Unclipping Oliver

It's on the jacket as a blurb. It appears in callouts.

My predominant feeling is one of gratitude. I have loved and been loved. I have been given much and I have given something in return. Above all, I have been a sentient being, a thinking animal, on this beautiful planet, and that in itself has been an enormous privilege and adventure.
Fair enough. But the celebration of literacy is missing.
I cannot pretend I am without fear. […] I have read and traveled and thought and written. I have had an intercourse with the world, the special intercourse of writers and readers.
Reassembling the pieces to the two-paragraph status…
I cannot pretend I am without fear. My predominant feeling is one of gratitude.I have loved and been loved. I have been given much and I have given something in return; I have read and traveled and thought and written. I have had an intercourse with the world, the special intercourse of writers and readers.

Above all, I have been a sentient being, a thinking animal, on this beautiful planet, and that in itself has been an enormous privilege and adventure.
"My Own Life" in Gratitude by Oliver Sacks

And so for day 1510

Ancestor Tales

Ferenc Juhász
The Boy Changed into a Stag: Selected Poems 1949-1967
"Brief confessions about myself"

Descendent of men after a different kind of richness…

It's my belief that even the great-grandparents had slithered into poverty, moulted their fine feathers, in the last years of their lives, and I am increasingly certain that it was not in actual fact economic conditions that made them poor; I believe it was often laziness or daydreaming that wrenched off here and there a piece of their land, crumbling it to smoke-dust. At least that seems to have been the case with grandfather Andresz's father, who sold off quite a few acres of land on the quite without his wife's knowledge and then spent the money on books, stowing away half of them in the attic and the rest near their maize field under a bridge, in a cavity made by removing a stone in one of its arches. From then on he spent his time reading, mostly in the attic or in the maize field. It was during the course of improving his mind thus that the ruse came to light. His wife, wondering why it was taking him almost three weeks to finish hoeing that half-acre of maize, stole after him and surprised the old fellow stretched out on his stomach under the flowering cherry-tree, greasy hat pulled down over his forehead, smoking his pipe, totally absorbed in the pleasures afforded the mind by an encyclopaedia.
Women continue to play the role of anchor in another tale of male adventure seeking.
Grandfather Andresz […] In fact it was from the grocery store that he left for America, flew away from the counter-top (they were sitting there drinking brandy on credit) without his wife knowing about it until the letter came from New York asking her to come and join him there with the children. But his wife refused to risk it, and he, having failed to set himself up with a factory out of what he made by washing dishes, came back after a year or two, as poor as when he had gone, painting the boat for his fare across the ocean back to Europe.
Allure: half-understood and totally risked. Vicarious: secondhand stories that compel admiration.

And so for day 1509

Pullulating Praxes

Hito Steyerl "In Defense of the Poor Image" collected in The Wretched of the Screen from e-flux journal #10 11/2009. She leads us to recognize a tension in the distribution systems at play.

The circulation of poor images feeds into both capitalist media assembly lines and alternative audiovisual economies.
She earlier in the piece distinguishes between screenings and previews and in doing so contrasts intensity with contemplation. One is almost captured by the enumeration but something sticks if you slow down the reading.
On the one hand, it [the poor image] operates against the fetish value of high resolution. On the other hand, this is precisely why it also ends up being perfectly integrated into an information capitalism thriving on compressed attention spans, on impression rather than immersion, on intensity rather than contemplation, on previews rather than screenings.
Circulations to and by the many. Consumption by crowds. Although operating under the label "poor" we are far away from the notion of "encounter" found in Grotowski Towards a Poor Theatre.
Poor images are thus popular images—images that can be made and seen by the many. They express all the contradictions of the contemporary crowd: its opportunism, narcissism, desire for autonomy and creation, its inability to focus or make up its mind, its constant readiness for transgression and simultaneous submission.* Altogether, poor images present a snapshot of the affective condition of the crowd, its neurosis, paranoia, and fear, as well as its craving for intensity, fun, and distraction. The condition of the images speaks not only of countless transfers and reformattings, but also of the countless people who cared enough about them to convert them over and over again, to add subtitles, reedit, or upload them.

*See Paolo Virno, A Grammar of the Multitude: For an Analysis of Contemporary Forms of Life, trans. Isabella Bertoletti, James Cascaito, and Andrea Casson (Los Angeles: Semiotext(e), 2004).
It's the footnote on "multitude" that sends me off to read more and think more about le travail de l'image.

