed Atlantis as his home country.
He loved the people of the land and not its titles. And they knew it.
In honor of the birthday of the celebrated Salvadoran painter, writer, and philosopher Salvador Salazar Arrué, better known as Salarrué (1899-1975). Reed Johnson’s 2005 article in the LA Times discusses a recent resurgence of interest in the artist’s life and work.
Of all your characters, you were most interested in Time, the fifth elemental substance latent in all things. You aimed to chronicle its flow by detailing refractions of brilliance on the river and its bridge, one forever changing and the other reaching toward permanence. You noted symbols in the shadows where one overlapped the other: the river, the bridge, their people; the hope of construction and the tragedy of collapse; the continuance of water and this incomplete permanence in concert with all forms, its eye a chorus.
Inspired by the work of Ivo Andrić (1892-1975), whose birthday is today.
You wanted only something hard and certain to hold against the flux when the dark sky of your childhood pressed its wet lips against the windowpane. The heart of the matter, you suspected, was conflict: between this world and the next, sanctity and goodness, but the connection between these defied reasoning. Wanting nothing of the graceless chromium world, only sainthood or damnation interested you, with their questions about unknown and unobtainable Heavens on the other side of death. Yours was a world in slant, angled like the posture of a desperate man with courage to frighten the flock, in clumsy prayer.
Today is the birthday of English writer Graham Greene (1904-1991), best known for his novels, which often feature characters in states of existential and moral crisis. In honor of this day, I spent time this morning with these two articles: Graham Greene’s Dark Heart (by Joan Acocella, The New Yorker, March 2021) and The Two Worlds of Graham Greene (by Herbert R. Haber in Modern Fiction Studies, Autumn 1957).
In the dreaming month when sea drums echo, here come the opposing spirits of ancestral dead, and here is the body in-between. Also here, a motley collection of other spirits of various purposes and temperaments, each with their own will to interfere. Balancing between limbo and nothingness, the dreamer leaves, searching for an end to exile.
The first sign of trouble was the ignorance of proper names, and then came erasure in the land of wind. Now throbs the ache of missing limbs and thirst beside these drained reservoirs of memory. Dispossessed of a place in the sun, the dreamer enters the tombs, to gnaw at the bones of collected griefs in shattered time.
And then, trespassing through prehistory to recover a lost Eden, the dreamer returns to the hills, and then to the river and finally, to the same sea that was the beginning of looking out and beyond.
Today is the birthday of Jan Carew (1920-2017), Afro-Caribbean poet, playwright, scholar, and novelist of far-reaching influence. In honor of this day, I spent the morning with his essay, The Caribbean Writer and Exile, published in Journal of Black Studies (Jun. 1978). This post is assembled using images and phrases found in Carew’s essay.
All he wanted was a change in the human condition. They can laugh at me, he said to the mirror. When it came to the question of what a human might be, he didn’t claim to know. Over time, he grew distant from those who did, and these were many.
All he could say, when it came to describing his predicament was, it’s possible. He sought reconciliation––between matter and mind, body and soul, fact and idea. But people loved their borders, and he kept being detained at the boundaries of his body.
Then he turned on words, preferring only sound detached from the old symbolisms, and he let these run through him, imagining that their resonance, after all, might affect some inside-out change.
Really? Someone asked.
It’s possible, he seemed to respond, and he did not say a word.
In honor of the birthday of French artist, poet, dramatist, and writer Antonin Artaud, I spent some time this morning in Naomi Greene’s 1967 article in Yale French Studies, “Antonin Artaud: Metaphysical Revolutionary.”
You gave voice lessons to your followers, reminding them back to the poetic possibilities of their own idioms. You knew the absurdity of lovesickness, the hopelessness of waiting, and the dogged persistence of stubborn hope. You lamented time’s slow passage even when you found it making still too quick an interval between before and after.
How do you catch a heartbeat? Build a poem to break everything, until what is left is the syncopated feeling of forest voices, to polish the mirror where the Unconscious seeks itself. What escapes the lover’s reach?
You knew the maddening moon, your death, beneath the dripping branches, the work of the web undone; you heard the tragic anthem of the unattended sun . . . like a gland ripped from the throat, and still. You could not keep from singing.
It’s the birthday of Jules Laforgue (1860-1887), French symbolist poet whose work strongly influenced T.S. Eliot’s development, and who championed the expansion of free verse. The opening line of this post references an enthusiastic comment of Eliot’s, soon after he encountered Laforgue’s early work in an anthology of symbolists. Much of Laforgue’s later work was not published in his lifetime (he died at the age of twenty-seven, of tuberculosis). This morning, I read Moon Solo: The Last Poems of Laforgue, published by William Jay Smith in a 1956 issue of The Sewanee Review. Some of the images (and italicized phrases) above are from these poems.
You left the door open, called everyone familiar––and they were, after so long looking. You had born witness to their hope and heartbreak, their quiet, their children and the children they had once been, faces breaking open in a running laugh. They knew that you saw them and felt recognized, knew the shock of relief from their own anonymity in a world crowded with rushed strangers, too busy or beaten to look. Your lens could not resist a smile toward the lovers, and your heart swelled too full to make it stop.
Inspired by Willy Ronis, whose birthday was yesterday, and by this article about the photographer who saw Paris “with his heart in his eyes.”
With Dorothea Klumpke Roberts.
Since Cain slew Abel, she considered hers a threefold role: mother, priestess, aide. Faithful service to each has meant time spent gazing up to question the sun, moon, and stars in concert with the evolving hour at hand––not as objects or territories to be conquered or subdued, but with the reverence and awe she comes to hold as original truths. Her wish: to be a living torch, bearing these, that tomorrow’s children might see and be awed in turn. To look as she does, it will be impossible for them not to feel the moral impact of the moment and be awed by all that is and may yet be.
Today is the birthday of groundbreaking astronomer Dorothea Klumpke Roberts (1861-1942). This post is composed of ideas and images from a 1919 article she published in Publications of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific, “Woman’s Work in Astronomy.”
Afterwards, amid the autumn dusk,
I shall not care.
Let it be forgotten by February twilight,
My heart is heavy with old love.
Love, this is not a word, but an epitaph.
What do I care, in the morning?
Says a voice around me now,
here in this spirit’s house.
Today is the birthday of American lyric poet Sara Teasdale (1884-1933). The lines above are composed with some of her poem titles. The title of this post references a collection she published in 1915.