The face of the giant | Wallace Stevens

I thought, on the train, how utterly weI thought, on the train, how utterly we have forsaken the Earth, in the sense of excluding it from our thoughts. There are but few who consider its physical hugeness, its rough enormity. It is still a disparate monstrosity, full of solitudes & barrens & wilds. It still dwarfs & terrifies & crushes. The rivers still roar, the mountains still crash, the winds still shatter. Man is an affair of cities. His gardens & orchards & fields are mere scrapings. Somehow, however, he has managed to shut out the face of the giant from his windows. But the giant is there, nevertheless.

-Wallace Stevens

Souvenirs and Prophecies, ed. Holly Stevens (New York: Knopf, 1977), note of April 18, 1904, p. 134.

Mark Strand | The End

The End
Mark Strand
 The End by Mark Strand
Not every man knows what he shall sing at the end,
Watching the pier as the ship sails away, or what it will seem like
When he’s held by the sea’s roar, motionless, there at the end,
Or what he shall hope for once it is clear that he’ll never go back.
When the time has passed to prune the rose or caress the cat,
When the sunset torching the lawn and the full moon icing it down
No longer appear, not every man knows what he’ll discover instead.
When the weight of the past leans against nothing, and the sky
Is no more than remembered light, and the stories of cirrus
And cumulus come to a close, and all the birds are suspended in flight,
Not every man knows what is waiting for him, or what he shall sing
When the ship he is on slips into darkness, there at the end.

 

 

“The End,” © 1990 by Mark Strand from The Continuous Life by Mark Strand.

Happiness | Jane Kenyon

Happiness

by Jane Kenyon

There’s just no accounting for happiness,
or the way it turns up like a prodigal
who comes back to the dust at your feet
having squandered a fortune far away.
And how can you not forgive?
You make a feast in honor of what
was lost, and take from its place the finest
garment, which you saved for an occasion
you could not imagine, and you weep night and day
to know that you were not abandoned,
that happiness saved its most extreme form
for you alone.
No, happiness is the uncle you never
knew about, who flies a single-engine plane
onto the grassy landing strip, hitchhikes
into town, and inquires at every door
until he finds you asleep midafternoon
as you so often are during the unmerciful
hours of your despair.
It comes to the monk in his cell.
It comes to the woman sweeping the street
with a birch broom, to the child
whose mother has passed out from drink.
It comes to the lover, to the dog chewing
a sock, to the pusher, to the basketmaker,
and to the clerk stacking cans of carrots
in the night.
                     It even comes to the boulder
in the perpetual shade of pine barrens,
to rain falling on the open sea,
to the wineglass, weary of holding wine.

English: The dwarf pine barrens in the Sam's P...

 

Bruce Springsteen

I wasn’t always a fan of Bruce Springsteen.

Of course, I knew his music (or so I thought). Who didn’t? Every song on Born in the USA had been a single, and had been played to death, right? And then he did those mediocre movie soundtrack songs in the 90s, which, I was convinced, were actually the same song, reheated slightly. When a song is so dull that a DJ feels compelled to splice in groan-inducing dialogue from a maudlin, implausible romantic comedy, that song is pretty dull indeed. There

Bruce Springsteen

And, you know, this happened (Photo credit: Anastasios Fakinos)

was also a Pop-Up Video sendup of “I’m on Fire” that mercilessly pointed out the parallels between the story depicted in the music video and the real-life story of Amy Fisher and Joey Buttafuoco that took place a few years later. I was going to spend my pocket money on a disco compilation CD or worse yet, CREED, but not “the Boss.” And seriously, the Boss? How lame a nickname can you get?

Fast forward a few years and I’m working at Kohl’s, which was slightly better than a coal mine but a bit less hygienic. The store muzak had a few actual songs mixed in with all the dreck–one of which was “Brilliant Disguise.” In my pre-Internet days, I don’t even recall how I found out it was Bruce. After I got my sweet Sony Vaio and a dialup connection, I downloaded the song on WinMX. I burned it onto a CD labeled “Faves,” of which I had about 17 in my car. I rotated them until they were too scratched and sunbaked to play anymore. And that’s about where we stood, Bruce and I, for perhaps 4 years.

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shake the dustbin

“Oho, now I know what you are. You are an advocate of Useful Knowledge.”

“Certainly.”

“You say that a man’s first job is to earn a living, and that the first task of education is to equip him for that job?”

“Of course.”

“Well, allow me to introduce myself to you as an advocate of Ornamental Knowledge. You like the mind to be a neat machine, equipped to work efficiently, if narrowly, and with no extra bits or useless parts. I like the mind to be a dustbin of scraps of brilliant fabric, odd gems, worthless but fascinating curiosities, tinsel, quaint bits of carving, and a reasonable amount of healthy dirt. Shake the machine and it goes out of order; shake the dustbin and it adjusts itself beautifully to its new position.”

–Robertson Davis, Tempest-Tost

Junk Drawer

(Photo credit: Chelsea McNamara)

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More ill-writ, ill-rhymed and fleeting than any song

Terraplane Wings

Terraplane Wings (Photo credit: lincolnblues)

“And, of course, that is what all of this is – all of this: the one song, ever changing, ever reincarnated, that speaks somehow from and to and for that which is ineffable within us and without us, that is both prayer and deliverance, folly and wisdom, that inspires us to dance or smile or simply to go on, senselessly, incomprehensibly, beatifically, in the face of mortality and the truth that our lives are more ill-writ, ill-rhymed and fleeting than any song, except perhaps those songs – that song, endlessly reincarnated – born of that truth, be it the moon and June of that truth, or the wordless blue moan, or the rotgut or the elegant poetry of it. That nameless black-hulled ship of Ulysses, that long black train, that Terraplane, that mystery train, that Rocket ’88’, that Buick 6 – same journey, same miracle, same end and endlessness.”
— Nick Tosches, Where Dead Voices Gather

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No older than it ever was…

So when you realise you’ve gone a few weeks and haven’t felt that awful struggle of your childish self — struggling to lift itself out of its inadequacy and incompetence — you’ll know you’ve gone some weeks without meeting new challenge, and without growing, and that you’ve gone some weeks towards losing touch with yourself. The only calibration that counts is how much heart people invest, how much they ignore their fears of being hurt or caught out or humiliated. And the only thing people regret is that they didn’t live boldly enough, that they didn’t invest enough heart, didn’t love enough. Nothing else really counts at all.

–Ted Hughes, letter to Nicholas, via brainpickings.

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Epilogue ~~ Robert Lowell {we are poor passing facts}

 

Epilogue

robert lowell & elizabeth bishop

robert lowell & elizabeth bishop, brazil 1962

By Robert Lowell

Those blessèd structures, plot and rhyme—
why are they no help to me now
I want to make
something imagined, not recalled?
I hear the noise of my own voice:
The painter’s vision is not a lens,
it trembles to caress the light.
But sometimes everything I write
with the threadbare art of my eye
seems a snapshot,
lurid, rapid, garish, grouped,
heightened from life,
yet paralyzed by fact.
All’s misalliance.
Yet why not say what happened?
Pray for the grace of accuracy
Vermeer gave to the sun’s illumination
stealing like the tide across a map
to his girl solid with yearning.
We are poor passing facts,
warned by that to give
each figure in the photograph
his living name.

Robert Lowell, “Epilogue” from Day by Day. Copyright © 1977 by Robert Lowell. 

 

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