And so for day 1508

After Forethought

I have characterized the poetry of James Schuyler as being in tune with the moment that comes almost like an afterthought but on retrospect appears as premeditated. Consider the end of a poem to artist Anne Dunn on her name day. The speaker debates the composition of floral tribute with botanical finesse but ends the poem with the following

Gathered with friends
And family to celebrate
Your name day, Anne. (Along
With the flowers, I send
You a New Brunswick lobster.)
Cooked we hope to a beautiful pink.

And there would be in the corpus a poem called "Afterward" which ends with "This room needs flowers."

The cover illustration to the 1980 The Morning of the Poem is by Anne Dunn.

At first glance it looks like the plant is growing out of the pavement. Upon further observation it is evident that what is on display is an amaryllis growing out of a square pot in front of a window in some cityscape. Double take.

And so for day 1507

From Inside the Asylum

From the Payne Whitney poems, the ending to "February 13, 1975". A sort of weather report.

yet. I wish one could press
snowflakes in a book like flowers.
James Schuyler
New York Review of Books, August 17, 1978

And so for day 1506

Canta Contro

Domenico Capilongo
I thought elvis was italian
solo in giappone / alone in japan

You come across a poem completely in Italian. You turn the page, like a twirl of the fork. There awaits for you the English version.

si sente l'odore della pasta
e la musica della forchetta
che canta contro il piatto
I can smell the pasta
the music of the fork
that sings against the plate
I take it that these are not soba noodles. But equally delicious.

Capilongo also has a wonderful take on a bricklayer after Ondaatje's cinnamon peeler. Some day there maybe somewhere someone to take after alone in japan in some bilingual mode.

And so for day 1505

Winter Exhalations

Existential blocks carved out of three different poems in The Latest Winter by Maggie Nelson.

Yes the dissonance is truth,
whether it is killing me or not
is not relevant, as I am trying
to write without knowing
who I am.
Once I thought
I might be lonely, then I knew
my mind would always talk
to me.
A child straps on
her backpack, gets ready
to know.
Without talking, without knowing, a way of writing. Always placing the comma where it counts, where it can be savoured,
All I want to say is
I breathed you, we all breathed you
We breathed the souls of people
I think it was the souls of people
So ends a poem "Report from the Field" which expands beyond its occasion rooted in a New York of 2001 into a generalized take on breathing and the hesitations of the thinking mind.

And so for day 1504

Charting Cartographies, Tracking Sounds

Dionne Brand
In Another Place, Not Here
Knopf, 1996, page 117

I first noted this passage for my friend Marlene Goldman who was exploring women and mapping and working on what became Paths of desire: Images of exploration and mapping in Canadian women's writing.

Today the sound of bees and cicadas singing tautly tightened the air, as if they were drawing a map of the place, as if they were the only ones left to do it. Their singing thick as electric wires, cicadas, bees singing thick, suspended the island, mapping the few hills, the dried rivers of the dry season, the white river stones, the soft memory of the people who lived here, the desire of rain when it came to wash rickety houses away, or the desire of sun to parch old people's lips, children's throats, the hot need of hillsides to incline so desperately, to inspire weakness in the knees, the cold-blooded heat of noons melting people into houses and under beds. Cicadas, bees, busy with their cartography, their sound like tender glass above, holding these few things, waiting to set them down again, the simple geography of dirt and water, intact, the way only they knew it, holding the name of the place in their voices, screaming so that the war would pass, interminably pass.
Reading it years later, I am intrigued about the combination: I have never heard bees and cicadas together. My map is limited but in my imagination thanks to Brand's prose I can go where are the cicadas and the bees. Did find audio files for sale (at Audio Jungle) of stereo recording of bees buzzing and cicadas chirping recorded by tommiwilson — sounds I would never have thought to seek out before now live in my mind side by side or rather in a layered symphony.

And so for day 1503

Vignelli Vignette

This scene in Design is One grabbed my attention simply because the artefact was handled by its designer as he told the story of its reception. Cup overflow was discussed as habit versus design flaw. Searching for more I came across this clip & transcript at The Dinner Party and voilà my cup runneth over…

Brendan Francis Newnam: So there's a scene in the film, it's a scene from your life, where you were designing plateware for Heller. You created this clever, minimal, plastic plateware that can stack and do things. There's a mug for hot coffee with a handle that you designed, and it's hard to describe this on the radio, but essentially, the handle was such that it acted like a gutter if you filled the coffee mug up too high.

