cf. Eadweard Muybridge, Animal locomotion (ca. 1887)
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)
Ladies’ Home Journal (1959)
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
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…
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
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
Processions. Ceremony, and
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)
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)
John Vachon, Daughter of FSA rehabilitation borrower listening to phonograph (detail) (1940)
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,
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…
At night the stars, they put on a show for free
And, darling, you can share it all with me…
And if this old world starts getting you down,
There’s room enough for two…
Cincinnati Magazine (1972)
David Falconer, After a long winter without having a smiling service station operator… (1974)
Rupert Essinger, Snowed in road sign (2016)
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…
cf. John Atkinson Grimshaw, Princes Dock, Hull (1887)
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…
Andrew Wyeth, Christina’s World (detail) (1948) and LIFE (1961)
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
Till the bridge you will need be form’d, till the ductile anchor
Till the gossamer thread you fling catch somewhere, O my soul.
—Walt Whitman, A Noiseless Patient Spider
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 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…
Thomas Benjamin Kennington, Polishing the Brass (1912)
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…
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…
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
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
Lewis Hine, Bedroom and living-room in company-owned home of workers in Highland Cotton Mills… (1936)
Elin Kleopatra Danielson-Gambogi, Winter Night (detail) (oil on canvas) (1898-1899)
There goes another love song
Someone singing about me again
There goes another love song
Now I need more than a friend…
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 seize the descending man and raise him with resistless will,
O despairer, here is my neck,
By God, you shall not go down! hang your whole weight upon me.
—Walt Whitman, Song Of Myself
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)
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
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
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
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”
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…
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
Frances Benjamin Johnston, Passengers waiting to board a freighter… (detail) (1903)
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…
cf. Thomas Eakins: The Black Fan (ca. 1891) and The Young Man (ca. 1898-1902)
and photograph by Abigail Keenan via Unsplash.com
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
cf. LIFE (1966)
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.
“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…
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
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…
Bell Telephone Magazine (1964)
No matter what you are
I will always be with you…
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…
Marion Post Wolcott, Sugaring is a social event and is enjoyed by all the young people… (1940)
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…
Julian Alden Weir, In the living room (ca. 1890) and The sunset behind a Tree in a Field. Time Lapse. – YouTube
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…
cf. Edgar Degas, A Woman Ironing (1873) and Rain on Window – YouTube
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…
Source: Home Movie: 97185
cf. Photograph by why kei via Unsplash and Like Crazy – Official Trailer [HD] – YouTube
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…
Tom Hubbard, August Brings the “D’aug Days”… (1973)
Peder Mork Mønsted, Winter Landscape (1927)
after the light of leaves
the light of snow
and white as coconut before the snow
—Joan Vayo, “all souls day”
James Jowers, E. 8th st. (detail) (1967)
trees and neurons
Katja Hasselkus, Couple Dancing (2009)
National Archives of Norway, Reiseradio
James Jowers, Coney Is (1966)
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
haiku by R. K.
video: “Your Name Here” Story, The (Outtakes) (ca. 1964)
from “Teenage Love Stories” (1967)
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”
“All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players:
They have their exits and their entrances…”
—As You Like It
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)
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, 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)
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”
cf. David Falconer, Some Motorists… (edited) (ca. 1973)
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)
Marjory Collins, Bowery hotel about midnight (1942)
We grow accustomed to the Dark —
When Light is put away —
As when the Neighbor holds the Lamp
To witness her Goodbye —
A Moment — We uncertain step
For newness of the night —
Then — fit our Vision to the Dark —
And meet the Road — erect–
And so of larger — Darkness —
Those Evenings of the Brain —
When not a Moon disclose a sign —
Or Star — come out — within —
The Bravest — grope a little —
And sometimes hit a Tree
Directly in the Forehead —
But as they learn to see —
Either the Darkness alters —
Or something in the sight
Adjusts itself to Midnight —
And Life steps almost straight.
In the darkest place
I know that is where you’ll find me
Even though you didn’t have to remind me
I shut out the lights
Your eyes adjust
They’ll never be the same…
cf. James Jowers, E. River (1968)
We stood on the rented patio
While the party went on inside.
You knew the groom from college.
I was a friend of the bride.
We hugged the brownstone wall behind us
To keep our dress clothes dry
And watched the sudden summer storm
Floodlit against the sky.
