Synchitic Epexegeses

Tony Kushner’s Homebody/Kabul Drawn from a Dada Hat

Moved only as one can be moved
through an encounter with the beautiful
and strange –displacement more than restoration–
the soul and the mind, he says, are not
in opposition with one another
but are conjoined: Les peintres, les compositeurs,
les philosophes, les mathématiciens,
nous savions comment marchait l’univers.
Knowing what was known before the more
that has since become known overwhelms.
The mother tongue has been lost,
dust motes and moonbeams
from her head to her toes.
Aya oh deewan’ast?! Knoh cherah chup nishastee?
The touch which does not understand
is the touch that corrupts. Until we can speak
to one another in a mother tongue,
drawn from our common humanity,
peace will never be attained.
We are so afraid of the attacks
we have forgotten our own names
and can’t even understand what we say.
Thirty-three years, long enough for Christ
to have been born and die, and only terror
can save us from ruin, only never-ending war,
save us from terror and never-ending war.
Only children with rifles, carrying stones,
can save us now. The Book says:
Let people fear the day
when they leave small children
behind them unprovided.

In the garden outside, I have planted all my dead.
Nearly every other one you meet here
is missing pieces. No thing may be made or unmade
unless Allah wills it. He fills our hearts with griefs,
to see if we shall be strong.
A garden shows us what may await us in Paradise.
One sharp goad from a terrible grief,
and the soul is waking up.
Cynics will attribute this transformation
to senescence and nostalgia, but
it’s Wisdom’s hand that switches on
the light within. The disenchanted dull detritus
of it has washed up on our culpable shores:
an extension, an adjunct, a prelude,
moving chaotically and each a language,
adding its heft and frequencies to the Universal Drift.
The present is always an awful place to be:
anything, everything can be lost.
Çu vi parolas Esperanto?
Each region has more in common
with its neighbors over the border
than with each other. The developed
and overdeveloped and over-overdeveloped
paved wasted deliquescent post-First World
postmodern city –not really a state at all,
it’s a populated disaster.
Such is the nature of these expansive times,
the thing which is must suffer to be touched.

These are not for you who neither speak,
nor read Esperanto, and who despise poetry.
This century taught the civilized contempt
for those who merely contemplate,
and it’s the lockup and the lethal injection
for those who Do.
Uncertainty kills. As does certainty.
On no official map is there ever a question mark,
and yet, La tera estis tute kovrita per neĝo.
How may we become travelers across
our boundaries, instead of tourists?
All the camels have fallen here and died
of exhaustion, of shock, of the heartache of refugees.
Invariably we seek out not the source
but all that was dropped by the wayside
on the way to the source. But always she is waiting
in the garden, speaking in a tongue
we were born speaking only to forget.
What else is love but recognition?
Love’s nothing to do with happiness.
Power has to do with happiness.
Love only has to do with home.
She wishes you to know she is not dead.

 

4/30/16

On Diligence

1) What we hope ever to do with ease, we must first learn to do with diligence.

(Samuel Johnson)

2) Tension is who you think you should be, relaxation is who you are.

(Proverb)

3) How do you write like tomorrow won’t arrive? / How do you write like you need it to survive? / How do you write every second you’re alive?

(Lin-Manuel Miranda, “Non-Stop,” Hamilton)

4) Study without desire spoils the memory, and it retains nothing that it takes in.

(Leonardo da Vinci)

5) Nothing great in the world was accomplished without passion.

(Georg Hegel)

6)         ESTRAGON: [giving up again] Nothing to be done.
VLADIMIR: [advancing with short, stiff strides, legs wide apart] I’m beginning to come round to that opinion. All my life I’ve tried to put it from me, saying, Vladimir, be reasonable, you haven’t yet tried everything. And I resumed the struggle. [he broods, musing on the struggle. …]

(Samuel Beckett, Waiting for Godot)

7) The world will not be destroyed by evil, but by those who watch them without doing anything.

(Albert Einstein)

8) True strength is keeping everything together when everyone expects you to fall apart.

(Unknown)

9) But if you refuse to be beaten, you have some pleasant surprises.

(Albert Camus via Rieux, The Plague)

10) No great thing is suddenly created.

(Epictetus)

 

4/14/18

On Identity

1) A life that is, like any other, unlike any other.

(Neil Gaiman, American Gods)

2) No one can construct for you the bridge upon which precisely you must cross the stream of life, no one but you yourself alone.

(Friedrich Nietzsche)

3) A man is only whole when he takes into account his shadow.

