“I should have passed a calm and peaceful life…”

Terry Eiler, Walkers in Dust Storm (ca. 1972)

In my native country, in the bosom of my religion, family, and friends, I should have passed a calm and peaceful life in the uniformity of a pleasing occupation, and among connections dear to my heart…

Instead of this — what a picture am I about to draw! — Alas! why should I anticipate the miseries I have endured? The reader will have but too much of the melancholy subject.

—Rousseau, Confessions (Tr. by W. Conyngham Mallory)

February

Ron Hoffman, Helping Hands Will Get This Skier’s Car off the Ice (1974)

Don’t think Brown ever gave up hope
Of getting home again because
He couldn’t climb that slippery slope;

Or even thought of standing there
Until the January thaw
Should take the polish off the crust.
He bowed with grace to natural law,

And then went round it on his feet,
After the manner of our stock;
Not much concerned for those to whom,
At that particular time o’clock,

It must have looked as if the course
He steered was really straight away
From that which he was headed for—
Not much concerned for them, I say:

No more so than became a man—
And politician at odd seasons.
I’ve kept Brown standing in the cold
While I invested him with reasons;

But now he snapped his eyes three times;
Then shook his lantern, saying, “Ile’s
’Bout out!” and took the long way home
By road, a matter of several miles.

–Robert Frost, Brown’s Descent, or the Willy-nilly Slide (excerpt)

Look on the map, I think we’ve been there before
Close up the doors, let’s roll once more…

“A man so afflicted, Sir, must divert distressing thoughts, and not combat with them.”

Talking of constitutional melancholy, he observed, “A man so afflicted, Sir, must divert distressing thoughts, and not combat with them.” BOSWELL: “May not he think them down, Sir?” JOHNSON: “No, Sir. To attempt to THINK THEM DOWN is madness. He should have a lamp constantly burning in his bed-chamber during the night, and if wakefully disturbed, take a book, and read, and compose himself to rest…”

Boswell’s Life Of Johnson
 

James McNeill Whistler, Reading in Bed (The Slipper) (1858)

Love and a Question

cf. “Miscellaneous Color Shots”

A Stranger came to the door at eve,
And he spoke the bridegroom fair.
He bore a green-white stick in his hand,
And, for all burden, care.
He asked with the eyes more than the lips
For a shelter for the night,
And he turned and looked at the road afar
Without a window light.

The bridegroom came forth into the porch
With, ‘Let us look at the sky,
And question what of the night to be,
Stranger, you and I.’
The woodbine leaves littered the yard,
The woodbine berries were blue,
Autumn, yes, winter was in the wind;
‘Stranger, I wish I knew.’

Within, the bride in the dusk alone
Bent over the open fire,
Her face rose-red with the glowing coal
And the thought of the heart’s desire.
The bridegroom looked at the weary road,
Yet saw but her within,
And wished her heart in a case of gold
And pinned with a silver pin.

The bridegroom thought it little to give
A dole of bread, a purse,
A heartfelt prayer for the poor of God,
Or for the rich a curse;
But whether or not a man was asked
To mar the love of two
By harboring woe in the bridal house,
The bridegroom wished he knew.

–Robert Frost, Love and a Question

How could love be so wrong?
I don’t know why…

“…awaiting the birth of a grandson capable of understanding him.”

Cervantes—a patient gentleman who wrote a book—has been sitting in the Elysian fields for three centuries and gazing sadly around, awaiting the birth of a grandson capable of understanding him.

—José Ortega y Gasset, Meditations on Quixote

Who could it be?
Believe it or not it’s just me…

 

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Library and Information Services Metropolitan State University, Star Wars Party (2015)

“Gehen vir voinen du? In New York?”

Before her the grimy cupolas and towering square walls of the city loomed up. Above the jagged roof tops, the white smoke, whitened and suffused by the slanting sun, faded into the slots and wedges of the sky. She pressed her brow against her child’s, hushed him with whispers. This was that vast incredible land, the land of freedom, of immense opportunity, that Golden Land.
Again she tried to smile.
“Albert,” she said timidly, “Albert.”
“Hm?”
“Gehen vir voinen du? In New York?”

—Henry Roth, Call It Sleep
 


Alfred Stieglitz, The Steerage (1907)

“Upon the heart sorrow falls, memory’s pain, and to us, though against our very will, even in our own despite, comes wisdom”

Alan Fisher, Lou Ambers tips his hat as he accepts a sandwich from a hand reaching out of a doorway (1935)

Drop, drop—in our sleep, upon the heart
sorrow falls, memory’s pain,
and to us, though against our very will,
even in our own despite,
comes wisdom…

–Aeschylus, Agamemnon (Edith Hamilton, trans., “Three Greek Plays”)

“He noticed nothing in it to remark. He was not used to handling stars thrown dark”

cf. Photograph by Dewang Gupta via Unsplash

Never tell me that not one star of all
That slip from heaven at night and softly fall
Has been picked up with stones to build a wall.

Some laborer found one faded and stone-cold,
And saving that its weight suggested gold
And tugged it from his first too certain hold,

He noticed nothing in it to remark.
He was not used to handling stars thrown dark
And lifeless from an interrupted arc.

He did not recognize in that smooth coal
The one thing palpable besides the soul
To penetrate the air in which we roll…

—Robert Frost, A Star In A Stoneboat (excerpt)

Only shooting stars break the mold…

“Don’t forget to return my pencil.”

cf. photograph by Paul Green via Unsplash

“Adieu, my Carnival Prince! I can predict that you’ll see a nasty rise in your fever chart this evening.”

Then she glided out of her chair, glided across the carpet to the door, where she stopped and turned halfway back to him, one bare arm raised, a hand on the hinge. Over her shoulder she said softly, “Don’t forget to return my pencil.”

And she left.

—Thomas Mann, The Magic Mountain

Your memory seems like a living thing — I never know if I’m imagining

cf. Thomas Eakins, The Thinker: Portrait of Louis N. Kenton (1900) and The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (1964)

Your memory seems like a living thing
I never know if I’m imagining
I look at your face and I know that it’s impossible
Forgetting it’s just a dream
Now I’m hearing your voice saying anything is possible
Forgetting it’s just a dream…

“Johnny, give up women and study mathematics.”

Esther Bubley, A geometry teacher…using a model to explain a figure (1943)

…she at last blushed, adjusted her dress, got up, and, without saying a word, went and seated herself at the window. I went to sit by her side, but she moved, sat down on a couch, got up immediately afterwards, and fanning herself as she walked about the chamber, said to me in a cold and disdainful tone of voice, “Zanetto, lascia le donne, e studia la matematica.” (“Johnny, give up women and study mathematics.”)

