03 April 2008 

"what he loved about horses was what he loved in men, the blood and the heat of the blood that ran them. all the reverence and al the fondness and all the leanings of his life were for the ardenhearted and they would always be so and never be otherwise."

all the pretty horses, cormac mccarthy, p. 6

07 January 2008 

"imagine that noah knocked his house apart and used the planks to build an ark, while his neighbors looked on, full of doubt. a house, he must have told them, should be daubed with pitch and built to float cloud high, if need be. a lettuce patch was of no use at all, and a good foundation was worse than useless. a house should have a compass and a keel. the neighbors would have put their hands in their pockets and chewed their lips and strolled home to houses they now found wanting in ways they could not understand."

housekeeping, p. 184


"because, once alone, it is impossible to believe that one could ever have been otherwise. loneliness is a discovery. when one looks from inside at a lighted window, or looks from above at the lake, one sees the image of oneself in a lighted room, the image of oneself among trees and sky - the deception is obvious, but flattering all the same. when one looks from the darkness into the light, however, one sees all the difference between here and there, this and that. perhaps all unsheltered people are angry in their hearts, and would like to break the roof, spine, and ribs, and smash the windows and flood the floor and spindle the curtains and bloat the couch."

marilynne robinson, p. 157-158


"having a sister or a friend is like sitting at night in a lighted house. those outside can watch you if they want, but you need not see them. you simply say, "here are the perimeters of our attention. if you prowl around under the windows till the crickets go silent, we will pull the shades. if you wish us to suffer your envious curiosity, you must permit us not to notice it." anyone with one solid human bond is that smug, and it is the smugness as much as the comfort and safety that lonely people covet and admire. i had been, so to speak, turned out of house now long enough to have observed this in myself."

marilynne robinson, p. 154-155


"for need can blossom into all the compensation it requires. to crave and to have are as like as a thing and its shadow. for when does a berry break upon the tongue as sweetly as when one longs to taste it, and when is the taste refracted into so many hues and savors of ripeness and earth, and when do our senses know any thing so utterly as when we lack it? and here again is a foreshadowing - the world will eb made whole. for to wish for a hand on one's hair is all but to feel it. so what ever we may lose, very craving gives it back to us again. though we dream and hardly know it, longing, like an angel, fosters us, smooths our hair, and brings us wild strawberries."

marilynne robinson, housekeeping p. 152-153

25 December 2007 

"the quilt was warm and soft around my arms and shoulders and my ears. i fell asleep where i sat, with the cup of brimstone tea in my lap, held carefully in both hands so as not to spill. sleep made one sensation of the heat in my palms and the sugar on my tongue. i slept precariously upright, aware of my bare feet, hearing the wood in the stove crackle. more words passed between sylvie and lucille, but i could not make them out. it seemed to me that whatever lucille said, sylvie sang back to her, but that was dreaming.

so this is all death is, i thought. sylvie and lucille do not notice, or perhaps they do not object. sylvie, in fact, brought the coffeepot and warmed the cup in my hands, and arranged the quilt, which had slid from my shoulder a little. i was surprised and touched by her solicitude. she knows, i thought, and i felt like laughing. sylvie is sitting beside the stove, flipping through old magazines, waiting for my mother. i began listening for the sound of the door opening, but after a very long time my head fell sharply to one side and i could not lift it up again. then i realized that my mouth was open. all this time the room was filling with strangers, and there was no way for me to tell sylvie that the tea had tipped out of my hands and wet my lap. i knew that my decay, now obvious and accelerating, should somehow be concealed for decency's sake, but sylvie would not look up from her magazine. i began to hope for oblivion, and then i rolled out of my chair.

sylvie looked up from her magazine. "did you have a good sleep?" she asked.

"all right," i said. i picked up the cup and brushed the dampness off my pant legs.

"sleep is best when you're really tired," she said, "you don't just sleep. you die.""

housekeeping, p. 118.


I love cats because I enjoy my home; and little by little, they become its visible soul.
Jean Cocteau


Here I am trying to live, or rather, I am trying to teach the death within me how to live.
Jean Cocteau


Film will only became an art when its materials are as inexpensive as pencil and paper.
Jean Cocteau


"i had seen two of the apple trees in my grandmother's orchard die where they stood. one spring there were no leaves, but they stood there as if expectantly, their limbs almost to the ground, miming their perished fruitfulness. every winter the orchard is flooded with snow, and every spring the waters are parted, death is undone, and every lazarus rises, except these two. they have lost their bark and blanched white, and a wind will snap their bones, but if ever a leaf does appear, it should be no great wonder. it would be a small change, as it would be say, for the moon to begin turning on its axis. it seemed to me that what perished need not also be lost. at sylvie's house, my grandmother's house, so much of what i remembered i could hold in my hand- like a china cup, or a windfall apple, sour and cold from its affinity with deep earth, with only a trace of the perfume of its blossoming. sylvie, i knew, felt the life of perished things."

housekeeping, p. 124

12 December 2007 


My hands
open the curtains of your being
clothe you in a further nudity
uncover the bodies of your body
My hands
invent another body for your body

- Octavio Paz

11 December 2007 

A poem, Paz thought, abolishes time. Or rather, transforms it, and the world with it. And so the final stanza of "A Draft of Shadows" comes to mind, more precise in defining the man than any cluster of facts:

I am where I was:
I walk behind the murmur,
footsteps within me, heard with my eyes,
the murmur is in the mind, I am my footsteps,
I hear the voices that I think,
the voices that think me as I think them.
I am the shadow my words cast.