The rain was like a waterfall
Of brilliant beaded light,
Cool and silent as the stars
The storm hid from the night.
To my surprise, you took my arm-
A gesture you didn’t explain-
And we spoke in whispers, as if we two
Might imitate the rain.
Then suddenly the storm receded
As swiftly as it came.
The doors behind us opened up.
The hostess called your name.
I watched you merge into the group,
Aloof and yet polite.
We didn’t speak another word
Except to say goodnight.
Why does that evening’s memory
Return with this night’s storm-
A party twenty years ago,
Its disappointments warm?…
–Dana Gioia, Summer Storm (Excerpt)
Does anyone recall
The saddest love of all
The one that lets you fall
Nothing to hold
It`s the love untold…
James Jowers, Tompkins Sq. Park (1967)
George C. Laur, Students Arriving for School… (ca. 1975)
cf. Fenno Jacobs, Southington, Connecticut Amusement Park (edited) (1942)
cf. Albertus H. Baldwin, Man Sitting on a Boat and Khürt Williams, Rodanthe Pier
“So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”
—F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby
Yasuo Kuniyoshi, Group of seven artists at a party at the home of Yasuo Kuniyoshi (detail) (ca. 1921)
Think where man’s glory most begins and ends,
And say my glory was I had such friends.
—William Butler Yeats, The Municipal Gallery Revisited
cf. Frances Benjamin Johnston, Post Office Dept. – Dead Letter Office (edited)
Yet, thought I, it is evident enough that Bartleby has been making his home here, keeping bachelor’s hall all by himself. Immediately then the thought came sweeping across me, What miserable friendlessness and loneliness are here revealed! His poverty is great; but his solitude, how horrible! Think of it. Of a Sunday, Wall-street is deserted as Petra; and every night of every day it is an emptiness. This building too, which of week-days hums with industry and life, at nightfall echoes with sheer vacancy, and all through Sunday is forlorn. And here Bartleby makes his home; sole spectator of a solitude which he has seen all populous —a sort of innocent and transformed Marius brooding among the ruins of Carthage!…
Ah Bartleby! Ah humanity!
—Herman Melville, Bartleby, the Scrivener
“…kept with him a sense as of snow falling about him, a secret screen of new snow between himself and the world.”
—Conrad Aiken, Silent Snow, Secret Snow
cf. State Library and Archives of Florida, Walking on a rainy day in Tallahassee (detail) (1961)
“…he mentioned that he could not in general accuse himself of having been an undutiful son. “Once, indeed (said he), I was disobedient; I refused to attend my father to Uttoxeter-market. Pride was the source of that refusal, and the remembrance of it was painful. A few years ago I desired to atone for this fault; I went to Uttoxeter in very bad weather, and stood for a considerable time bareheaded in the rain, on the spot where my father’s stall used to stand. In contrition I stood, and I hope the penance was expiatory.”
–James Boswell, The Life Of Samuel Johnson
Love and mercy, that’s what you need tonight…
Insist on yourself; never imitate. Your own gift you can present every moment with the cumulative force of a whole life’s cultivation; but of the adopted talent of another, you have only an extemporaneous, half possession. That which each can do best, none but his Maker can teach him. No man yet knows what it is, nor can, till that person has exhibited it. Where is the master who could have taught Shakespeare? Where is the master who could have instructed Franklin, or Washington, or Bacon, or Newton? Every great man is a unique. The Scipionism of Scipio is precisely that part he could not borrow. Shakespeare will never be made by the study of Shakespeare. Do that which is assigned you, and you cannot hope too much or dare too much. There is at this moment for you an utterance brave and grand as that of the colossal chisel of Phidias, or trowel of the Egyptians, or the pen of Moses, or Dante, but different from all these…
–Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance
Ain’t no jive – it’s no surprise
You are born to synthesize…
Gottscho-Schleisner, Inc., “…Model apartment living room, to sofa” (1941)
I lived on a hill that had too many rooms;
Light we could make, but not enough of warmth,
And when the light failed, I climbed under the hill.
The papers are delivered every day;
I am alone and never shed a tear.
—Stanely Kunitz, Father And Son (excerpt)
Marie-Louise-Élisabeth Vigée-Lebrun, Self-portrait (1790)
“Art, and the summer lightning of individual happiness: these are the only real goods we have.”
