Monday, July 26, 2010


"Terns" (ps: I don't know what a Tern is. But I have my own version)

Don't think just now of trudging forward of thought,
but of the wing-drive of unquestioning affirmation.

It's summer, you never saw such a blue sky,
and here they are, those birds with quick wings,

sweeping over the waves,
chattering and plunging,

their thin beaks snapping, their hard eyes
happy as little nails.

The years to come - this is a promise -
will grant you ample time

to try the difficult steps in the empire of thought
where you seek for the shining proofs you think you must have.

But nothing you ever understand will be sweeter, or more binding,
than this deepest affinity between your eyes and the world.

The flock thickens
over the roiling, salt brightness. Listen,

maybe such devotion, in which one holds the world
in the clasp of attention, isn't the perfect prayer,

but it must be close, for the sorrow, whose name is doubt,
is thus subdued, and not through the weaponry of reason,

but of pure submission. Tell me, what else
could beauty be for? And now the tide

is at its very crown,
the white birds sprinkle down,

gathering up the loose silver, rising
as if weightless. It isn't instruction, or a parable.

It isn't for any vanity or ambition
except for the one allowed, to stay alive.

It's only a nimble frolic
over the waves. And you find, for hours,

you cannot even remember the questions
that weigh so in your mind.

~Mary Oliver

Monday, July 19, 2010

celebrating Annie & Josh

Having a Coke with You

by Frank O'Hara

is even more fun than going to San Sebastian, IrĂșn, Hendaye, Biarritz, Bayonne
or being sick to my stomach on the Travesera de Gracia in Barcelona
partly because in your orange shirt you look like a better happier St. Sebastian
partly because of my love for you, partly because of your love for yoghurt
partly because of the fluorescent orange tulips around the birches
partly because of the secrecy our smiles take on before people and statuary
it is hard to believe when I’m with you that there can be anything as still
as solemn as unpleasantly definitive as statuary when right in front of it
in the warm New York 4 o’clock light we are drifting back and forth
between each other like a tree breathing through its spectacles

and the portrait show seems to have no faces in it at all, just paint
you suddenly wonder why in the world anyone ever did them
I look
at you and I would rather look at you than all the portraits in the world
except possibly for the Polish Rider occasionally and anyway it’s in the Frick
which thank heavens you haven’t gone to yet so we can go together the first time
and the fact that you move so beautifully more or less takes care of Futurism
just as at home I never think of the Nude Descending a Staircase or
at a rehearsal a single drawing of Leonardo or Michelangelo that used to wow me
and what good does all the research of the Impressionists do them
when they never got the right person to stand near the tree when the sun sank
or for that matter Marino Marini when he didn’t pick the rider as carefully
as the horse
it seems they were all cheated of some marvellous experience
which is not going to go wasted on me which is why I’m telling you about it

Monday, July 5, 2010

Loved this on Papercuts

Ha! The below excerpt (and commentary) is hilarious and so true. Can't wait to get my hands on this Shteyngart novel come July 27. Read on for some good thoughtful laughter:

"It's the Fourth of July: Do You Know Where Your Summer Went?

Sunday, July 4, 2010

"Downtown" by Frederick Seidel

July 4th fireworks exhale over the Hudson sadly.
It is beautiful that they have to disappear.
It's like the time you said I love you madly.
That was an hour ago. It's been a fervent year.
I don't really love fireworks, not really, the flavorful floating shroud
In the nighttime sky above the river and the crowd.
This time, because of the distance upriver perhaps, they're not loud,
Even the colors aren't, the patterns getting pregnant and popping.
They get bigger and louder when they start stopping.
They try to rally
At the finale.
It's the four-hundredth anniversary of Henry Hudson's discovery -
Which is why the fireworks happen on this side of the island this year.
Shad are back, and we celebrate the Hudson's Clean Water Act recovery.
What a joy to eat the unborn. We're monsters, I fear. What monsters we're.
We'll binge on shad roe next spring in the delicious few minutes it's here.

from The New Yorker, July 5, 2010

Friday, July 2, 2010

still got it

Patting myself on the back this morning because it's been one of those weeks where I have been way too hard on myself. The kind of week where I just couldn't seem to find my footing. The good news is that I found it yesterday, and not surprisingly, by reading Hemingway. I picked up The Sun Also Rises out of obligation; I'm teaching AP English for the first time next year and it's on my re-reading list this summer. A novel I once had a strong attachment to and then lost in favor of A Farewell to Arms. Quite honestly, I was not looking forward to reading about despair and aimlessness and loss (my short-sighted way of shrinking down a work that is so much more). Yet without even realizing what was happening, I fell completely into the process of reading and analyzing that novel. At some point I was grappling for a pen; at some point lunch was made and dinner attended to; but the business of loving and listening to good writing consumed me entirely. It is what I love to do - my touchstone - and I'm grateful that I get to do it for a living.

The character I'm most fascinated with on this reading is Robert Cohn. He first struck me as a Malvolio figure: he can't laugh at himself, and thus finds himself continually on the outside. Cohn's obsession with Brett Ashley is on one level farcical, and yet on the other hand...doesn't it suggest a desire for order and for sense? He can't conceive that the affair meant nothing to Brett, can't seem to exist/function in a world where actions are so meaningless. He tries to restore order through violence by beating up Jake and Mike (and Romero, who is innocent), but the rules of the boxing ring can't cure their sordid crowd. Thus, he's on the train out by the end, a la Malvolio. The irony is that there is some crazy standard of "behaving" in their world; Jake and Brett talk about it constantly:

"Was I rude enough to him?" Brett asked. Cohn was gone.
"My God! I'm so sick of him!"
"He doesn't add much gayety."
"He depresses me so."
"He's behaved very badly."
"Damned badly. He had a chance to behave so well."
"He's probably waiting just outside the door now."
"Yes. He would. You know I do know how he feels. He can't believe it didn't mean anything."
"I know."
"Nobody else would behave as badly. Oh, I'm so sick of the whole thing. And Michael. Michael's been lovely, too."
"It's been damned hard on Mike."
"Yes. But he needn't be a swine."
"Everybody behaves badly," I said. "Give them the proper chance."