Massimo Vignelli: Yes, for putting your finger.

Brendan Francis Newnam: Yeah, it's for putting your thumb, you can put it in this ridge, but if you filled up the cup too high, coffee would spill out of the ridge.

You, being from European background, knew this was a demitasse cup, and this cup was not meant to be ever filled to the top, yet Americans fill up a cuppa joe, and they were spilling it.

It turned out to be fine - you know, it's in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art - but I'm wondering: how do you know when you're ahead of your time versus just being wrong?

Massimo Vignelli: I wasn't wrong. I wasn't wrong.

Brendan Francis Newnam: But people weren't able to drink their coffee in America for a while.

Massimo Vignelli: This is good. They do it once, then they learn, which at the end turns into an advantage. It's very rude to fill up the cup all the way to the top, you know, and so they learn how to be civilized by filling it up less.

You're on the radio, you don't make noises. Why don't you make bad noises on the radio? Because it's uncivilized.

Brendan Francis Newnam: So a poor design decision is the equivalent of making rude noises?

Massimo Vignelli: Exactly. Even if making a bad noise, you could claim that it's part of your freedom. It's not part of your freedom, it's part of you being impolite or uncivilized!

The same thing is there. I mean, visual things have the same relationship to sound or other things, gesture, body language... everything has a meaning. You see, this is the point. This is what design is all about. It's decodifying the meaning of things.
Flow. Flaw. Fart.

And so for day 1502

Spam Lit

I rarely if ever read spam. The name of the sender ("Dia") on this one caught my attention. It reads like a romance. The hook with this one is that the sucker is drawn in not only by the promise of getting rich but also of getting the girl.


Nice to meet you. My name is Diane Laws from France. l am 29 years old. l really need your assistance. My husband dead two years ago and the family members wants to kill me and my children and seat on the inheritance he left for us with bank here in France, l am now in a hiding place with my kids and the documents of inheritance is with us. Please help us to have this fund transferred to your country and we will fly to join you.

Attached is my picture.

l will be waiting for your reply

Diane Laws.
Spam love now sits in the trash. Puzzled by what "seat on an inheritance" might mean…

And so for day 1501

Womb Work

Gervase Markham in The Well-Kept Kitchen (excerpts of The English Housewife published by Penguin) on the distillations of waters and their virtues notes

Water of radish drunk twice a day, at each time an ounce, or an ounce and a half, doth multiply and provoke lust, and also it provoketh the terms in women.
Maggie Nelson in "The Canal Diaries" in Something Bright, Then Holes
carnival. Pink prints
on white tissue

announce another month's
passing, inconsolable.
"Inconsolable" seems incongruous. Not so when we restore the context set up by the previous lines. This is about a lament about the passage of time.
I differ. Go to sleep
in anger and heat

and wake again
to the pour
of rain, streets

emptied of their
carnival. Pink prints
on white tissue

announce another month's
passing, inconsolable.
Later in the poem there appears the sanitary napkin named by brand and described by shape: "the hourglass of a Maxi." And further on we find in a litany of persons to envy. We encounter envy for those "happy & fat with child" which is linked in my reading to the envy of "those / whose bodies beget / an absolute forgetfulness." Sets the inconsolable in a different light. Not so much about a recognition of mortality as a keening over what is spent and will not bear fruit. One remembers that Lent follows Mardi Gras and its Carnival. But this is not the land of the Big C Catholics. The consolation is in and of the poem.

And so for day 1500

Compression Expression

The glue in the perfect binding of my copy of James Schuyler The Morning of the Poem (1980) has dried up and the cover (with its lovely drawing by Anne Dunn) has become detached. I am waiting for the sections to fall further apart. Meanwhile I went to the bookshelf and retrieved a copy of the Selected Poems (1988) which contains some but not all the poems from 1980 as in the nature of the selected.

I found in that copy of the selected pulled lately from the bookshelf an index card with a compression of "Salute" from Freely Espousing (1969).

Past is past || one
remembers one meant
to do never did
This compacted set is from
Past is past, and if one
remembers what one meant
to do and never did, is
not to have thought to do
It seems that the compression answers the question by not enough.