(Djuna Barnes)

4) We are shaped by our thoughts; we become what we think. When the mind is pure, joy follows like a shadow that never leaves.

(The Buddha)

5) There is a wilderness we walk alone, however well companioned.

(Stephen Vincent Benét)

6) “What the hell kind of name is Yossarian?”
Lieutenant Scheisskopf had the facts at his fingertips. “It’s Yossarian’s name, sir,” he explained.

(Joseph Heller, Catch-22)

7) The only way to deal with an unfree world is to become so absolutely free that your very existence is an act of rebellion.

(Albert Camus)

8) Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle. And so we must straighten our backs and work for our freedom. A man can’t ride you unless your back is bent.

(Martin Luther King, Jr.)

9) The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but building the new.

(Socrates)

10) Freedom is what you do with what’s been done to you.

(Jean-Paul Sartre)

 

4/14/18

On Light

1)         The busy lark, the messenger of day,
Salutes now with her song the morning gray,
And fiery Phoebus rises up so bright
Till all the east is laughing in his light,
The beams of which dry every bush where cleaves
The silver droplets, hanging on the leaves.

(“The Knight’s Tale,” lines 1491-1496, trans. Ronald L. Ecker)

2) One day, you’ll find that I have gone. But tomorrow may rain, so I’ll follow the sun.

(Paul McCartney, “I’ll Follow the Sun”)

3) Painters –to speak only of them– being dead and buried, speak to a following generation or to several following generations through their works. Is that all, or is there more, even? In the life of the painter, death may perhaps not be the most difficult thing.

For myself, I declare I don’t know anything about it. But the sight of the stars always makes me dream in as simple a way as the black spots on the map, representing towns and villages, make me dream.

Why, I say to myself, should the spots of light in the firmament be less accessible to us than the black spots on the map of France.

(Vincent van Gogh in a letter to his brother Theo, July 1888)

4) The darkest night that ever fell upon the earth never hid the light, never put out the stars. It only made the stars more keenly, kindly glancing, as if in protest against the darkness.

(George Eliot)

5) Tie my handlebars to the stars, so I stay on track.

(Owl City, “Cave In”)

6) I am incapable of conceiving infinity, and yet I do not accept finity. I want this adventure that is the context of my life to go on without end.

(Simone de Beauvoir, La Vieillesse)

7) I want to be a lion. / Everybody wants to pass as cats. / We all want to be big, big stars, but we got different reasons for that. / Believe in me, because I don’t believe in anything. / And I want to be someone to believe. / Mr. Jones and me, stumbling through the barrio, / yeah, we stare at the beautiful women. / “She’s perfect for you. Man, there’s got to be somebody for me.”

(Adam Duritz, “Mr. Jones”)

8) All the world’s a stage we’re going through.

(Lorrie Moore, Anagrams)

9)         Practice every day has made
Pangur perfect in his trade;
I get wisdom day and night
Turning darkness into light.

(from “Pangur Bán,” by a  9th century Irish monk about his cat)

10) There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or the mirror that receives it.

(Edith Wharton)

 

2/13/15

On Darkness

1) A poet is someone who stands outside in the rain hoping to be struck by lightning.

(James Dickey)

2) Some things you know all your life. They are so simple and true they must be said without elegance, meter and rhyme… they must be naked and alone, they must stand for themselves.

(Philip Levine)

3) I can be hurt by nothing but my thoughts.

(A Course in Miracles, Lesson 281)

4) And as for happiness, there’s a lot of different kinds of happiness, just as there’s a hell of a lot of different kinds of dead. Me, I’ll just take what I can get when I can get it.

(Neil Gaiman via Mr. Nancy, American Gods)

5) We know that we come from the winds, and that we shall return to them; that all of life is perhaps a knot, a tangle, a blemish in the eternal smoothness. But why should this make us unhappy? Let us rather love one another, and work and rejoice. I don’t believe in this world of sorrow.

(E.M. Forster via Mr. Emerson, A Room with a View)

6) What do we live for if it is not to make life less difficult for each other?

(George Eliot, Middlemarch)

7) One, remember to look up and the stars and not down at your feet. Two, never give up on your work. Work gives you meaning and purpose and life is empty without it. Three, if you are lucky enough to find love, remember it is there and don’t throw it away.

(Stephen Hawking)

8) There is nothing in the world so irresistibly contagious as laughter and good humor.

(Charles Dickens)

9) Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.

(Winston Churchill)

10) …the habit of despair is worse than despair itself.

(Albert Camus, The Plague)

 

2/13/15