—Alexander Herzen, quoted in Isaiah Berlin, “Herzen and his Memoirs”
John Vachon, Daughter of Farm Security Administration rehabilitation borrower listening to phonograph (1940)
TYRONE: I’d lost the great talent I once had through years of easy repetition, never learning a new part, never really working hard. Thirty-five to forty thousand dollars net profit a season like snapping your fingers! It was too great a temptation. Yet before I bought the damned thing I was considered one of the three or four young actors with the greatest artistic promise in America. I’d worked like hell. I’d left a good job as a machinist to take supers’ parts because I loved the theater. I was wild with ambition. I read all the plays ever written. I studied Shakespeare as you’d study the Bible. I educated myself. I got rid of an Irish brogue you could cut with a knife. I loved Shakespeare. I would have acted in any of his plays for nothing, for the joy of being alive in his great poetry. And I acted well in him. I felt inspired by him. I could have been a great Shakespearean actor, if I’d kept on. I know that! In 1874 when Edwin Booth came to the theater in Chicago where I was leading man, I played Cassius to his Brutus one night, Brutus to his Cassius the next, Othello to this Iago, and so on. The first night I played Othello, he said to our manager, “That young man is playing Othello better than I ever did!”
That from Booth, the greatest actor of his day or any other! And it was true! And I was only twenty-seven years old! As I look back on it now, that night was the high spot in my career. I had life where I wanted it! And for a time after that I kept on upward with ambition high. Married your mother. Ask here what I was like in those days. Her love was an added incentive to ambition. But a few years later my good bad luck made me find the big money-maker. It wasn’t that in my eyes at first. It was a great romantic part I knew I could play better than anyone. But it was a great box office success from the start-and then life had me where it wanted me-at from thirty-five to forty thousand net profit a season! A fortune in those days-or even in these.
What the hell was it I wanted to buy, I wonder, that was worth-
Well, no matter. It’s a late day for regrets…
TYRONE: No, I don’t know what the hell it was I wanted to buy.
[He clicks out one bulb.]
On my solemn oath, Edmund, I’d gladly face not having an acre of land to call my own, nor a penny in the bank-
[He clicks out another bulb.]
I’d be willing to have no home but the poorhouse in my old age if I could look back now on having been the fine artist I might have been…
—Eugene O’Neill, Long Day’s Journey Into Night
In this world there are only two tragedies. One is not getting what one wants, and the other is getting it.
—Oscar Wilde, Lady Windermere’s Fan
But all this excitement had exhausted me and I dropped heavily on to my sleeping plank. I must have had a longish sleep, for, when I woke, the stars were shining down on my face. Sounds of the countryside came faintly in, and the cool night air, veined with smells of earth and salt, fanned my cheeks. The marvelous peace of the sleepbound summer night flooded through me like a tide. Then, just on the edge of daybreak, I heard a steamer’s siren. People were starting on a voyage to a world which had ceased to concern me forever. Almost for the first time in many months I thought of my mother.
Albert Camus, The Stranger
Overhead, as he looked up through this rift in the wood, shone great golden stars looking unfamiliar and grouped in strange constellations. He was sure they were arranged in some order which had a secret and malign significance. The wood on either side was full of singular noises, among which—once, twice, and again—he distinctly heard whispers in an unknown tongue…Doubtless, despite his suffering, he had fallen asleep while walking, for now he sees another scene—perhaps he has merely recovered from a delirium. He stands at the gate of his own home. All is as he left it, and all bright and beautiful in the morning sunshine. He must have traveled the entire night. As he pushes open the gate and passes up the wide white walk, he sees a flutter of female garments; his wife, looking fresh and cool and sweet, steps down from the veranda to meet him. At the bottom of the steps she stands waiting, with a smile of ineffable joy, an attitude of matchless grace and dignity. Ah, how beautiful she is!
Ambrose Bierce, An Occurrence At Owl Creek Bridge
Footfalls echo in the memory
Down the passage which we did not take
Towards the door we never opened
Into the rose-garden…
—T.S. Eliot, Burnt Norton from Four Quartets
…and again he got a feeling of unreality, as if the world showed a small but deﬁnite tendency to slip into the peculiar and grotesque; a sensation which the resumption of the pounding work of the engine kept him from exploring fully, as the ship returned to its course through the San Marco canal.
–Thomas Mann, “Death in Venice”