If you would like to practice erasures and see some 4,000 plus results, Wave Books offers source texts and a handy interface http://erasures.wavepoetry.com/poems.php where you can toggle between erasures and source text. Worth noting the results retain spacing — the erasure reads as white space unlike the compressions.

And so for day 1499

Biblio Trivia

Trivial Pursuit was invented in Canada (Glenn Close mentions the cast of the Big Chill enjoying the game she brought from Canada - it not being available in the U.S.A. at the time of the filming).

There's a scene in Day for Night that merits the trivia buff's attention. The character played by François Truffaut is on the phone and is unravelling a parcel of books which the camera keeps a tight focus as the pile grows.

Pour Bunuel
Carl Theodor Dreyer's Jesus
Lubitsch (Anthologie du Cinéma 23)
Ingmar Bergman (Premier Plan)
The Films of Jean-Luc Godard (Movie Paperbacks Studio Vista)
Hitchcock's Films by Robin Wood
Roberto Rossellini
Howard Hawks by Jean A. Gili
Bresson by Jean Sémolué
Revue du Cinema
I am unable to identify the issue Revue du Cinema - the cover reproduces a still from a movie unknown to me. Likewise the Rossellini book presents a cover without author name.

And so for day 1498

After Party Glow

Tove Jansson
Moominvalley in November
Translated by Kingsley Hart

After the others had left, Fillyjonk remained standing in the middle of the floor, lost in thought. Everything was upside down, the streamers had been trodden on, the chairs overturned and the lanterns had dripped candlewax over everything. She picked up a Welsh rarebit off the floor, bit a piece off distractedly and threw the rest in the rubbish bucket. A successful party, she said to herself.
After this scene, Fillyjonk makes a recovery. She resumes her core behaviour of cleaning. She earlier in the novel avoids a fall off a roof while cleaning windows. She develops a phobia. However, the party aftermath marks a return to her habits. A restoration of sorts.

This passage struck me because a while ago I myself mused about cleanup as part of the celebration…

if celebrations incorporate the consumption of remains
if doing the dishes is part of the ritual
then dance into the magic

the logic is simple

Valorizing housework can be politically informed and Jansson provides a scene (after the party) where the cast of characters regardless of gender get on with the cleaning. She also furnishes an illustration of the group in full swing.

And so for day 1497

Desperate Economy: Design Survival Desire

William Mills The Meaning of Coyotes "Oklahoma, As You Break to Beauty" not distinguishing the dancer and the dance but widening the circle of perception to perfect the embrace of pointer and pointed. These are the last two stanzas.

There on the snowy plain
Our pointer, stiffened to the world,
Sculpted by desire,
Becomes the geometry of desperate economy.

There with the world's energy arcing
Between pointer and pointed,
I watch the birds break to beauty.
The design of survival is desire.
It seems as if geometry is positioned against design. The punctuation and the repetition of desire (in both bird and dog) bring into relief the final line and sentence. It seems pronounced upon the whole scene including in its compass the observation of the poetic voice upon the arcing energy. Desire becomes immensely complicated.

And so for day 1496

Escape Dreaming

If you have ever bought a lottery ticket, if you have ever contemplated buying a lottery ticket, consider that you are being

taxed to dream
Which you used to claim helped fund worthwhile arts and recreation activities (building and maintaining hockey rinks) and now you justify (rationalize) as a mental health measure in the face of wage labour (made bearable by by-passing the daily dejection by basking in some future hope) and therefore worth the cost. But then again you consider it could be an opiate.

And so for day 1495

Contours of the Errand of the Eye

Susan Howe in the preface to Emily Dickinson: The Gorgeous Nothings asks "Can thought hear itself see?"

From a paper inserted in a copy of the Complete Poems at "Whether my bark went down at sea —"

To close one's eyes
and still feel the
flutter of light
and the moment
of shadow as the
beings pass over
the earth in a
skid and bump
show of graceless
There comes a time when the expression culled form an Emily Dickinson poem presses upon you with the refinement of a request often disposed of in the ordinary course of affairs without much bother to the means of its execution … "the errand of the eye" or is it an eye. Do need to check the passage in question. It makes a lovely phrase to look up in a database. —> it is errand of the eye.