—Rousseau, Confessions

“A strange and horrible darkness fell upon me.”

Giovanni Benedetto Castiglione (called il Grechetto), Melancholia (ca. 1640)

“While I traversed the apartment in the most horrible dismay of soul, expecting every moment that the earth would open and swallow me up, my conscience scaring me…and the city of refuge out of reach and out of sight, a strange and horrible darkness fell upon me. If it were possible that a heavy blow could light upon the brain without touching the skull, such was the sensation I felt. I clapped my hand to my forehead, and cried aloud through the pain it gave me. At every stroke my thoughts and expressions became more wild and indistinct…These thoughts kept undisturbed possession of my mind all the way through my illness, without interruption or abatement.”

—William Cowper, “Memoir of the Early Life of William Cowper, Esq.” (1835)

“And miles to go before I sleep.”

But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

—Robert Frost, “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening”

I will choose a path that’s clear…

 

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State Library of New South Wales, “A large erratic resting on gneiss Cape Denison area” (ca. 1911)

Who goes with Fergus?

8 1/2 (1963)

Who will go drive with Fergus now,
And pierce the deep wood’s woven shade,
And dance upon the level shore?
Young man, lift up your russet brow,
And lift your tender eyelids, maid,
And brood on hopes and fear no more.

And no more turn aside and brood
Upon love’s bitter mystery;
For Fergus rules the brazen cars,
And rules the shadows of the wood,
And the white breast of the dim sea
And all dishevelled wandering stars.

—W. B. Yeats, Who goes with Fergus?

His head halted again for a moment at the top of the staircase, level with the roof:

Don’t mope over it all day, he said. I’m inconsequent. Give up the moody brooding.

His head vanished but the drone of his descending voice boomed out of the stairhead:

And no more turn aside and brood
Upon love’s bitter mystery
For Fergus rules the brazen cars.

—James Joyce, Ulysses

“Business!” cried the Ghost, wringing its hands again. “Mankind was my business.”

Ferdinand Hodler, The Good Samaritan (1885)

“But you were always a good man of business, Jacob,” faltered Scrooge, who now began to apply this to himself.

“Business!” cried the Ghost, wringing its hands again. “Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence, were, all, my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!”

—Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

“Sensorium”

Peter Ilsted, Mother and Child in an Interior (1898)

“Sensorium”

1965: a song – “Come fly with me, said the little red sled”

1966: a hand in my hand on a frozen pond

1967: a poem – “Then there’s a pair of us–don’t tell!”

1968: a rush of perfume and cold air to say goodnight

1969: a light in the darkness

“Nessun maggior dolore
Che ricordarsi del tempo felice
Nella miseria…”

—J.S., “Sensorium”

“What they’re looking for is a definition of why their lives have been flattened or floored…”

Photograph by Kimberly Richards via Unsplash

Harry Kreisler: What led you to philosophy?

Stanley Cavell: Well, I could give you a cocktail answer to that, or I could say, “I’m still asking myself the question.”

Harry Kreisler: Right.

Stanley Cavell: One serious way to answer the question is to say that leaving music was the first enormous basic radical crisis in my life. I was bewildered by who I might be if I wasn’t a musician. And philosophy is, after all, a subject you might come to in a state of crisis. That’s one thing that happened to me, in finding philosophy…

Harry Kreisler: This is a silly question, but I’ll ask it anyway. What does a philosopher do?

Stanley Cavell: Of course, the serious answer to that is, they ask themselves that. Almost everybody has his or her own answer to that. All the great philosophers have their answer to it; it winds up in their text, that what they’re looking for is a definition of why their lives have been flattened or floored…

Conversations with History: Stanley Cavell – YouTube Conversation with Stanley Cavell, p. 3 of 6

“Driftwood”

At Cape Cod, August, 1969

I am scattered in a thousand places

here and there —

now and then

the wind and waves wash me ashore

ceaselessly

leaving something behind

a remindering

a finding of lost time

I never left

–J.S., “Driftwood”

“Santa Agonistes” (A True Story)

Historic American Buildings Survey, Side and front entrance, facing west – Sears Department Store…

My family arrived early.

The Christmas decorations were already up and large strands of gold were wreathed between the lamp poles in the parking lot.

The crisp December air was muted by the extravagant winter coat I was wearing.

My father put me on his shoulders.

The helicopter came into view – hovering and then slowly descending.

Through the cockpit glass I could see that something was wrong.

Murmurs ran through the crowd.

When the cabin door finally opened Santa looked very pale.

In an instant my parents and I were running wildly for our car.

As we pulled away I saw the helicopter receding into the night.

–J.S., “Santa Agonistes” (A True Story)

To the couple that were kissing at the Greyhound Bus Station, July, 1981

Charles O’Rear, “Train passengers bound for St. Louis, Missouri, board a chartered bus…” (1974)

To the couple that were kissing at the Greyhound Bus Station, July, 1981

You probably don’t remember me.

I was standing next to you waiting.

I was the guy with the guitar and the paperback copy of “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance”.

You’re in your late fifties or early sixties now.

You’ve been married for 35 years.

It doesn’t seem possible

Because the sun is still reflecting off the luggage compartment door

And the driver is still getting impatient

And her blonde hair is still glistening in the late afternoon haze

And I knew I was going to be late.

–J.S.

“Only when he touches earth does he, like Antaeus, recover his true strength.”

Bain News Service, “listening to records” (detail)

“Only when he touches earth does he, like Antaeus, recover his true strength.”

—Letter from Ivan Turgenev to Pavel Annenkov (referring to Tolstoy) quoted in Isaiah Berlin, “The Hedgehog and the Fox”

“I am with you, you men and women of a generation, or ever so many generations hence…”

Left: Helen D. Van Eaton, “My First Glimpse…From A Pennsylvania Ferry-Boat” (ca. 1910)
Right: Arthur Tress, “View of Upper New York Bay from the Staten Island Ferry” (1973)

Others will enter the gates of the ferry and cross from shore to shore,
Others will watch the run of the flood-tide,
Others will see the shipping of Manhattan north and west, and
the heights of Brooklyn to the south and east,
Others will see the islands large and small;
Fifty years hence, others will see them as they cross, the sun half
an hour high,
A hundred years hence, or ever so many hundred years hence,
others will see them,
Will enjoy the sunset, the pouring-in of the flood-tide, the falling-
back to the sea of the ebb-tide.

