Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Chapter 159: A Cheap Image from a Broken Bench

A crinkle in the eye
like the gleam of a chip bag
from a convenience store bought and discarded
in 24 hours.

And there it will sit lumplike seven days or years
puffed up with air and blown against a rock
until finally it falls into a stream to drown
and I forget all about those Bugles.

But a splash of light, a play in dream
quivers tendentiously just a second,
and I remember all over again what they tasted like
when they were eating me.

How could I forget all that shiny rustling?
It seems so callous now when I wait for a reed to sway
and cast a shadow of a spear across twinkly fields
to reveal a steely resolution.


Sunday, July 20, 2014

Chapter 158: A Moment on Molucca Seas

I don't want to add you on Facebook
I want to have lived that life that would have put me there
And wait for you at the gate and kiss you for the first time
Before I even remembered ten years gone by
Green to yellow and red and black and gray and green again
When you would not know me from Adam
Virtuous and unafraid for being in-the-right and wondering
What a woman was really supposed to be like
And men to be ridiculed harmless with a glint
Of freckled fancy simple wait for me in the plaza
And I'd have that sweater that we were born in
And then we'll live asking questions we know the answers to
And then we'll die waiting for the winter we lived through
I would want to be nervous and unashamed not ashen faced
But dance eye to eye for the first and last and every time
I'm afraid I wouldn't sweat when I held your hand
And you wouldn't pull it away and wipe it off and twist up your face
And put it back again without saying anything
Which is what I'd imagine you would do if I weren't white and wicked
But then I don't know what it is to be so pure and patient
And to be such a dork so gracefully

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Outline of 26 Chapters: XVI

XVI. When the End Comes
The end is like a thousand windows opening and closing at once, and everything is pushed in the wrong direction.What should be encouraged is not, and what should be punished is rewarded. Decades or even centuries of repressed natural hatreds and passions erupt suddenly, and packs of human beings emerge to steal, murder, and rape. The gentle are always surprised by how quickly the vicious become willing to slit throats, sacrifice to their hunger children and the weak and dying, to return women to unregenerate servitude and misery. But none of this is terribly shocking or of interest except to interested parties in particular cases. For we all accept grisly things, and births and deaths, both so awesome and shocking, we keep locked away, but know they happen. Death is a rumor, birth—real birth—a freakish sub-culture. Now they do these things in the open, and you see them in little hovels, people birthing and dying, often at the same time. Just like you see sad women in trench coats hurrying along and old men sitting on benches as they always have, afraid of nothing and looking around almost in triumph as if to say, "I knew this was going to happen."

But these sights are not as shocking as the great falls of great pieties, like those who searched every day for old words to excise from their vocabularies and new ones to introduce, who sometimes fell under that scythe themselves, but ruled, collectively, as kings. You sometimes hear whispers of "a better world," and something like that is what they mean. But more prominent are those human types long mocked and thereby forgotten in any sincere incarnation, now returned: magnanimous criminals, rugged, prickly individuals obsessed with justice, noble prostitutes living undercover to undermine the slave trade.

What do they hold onto? A self-effacing faith makes a real comeback, and it's now about the place and something great that happened there: a market that worked particularly well, a man who kept order, a rainstorm that came at the right time. It seems that letting one's own and others' blood are just as much acts of piety. Once more special deities are carved up and given the fatty portions.

More than anything it's remarkable how boring it is, from the point of view of philosophy. But petty tribes fail to do nothing which was revered as really holy at the end of the last age: they live passionately, they respect each other, and they love. But everywhere darkness.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Chapter 157: Excerpt From a Post-Apocalyptic Dream

Everyone here speaks Japanese,
which may as well be Sanskrit.
They turned me over to the Mexicans.
"¿Como te llamas?"
Tenqo que aprenderla.

I saw a beautiful byrd like one
I once loved delicately in crisp weather
when we wore long, clean, woolen coats
and hers was a bright red or a haughty green
cast over the chair, under other articles
sooner to be put on—

(She was lying on her back on a dirty mattress,
even smiling, with some naked beasts around her,
focused on their needful work.)

I was the one in charge of our gun.
In a dark warehouse I assigned watches,
made plans in my head for distributions,
and settled down to a cold sleep.

Outline of 26 Chapters: XV

XV. On the Verge of Oblivion

At the end of the Roman empire they thought the apocalypse was just around the corner; they prayed for more time to repent and prepare for the Second Coming and the Last Judgment. It was the barbarians, though, that took them, both to Hell and to Heaven, which was nearly the same frozen forest.

