Saturday, October 31, 2009

TC: As the Human Village Prepares for Its Fate (Constable)


While everything external
dies away in the far off
echo of the soul
still there’s a mill wheel turning

it is like a good

kind of tiredness in
the moment before sleep
by some distant stream

a note of peace
in a life which
will never be peaceful
as the daylight fades

the dream disintegrates
but the shadow holds
no power
over what’s about to happen

Flatford Mill: John Constable, 1817 (Tate Gallery)

"The sound of water escaping from mill dams, willows, old rotten planks, slimy posts and brickwork, I love such things."

Sunday, October 25, 2009

TC: Hans Bellmer


Why does Bellmer's
art express so well
the fallenness of men
their living under this spell
as if out of each one
had come another
who walks beside that one
and bears that one's name
but feels nothing

La mitrailleuse en état de grâce (The Machine Gun[neress] in a State of Grace)


Child and Seeing Hands: Hans Bellmer, c. 1950 (Art Institute of Chicago)
La mitrailleuse en état de gråce (The Machine Gun[neress] in a State of Grace): Hans Bellmer, 1937 (San Francisco Museum of Modern Art)
Autoportrait: Hans Bellmer, 1971 (Bibliotheque Nationale de France)

TC: Afternoons


it’s fine to wake up and hug your knees
my knees
when I have run out of fire fluid
I rush back to bed

the feeling of paws on my knees
petals and wings
little hair
why have you gone

I sing that in my head
being alone is a song
a cigarette in bed
it’s better not to touch the ceiling
but if love attaches a band aid
from the ceiling to your head
there’s nothing to do but recognize it


A band-aid: photo by Svetlana Miljkovic, 2006

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

TC: Lullaby for Cuckoo


Did you suffer, or was it just the one who made you?
Little bird, deluded or self-deluded,
Close your eyes, and let these chirps resound
Mechanically. Was vision the clue you lacked,
When emerging from the works you sang sweetly
Of midnight, though it was purple noon
And purple riot ran through you, while
The big hand batted and rocked around
The clock, and you alone had time for me?
Or was homo faber the missing link
Who forged you in his workshop of stupid toys?
Either way, the little hand is catching up,
The door is opening; you aren’t coming out.

Cuculus canorus: from Neumann, Naturgeschichte der Vögel Mitteleuropas, 1905
Early cuckoo clock, Black Forest, 1760-1780 (Deutsches Uhrenmuseum, Furtwangen)

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

TC: The Things They Left Behind


File:Antologica Opera XXXVIII.png

Two beautifully clothed things stood on the thing under the thing refusing to accept given things of thing.

Their things touched and stretched out to the things like infinite things.

File:2006-08-20 - United States - New Mexico - The Thing.jpg

He nodded toward the thing and returned his opera things to the thing in the duchess's thing.

A thing and a thing and a few assorted things, that night, had to be left behind.

File:Antologica Opera XXVIII.png

Text: adapted from TC, John's Heart, 1972

Antologica Opera XXXVIII
: Maurizia Manfredi, 2006: photo by Bourochejm, 2008
The Thing/What Is It?: photo by Colin Gregory Palmer, 2006
Antologica Opera XVIII: Maurizia Manfredi, 2006: photo by Bourochejm, 2008

Saturday, October 17, 2009

TC: Prolepsis


Melodious liquid warble in the plum
Tree tells the sinking year how to feel
Its recession into grief as if a thorn
Poked a nester in an old wounded heart
Of stone from which slowly drips recognition
All breathing passion far above
These days atonal as white noise
Through bare branches cotton clouds drift by
Last yellowed leaves catch lone rays of sun
Going down into the motherless ocean
A light plane buzzes off toward brown hills
As shade drops over the next urban plot
To prepare the air for what the dead don’t know
How swiftly we are coming to join them



Boat and Yellow Hills: Selden Connor Gile (Oakland Museum)
Close-up of crocuses in early afternoon light: photo by Linda Spashett, 2009
Lookup (clouds and sea): photo by !rina 1984, 2009

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

TC: I Lied About Wallace Stevens


File:Nordsee Wellen.JPG

I dwelt in isolation, long ago, through two long strange winters, in a single room in a small cottage on an exposed coast upon the North Sea, a place where stormy nights of wild wind and rain were commonplace; even then, or perhaps especially then, it was not always simple to view things in a single aspect.

The temptation to alternative interpretations was always urgent; what an unfortunate period it was.

Opposite the feeble gas stove a horrid funereal floral wallpaper decorated the single sizeable wall of this room.

I obtained painting materials, eventually, and painted upon this wall a large representation of the Jastrow duck-rabbit picture as I had found it in Wittgenstein's Philosophical Investigations.

I contemplate a face, and then suddenly notice its likeness to another. I see that it has not changed; and yet I see it differently. I call this experience “noticing an aspect...” And I must distinguish between the ‘continuous seeing’ of an aspect and the ‘dawning’ of an aspect.... I see two pictures, with the duck-rabbit surrounded by rabbits in one, by ducks in the other. I do not notice that they are the same. Does it follow from this that I see something different in the two cases? It gives us a reason for using this expression here. “I saw it quite differently, I should never have recognized it!” Now, that is an exclamation. And there is also a justification for it. I should never have thought of superimposing the heads like that, of making this comparison between them.... I describe the alteration (change of aspect) like a perception; quite as if the object had altered before my eyes.... The expression of a change of aspect is the expression of a new perception and at the same time of the perception’s being unchanged. I suddenly see the solution of a puzzle-picture.

This mural remained unknown to, because unseen by, the owners of this dwelling, for the remainder of the duration of my stay in this remote little seaside town.