It avails not, time nor place—distance avails not,
I am with you, you men and women of a generation, or ever so
many generations hence…

—Walt Whitman, Crossing Brooklyn Ferry

I’ll be waiting
Time after time…

Keep your feet on the ground and keep reaching for the stars

Tom Hubbard, At the Tyler Davidson Fountain, in Fountain Square Downtown Cincinnati’s Popular Public Plaza, a Young Man Listens to the Radio with One Ear, Play of the Water with the Other (August, 1973)
 

American Top 40 Theme Music

“The temporal fire and the eternal thou hast seen, my son, and art come to a part where of myself I discern no further…”

When all the stair was sped beneath us and we were on the topmost step Virgil fixed his eyes on me and said: “The temporal fire and the eternal thou hast seen, my son, and art come to a part where of myself I discern no further. I have brought thee here with understanding and with skill…No longer expect word or sign from me. Free, upright and whole is thy will and it were a fault not to act on its bidding…”

—Dante Alighieri, The Divine Comedy: Purgatorio

“This poet may not be very important, you should say defiantly, but his work is good for me.”

Tom Hubbard, Girl with Book and Bench-Sitters in Fountain Square (1973)

“This poet may not be very important, you should say defiantly, but his work is good for me.”

—T. S. Eliot, “What Is Minor Poetry?”

“They resolved to persevere in dissipation for the rest of the day…”

cf. LIFE (1967)

One night when Beauclerk and Langton had supped at a tavern in London, and sat till about three in the morning, it came into their heads to go and knock up Johnson, and see if they could prevail on him to join them in a ramble. They rapped violently at the door of his chambers in the Temple, till at last he appeared in his shirt, with his little black wig on the top of his head, instead of a nightcap, and a poker in his hand, imagining, probably, that some ruffians were coming to attack him. When he discovered who they were, and was told their errand, he smiled, and with great good humour agreed to their proposal: ‘What, is it you, you dogs! I’ll have a frisk with you.’ He was soon drest, and they sallied forth together into Covent-Garden…They then repaired to one of the neighbouring taverns, and made a bowl of that liquor called Bishop, which Johnson had always liked; while in joyous contempt of sleep, from which he had been roused, he repeated the festive lines,
‘Short, O short then be thy reign,
And give us to the world again!’
They did not stay long, but walked down to the Thames, took a boat, and rowed to Billingsgate. Beauclerk and Johnson were so well pleased with their amusement, that they resolved to persevere in dissipation for the rest of the day…

Boswell’s Life Of Johnson

“Feels at each thread, and lives along the line…”

The spider’s touch, how exquisitely fine!
Feels at each thread, and lives along the line…

—Alexander Pope, Epistle I—Of the Nature and State of Man, with Respect to the Universe
 

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Nicolas Vigier, pinball (detail) (2009)

Just when you think you got a good thing it seems to slip away

cf. Georges Seurat: A Sunday on La Grande Jatte — 1884 (detail) (1884/86),
Study for “A Sunday on La Grande Jatte” (1884)
and Gustave Caillebotte: Paris Street; Rainy Day, 1877 (detail) (1877)

“Why should he seem to see Andromeda, Cepheus, and Cassiopeia?”

cf. photographs by Jay Mantri and Paul Itkin via Unsplash

He dove in and swam the pool, but when he tried to haul himself up onto the curb he found that the strength in his arms and shoulders had gone, and he paddled to the ladder and climbed out. Looking over his shoulder he saw, in the lighted bathhouse, a young man. Going out onto the dark lawn he smelled chrysanthemums or marigolds—some stubborn autumnal fragrance—on the night air, strong as gas. Looking overhead he saw that the stars had come out, but why should he seem to see Andromeda, Cepheus, and Cassiopeia? What had become of the constellations of midsummer? He began to cry.

— John Cheever, The Swimmer

The world that we used to know
People tell me it don’t turn no more
The places we used to go
Familiar faces that ain’t smiling like before
The time of our time has come and gone
I fear we’ve been waiting too long…

“Consider them both, the sea and the land; and do you not find a strange analogy to something in yourself?”

cf. Photographs by Clem Onojeghuo (ocean) and Lukas Budimaier (man) via Unsplash

“Consider them both, the sea and the land; and do you not find a strange analogy to something in yourself? For as this appalling ocean surrounds the verdant land, so in the soul of man there lies one insular Tahiti, full of peace and joy, but encompassed by all the horrors of the half-known life. God keep thee! Push not off from that isle, thou canst never return!”

—Herman Melville, Moby Dick

“You do something not because you want to — you do something because you have to.”

“You do something not because you want to — you do something because you have to. And I don’t mean you have to because you’re being told but there’s a compulsion within you, there’s an obsession…”

—Paul Stanley, Paul Stanley on Rock and Roll – YouTube

 

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Alfred Stieglitz, From the Back Window – 291 (1915)

College

“Dr. Adams told me that Johnson, while he was at Pembroke College, ‘was caressed and loved by all about him, was a gay and frolicksome fellow, and passed there the happiest part of his life.’ But this is a striking proof of the fallacy of appearances, and how little any of us know of the real internal state even of those whom we see most frequently…”

—Boswell’s Life Of Johnson
 

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T. M. Weaver, “Far From The Madding Crowd” (ca. 1911)

“The nineteenth autumn has come upon me…”

The trees are in their autumn beauty,
The woodland paths are dry,
Under the October twilight the water
Mirrors a still sky;
Upon the brimming water among the stones
Are nine and fifty swans.

The nineteenth autumn has come upon me
Since I first made my count;
I saw, before I had well finished,
All suddenly mount
And scatter wheeling in great broken rings
Upon their clamorous wings.

I have looked upon those brilliant creatures,
And now my heart is sore.
All’s changed since I, hearing at twilight,
The first time on this shore,
The bell-beat of their wings above my head,
Trod with a lighter tread.

Unwearied still, lover by lover,
They paddle in the cold,
Companionable streams or climb the air;
Their hearts have not grown old;
Passion or conquest, wander where they will,
Attend upon them still.

But now they drift on the still water
Mysterious, beautiful;
Among what rushes will they build,
By what lake’s edge or pool
Delight men’s eyes, when I awake some day
To find they have flown away?

–W.B. Yeats, The Wild Swans at Coole

Well, the summer’s gone
And I hope she’s feeling the same…

 

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Ladies’ Home Journal (1964)

As Kingfishers Catch Fire

A. L. Hitchin, “The Little Artist” (ca. 1919) and G. W. Harting, “Sketching” (ca. 1917)

As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies draw flame;
As tumbled over rim in roundy wells
Stones ring; like each tucked string tells, each hung bell’s
Bow swung finds tongue to fling out broad its name;
Each mortal thing does one thing and the same:
Deals out that being indoors each one dwells;
Selves — goes itself; myself it speaks and spells,
Crying What I do is me: for that I came.