Today, likewise, we fear the end in the form of zombies or the change of the weather, and think that if we pray hard enough and with a contrite enough spirit, we can forestall the inevitable. How vain we are, to think we are living in end times! That God cares so much about what we're doing personally! That we might wound him by sinning or that by genetically modifying plants or throwing away plastic bottles we will destroy the earth! That the dead will rise up again and feed on the flesh of the living—that is more likely than that by recycling newspaper temperatures will not change and that Florida will be ice and California sea.

Dread pictures! They are guilt for having trampled others in the rise to the top: look how many peoples the Romans destroyed utterly and then the nations destroyed by the Christian East because they thought they believed the wrong things.

Does the guilt for having succeeded befall only Christian nations? Surely not. The children of the prosperous ever see how worthless they themselves are and conclude that it was luck and injustices which made their fathers and grandfathers prevail. Then they clutch their pearls and crowns for a generation or two but make no new palaces. They live in outdated opulence; it crumbles—their penance. "We'll never be royals," they say, fulfilling the words of the son of Khaldun.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Chapter 156: Reviews of Post-Apocalyptic Movies, #2

Panic in the Year Zero! (1962) (Video; IMDB): A beautiful contrast of the wholesome and the unwholesome in a year everyone says was just swell, daddy-o. A Los Angeles family goes camping, nuclear bombs go off in L.A., and they go camping anyway, but for a lot longer than they planned. A switch turns off and dad, probably a war veteran, becomes a survivalist and longs to build a compound in Montana. He does the next best thing and stocks up on supplies and heads for the hills. He does what it takes to survive when all around him are losing their heads; the title, despite the exclamation point, is not an encouragement or an exhortation. This film features good acting, a sweet jazzy soundtrack which is somewhat of a contrast with the action on screen, and very realistic but tasteful depictions of human behavior during a state of lawlessness. Remember your Thucydides: ...human nature, always rebelling against the law and now its master, gladly showed itself ungoverned in passion, above respect for justice... (3.84.2) It does not revel in chaos but looks forward to the re-establishment of civilization. (8.5/10)

Sidebar: the Youtube page for this film includes links to other movies which feature nuclear war as a theme. Not post- but rather pre- or even non-apocalyptic, Fail Safe (2000) (Video; IMDB) is a call-back to the days of TV movie events. Presented in black & white, it features a star-studded cast and a nerve-wracking plot which is ruined by its implausibility (even within the ridiculous framework established by the film itself) and the cartoonish depiction of civilian think-tank experts on thermonuclear war. Despite the remarks of Harvey Keitel's character, General Black, the warmongerer played by Hank Azaria is correct that a nuclear war is just as winnable as any other kind of war. (After this, he is made to say increasingly sillier things.) Ignorance and self-importance ruins great shooting and acting. (4/10)

The Day After (1983) (Video; IMDBis a pretty good American TV movie about the immediate local consequences of a full-scale nuclear attack on the United States. It features realistic depictions of radiation poisoning and state-of-nature-style violence, but it's not really that compelling as a story, ultimately. As propaganda for disarmament and nuclear talks, it was very influential on President Reagan and others. Overrated, but worth watching. (6/10)

Threads (1984) (Video; IMDB) has basically the same plot but is a much better film. It's also much more graphic. It is not immediately presented as a drama, like The Day After, but as a narrated documentary which is framed by a comparison of human to biological life. It is also more sprawling and ambitious, covering a greater population and a longer time period. Very bleak. (7.5/10)

Testament (1983) (Video; IMDB) is framed as the journal of a San Francisco-area housewife who struggles to protect and provide for her family over the years after a nuclear attack which (probably) took the life of her husband. It does not attempt to be geopolitical, but only portrays the post-apocalyptic world through the eyes of an ordinary person. Worth a look. (7/10)

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Chapter 155: Obscure Post-Apocalyptic Movies, #1

Ravagers (1979): Perhaps the lack of pretension on the part of the director, Richard Compton, is what makes this film such a success as a portrayal of the post-apocalypse. IMDB: "He began his career in the early 60s making government propaganda movies for the United States Information Agency." A great start! After Ravagers, he never directed another (non-TV) movie, only episodes of TV shows. I can see why: people don't understand great film.

The brief description on Wikipedia is just wrong. Incorrect. That's not the plot. Helpfully, it does tell us that "Ravagers is part of a long line of Hollywood-backed post-apocalyptic films from the 1970s which are quite rare to find on television or home video." (See also here.)