Susan Howe interview with Thomas Gardner in A Door Ajar.
The hook — the bio of Dickinson Well, first of all there was a biographical connection. My aunt Helen Howe Allen […] When she was bedridden in her last sudden illness — it took a month to kill her — I used to visit her in her apartment […] Richard Sewall's biography of Emily Dickinson had just been published. Because she didn't have the physical energy to pore over it, I began to read it to her.
The quotation of the letter — Samuel Ward Look at this pencil line beside this passage from a letter Samuel Ward had written Higginson shortly after the first edition of Poems was published:
She is the quintessence of that element we all have who are of the Puritan descent. … We came to this country to think our own thoughts with nobody to hinder. … We conversed with our own souls till we lost the art of communicating with other people. The typical family grew up strangers to each other, as in this case. It was artfully high, but awfully lonesome. Such prodigies of shyness do not exist elsewhere.
The marginal marking — sign of discipline She must have told me to mark the passage so she could go back and read it to herself when she was better, though we both knew she wasn't going to get better — I never felt closer to her. It was as if we could only touch each other through reading aloud. This practice of self-discipline was above all a dread of any display of affection. I made the little mark. The wide, un-thing that we couldn't say was there.

Lost art of conservation reconstructed in the exchange of letters and the inscribing of signs, all told in an interview. An errand by way of ear.

And so for day 1494

Cleaning the Unclean

Linda Pastan in the "bargaining" section of The Five Stages of Grief has a short poem with a long title "A Short History of Judaic Thought in the Twentieth Century" which begins with the description of a rabbinical decree:

The rabbis wrote:
although it is forbidden
to touch a dying person,
nevertheless, if the house
catches fire
he must be removed
from the house.
There follows a stanza marking outrage and abhorrence in the face of such instructions. And the speaker prepares the next stanza, providing a step ("aren't we all | dying?") towards the thinking of an all-consuming rebuttal in the last stanza:
You smile
your old negotiator's smile
and ask:
but aren't all our houses
Smart move to the second person addressee, an invocation to become an accomplice.

The passage reminds me of the lyrics to a Midnight Oil song ("Beds are Burning")
How can we dance when our earth is turning?
How do we sleep while our beds are burning?
The irony of course is that the beat of the song is infections and leads one to dance. Sleep is another matter. All our cycles are interrupted leading to narcolepsy or to insomnia. Waking and dreaming have evaporated in the burning.

And so for day 1493


For any one who has ever for a moment been pensive about the fate of Laurel while retrieving a bay leaf from a stew or a sauce.

[…] So what
did she become as she branched into prayer
to escape Apollo's too fleshlike clutch?
I ponder this as I sift the thickened stew
for the still undissolved bit of her, that forever
inedible leaf.
Richard Foerster ends "Daphne" thus after having enthralled us through the preparations of the stew
[…] I let slip
a bay leaf into the scent-swirl—
an embraising of onions in oil, crushed
garlic and thyme, some pepper
ground like a primal shower atop
the seared cubes before the last essential
alchemizing cup of wine …
From Penetralia.

And so for day 1492

Variations Again Ours

When it first appeared in Double Going the first line of "An Abiding" by Richard Foerster was the beginning of a long apostrophe to the stricken one.

The day the x-ray showed your lung ghost-laced
When the poem reappears in a slightly different incarnation in The Burning of Troy, all the lines remain the same, except for the keystone first line which switches the addressee
The day the x-ray showed his lung ghost-laced
What does not change from version to version is the "we" the reader is invited to identify with.

And so for day 1491

Two Versions of Fire Work

With his impeccable horticultural acumen Richard Foerster takes the reader on a tour of a plant through both is parts in space and its development in time.

I first encountered the poem as the penultimate poem in The Burning of Troy. I then located it online in the Alabama Literary Review Volume 17 (Spring 2007) where I found it displayed in "couplets" or rather stanzas of two lines. For me, the sweep was lost. The white space lead to too much emphasis on the words at the end of lines which obscures some of the internal repetitions such as "seadrift" and "drift". In the book, the poem is reminiscent of an ode with movements. The stanzas cohere as elemental shifts threaten to make the whole edifice explode — very like a poppy tossing its petals to the winds. But look at the endings of the stanzas for the metamorphosis is primely featured: "accidental loppings" "splendid seduction" "at a stroke, become" "rattling pods". So the eye travels along the fuse.

I don't want to think about anything,
except to become language.