–Gerard Manley Hopkins, As Kingfishers Catch Fire (excerpt)

“The day when I looked through the window…”

“My dearest fellow, This will not reach you till some time after our
wedding day, which as usual has taken me aback; but I mean to send you
a despatch on the day itself, and this is for dessert. Not that I think so
much of that day; if I had some other dates, I would think more of them:
that of the day when I looked through the window…”

—Letter from Robert Louis Stevenson to his Wife, Fanny, May 15, 1888

I never knew love before
Then came you…

 

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Konstantin Korovin, At The Window (1919)

The World Is Too Much With Us

Charles O’Rear, Las Vegas street scene (1972)

The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers:
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
The Sea that bares her bosom to the moon;
The winds that will be howling at all hours,
And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers;
For this, for everything, we are out of tune;
It moves us not.–Great God! I’d rather be
A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn;
So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;
Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;
Or hear old Triton blow his wreathed horn.

–William Wordsworth

One time a thing occurred to me…

“If I can stop one heart from breaking, I shall not live in vain”

Maximilien Luce, “The Good Samaritan” (1896)

If I can stop one heart from breaking,
I shall not live in vain;
If I can ease one life the aching,
Or cool one pain,
Or help one fainting robin
Unto his nest again,
I shall not live in vain.

–Emily Dickinson

“Just as you feel when you look on the river and sky, so I felt…”

cf. from William Findlay, “Early Morning Photography” (ca. 1909)

I am with you, you men and women of a generation, or ever so
many generations hence,
Just as you feel when you look on the river and sky, so I felt,
Just as any of you is one of a living crowd, I was one of a crowd,
Just as you are refresh’d by the gladness of the river and the
bright flow, I was refresh’d,
Just as you stand and lean on the rail, yet hurry with the swift
current, I stood yet was hurried,
Just as you look on the numberless masts of ships and the thick-
stemm’d pipes of steamboats, I look’d…

—Walt Whitman, Crossing Brooklyn Ferry

“Midnight shakes the memory as a madman shakes a dead geranium.”

Twelve o’clock.
Along the reaches of the street
Held in a lunar synthesis,
Whispering lunar incantations
Dissolve the floors of memory
And all its clear relations,
Its divisions and precisions,
Every street lamp that I pass
Beats like a fatalistic drum,
And through the spaces of the dark
Midnight shakes the memory
As a madman shakes a dead geranium.

—T.S. Eliot, Rhapsody on a Windy Night (excerpt)

If this is what’s real
If this is what’s true
Tell me how come
I keep forgetting we’re not in love anymore…

night-photography-edit-1200

cf. from W. H. Broadwell, “Night Photography” (ca. 1909)

“That mingles Grecian grandeur with the rude wasting of old time…” (At The Louvre, August, 1984)

At The Louvre, August, 1984

Such dim-conceivèd glories of the brain
Bring round the heart an undescribable feud;
So do these wonders a most dizzy pain,
That mingles Grecian grandeur with the rude
Wasting of old Time—with a billowy main—
A sun—a shadow of a magnitude.

–John Keats, On Seeing the Elgin Marbles (excerpt)

“Ah think not you finally triumph, my real self has yet to come forth”

AH poverties, wincings, and sulky retreats,
Ah you foes that in conflict have overcome me,
(For what is my life or any man’s life but a conflict with foes, the
old, the incessant war?)
You degradations, you tussle with passions and appetites,
You smarts from dissatisfied friendships, (ah wounds the sharpest
of all!)
You toil of painful and choked articulations, you meannesses,
You shallow tongue-talks at tables, (my tongue the shallowest of
any;)
You broken resolutions, you racking angers, you smother’d ennuis!
Ah think not you finally triumph, my real self has yet to come
forth,
It shall yet march forth o’ermastering, till all lies beneath me,
It shall yet stand up the soldier of ultimate victory.

—Walt Whitman, “Ah Poverties, Wincings, And Sulky Retreats”

There it is – way down inside me…

 

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Arthur W. Walburn, “Despondency” (ca. 1911)

“Then if he thrive and I be cast away, the worst was this,—my love was my decay.”

cf. Everett Shinn, All Night Cafe (ca. 1900)

O, how I faint when I of you do write
Knowing a better spirit doth use your name,
And in the praise thereof spends all his might,
To make me tongue-tied, speaking of your fame!
But since your worth—wide as the ocean is,—
The humble as the proudest sail doth bear,
My saucy bark, inferior far to his,
On your broad main doth wilfully appear.
Your shallowest help will hold me up afloat,
Whilst he upon your soundless deep doth ride;
Or, being wrack’d, I am a worthless boat,
He of tall building and of goodly pride:
Then if he thrive and I be cast away,
The worst was this,—my love was my decay.

Sonnet LXXX
 

“I only know that summer sang in me a little while, that in me sings no more.”

William Merritt Chase, The Song (Oil On Canvas) (1907)

What lips my lips have kissed, and where, and why,
I have forgotten, and what arms have lain
Under my head till morning; but the rain
Is full of ghosts tonight, that tap and sigh
Upon the glass and listen for reply,
And in my heart there sits a quiet pain
For unremembered lads that not again
Will turn to me at midnight with a cry.

Thus in the winter stands the lonely tree,
Nor knows what birds have vanished one by one,
Yet knows its boughs more silent than before:
I cannot say what loves have come and gone,
I only know that summer sang in me
A little while, that in me sings no more.

–Edna St. Vincent Millay, “What lips my lips have kissed, and where, and why”

“As the birds did not take flight, he went to them…”

Börje Gallén, Woman and children feeding pigeons in Copenhagen in 1946 (1946)

“One time as [Saint Francis] was passing through the Spoleto valley, he came upon a place near Bevagna, in which a great multitude of birds of various kinds had assembled. When the holy one of God saw them, because of the outstanding love of the Creator with which he loved all creatures, he ran swiftly to the place. He greeted them in his usual way, as if they shared in reason. As the birds did not take flight, he went to them, going to and fro among them, touching their heads and bodies with his tunic…”

—Thomas of Celano, The Treatise on the Miracle of Saint Francis (The Francis Trilogy of Thomas of Celano, New City Press, 2004)

“His life was gentle, and the elements so mix’d in him…”

Börje Gallén, Fisherman and boy in Smygehuk (detail) (1954)

His life was gentle, and the elements
So mix’d in him that Nature might stand up
And say to all the world “This was a man!”

—Shakespeare, Julius Caesar

Waiting (Sun And Moon)

cf. Anders Zorn, Summer Vacation (sketch for Summer Fun) (Watercolor) (1886)

…It’s the house where the woman
stands in the doorway
wearing the sun in her hair. The one
who’s been waiting
all this time.
The woman who loves you.
The one who can say,
“What’s kept you?”