It can be seen here. The description on that page ("In a post-apocalyptic world divided between two groups called the Flockers and the Ravagers, an adventurer and his pleasure girl try to find their way to a rumored safe haven called the Land of Genesis") is much more accurate.

The problem with most post-apocalyptic shows and movies:
1) They confuse the post-apocalyptic with the dystopic.
2) They focus too much on the wrong kind of realism.
2) They make the glory-seeking and contentious (in this film, the "ravagers") too evil, and the industrious and peaceful (in this film, the "flockers") too good.
3) They never end, as the state of war or the state of nature should, with a moment of political leadership and founding. They are usually open-ended and ambiguous.

Ravagers avoids all these traps. It clearly demarcates ravagers and flockers, which is good. But it is not shy about exposing the cowardice of flockers, and doesn't, as most treatments of the post-apocalypse, degenerate into uninteresting and unrealistic moralistic preening (see: The Walking Dead).

The cinematic production is poor (as this very entertaining article points out). But for me, that's one of the film's strengths. The lack of quality in casting and set design should make it clear that this film is more operatic than photo-realistic. It's a callback to John Ford westerns, which featured blond-haired, blue-eyed Indians. There are moments of dialogue that jar with what you see on the screen. These moments force you to realize that you are watching a play unfold, stiltedly, in five acts. It may be the unintentional result of a rushed shooting schedule or apathy on the part of the directors and actors, but the result is brilliant. When the protagonist and his doomed female companion are being chased by ravagers, she shouts, "behind you!" but they're actually in front of him. In that moment we enter a multidimensional post-apocalypse, an iconic representation of post-apocalyptica which abstracts from petty details and particularities to reveal the human struggle in its nakedness. "Apocalypse" means 'un-covering,' a 'revelation.' The post-apocalypse is therefore the human response to that revelation-- to himself, of himself. Ravagers, for all its flaws, does this well.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Chapter 154: Excerpt from a Post-Apocalyptic Novel

Their machines were easily halted,
their creators left helpless
to construct something more simple.
The people choked on their platitudes
and myths concerning peace and war.

For it came out of the dark deep,
the land of barbarians, whom
the creators of the complicated machines
took for civilized, cultured men--
for their rigid orthodoxies prohibited
any other kind of conclusion.

It was not a surprise, except
to those who closed their eyes and ears.
Which is to say: nearly everyone.

Chapter 153: Beginning of a Post-Apocalyptic Novel

Cracked the dead winter:
a shell of a tear interrupts
the languid forgetting, the oblivion.

Morosity lies fallow with spring frost
trod deeply, overturned and frozen
bitter mud, encrusted and ready.

Silly gleaming, shining stupid,
erases deep and lasting meaning
in a quip of sterling negation.

Pathetic and dirty, a festering sore,
a scratch of looking, pleasing
turns to black the deep well.

Dull and floating quiet screaming
reserves the horses for another time
when being stirs from every surface.

Slowly piercing this earth of conscious,
a sprout of what was dead emerges
to test its putrid leavings against sunny days.

Sad and lonely, the stupid bouy
bobs to see the curve of distance spurring
its illicit interest in the shore.

A rotten postule inside me stinks,
sappy pine needles sticky, starting
the syrup summer fresh for more.

Green shades aggregate, aggressive
to the blue calm, cultivated,
and purple seas acknowledge it no more.

Long dramatic exacerbation creates
perfection panéd and a noose created
for sparks of red and yellow war.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Outline of 26 Chapters: XIV

XIV. Whether the Trojans Should Have Carried Their Gods to Italy

Did Augustine really not understand that it is not the gods, true or false, who are to blame for men's follies, but the men themselves who have used the gods well or ill? Even to say there are false gods demands this. Machiavelli's rebuke was so powerful that now it seems obvious that religion is an epiphenomenon of arms. Christianity did not make Rome weak; of course Augustine is right to say that. Rather, a weak Rome made Christianity.

It was natural for Christians and pagans-- religious antagonists-- to turn on each other, but it is unbecoming of a philosopher to enter the fray. Today, or very soon, civilization will crumble and these regenerate Christians will say to the riotous: you did this. But they will have just as much sincerity as those Roman pagans were, calling for a restoration of the old sacrifices, dusting decrepit altars, erecting fabulous polished temples. New Life megachurches are just as much a sign that we have reached a precipice. There is a long moment, between end and beginning, when one does not know which is which.

Arcadius and Honorius did not appear until 400 years after Christ. There will be many fits and starts, invasions and retreats (to enjoy the booty). We will have abject princes bow before barbarian chieftains, and be hailed as heroes. And then we will celebrate our gods Diplomacy, Understanding, Respect, and Peaceful Coexistence; the manly call to arms will be seen to precipitate the final fall. But even this will be the gods' victory and coronation. Was Augustine really displeased with how it all fell out?