The wind is blowing hard right now. I am reminded of a poem about a candle that is blown out by the wind, or perhaps it is only the image of the candle, in the poem, that is blown out by the wind; it is a poem about aspect issues and alternative interpretations. The poem comes from Wallace Stevens' first book, Harmonium, published in 1923.

Valley Candle

My candle burned alone in an immense valley.
Beams of the huge night converged upon it,
Until the wind blew.
Then beams of the huge night
Converged upon its image,
Until the wind blew.

I have loved this poem for fifty-two years. When I imagine it lately, though, there is a pictorial aspect change, a reinterpretation of perception whereby, when I see the letters of the Stevens poem, they become transparent and in their place, or as if through them, as the fleeting candlelight seems to pass through the living hand of the child Christ in the Georges de la Tour painting Joseph the Carpenter, I see the words of a different poem, which I have written in my mind.

File:Georges de La Tour 049.jpg

In fact this is an old bad habit, seeing poems that do not exist through poems that do.

That Stevens had not published his first book until the age of forty and that it had then been the ungodly great Harmonium, for a long time this figured him for me as a significance among significances, a phenomenon from an age of wonders.


And yet, and yet...

North Sea: photo by Muns, 2003
Philosophical Investigations: Ludwig Wittgenstein, 1953
"Valley Candle": Wallace Stevens, from Harmonium, 1923
Joseph the Carpenter (detail: hands of the young Christ): Georges De la Tour, 1635-1640 (Musée du Louvre)
Duck/rabbit (pink): image by John Schmidt
"I lied in my ad. I hate Wallace Stevens.": Mike Twohy, The New Yorker, 1995

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

TC: It Is Getting Late (May 1819)


File:Vinca February 2008-1.jpg

Half bottle of claret drunk alone--a soft
Dusk falls in this dragon world of men
Who cannot see what flowers are at their feet
Once the swarming of phenomena begins

Better perhaps to guess than to see
Those flowers of death's close growth and breathing,
Lustrous, fragrant, spongy, aethereal,
Shadowy thought left to supply its own

Earth-figuring text finds this evanescent
Diffuse sense efflorescing, this slow
Faint luminous phosphorescence rising
From the forever speculative ground

File:Epiphyllum anguliger1Emma Lindahl.jpg

Greater periwinkle (Vinca major): photo by Alvesgaspar, 2008
Epiphyllium anguliger: photo by Emma Lindahl, 2006

From TC: Junkets on a Sad Planet: Scenes from the Life of John Keats

TC: Premonitory (Teignmouth, Spring 1818)


Mariners don’t think about the deeps too much.
The canvas of my reverie: maritime,
With promontory, cave, and little antique
Town that’s emptied for a sacrifice.
A boat tacks round the cove and disappears
Into my mind’s eye, where the scene plays over

And over: a small town beside an immense sea,
A white sail tacks around the promontory.
Mariners don’t think too much about the deeps,
Poets were once thought premonitory.
The canvas of my reverie is
Maritime, with a promontory, a town:

The town has emptied for a sacrifice.
I close my eyes, but the same scene plays over:
Above the victim’s head the priest suspends
A blade, light plays cleanly upon bronze,
The sun beats down, the confused heifer lows,
The pipe shrills, the bright libation flows,

Those of the faithful with weak nerves look away,
The blue paint splashed beneath a glowing sky
Bleeds across the harbor to the bobbing skiff
Whose white sail shows above the green head cliff,
Moves round the point, and seems to freeze in time
The unison hymn of sailors who forget

All that they know but their songs’ chiming,
Chanting as we did when poetry was young,
Trying not to think too much about the deeps,
Our fear of death, and this abandoned town
Which itself has lost all memory of
The qualities of life vacated when we die.


Landscape with Aeneas at Delos: Claude Lorrain, 1672 (National Gallery, London)
East Teignmouth, South Devon, mid-19th century: artist unknown

From TC: Junkets on a Sad Planet: Scenes from the Life of John Keats

Sunday, October 4, 2009

TC: Weight (Keats, Winchester, September 1819)


Richland Park143 by JewelHouse10.

After another fine sharp temperate night

It is a warm morning. This is part of the world.

Summer light and dust blow yellow

Filmed clouds into the air. The brown stubble

Fields feel warm, give off a red excited

Glow like irritated raspberry marks

On fair skin, with its soft white weight,

As the doleful choir of gnats still wails,

And the maiden at the manor window shakes

The sheets out, or is it her fine light hair

That flows or is flung from the storybook casement,

That causes me to stop to catch my breath?

Richland Park144 by JewelHouse10.

Richland Park 143: photo by Jewel House 10
Richland Park 144: photo by Jewel House 10

from TC: Junkets on a Sad Planet: Scenes from the Life of John Keats

TC: Melancholy Watch, the Downs (September 1820)


A Jetty: Margate: Joseph William Mallord Turner, 1840s (Museum of Fine Arts, Boston)

My melancholy watch, mid-quarter-deck,
Drifting: I follow the play of gulls.
The sun is long gone down, the east darkling,
The ship drifts. In the west, some brightness remains.
Momently there are two flights of gulls moving
One to the east into the dark and one
Out of the west, in the last rays of the sun,
Left and right so entirely dissimilar
That the name gull quite falls from them
As I watch, and the chiaroscuro
Of the evening is torn open, altering
Everything: so that now everything is
Only itself: the gulls, myself closer
In nature than if I still knew their name,
Yet at the same time moving farther out,
Sinking deeper into a fading sky
Which soaks them up like ink accepting water,
Coaxing darkness out of reluctant night,
Bringing on the abolition of that false
Identity which made naming possible.

From TC: Junkets on a Sad Planet: Scenes from the Life of John Keats