–Raymond Carver, “Waiting” (excerpt) from All of Us: The Collected Poems (Alfred A. Knopf)

You are sunlight and I moon
Joined by the Gods of fortune
Midnight and high noon
Sharing the sky
We have been blessed, you and I…

The Changed Man

Drop by on Sunday—I’ll Turtlewax
your sky-blue sports car, no sweat. I’ll greet
enemies with a handshake, forgive debtors

with a papal largesse. It’s all because
of you. Because of you and me,
I’ve become one changed man.

–Robert Phillips, “The Changed Man” (excerpt) from Spinach Days (The Johns Hopkins University Press)

And then Bill got himself a wife,
Now he leads a different life…

Under The Volcano

cf. Photograph by Luke Porter via Unsplash

“Sometimes, when I see the little red mail plane fly in from Acapulco at seven in the morning over the strange hills…I think that you will be on it, on that plane every morning as it goes by, and will have come to save me. Then the morning goes by and you have not come…Yvonne come back to me, hear me, it is a cry, come back to me, Yvonne, if only for a day…”

—Malcolm Lowry, Under the Volcano

Sometimes I pretend you’ll come back again
And you’ll console the heart you stole…

“In the midway of this our mortal life, I found me in a gloomy wood…”

In the midway of this our mortal life,
I found me in a gloomy wood, astray
Gone from the path direct…

–Dante Alighieri, Inferno


David Falconer, The Gas Shortage in the Pacific Northwest… (detail) (1973)

“Mama, I’m here. I’m grown up.”

cf. E. C. Thompson, Interior showing a dining table set with silver and crystal (ca. 1870)
and photograph by Kace Rodriguez (detail) via Unsplash

Emily: Mama, I’m here. I’m grown up. I love you all. Everything. I can’t look at everything hard enough. Good morning, Mama…

—Thornton Wilder, Our Town

Mark Stern Wakes Up

cf. Sebastian Ortiz Vasquez, Walking Wall St. NY – YouTube

Shining cratefuls of plum, peach, apricot
Are flung out of the fruit man’s tiny store.
Behind the supermarket glass next door:
Landslides of grapefruit, orange, tangerine,
Persimmon, boysenberry, nectarine.
The florist tilts his giant crayon box
Of yellow roses, daffodils, and phlox.
A Disney sun breaks through, makes toys of trucks
And waddling movers look like Donald Ducks
And joke book captions out of storefront signs:
Café du Soir, Austrian Village, Wines.
Pedestrians in olive drabs and grays
Are startled by the sun’s kinetic rays,
Then mottled into pointillistic patches.
The light turns green, cars passing hurl out snatches
Of rock-and-roll and Mozart and the weather.
The light turns red. Why aren’t we together?

–Frederick Feirstein, “Mark Stern Wakes Up” from New and Selected Poems (Story Line Press)

On every crowded street
All the places we would meet
What will I do without you?
They say that life goes on
I’m feeling sorry for myself
I can’t belive you’re gone…

“But I can’t go on like this!” “Would you like a radish?”

Joseph A. Horne, Children with radishes grown in the Fairlawn Avenue Victory gardens (1943)

ESTRAGON: Ah! (Pause. Despairing.) What’ll we do, what’ll we do!

VLADIMIR: There’s nothing we can do.

ESTRAGON: But I can’t go on like this!

VLADIMIR: Would you like a radish?

ESTRAGON: Is that all there is?

VLADIMIR: There are radishes and turnips.

ESTRAGON: Are there no carrots?

VLADIMIR: No. Anyway you overdo it with your carrots.

ESTRAGON: Then give me a radish.

—Samuel Beckett, Waiting for Godot

Aspens

Imagine a young man, alone, without anyone.
The moment a few raindrops streaked his glass
he began to scribble.
He lived in a tenement with mice for company.
I loved his bravery.

Someone else a few doors down
played Segovia records all day.
He never left his room, and no one could blame him.
At night he could hear the other’s
typewriter going, and feel comforted.

Literature and music.
Everyone dreaming of Spanish horsemen
and courtyards.
Processions. Ceremony, and
resplendence.

Aspen trees.
Days of rain and high water.
Leaves hammered into the ground finally.
In my heart, this plot of earth
that the storm lights.

–Raymond Carver, “Aspens” from All of Us: Collected Poems (Alfred A. Knopf)
 

Northeastern University Course Catalog 1982-83 Detail Large
Northeastern University Course Catalog (1982-83)

“Listen, you can say anything you want now. Here is the instrument.”

Music—the world that might be,
and yet the world as it is. The heart
comes out of hiding, saying to us:
“Listen, you can say anything you want now.
Here is the instrument.”

–Robert Winner, The Instrument (excerpt) from The Sanity of Earth and Grass (Tilbury House)

 
Daughter of FSA (Farm Security Administration) rehabilitation borrower listening to phonograph Edit Large

John Vachon, Daughter of FSA rehabilitation borrower listening to phonograph (detail) (1940)

Magellan Street, 1974

cf. Photograph by Petr Novak via Unsplash and State Library and Archives of Florida, The Road to Beauty

This is the year you fall in
love with the Bengali poet,
and the Armenian bakery stays open
Saturday nights until eleven
across the street from your sunny
apartment with steep fo’c’sle stairs
up to an attic bedroom.
Three-decker tenement flank you.
Cyclone fences enclose
flamingos on diaper-size lawns.

This is the year, in a kitchen
you brighten with pots of basil
and untidy mint, I see how
your life will open, will burst from
the maze in its walled-in garden
and streak towards the horizon.
Your pastel maps lie open
on the counter as we stand here
not quite up to exchanging
our lists of sorrows, our day books,
our night thoughts, and burn the first batch
of chocolate walnut cookies.

Of course you move on,
my circumnavigator.
Tonight as I cruise past your corner,
a light goes on in the window.
Two shapes sit at the table.

–Maxine Kumin, “Magellan Street, 1974” from Nurture Poems (Penguin Books).

There are places I remember all my life
Though some have changed…

“Nothing, not even the fate of one small button, turns out as planned.”

Rupert Essinger, Snowed in road sign (2016)

That is,
nothing, not even the fate
of one small
button, turns out as planned.

–Sue Owen, “A Basket of Buttons” (excerpt) from The Book of Winter (Ohio State University Press, 1989)

I’ve been wrong
I had plans so big…

“We’d leave the others and find a night like this, whatever we had to give, and no matter how far, to be so happy again.”

Boyd Norton, Hills and forest of northern Cheyenne Indian reservation… (Billings, Montana) (1973)

We were alone one night on a long
road in Montana. This was in winter, a big
night, far to the stars. We had hitched,
my wife and I, and left our ride at
a crossing to go on. Tired and cold-but
brave-we trudged along. This, we said,
was our life, watched over, allowed to go
where we wanted. We said we’d come back some time
when we got rich. We’d leave the others and find
a night like this, whatever we had to give,
and no matter how far, to be so happy again.