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Chapter 152: That only mores can replace mores


An eight-foot-tall blue panel that reads "Arf"
seen from an overly-conditioned
and overly-conscious room
well-lit, and with too-shiny boards
with overly-watered cacti on them:
you're trying too much, and I can tell
you're really Christian, and so
you're earnest overmuch
in excessively adopting cultures
not your own. "Woof," "Meow."
Put your scruffy faces and black glasses there.

Chapter 151: That new light only leaves flowers on the chains

It told to teach untamed bodies to be schooled,
And overreaching entrance overruled,
To bend back, to be again a little bait,
For scornful masters t'interrogate.

But what can listen? Arrogant lumps
And clusters of grit and gall and bumps
wrung dry and red through ribs and rubbing,
Rendered a callous-covered sinkhole?

They-- mass insensate to golden strings--
Know only pushing and the viscous stings
Of a seeming ancient pressive trench
To fill again with stench.

It submitted to surgical correction,
Became both subject and depressed inflection,
A ruley measure cut open for soft, pink flesh
Whence the dagger dirt, creeping backward comes.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Outline of 26 Chapters: XIII

XIII. A New Beginning

Everyone knows that Machiavelli was impious. He loved the number 13 because it was half of 26, the number for God from Jewish numerology. 13 is the number for man, half-god, the incomplete, the imperfect. Let us call for justice here on Earth; it is possible. We need earthly institutions to pretend at least to satisfy our longings.

Or is it that there were thirteen men and no gods about Christ and his disciples?

One seemed to be founding a new religion but he really made a new kind of political order, the other seemed to be founding a new kind of political order but was really founding a new religion. God comes to Earth, strongly rooted, but we put him back in the sky, so that he might die. Hence I'm not religious; I'm spiritual. The foundation is stable; the sky is open to the winds.

Our high towers are only so many testaments to material. We only half pretend that we are rational, let alone divine. We eat. Let vague silences be filled with Christ, or karma, or UFOs or whatever. It is no crime to believe that man alone did not accomplish these things. Only natural that we should feel guilty for such might, expect the planet itself to retribute.

One dies only up there. He passed away, he passed away, like the remnants of a useless dream, a curiosity like elixirs, shifting weather patterns, a tantrum. What do we say? That the past cannot be changed, and every day is a new beginning.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Outline of 26 Chapters: XII

XII. On the Soul

He does waking what we would want awake,
putting his hand in with the King's.
There is always another,
an other realm, ethereal,
for ghouls to go to.

And thus the course of this
is only that, and no fretting
fine points of justice for us.
We are to work pure souls
and forget those old songs,
criminally intoned.


Outline of 26 Chapters: XI

XI. On the Ecclesiastical Principate

We enjoy seeing women bear weapons confidently,
like a neo-Artemis
chaste in her adamant, assertive manliness
(of course she's just as good as any man-- better, even).

We need more priestesses for our auto-
nomous sex cult,
just as pure as your virginal devotion.

Who rules our destiny?
We still believe, but adopt Eastern names
(karma).
That's so Humean.
That's Schopenhauer.
We go East, and we only go further West.

The Spanish didn't understand
that gold was a commodity, not currency.

But that's what we do with mystical spices, too.

We have temples
where the only sacrifice one makes is
his own desire, which he keeps.
That's how our priests rule.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Chapter 150: From the One Staring

You are pretty
and severe-
looking.

I'd tell your ear
not to stop
sinking.

You are a lead-
en buoy
floating.

Canopy 'f air,
against rocks
tossing.

Many wilted
lil' flowers
singing.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Chapter 149: Laundry

When your socks and underwear
stick in fitted sheet
you've got secrets in your bed.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Outline of 26 Chapters: X

X. Government of One Alone
Does it not turn out that each is a despot of that peculiar object of his longing? Insofar as all virtues are justice, we all rule with something less than moderation.

Montesquieu meant to implicate God when he called despotism the rule of one alone, but that God was already personal and particular.

Genghis Khan did not understand why you couldn't worship the gods anywhere, and it was Attila the Hun's moderation which saved the Eastern Roman religion.