A virgin who talked in her sleep, my aunt
taught me to see with eyes closed,
to see within, and through the wall;
my grandfather, to smile at defeat,
and, for disasters: in affliction, conviction.
(This that I say is earth thrown over
your name: let it rest softly).
Between vomit and thirst,
strapped on the rack of alcohol,
my father came and went through flames ...
I could never talk to him.
I meet him now in dreams,
that blurred country of the dead.
We always speak of other things.

Octavio Paz

This, from the autobiographical poem rendered by Eliot Weinberger as "A Draft of Shadows" (1974).


Perhaps to love is to learn
to walk through this world.
To learn to be silent
like the oak and the linden of the fable.
To learn to see.
Your glance scattered seeds.
It planted a tree.
I talk
because you shake its leaves.

-- Octavio Paz



Soy hombre: duro poco

y es enorme la noche.

Pero miro hacia arriba:

las estrellas escriben.

Sin entender comprendo:

también soy escritura

y en este mismo instante

alguien me deletrea.

I am a man: little do I last

and the night is enormous.

But I look up:

the stars write.

Unknowing I understand:

I too am written,

and at this very moment

someone spells me out.

Octavio Paz

Translated from the Spanish by Eliot Weinberger.


Pablo Medina

Three Fulcrums

Dress Rehearsal

This city is a French
horn in distress,

Calvin chasing hens
and the pages of the hymnal blank

like a furious whoosh,
a stomach pain, the pitch of sin.

Russian Doll

Every wall is an eye,
every eye is a wall.

I have only myself tonight
in a language inside a language

about the white sky falling
and the black earth.


And when I run out of things
to say, what do I say?

And when the thrush sings
in the know-it-all woods,

isn't there a slippage
from language to departure?


Pablo Medina

A Poem for the Epiphany

Ach, wie anders, wie schön
Lebt der Himmel, lebt die Erde
It snows because the door to heaven is open,
because God is tired of working
and the day needs to be left alone.
It snows because there is a widow hiding
under her mother's bed,
because the birds are resting their throats
and three wise men are offering gifts.
Because the clouds are singing
and trees have a right to exist,
because the horses of the past are returning.
They are grey and trot gently into the barn
never touching the ground.

It snows because the wind wants
to be water, because water
wants to be powder and powder wants
to seduce the eye. Because once in his life
the philosopher has to admit
to the poverty of thought.
Because the rich man cannot buy snow
and the poor man has to wear it on his eyebrows.
Because it makes the old dog think
his life has just begun. He runs
back and forth across the parking lot.
He rolls on the snow. He laps it up.

It snows because light and dark
are making love in a field where old age
has no meaning, where colors blur,
silence covers sound, sleep covers sorrow,
everything is death, everything is joy.

(for Ellen Jacko)



The day my father died, I began to love

many men and I knew there would be no end.

Allow me room to breathe, my father asked

wishing that I let go of his wrists.

The man, now, in my bed rolls over and begins

to snore. The white of the walls are more white

than when I painted them. In my room I write

to believe you are living.

It’s 4:00 a.m. and no one’s awake.

I go to sleep and in a dream,

I am someone saying, Do you know

the smallest, most lovely canary can sing

the most deadly songs at night?

I can hear it loudly, tapping

outside my locked window.

Someone has hung up a painting.

Someone has provided a palette

that is come-hither blue, sunflower yellow,

warm-your-belly green peas.

A bell rings through the rain.

I wish to tell the world I’m sick to death of it.

The heart that does not wish anymore,

does not want. But it is the perception of you

that makes me mismatch my words.

Waiting for you: nests fitted into wooden trees,

my hair thrashes past me.

Spilling awake, the sound

of rain on the large sea expands.

I’m afraid one of these days,

I’ll say everything I ever wanted to say.

In my favorite corner of the world you are there, you believe me.

Love pauses by the door with a set of keys jingling.

Tina Chang


The Burning

“…I’ve lived without names…”

-Stephen Kuusisto

Off a seashore in Russia I run, laughing

at the mystery of movement in the form

of water, laughing at my father with sand

on his face who will one day die.

Or imagine for a minute a locomotive

full of people, rocking with the motion

of a vintage sorrow, head bowing as if

time has beaten them. In my winter season

I think of monks in Penang who sit without

sound for weeks. How they live inside silence.

