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

19 November 2007 

"a little too much anger, too often or at the wrong time, can destroy more than you could ever imagine. above all, mind what you say. "behold how much wood is kindled by how small a fire, and the tongue is a fire.""

marilynne robinson, gilead


from a story written by a friend of a friend:

"...The latest pages were harder to translate than the first batch. Gadbois’s notes and explanations concerning gravity were mostly incomprehensible to my profane mind. Though I did not especially like the sound of my own voice, I read passages aloud. I recited, as dispassionately as I could, “Let x be the path in space-time between q and t, q incarnating the three coördinates in space and t incarnating time.” One by one, I pummelled through paragraphs on tachyons and neutrinos. I looked up “gravitation,” in a moment of boredom, and found:

The phenomenon of attraction between two bodies, proportional to the product of their masses and inversely proportional to the square of the distance between them.

In the same entry was a well-known quotation by Einstein: “Gravitation cannot be held responsible for people falling in love.” I threw my head back and laughed, and my gaze fell on a series of still-lifes pinned to the wall which Fumiko had done a few months ago, for one of her ungraded assignments at the École des Beaux-Arts—studies of spider and beetle carcasses, long dead and dusty, dried-out husks found on windowsills, inside fluorescent-light fixtures, and in hard-to-reach corners. The deceased insects, according to Fumiko, had been forgotten by the rest of the universe. Slamming the dictionary shut, I went back to work..."

"...Something about what Gadbois had said tugged at me. “S.R. doesn’t take into account the effects of gravitation.” Getting up, I turned the lights back on and skimmed the pages I had already translated. On a whim, I took down from the bookshelf my abridged edition of Frazer’s “Golden Bough,” flipping through the chapters until I found a passage that I had read long ago. It said that magic, in its most primordial form, might be defined as the effect of two independent objects acting upon one another over a distance, such as voodoo, psychokinesis, or telepathy. It was a coincidence, a fortuitous convergence of notions, but as I compared Frazer’s definition of magic with the dictionary’s definition of gravity, I felt I had discovered Gadbois’s secret. In refuting Einstein’s theory of special relativity, Raoul de Gadbois wanted to prove the existence of magic..."

16 November 2007 

"a narrow pond would form in the orchard, water clear as air covering grass and black leaves and fallen branches, all around it black leaves and drenched grass and fallen branches, and on it, slight as an image in an eye, sky, clouds, trees, our hovering faces and our cold hands."

marilynne robinson, housekeeping

02 November 2007 

"He had a word, too. Love, he called it. But I had been used to words for a long time. I knew that that word was like the others: just a shape to fill a lack; that when the right time came, you wouldn't need a word for that anymore than for pride or fear. Cash did not need to say it to me nor I to him, and I would say, Let Anse use it, if he wants to. So that it was Anse or love; love or Anse: it didn't matter."


I’m a failed poet. Maybe every novelist wants to write poetry first, finds he can’t and then tries the short story which is the most demanding form after poetry. And failing at that, only then does he take up novel writing.