I, too, love the order which oppresses me. I would be too ashamed to stain the statue of the Cyprian. That weight that crushes can come as a seeming relief of a burden: let me carry that load for you, brother. One cannot command that kind of love. That is the greatest weight: it is not redeemed; there is no kind of end: one must will, with Nietzsche, to have it all repeated again: this uncomfortable scent, this vaguely pressurized waiting, this stinking mass of humanity which always calls for justice but is more satisfied with being oppressed. Someone must come to tell them: "I will bear it all for you, the pain of thinking and the dreariness of living. I will put a pillow under your head-- or, should I say, over it."

"I believe," they say, "that you get what you deserve in the end." For now, let's patiently endure. What rough beast comes again from Bethlehem to be born?

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Outline of 26 Chapters: IX

IX. The State of Nature and Society
Plato's Athenian Stranger could not pluck children from their parents,
start a colony of adolescents and toddlers.
One never can.
Succession is the problem of political philosophy.

So he gave them private property:
he let them sacralize their fear and their desire.
One must defer to the shape the matter can take.

War starts with society, not nature,
because society makes clear our inequality,
whether it was natural or not.

What does it matter what you are, whether you are stronger or smarter, if you do not think you are or if you do not think it matters, or if you cannot bring your superiority to effect? What makes war is not the feeling of weakness or the feeling of strength, but the feeling that our strength is unjustly weakened, unrecognized, suppressed, supplanted, castigated, dishonored, turned to someone else's benefit.

The Americans were free and secure; they risked everything to fight the British. They won, and their cause was just. A million Haitians were held in brutal captivity, and their revolution is justly decried. Even in these times we often overlook slave revolts when placing History's retroactive Medal of Honor on confused and particular events.

Montesquieu spoke to society's spirit oppressed by the moral power of the Church, yearning for this world and all its goods. The Church was like Fortune, the man of spirit the ship on the waves, and the winds, 'alone and afraid in a world we never made'--
the life of man, timid and atrocious, diffident and vainglorious.

We can make a new temple, a new supermarket, a strip mall, new songs, new chains, the opinion of security.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Outline of 26 Chapters: I-VIII

I. On the Noble
That the noble is no longer an externality (not understood to be), but a passion-- a feeling or opinion-- a confusion of the order of things, fundamentally? Masked knights avenging the honor of the divinity (Mary not divine). Weak spirits. Alternative: the feeling of one's strength, the feeling of security.

II. On the Author of This Text
A Northman corrupted. Afraid of being thumo-eidetic, of Christian dorkiness and love of order, wants to feel deeply and so does.

III. On the Composition of This Text
No intentional heresies. A spirit of frustration. Philosophic liberty: the opinion that one exercises his will. It's all deterministic? Doesn't that make one 'not sweat' just as much as providence, just as much as chance?

These 26 chapters were composed in a spirit of wastedness, not having firm resolve that it was the best or most necessary course of action, a feeling their author never had. They are only an outline, not to say a plan.

IV. On the Sacred
The Assyrians called their gods by the place where a statue or idol of that god was located. Ishtar of Babylon, Ishtar of Arbela, Ishtar of Ninevah. The Babylonian man carried a god with him at all times, on his cylinder seal. Besides its patron, it carried some symbols for other deities. This is admirable. Their temples contained their gods; they bore marks of respect for other gods.

Just so should we moderns bear our god with our property; just so should we feign respect and deference, though not honor, for idols. They cannot hurt us: there is no need to smash them. Ours is a spiritual religion: we worship the Holy Spirit that is in us and in our church. Perhaps it is even in those idols? At any rate we should not act as if, transformed into spiritual beings, we might be corrupted by statues and images. Have we not come out of the desert? Is it still a question of what is buried at Schechem?

V. On Property
It is less natural to compel a man to shave his face or change his expression than it is to compel him to change his belief or give voice to his support for the policy enacted. Nevertheless, he is able to do the former without shame, or at least without inner terror. Politics speaks to the deepest soul by its inclination, it wounds a weeping heart, seeps into the marrow; all fibers perspire with blood.

The constitution of America is in our hips, Kendall said. Very well, let us keep it there. But do not compel us to dance, as Plato did. When you praise community and ancient civic virtue and man's natural sociality, do you not realize that you insult our grandeur? We are all kings: we act all over the universe. We do not need to go into secluded rooms in order to give vent to our vice, but buy and sell it in the marketplace, in an invisible marketplace. Are you really prepared to admit that your life and happiness belong to Germany or Cyrus or Québec?

Our small souls, thinly spread out, will not destroy sacred temples. We do not have the power to hurt them, nor they us.

VI. On Our Ancient Mores
Let us be sure to distinguish ourselves from the Romans. We have our own maxims of government; we have our own ancient mores. We are moved much more by religion and by examples of past things. We are the savage who was found in the forests of Hanover and lived in England: we feel our own weakness and we feel our strength.

