Wednesday, November 24, 2010

TC: Wallace Stevens: The Snow Man


File:Cat dancing in the snow-Tscherno.jpg

One must have a mind of winter
To regard the frost and the boughs
Of the pine-trees crusted with snow;

And have been cold a long time
To behold the junipers shagged with ice,
The spruces rough in the distant glitter

Of the January sun; and not to think
Of any misery in the sound of the wind,
In the sound of a few leaves,

Which is the sound of the land
Full of the same wind
That is blowing in the same bare place

For the listener, who listens in the snow,
And, nothing himself, beholds
Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.

The Snow Man: Wallace Stevens, 1921, from Harmonium, 1923

Cat dancing in snow: photo by Matthias Zirngibl, 2006

Thursday, November 11, 2010

TC: Feeling for the Ground


File:Pasha Bulker grounded.jpg

MV Pasha Bulker grounded on Nobby's Beach, near Newcastle (Australia)
: photo by Web107, 2007

At first, and perhaps for a very long time, I existed as if at sea, drifting, and did not know what if anything lay under me.

Then came a change.

When my elders named some object, and accordingly moved towards something, I saw this and vaguely grasped that that the thing was called by the sound they uttered when they meant to point it out.

I glimpse myself in baby photos, attending curiously to such sounds, pensive, ignorantly wondering.

It all comes back to me now.

Adrift in my wordless sea, I was trying to read their minds, as if feeling for the ground.

What did they mean, when they uttered these strange sounds?

Their intention was shown by their bodily movements: the expression of their faces, the play of their eyes, the movement of other parts of their bodies, and, especially, the tones of their voices; which, I dimly now perceived, expressed their states of mind in seeking, having, or rejecting something.

In this way, as I heard words repeatedly used in their proper places in various sentences, I gradually learned to understand what objects they signified; and after I had trained my mouth to form these signs, I used them to express my own desires.

It was then I began to have a feeling for the ground. I walked a great deal, mostly alone, perhaps mostly on a hill, or then again it may have been a small mountain. Certainly it seemed solid enough.

As the scenery passed by, I could now put words to it; there was a sense of dwarf mastery in this; the achievements of the mind have their own satisfactions. However minor, however transitory.

But before very much more time had passed, I realized I retained a powerful longing for the open sea from which I had come.

This feeling of longing has remained with me to this day.

File:Glacous Gull on ice.jpg

Glaucous gull (Larus hyperboreus): photo by Alastair Rae. 2005

from: Tom Clark: Feeling for the Ground (BlazeVox, 2010)

Saturday, November 6, 2010

TC: Waitress


File:Halloween chicken.jpg

Waitress serving at restaurant counter while wearing Halloween chicken costume, Leroy's Restaurant, Monrovia, California: photo by Ross Berteig, 2002

Not under pressure of a private grief,
Oh for but a few years yet of useful

Life, for all's complete once your rat

Race is run, that's how things go, no one prescribes to

Or gets to presume to order life
Around as though it were a sort of waitress race

Sister Life has better things to do than wait
Around in the wings for her part

In the next act of your however
Interesting meditative history


Mason's Cafe: truck driver, sailor and waitress at highway coffee shop on US 90 in Southern Louisiana: photo by John Vachon, 1943 (Farm Security Administration/ Office of War Information Collection, Library of Congress)