–William Stafford, “Once in the Forties”

Won’t you meet me in Montana?
I want to see the mountains in your eyes
I’ve had all of this life I can handle
Meet me underneath that big Montana sky…

“…Till the gossamer thread you fling catch somewhere, O my soul.”

Thematic Apperception Test Image

A Noiseless patient spider,
I mark’d where on a little promontory it stood isolated,
Mark’d how to explore the vacant vast surrounding,
It launch’d forth filament, filament, filament, out of itself,
Ever unreeling them, ever tirelessly speeding them.

And you O my soul where you stand,
Surrounded, detached, in measureless oceans of space,
Ceaselessly musing, venturing, throwing, seeking the spheres to
connect them,
Till the bridge you will need be form’d, till the ductile anchor
hold,
Till the gossamer thread you fling catch somewhere, O my soul.

—Walt Whitman, A Noiseless Patient Spider

“…making the game do more of the work that keeps time fat and slow and lazy.”

cf. Home Movie: 98592 (1963)

Somehow, the summer seemed to slip by faster this time. Maybe it wasn’t this summer, but all the summers that, in this my fortieth summer, slipped by so fast. There comes a time when every summer will have something of autumn about it. Whatever the reason, it seemed to me that I was investing more and more in baseball, making the game do more of the work that keeps time fat and slow and lazy.

–A. Bartlett Giamatti, “The Green Fields of the Mind” (excerpt)

“The bowl with all our happiness in it. The bowl without the crack.”

“…the point for me is that he understands.”

“Yes,” Fanny Assingham cooed, “understands—?”

“Well, what I want. I want a happiness without a hole in it big enough for you to poke in your finger.”

“A brilliant, perfect surface—to begin with at least. I see.”

“The golden bowl—as it WAS to have been.”

And Maggie dwelt musingly on this obscured figure.

“The bowl with all our happiness in it. The bowl without the crack.”

—Henry James, The Golden Bowl

Stop and take a big breath
Begin with something hollow…

 

Polishing the Brass Large 2
Thomas Benjamin Kennington, Polishing the Brass (1912)

“Yet still I persevere, and find them where I may…”

Tom Hubbard, Strolling Among Pigeons at Fountain Square (1973)

He with a smile did then his words repeat;
And said that, gathering leeches, far and wide
He travelled; stirring thus about his feet
The waters of the pools where they abide.
“Once I could meet with them on every side;
But they have dwindled long by slow decay;
Yet still I persevere, and find them where I may…”

And soon with this he other matter blended,
Cheerfully uttered, with demeanour kind,
But stately in the main; and, when he ended,
I could have laughed myself to scorn to find
In that decrepit Man so firm a mind.
“God,” said I, “be my help and stay secure;
I’ll think of the Leech-gatherer on the lonely moor!”

—William Wordsworth, Resolution and Independence

Three days in the rain and I ain’t had no sleep
But I won’t break down now, I got a promise to keep
Showing my determination…

Early Success

cf. National Photo Company Collection, Man and woman in automobile (ca. 1920) and photograph by Wil Stewart via Unsplash

“Once in the middle twenties I was driving along the High Corniche Road through the twilight with the whole French Riviera twinkling on the sea below. As far ahead as I could see was Monte Carlo…It was not Monte Carlo I was looking at. It was back into the mind of the young man with cardboard soles who had walked the streets of New York. I was him again—for an instant I had the good fortune to share his dreams, I who had no more dreams of my own. And there are still times when I creep up on him, surprise him on an autumn morning in New York or a spring night in Carolina when it is so quiet that you can hear a dog barking in the next county. But never again as during that all too short period when he and I were one person, when the fulfilled future and the wistful past were mingled in a single gorgeous moment—when life was literally a dream.”

—F. Scott Fitzgerald, “Early Success”

Standing on top of the world for a little while…

“In any case he is almost certainly in that section of the country, in one town or another.”

Martin Madl, Contrasts (2015)

After that he didn’t ask for the children to be sent to America and didn’t answer when Nicole wrote asking him if he needed money. In the last letter she had from him he told her that he was practicing in Geneva, New York, and she got the impression that he had settled down with some one to keep house for him. She looked up Geneva in an atlas and found it was in the heart of the Finger Lakes Section and considered a pleasant place. Perhaps, so she liked to think, his career was biding its time, again like Grant’s in Galena; his latest note was post-marked from Hornell, New York, which is some distance from Geneva and a very small town; in any case he is almost certainly in that section of the country, in one town or another.

—F. Scott Fitzgerald, Tender is the Night

“When I don’t write, I wind up on the floor at once, fit for the dustbin…”

F. Holland Day, Peggy Lee Writing (1898)

“My life consists, and has essentially always consisted, of attempts at writing, largely unsuccessful. But when I don’t write, I wind up on the floor at once, fit for the dustbin…it soon became evident that I had to spare myself on all sides, relinquish a little everywhere to retain just enough strength for what seemed to me my main purpose…I once made a detailed list of the things I have sacrificed to writing and the things that were taken from me for the sake of writing or rather whose loss could be endured only with this explanation…So If there is a higher power that wishes to use me, or does use me, I am at its mercy, at least as a well-crafted instrument; if not, I am nothing at all and will find myself in a frightful void.”

—Letter from Franz Kafka to Felice Bauer, November 1, 1912

“I’m sorry about the clock,” he said.

Harris & Ewing, Man and woman at punch bowl (1935 or 1936)

Gatsby, his hands still in his pockets, was reclining against the mantelpiece in a strained counterfeit of perfect ease, even of boredom. His head leaned back so far that it rested against the face of a defunct mantelpiece clock, and from this position his distraught eyes stared down at Daisy, who was sitting, frightened but graceful, on the edge of a stiff chair.

“We’ve met before,” muttered Gatsby. His eyes glanced momentarily at me, and his lips parted with an abortive attempt at a laugh. Luckily the clock took this moment to tilt dangerously at the pressure of his head, whereupon he turned and caught it with trembling fingers, and set it back in place. Then he sat down, rigidly, his elbow on the arm of the sofa and his chin in his hand.

“I’m sorry about the clock,” he said.

My own face had now assumed a deep tropical burn. I couldn’t muster up a single commonplace out of the thousand in my head.

“It’s an old clock,” I told them idiotically.

I think we all believed for a moment that it had smashed in pieces on the floor.