VII. The Idea of Perfection
No more best regime, no more kingdom of heaven. We no longer can go back to the woods, whether to live in accord with 'true needs' or to seek out a different king. We cannot pick up our houses but we can move at will. If we were perfect, then the world would end.

Everything makes sense when you're Catholic. That level of precision is unbecoming of a free man, that detail, that priestly, clerical devotion to curlicues and caveats. The thumos of the nerd has no call to such divine names. At least monks were quiet; at least they do not conceive or generate.

VIII. On the Body
Montesquieu only restated what Machiavelli had said more eloquently, impetuously throwing in remarks about peoples who are irrelevant, revolting, or worthless: he clumsily conflates republics with monarchies and spends a whole chapter describing how the Tartars controlled China by mixing Tartars and Chinese in their troops and in their tribunals. Everything is constraint and flattery for this noble man; everything is the body. Who else would... why else ascribe such value to despotism, or criticize the motive of fear? Spiritual creatures do not run away from bodily harm as if it is the worst thing a man can suffer. They are harmed; they inflict harm; they are punished; they punish.

This great philosopher, who laughs at pious and devoted people who wept with joy when they learned they could call Mary "mother," prides himself on having taken the mother's place. He would be a fleshy Zeus, and have us consecrate his anonymous and asexual mountain goddess-child, call her Love, make this unnaturally fashioned statue holy and surround her with lush lands and swift streams and birds she'll rule, to be visited by travelers from around the world, and pierce their vanity.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Chapter 148: On the Theme and the Author

Bendy byrds backed spectacularly and chirping,
extirpating gracefully:
all glared when gloating,
all shared a sense that the even tenor had been disturbed,
and that he sensed something peculiar and exciting
which, for them, could never be,
and though he couldn't say,
they believed him, and so some loved,
but usually there was contempt.

What rough-jeaned jackal jokes senselessly
and ogles polished surfaces which must
shape warm, fluffy balls,
only a twist of fringe here and there
to distinguish them?

Someone said he is "blogging about sex
and relationships." I
certainly am doing not that,
for while finer forms elude me,
I have my byrds to boil down
and they're bare to beauty.

Chapter 147: Let no one ungeometrical enter

boxes put on triangles-
those rigid lines reverberate
crisp and logical; therefore
clear the area of confusion;
therefore truth can't be a woman,
can't curves undulate liltingly
to leave slippery impressions
of some stop stepped over.

therefore i'll build a castle
to contain those wooden horses,
my cassandra, calling the names
of wandering rivers and heroes
in chilling particularity
to cut abstract truths that cut.

Chapter 146: On Marvels

I hear that in Rome the women carry monkeys around like babies. They feast their eyes on unseemly things, on inhuman things, they become like beasts of the field.

I am a centaur in a field of unicorns, perpetually contracting my haunches, glaring at pearly manes, drunkenly spilling their drinks and damaging their dainty drawers. You would not believe it if I told you how much I have drowned in that summer wine for many years before the resurrection of Christ, which has not happened, which will have happened, and which has always happened.

In Peru they fatten their children in order to eat them, or they once did, or they will again.

The Vikings reached America but they thought it was Hell. The Spanish reached America and they thought it was Heaven.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Chapter 145: On the strength of prejudice


"One can never leave the Romans; thus it is that even today in their capital one leaves the new palaces to go in search of the ruins; thus it is that the eye that has rested on flower-strewn meadows likes to look at rocks and mountains." They thought the Alps were ugly, with that mud and snow and frigid water and whirling wind where Hannibal took his elephants to die. Now Rousseau finds a manufacturing plant where he hoped to commune with nature. Soon we will find the opposite; we will long for the productive smoke of the industrial but find only rusting rods with weeds and flowers growing out of them. Hideous nature, which provides almost worthless materials-- man and God do the work, and rivers run into the sea, and oceans always meet the shore. Do you not think that this, too, will be forgotten?

Chapter 144: That advanced civilization precedes known history

It is likely that only a moment ago planes and trains coursed the earth bearing strange symbols now long forgotten, effaced and supplanted. I am like the traveler who set foot in Egypt, glanced at the Pyramids, and headed back home. We are an island people, we are a garden people, we are a desert people, we are a mountain people, waiting for the dove to return with an olive branch. Ashed and iced over, we build dams and dykes and did not wait for providence any more; it does do much to sweat about these things, though in five or six thousand years no one will remember how drunk you got, what games you played, how she smiled and how you felt. Those things are for mankind forever.