The silence is alive. The ringing of a bell

is an intricate acorn; my soul hits the ground

when it falls. The apple for all its perfection

will never change. The seed I swallow fashions

a knot in my throat, the fiber of the peel winds

like a staircase leading me down. I look

at my teeth-marks in fruit, in flesh

like a message, an erotic code deciphered

by tearing and biting down. I want to keep

this braille, this transcript of my soul:

My body is a vessel of wanting.

My body is a vessel of fury.

My body is a vessel of apology.

I am the thread & the damage the thread made after the mending.

I am the god I don’t know & the fire that burns with no fuel.

tina chang


"but sylvie had fallen silent again. guessing that she must be listening to something, we were silent, too. the lake still thundered and groaned, the flood waters still brimmed and simmered. when we did not move or speak, there was no proof that we were there at all. the wind and the water brought sounds intact from any imaginable distance. deprived of all perspective and horizon, i found myself reduced to an intuition, and my sister and my aunt to something less than that. i was afraid to put out my hand, for fear it would touch nothing, or to speak, for fear no one would answer. we all stood there silently for a long moment."

housekeeping, pg 70

27 November 2007 

Days of 1903

I never found them again -- the things so quickly lost....
the poetic eyes, the pale
face.... in the dusk of the street....

I never found them again -- the things acquired quite by chance,
that I gave up so lightly;
and that later in agony I wanted.
The poetic eyes, the pale face,
those lips, I never found again.

Constantine P. Cavafy (1917)



Ideal and beloved voices
of those who are dead, or of those
who are lost to us like the dead.

Sometimes they speak to us in our dreams;
sometimes in thought the mind hears them.

And with their sound for a moment return
other sounds from the first poetry of our life --
like distant music that dies off in the night.

Constantine P. Cavafy (1904)



From all I've done and all I've said
let them not seek to find who I've been.
An obstacle stood and transformed
my acts and way of my life.
An obstacle stood and stopped me
many a time as I was going to speak.
My most unobserved acts,
and my writitings the most covered --
thence only they will feel me.
But mayhaps it is not worth to spend
this much care and this much effort to know me.
For -- in the more perfect society --
someone else like me created
will certainly appear and freely act.

Constantine P. Cavafy (1908)


When they are roused

Try to guard them, poet
However few they are that can be held.
The visions of your eroticism.
Set them, half hidden, in your phrases.
Try to hold them, poet,
when they are roused in your mind
at night, or in the noon glare.

Constantine P. Cavafy (1916)


as much as you can

Even if you cannot shape your life as you want it,
at least try this
as much as you can; do not debase it
in excessive contact with the world,
in the excessive movements and talk.

Do not debase it by taking it,
dragging it often and exposing it
to the daily folly
of relationships and associations,
until it becomes burdensome as an alien life.

Constantine P. Cavafy (1913)

22 November 2007 

"the rising of the spring stirred a serious, mystical excitement in him, and made him forgetful of her. he would pick up seashells, a bird's wing, a jawbone, the ashy fragment of a wasp's nest. he would peer at each of them with the most absolute attention, and then put them in his pockets, where he kept his jackknife and his loose change. he would peer at them as if he could read them, and pocket them as if he could own them. this is death in my hand, this is ruin in my breast pocket, where i keep my reading glasses. at such times he was as forgetful of her as he was of his suspenders and his methodism, but all the same it was then that she loved him best, as a soul all unaccompanied, like her own."

housekeeping, pg 17


"this perfect quiet settled into their house after the death of their father. that event had troubled the very medium of their lives. time and air and sunlight bore wave and wave of shock, until all the shock was spent, and time and space and light grew still again and nothing seemed to tremble, and nothing seemed to lean. the disaster had fallen out of sight, like the train itself, and if the calm that followed it was not greater than the calm that came before it, it had seemed so. and the dear ordinary had healed as seamlessly as an image on water."

housekeeping, pg 15


"when she had been married a little while, she concluded that love was half a longing of a kind that possession did nothing to mitigate... but because the seahorses themselves were so arch, so antic and heraldic, and armored in the husks of insects. it was the seahorses themselves that she wanted to see as soon as she took her eyes away, and that she wanted to see even when she was looking at them. the wanting never subsided until something - a quarrel, a visit - took her attention away. in the same way her daughters would touch her and watch her and follow her, for a while."

marilynne robinson, housekeeping, pg 12, 13


"it seems that my grandmother did not consider leaving. she had lived her whole life in Fingerbone. and though she never spoke of it, and no doubt seldom thought of it, she was a religious woman. that is to say that she conceived of life as a road down which one traveled, and easy enough road through a broad country, and that one's destination was there from the very beginning, a measured distance away, standing in the ordinary light like some plain house where she went in and was greeted by respectable people and was shown to a room where everything one had ever lost or put aside was gathered together, waiting."

marilynne robinson, housekeeping, pg. 10