“We haven’t met for many years,” said Daisy, her voice as matter-of-fact as it could ever be…

–F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

Does anybody really know what time it is?
Does anybody really care?
If so I can’t imagine why…

“I wonder if you ever read Dickens’ Christmas books?…”

Museum of Hartlepool, A Helping Hand

“I wonder if you ever read Dickens’ Christmas books?…I have only read two of them yet, and feel so good after them and would do anything, yes and shall do everything, to make it a little better for people. I wish I could lose no time; I want to go out and comfort some one…”

—Letter from Robert Louis Stevenson to Mrs. Sitwell (September, 1874)

“My Lost Youth”

cf. Gene Daniels, Children Play in Yard… (1972) and photograph by Frantzou Fleurine via Unsplash

…And with joy that is almost pain
My heart goes back to wander there,
And among the dreams of the days that were,
I find my lost youth again.
And the strange and beautiful song,
The groves are repeating it still:
“A boy’s will is the wind’s will,
And the thoughts of youth are long, long thoughts.”

–Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, My Lost Youth

Solid Objects

Gottscho-Schleisner, Inc., “…Men’s clothing II” (1953)

“As his eyes passed from one to another, the determination to possess objects that even surpassed these tormented the young man. He devoted himself more and more resolutely to the search…”

—Virginia Woolf, Solid Objects

“It is not upon you alone the dark patches fall”

Peter Severin Krøyer, Interior of a Tavern (1886) and Léon-Augustin Lhermitte, Woman with a Jug (1882)

It is not upon you alone the dark patches fall,
The dark threw its patches down upon me also,
The best I had done seem’d to me blank and suspicious,
My great thoughts as I supposed them, were they not in reality meagre?…

—Walt Whitman, Crossing Brooklyn Ferry

To My Twenties

Ernst Halberstadt, Sidewalk Cafe… (1973)

To My Twenties:

How lucky that I ran into you
When everything was possible…
Kenneth do you have a minute?
And I say yes! I am in my twenties!
I have plenty of time!…
I write a lot and am living all the time…
Twenties, my soul
Is yours for the asking
You know that, if you ever come back.

—Kenneth Koch, “To My Twenties”

“Men at forty learn to close softly the doors to rooms they will not be coming back to.”

from Northeastern University Bulletin (1974 -1975)

Men at forty
Learn to close softly
The doors to rooms they will not be
Coming back to…

–Donald Justice, Men at Forty

Now I guess it’s too late to speculate
On things as they might have been…

Portrait Of A Lady

Louis-Joseph-Raphaël Collin, Morning (1884)

Now that lilacs are in bloom
She has a bowl of lilacs in her room
And twists one in her fingers while she talks.
“Ah, my friend, you do not know, you do not know
What life is, you who hold it in your hands”;
(Slowly twisting the lilac stalks)
“You let it flow from you, you let it flow,
And youth is cruel, and has no remorse
And smiles at situations which it cannot see.”
I smile, of course,
And go on drinking tea.
“Yet with these April sunsets, that somehow recall
My buried life, and Paris in the Spring,
I feel immeasurably at peace, and find the world
To be wonderful and youthful, after all…”

–T. S. Eliot, Portrait of a Lady

Dolor

Erik Calonius, Commuters on Subway (1973)

I have known the inexorable sadness of pencils,
Neat in their boxes, dolor of pad and paper weight,
All the misery of manilla folders and mucilage,
Desolation in immaculate public places,
Lonely reception room, lavatory, switchboard,
The unalterable pathos of basin and pitcher,
Ritual of multigraph, paper-clip, comma,
Endless duplication of lives and objects…

—Theodore Roethke, Dolor (excerpt)

But then they sent me away to teach me how to be sensible, logical, responsible, practical.
And they showed me a world where I could be so dependable, clinical, intellectual, cynical…

A Portrait Of The Artist As A Young Man

Thomas Hovenden, Breaking Home Ties (Oil on canvas) (1890)

APRIL 26. Mother is putting my new secondhand clothes in order. She prays now, she says, that I may learn in my own life and away from home and friends what the heart is and what it feels…

—James Joyce, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

Image

“She is—in you.” (“Everything I Own”)

Charles O’Rear, Mom takes a picture of the kids with railroad personnel at the Wenatchee, Washington depot (1974)

Then, quite mechanically and more distinctly, the conversation began again inside him…
“What was it all for—her struggle?”
That was his despair wanting to go after her.
“You’re alive.”
“She’s not.”
“She is—in you.”
Suddenly he felt tired with the burden of it.
“You’ve got to keep alive for her sake,” said his will in him. Something felt sulky, as if it would not rouse.
“You’ve got to carry forward her living, and what she had done, go on with it.”
But he did not want to. He wanted to give up.
“But you can go on with your painting,” said the will in him…

—D.H. Lawrence, Sons and Lovers

Nobody else could ever know
The part of me that can’t let go…

“The Oven Bird”

cf. Franz Marc, The Artist’s Father on His Sick Bed I (edited) (1906-1907)

There is a singer everyone has heard,
Loud, a mid-summer and a mid-wood bird,
Who makes the solid tree trunks sound again.
He says that leaves are old and that for flowers
Mid-summer is to spring as one to ten.
He says the early petal-fall is past
When pear and cherry bloom went down in showers
On sunny days a moment overcast;
And comes that other fall we name the fall.
He says the highway dust is over all.
The bird would cease and be as other birds
But that he knows in singing not to sing.
The question that he frames in all but words
Is what to make of a diminished thing.

–Robert Frost, The Oven Bird

“For a long time I had been unable to engage my home town with any degree of openness…”

photograph by Christian Spies via Unsplash

“For a long time I had been unable to engage my home town with any degree of openness. What friends I had were married, raising families, and had locked themselves, ever so tightly, behind their neat-trimmed lawns and white clapboard houses, their children cute, their wives sexless and anxious, my friends plotting their next moves to achieve the Black River Valley Club, never asking themselves what, if they achieved that—the town’s most venerable institution—could possibly be left for them. My friends and I had long proved an embarrassment to one another; I embarrassing them because I drank too much, was unreliable in my debts and working habits, and had been “hospitalized” a number of times; I embarrassed because they were. We never stopped each other on the streets without, eyes avoiding mine, their patronizing me with queries about my health. It was distressing because there was a kind of gloating—undoubtedly a good deal imagined on my part—in these encounters, as though they were telling me that getting myself proclaimed mad and dragged away a number of times was only a childish and petulant refusal to accept their way of life as the right way, that in seeking some other way I had been assuming a courage and superiority I hadn’t possessed. After a time these encounters had proved so painful that whenever I found myself compelled to move about the streets in daylight hours, I dropped my eyes to the sidewalk and charged through the streets as though in a hot-brained hurry…”

—Frederick Exley, “A Fan’s Notes”

I got my own world to live through
And I ain’t gonna copy you…

“Gather ye rosebuds while ye may…”

Flip Schulke, Teenagers Beginning Their Summer Day… (ca. 1975)

Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,
Old Time is still a-flying;
And this same flower that smiles today
Tomorrow will be dying.