A hundred generations of Bedouin could not hack them to pieces, could not put the stones to better use, certainly could not figure out their purpose, and we still cannot. Is it possible that we are only returning there, that we will leave ourselves behind like they did, without ever even becoming gods? We were trying to make our computers smaller but we should make them as big as the stars.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Chapter 143: On poetry

Poetry is a way for us to tell the truth vaguely, not to tell the deepest truth. The deepest truth cannot be told, cannot be said, cannot be imaged, and those who imagine to have read deep into metaphor were meeting only their mind, reading their own book and their own love. What new temples? If you will not live with knife in hand then lie down with the sheep and do not protest when you are slaughtered. I could imagine

Our common endeavor is a ship-
but who is steering it?
And fortune is the wind
which catches the sails
which are curled up at the edges
and thick and discolored
like venerable paper.
And what are the waves?
Perhaps they are fortune,
and the wind, providence,
or is nature's beneficence
in the churning deep?

but these leave out the truest thing; most sure to hand is not a spyglass or a quill. He who carries the knife is most immediate, but isn't the knife itself a metaphor for everything? One writes with it.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Chapter 142: On the city of man

It tears it to pieces but they float when they know they're unmoored. Natural law is the floor, and natural right the stars. We can build the stairs to take us there. Where I lay down in green pastures, where you know and I know you know and so I follow, that's the best. We did not sit down and weep, at least for very long. Isn't this what you wanted?

Man is man is labor is the man who has rights. The felicity of this life consists not in the repose of a mind satisfied, but one decried and questioned and laid to rest at the end-- the only end there is. That is all you know on earth. This world is the only world there is, and in this world, there is nobody but the vulgar. Does that mean we live in another world? Was I only lying just then when I said there was only one? Was Machiavel? Was Moses?

Let us say that there is light. And let us say that we can make a division between what we can know and what we cannot, from the world of our senses and the world of things-in-themselves. Let us leave things-in-themselves to-themselves. Let us grant them their obscurity. Let us call what we can know knowledge, and what we cannot know not-knowledge. Do not try to return to that chaos, that confusion. We have left it and we can say that it is good. Isn't this what you wanted? We certainly are not going to return to living in tents.

These plants produce berries which produce these plants which produce these berries which we eat and leave in the earth. After its kind, after their kind. Bur our kind? Well, you have been so kind as to allow us to consider what that shall be. That alone separates us from the animals. Were we any less procreative when you had implanted principles in us, leading us to you? It seems as if these were only to pull us out to sea.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Chapter 141: On the overthrow of all things

I haven't yet decided if the pelican is a suitable image for earthly love. I could still-- there's still time to begin my ministry but were they not so cruel to Him he could not have ruled so many hearts so mildly, so atrociously. Like a bonsai, the frivolous follies must be lopped, those frills and thrills so fleeting that make it such easy wood to chop, that is uprooted by the waters. Love is not love which alters... never shaken, so Shakespeare says, so one does who is free.

"The good or ill accidents of life are very little at our disposal; but we are pretty much masters of what books we shall read, what diversions we shall partake of, and what company we shall keep." So Hume, favoring delicacy of taste to delicacy of passion, which never satisfies, which makes one riotous, slavish, tyrannical. Despotism of the soul, like despotism of the state, makes us despots in the overthrow, and that religion which replaces another entrenches itself all the more in its past submission the more it makes the name of the one before forgotten. A fortunate thing that the Church used Latin, that Dante wrote in Italian before he was superseded.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Chapter 140: That all things recur

Edify, for heaven makes men
meet each other to replace one sect
and one language with another.

Always floods, always universal,
always mountain men and one alone
who can speak to El Shaddai.

Beware, for the ancient names remain
by accident, and strong enough to kill Virginia.

There is always a bigger bird of prey.

la natura... muove per sé medesima molte volte, e fa una purgazione...
acciocché gli uomini, sendo divenuti pochi e battuti,
vivino più comodamente, e diventino migliori.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Chapter 139: On Apollo


APOLLO!

Roll your fingers over the string
and pull me back from the edge of life
where limits look like visions
of shields, triple-implicated
in casting mortal destinies.
What did you want with Daphne?
and what could I do with her?