—Stanley Kunitz
Once again the poppies:
I'd stay the wind to keep

their pure scorch, this
conflagration thrusting

up from mulish roots
despite years of my spade's

accidental loppings.
This morning it seemed a hundred

crimson Hydra heads
rose through the seadrift fog,

the kind of monstrous beauty
we demand of myth in the aftermath

of winter. That's the problem,
isn't it: the splendid seduction

of these Salomes, what they unveil
in stages, the black intent

they keep hidden till the end
within scrolled parchments,

the taunting logic we can't help
thoughtlessly lusting after,

and would, at a stroke, become,
even as the leaves drift

toward jaundice beneath
brittle, rattling pods.
Once again the poppies:
I'd stay the wind to keep
their pure scorch, this
conflagration thrusting
up from mulish roots
despite years of my spade's
accidental loppings.

This morning it seemed a hundred
crimson Hydra heads
rose through the seadrift fog,
the kind of monstrous beauty
we demand of myth in the aftermath
of winter. That's the problem,
isn't it: the splendid seduction

of these Salomes, what they unveil
in stages, the black intent
they keep hidden till the end
within scrolled parchments,
the taunting logic we can't help
thoughtlessly lusting after,
and would, at a stroke, become,

even as the leaves drift
toward jaundice beneath
brittle, rattling pods.

Sometimes thinking about language means thinking about layout. The white space determines rhythm and whether or not the reader is invited to linger and simmer until the words are burned into memory crackling like brittle, rattling pods offered to a flame. One of these versions burns. The other sputters.

And so for day 1490

Simple Words Complex Feelings

Thomas Meyer
Essay Stanzas
"Kept Apart"
Invites us to contemplate the mythological.

Thousands of gods.
Worshiped. Adored. Adorned.
Then swept aside.
And then later, pages later, the interaction is particularized and the transitoriness rendered with even greater fragility…
[T]he goddess came down to earth
somewhat hesitantly.
And when she saw his face
And softly stepped
upon his forehead
taking the form of snow.
A shower and silent mounds
of white petals.
A different book. Almost similar games with syntax and the cumulative effect of description.

Thomas Meyer
"Open Door"
Lets it go. Seems to be enough
of whatever it takes.
What's today? The road to nowhere.
Ever diminishing particulars. Not
like loosing memories. Losing
the pause in the day's occupation.
A detail. An overlooked moment
recalled. That. That going.
Was going to leave it? Alone.
But turned. Decided no. Go on.
Unsure what was being avoided
then embraced—if that's the word.
This reads almost like an interior dialogue of question and answer turning on the gentle attraction between going and losing: the semantic fields embrace each other.

And so for day 1489

Foerster on Forcing

The reading of the poem benefits from the poet's note:

"A Pot of Crocuses": The women of ancient Athens celebrated the death and resurrection of Adonis in an annual springtime festival, during which they set out on their rooftops small pots of forced flowers. Because these "Adonis gardens" would soon wither under the heat of the April sun, the expression eventually was used to refer to any transitory pleasure.
With horticultural precision we enter the mythic.
the corms poke through the soil
like randy waking gods, their pale
phalluses swelling in the sun.
The narrator pivots from the flowers to observing a youth skateboarding who "slouched off / with raw, abraded palms toward home" and then muses upon gifting the pot of flowers to the mother of the skateboarder and thinks again of it — tripped up by intimations of ever-present mortality.
it wouldn't have been for any promise

of beauty I had to offer, nor any
incorruptible idea of it,
nor even the cherished terra cotta
I've buried and retrieved these fifteen
years. For how could I have looked
him in the eyes, not knowing which
of these must end up broken first?
The pathos comes through in the imagined presentation of the gift, earlier in the poem. It impresses the viewer with a mooted dialogue:
Here, take these crocuses
to your mother
, so she might forgive
the scarring a woman has to endure
to see a boy safely to manhood.
Instead, I stood there, wavering
with that crowded pot of spikes in my hands,
and knew if I had summoned him
it wouldn't have been for any promise
And so we cross over into the concluding stanza and its retraction poised on the impossible question of the first to fall when we have been made so painfully aware that nothing lasts.

Richard Foerster. "A Pot of Crocuses" in The Burning of Troy

And so for day 1488

To Cook To Destroy

Mind experiment. Thinking beyond thinking.

if you think of saffron
being crushed
or the pounding
of sugar cane
think of what
total annihilation
"Kept Apart"
Essay Stanzas
Thomas Meyer
the dark watches
what the day
does at night
while the day
condemns the dark
for what goes on then
but the dark
simply laughs away
this scorn
bursting into flame
Out of void into dialectic. The lie.