The glorious lamp of heaven, the sun,
The higher he’s a-getting,
The sooner will his race be run,
And nearer he’s to setting.

That age is best which is the first,
When youth and blood are warmer;
But being spent, the worse, and worst
Times still succeed the former.

Then be not coy, but use your time,
And while ye may, go marry;
For having lost but once your prime,
You may forever tarry.

–Robert Herrick, To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time

Life, so they say, is but a game and they let it slip away…

“One white morning, you awoke to find your black feathers rooted in the lake’s early freeze.”

cf. Edvard Munch, Melancholy

One white morning, you awoke to find
your black feathers rooted in the lake’s early freeze.
Your friends had fled…

—Margo Button, “With No Explanation” (excerpt)

The sun went down and the crowd went home
I was left by the roadside all alone
I turned to speak as they went by
But this was the time of no reply…

“Time is the school in which we learn”

George Laur, Students on Their Way to Senior High School… (ca. 1975)

What am I now that I was then?
May memory restore again and again
The smallest color of the smallest day:
Time is the school in which we learn,
Time is the fire in which we burn.

–Delmore Schwartz, Calmly We Walk through This April’s Day (excerpt)

Buy me a ticket on the last train home tonight…

Zen And The Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance

Flip Schulke, Vacationer From Ohio Relaxes near His Motorcycle… (ca. 1975)

“For me this is all mixed with memories that he doesn’t have. Cold mornings long ago when the marsh grass had turned brown and cattails were waving in the northwest wind…”

—Robert M. Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

I’ve been this way ten years to the day, ramble on…

Mezzo Cammin

cf. Caspar David Friedrich, Wanderer above the Sea of Fog (1818)

Half of my life is gone, and I have let
The years slip from me and have not fulfilled
The aspiration of my youth, to build
Some tower of song with lofty parapet…

Though, half-way up the hill, I see the Past
Lying beneath me with its sounds and sights,—
A city in the twilight dim and vast,
With smoking roofs, soft bells, and gleaming lights…

—Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Mezzo Cammin (excerpt)

You can’t be twenty on Sugar Mountain
Though you’re thinking that you’re leaving there too soon…

Star-Gazer

cf. Adolph B. Rice Studio, Thalhimers, boy’s bicycle (1957) and John Thomas, The last of the old candlemakers (ca. 1885) and Thomas Milburn, Train window (2015) and photograph by Juskteez Vu via Unsplash

Forty-two years ago (to me if to no one else
The number is of some interest) it was a brilliant starry night
And the westward train was empty and had no corridors
So darting from side to side I could catch the unwonted sight
Of those almost intolerably bright
Holes, punched in the sky, which excited me partly because
Of their Latin names and partly because I had read in the textbooks
How very far off they were, it seemed their light
Had left them (some at least) long years before I was.

And this remembering now I mark that what
Light was leaving some of them at least then,
Forty-two years ago, will never arrive
In time for me to catch it, which light when
It does get here may find that there is not
Anyone left alive
To run from side to side in a late night train
Admiring it and adding noughts in vain.

—Louis MacNeice, Star-Gazer

Emily

William Merritt Chase, At the Window (ca. 1889)

(Cambridge, September 1864)
Susan Gilbert Dickinson

at Centre of the Sea –
I am glad Mrs. Gertrude lived –
I believed she would –
Those that are worthy of Life are of Miracle,
for Life is Miracle,
and Death, as harmless as a Bee –
except to those who run

It would be best to see you –
it would be good to see the Grass,
and hear the Wind blow the wide way in the Orchard –
Are the Apples ripe –
Have the Wild Geese crossed –
Did you save the seed to the Pond Lily?

Love for Mat, and John, and the Foreigner –
And kiss little Ned in the seam in the neck, entirely for Me –
The Doctor is very kind –
I find no Enemy –
Till the Four o’Clocks strike Five,
Loo will last, she says.
Do not cease, Sister.
Should I turn in my long night,
I should murmur “Sue”

Emily.

“Oh! Blessed rage for order…”

Oh! Blessed rage for order, pale Ramon,
The maker’s rage to order words of the sea,
Words of the fragrant portals, dimly-starred,
And of ourselves and of our origins,
In ghostlier demarcations, keener sounds.

—Wallace Stevens, “The Idea of Order at Key West” (excerpt)

key westfrom above

“I don’t think there’s any point in being Irish if you don’t know that the world is going to break your heart eventually…”

Cecil Stoughton, President Kennedy and daughter Caroline (1963)

“WALKER: Is there any meaning you can find in what has happened?

MOYNIHAN: I suppose the point that cuts deepest is the thought that there may not be…We all of us know down here that politics is a tough game. And I don’t think there’s any point in being Irish if you don’t know that the world is going to break your heart eventually…”

—Excerpt from WTOP radio interview of Daniel Patrick Moynihan (December 5, 1963)

“What thoughts I have of you tonight, Walt Whitman”

What thoughts I have of you tonight, Walt Whitman, for I walked down the sidestreets under the trees with a headache self-conscious looking at the full moon…
Will we walk all night through solitary streets? The trees add shade to shade, lights out in the houses, we’ll both be lonely.
Will we stroll dreaming of the lost America of love past blue automobiles in driveways, home to our silent cottage?

—Allen Ginsberg, “A Supermarket in California” (excerpt)

“If you want me again look for me under your boot-soles…”

David Falconer, The Columbia River… (detail) (ca. 1973)

I bequeath myself to the dirt to grow from the grass I love,
If you want me again look for me under your boot-soles…
I stop somewhere waiting for you.

—Walt Whitman, “Song Of Myself”

“Scott, your last fragments I arrange tonight…”

Scott, your last fragments I arrange tonight,
Assigning commas, setting accents right,
As once I punctuated, spelled and trimmed
When, passing in a Princeton spring—how dimmed
By this damned quarter-century and more!—
You left your Shadow Laurels at my door.
That was a drama webbed of dreams: the scene
A shimmering beglamored bluish-green
Soiled Paris wineshop; the sad hero one
Who loved applause but had his life alone;
Who fed on drink for weeks; forgot to eat,
“Worked feverishly,” nourished on defeat
A lyric pride, and lent a lyric voice
To all the tongueless knavish tavern boys,
The liquor-ridden, the illiterate;
Got stabbed one midnight by a tavern-mate—
Betrayed, but self-betrayed by stealthy sins—
And faded to the sound of violins…

—Edmund Wilson, Excerpt from the Dedication to “The Crack-Up” by F. Scott Fitzgerald (1945)