Chapter 138: One stanza too many



Prosaically comfortable in verse
well-ordered and in infinitely
satisfactory factory,
turn, strike! no?
plates of being
benignly palatable;
their decadent odors confirm
canticles of divine perfection

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Chapter 137: New modes and orders

all men desire to acquire, the tuscan said, exiting the ciminian forest. but the lady of heaven lacks nothing and has no means of procuring; she's a receptacle, entirely permeable, no warrior or whining wimp wishing for goods and services to be granted.

kill the sons of brutus, do not enter the order you have founded. but she is the order she has founded: there is no deterioration, no decay, no loss of virtue and no maintaining by perpetual conspiracy. A religion lasts 1667 to 3000 years, or forever.

nothing's sacred but what numa made so; blessed is the womb-fruit, the signs and wonders, the phantasms in air. the chicken-men and the priests don't know what it's good for. arms and all the epiphenomena of arms.

the man in the tree could see a long way off, a great distance, and the men on the boats casting their nets could see for leagues on the still water with their hearts at peace, and even the great persecutor... whereas doubts and confusions and genuine attempts at resolution lead to war and institutional solutions for the passions of men.

i have read much about ancient things and have long experience of modern things but there is only one new thing.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Chapter 136: That ancient names are difficult to extinguish

the blister on my finger has not yet healed
that we earned by passion quickly cooked.
and i breathe heavily this cold waiting
with nails burned out and picked
from the grey ashes, flame that flickered,
stretched across the wood, caressed it
with something like love, then died,
inexplicably to be stored in covert coals,
somewhere to ravage a weathered hand
or be carried to a beach and dugout pit
and dropped on little wisps of hay
or callous driftwood, or they may inspire
little saplings to be hacked down
and bubble up their precious fluid
to choke on. or just hide and spring back
to life with little breaths and twigs,
not to blaze, to die, to burn, but
to radiate with an inner fire
and be reflected.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Chapter 135: On hunting

grind down the gravest connotation
finer than the finest flour, so that
it just slips through their fat fingers;

barbs that shock the roofs of mouths
where we live and live well, make meek
with chocolate and honey;

precious vessels unstained, with new wine
what many winters have seasoned, unfilled,
all these bottles burnish with smooth cloth

and rudely stack with the big, burlap sacks
all the byrds you've got by hunting,
necks brkn and feathers delicately pluckd.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Chapter 134: That waiting for the opportune moment is correct or not correct depending on the times

at year's end, undo stiffness stuffed
into stained and stinking sausages,
strung-up. what grimy gristle would fall out,
bubble over from dozens of dozing weeks
of evaporating fermentation,
festive paper streamers, curled up
like maggots made slow by sealed decay?
from loop to loop unbuckle, bleed out
bellicosity already ancient, foul, small:
a little dribble-drab upon the floor.
splat! pop! boom! they slip slickly
from their casing, gathering steam and go
plop anticlimactically on the floor,
like fireworks.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Chapter 133: On tragedies involving children and women

Once more of the lord far-shooting
let my heart sing.


What of the twisted serpender who lets his hart sing
and long for long, lingering tendrils
while he clasps to lumps and logs and longs
for likenesses of his proud deception?

A baby girl, a bouyant byrd, born of flesh and form
through compressed dreams comes to see sight sought
and shivers, shuddering at the shadows of her fancy.

When the bough breaks,
float-fluttering
to the bower she flies.

Chapter 132: A reflection


when i walked on untrod snow i thought of you
and just the navel of the orange I nibbled
crept upon me as I traveled.

Come, hither, Calliope pure of voice.

Box

Monday, December 16, 2013

Chapter 131: Continuation of the same subject

In bowers byrds assemble scores
for first-date bedroom rock,
strew flowers far from the east of eden
for fairies to flaunt their feathers:
forget ecstasy, enter squawking fancy,
deceive the wholesomely diurnal,
dry your dirty dirty eyes
that dug down deep; now die,
debating destiny,
or floating flight embrace,
wings of byrds wonderfully entwined,
asexual, angry angels
borne aloft on their piney pinions,
ascending on a sunbeam.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Chapter 130: On draining the swamps and bringing lands together


That swampsink corruption hints
of sweet organization,
of synapse layered over,
a thousand connections
lying ready to be dried
and cleaned, and correlated;
but then that fantastic elder stink
would give way to wonder
and wasted wanting,
worthless curls,
winding back
to one
cold
pt.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Chapter 129: Note on the composition of this text

I've derived words in their dreaming being
when like wax they're white and whittled,
waiting to be outworn and witted.

How? Only seeing with the sun's slight seeming,
skimming shimmer's sheen and surface-preening,
when light just right
comes clean on my machine.

All fuzzy depths microbial
beaker's booming retreat bespeaks,
but barely etched out like candor--
in the candy cotton forgotten.

In the terse summer's fleeting
succession, you undressing,
I closely remember mine.