The poet strays into negative theology territory
and with wry humour stumbles away again.
Pages apart.

And so for day 1487

Stocking the Pond: Faunal Disappearances

When you catch a good sentence… you are inclined to release and let it go.

Me, sometimes, I like to bring the animal to a new environment, watch it wiggle in the wide sea. Such activity is a type of specialized baiting. Often we catch signs of nibblers.

Archaeological evidence for fish eating is limited by the typically rapid decomposition of fish bones in certain soils, with the result that fish consumption is likely to be underrepresented in faunal remains.
Kathy L. Pearson. "Nutrition and the Early-Medieval Diet" in Speculum Vol. 72. No. 1 (January 1997) p. 9.

Marvellous what breeds in intellectual ecosystems. See links to citations including "Cultural symbolism of fish and the psychotropic properties of omega-3 fatty acids".

And so for day 1486

predictions and exaggerations

You get carried in by the pile up.

There are easier tasks in this word than making annual economic forecasts. Like, say, trying to hit the bull's-eye on a constantly moving dartboard. From 100 metres. Blindfolded.
David Parkinson in the Globe and Mail

And so for day 1485

Truly Listening

By a bedside in a hospital room

where monitors peeped like famished birds
Richard Foerster. The Burning of Troy. "Vigil"

And so for day 1484

The Wounds of Love

Gregory Orr. Orpheus and Eurydice

What is remarkable is the reinvigorating of the unremarkable, quotidian. The magic of myth is close at hand. Consider "The Entrance to the Underworld" and its location: the beginning of love.

You were looking in the wrong
world. It was inside
you — entrance
to that cavern
deeper than hell,
more dark and lonely.
Didn't you feel it open
at her first touch?
Later in the sequence the reader is offered the startling simile of snake and bracelet clasp. Still intriguing how the mundane is transformed into myth. Simple pacing of language to lead us there.
A snake no bigger
than a bracelet
of braided gold
unfastened and cast aside
in the haste of love …

The bite itself — only
the pinprick
you might feel
stepping barefoot
on the open clasp.
In the first case, love is signalled by the metonymy of touch; in the second, it is explicitly named, but in a hurry, in haste, through its provocations. And that brief mention in the conceit constructed by the poem is so tiny, a mere passing: one line followed by marks of suspension. Fleeting.

And so for day 1483

Koans and Spuds

Thomas Meyer
Essay Stanzas

The opening section is "Caught Between" and it is in this space that reversals are marshalled like fables and puzzles.

My shadow, I used to think,
backed me up from behind.
Now I realize
I am my shadow's human shield.
A change of perspective is also at work later in the sequence. Albeit in a less existential fashion.
Noticing that
the money man used potatoes to weigh gold
the silly wife urged her husband to plant a crop
then noticing that
they tasted better than gold
she suddenly found herself
completely satisfied.
Gives new meaning to the name "Yukon Gold" a Canadian creation with a history to treasure.

And so for day 1482

Recollecting Recounting

Stop me if you have heard this one before.

How comes it that our memories are good enough to retain even the minutest details of what has befallen us, but not to recollect how many times we have recounted them to the same person?
from La Rochefoucauld Maxims translated by Leonard Tancock.

Shinkichi Takahashi has a splendid epithet in one of his Zen poems which reminds me so much of the brittle wit of La Rochefoucauld: "the moralist's porcelain nobility".
Some may call it deception, evasion, / Others scorn it as the moralist's porcelain nobility
And so for day 1481

In Praise of Poaching

Penguin has put a series of little books under the rubric Great Food. One of the volumes (A Taste of the Sun) is a collection of pieces by the incomparable Elizabeth David who did so much to introduce postwar Great Britain to Mediterranean cooking. Of course there is an Italian section. She has this to say in her introduction to fish soups:

those smoked or frozen cod fillets which are sometimes the only alternative in the fishmongers' to expensive sole or lobster respond better to a bath of aromatic tomato and lemon flavoured broth than a blanket of flour and breadcrumbs
Then she goes with all sorts of instructions about how to prepare such a broth.

I think of you stealing time to be at peace in your kitchen with your nose inhaling all the goodness of such an aromatic bath.

And so for day 1480