There’s a thread you follow. It goes among things that change. But it doesn’t change. People wonder about what you are pursuing. You have to explain about the thread. But it is hard for others to see. While you hold it you can’t get lost. Tragedies happen; people get hurt or die: and you suffer and get old. Nothing you do can stop time’s unfolding. You don’t ever let go of the thread.
Katherine Johnson (played by Taraji P. Henson) calculates orbital insertion trajectories for the Mercury program using Euler’s method in this scene from the movie Hidden Figures. Credit: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation.
AL HARRISON: You think we can get to the moon?
[Katherine nods, with all the certainty in the world:]
When hurrying home on a rainy night And hearing tree-tops rubbed and tossed, And seeing never a friendly star And feeling your way when paths are crossed: Stop fast and turn three times around And try the logic of the lost.
Where is the heavenly light you dreamed? Where is your hearth and glowing ash? Where is your love by the mellow moon? Here is not even a lightning-flash, And in a place no worse than this Lost men shall wail and teeth shall gnash.
Lightning is quick and perilous, The dawn comes on too slow and pale, Your love brings only a yellow lamp, Yet of these lights one shall avail: The dark shall break for one of these, I’ve never known this thing to fail.
I can see the house on the hill where we make our own vegetables out back and drink warm wine out of jam jars and sing songs in the kitchen until the sun comes up wena you make me feel like myself again.
— Yrsa Daley-Ward, “sthandwa sami (my beloved, isiZulu)” (excerpt)
“When I left you I found an organ-grinder in Russell Square playing to a child; and the simple fact that there was a child listening to him, that he was giving this pleasure, entitled him, according to my theory, as you know, to some money; so I put some coppers on the ledge of his organ, without so much as looking at him, and I was going on when a woman said to me: ‘Yes sir, he do look bad, don’t he? scarcely fit like to be working.’ And then I looked at the man, and O! he was so ill, so yellow and heavy-eyed and drooping. I did not like to go back somehow , and so I gave the woman a shilling and asked her to give it to him for me. I saw her do so and walked on; but the face followed me, and so when I had got to the end of the division, I turned and came back as hard as I could and filled his hand with money — ten to thirteen shillings, I should think. I was sure he was going to be ill, you know, and he was a young man; and I dare say he was alone, and had no one to love him.”
— Letter from Robert Louis Stevenson to Mrs. Sitwell, November, 1874
“I wear the chain I forged in life,” replied the Ghost. “I made it link by link, and yard by yard; I girded it on of my own free will, and of my own free will I wore it. Is its pattern strange to you?”
WHEN in disgrace with fortune and men’s eyes I all alone beweep my outcast state, And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries, And look upon myself, and curse my fate, Wishing me like to one more rich in hope, Featur’d like him, like him with friends possess’d, Desiring this man’s art, and that man’s scope, With what I most enjoy contented least; Yet in these thoughts myself almost despising, Haply I think on thee,—and then my state, Like to the lark at break of day arising From sullen earth, sings hymns at heaven’s gate; For thy sweet love remember’d such wealth brings That then I scorn to change my state with kings.
just before closing time i found myself in european sculpture and decorative arts lost in the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries with so much to learn and you resplendently reverberant in a white blouse like an impressionist painting
I thought of Gatsby’s wonder when he first picked out the green light at the end of Daisy’s dock. He had come a long way to this blue lawn and his dream must have seemed so close that he could hardly fail to grasp it…
WHEN a friend calls to me from the road And slows his horse to a meaning walk, I don’t stand still and look around On all the hills I haven’t hoed, And shout from where I am, What is it? No, not as there is a time to talk. I thrust my hoe in the mellow ground, Blade-end up and five feet tall, And plod: I go up to the stone wall For a friendly visit.
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.
The horses started up, amid farewells and hand-wavings from the bystanders; and then, as Frau Chauchat sank smilingly back against the cushions of the sleigh, her eyes swept the facade of the Berghof, and rested for the fraction of a second upon Hans Castorp’s face. In pallid haste he sought his loggia, thence to get a last glimpse of the sleigh as it went jingling down the drive toward the Dorf. Then he flung himself into his chair…
The silhouette of a moving cat wavered across the moonlight and turning my head to watch it I saw that I was not alone—fifty feet away a figure had emerged from the shadow of my neighbor’s mansion and was standing with his hands in his pockets regarding the silver pepper of the stars.
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.
cf. photograph taken from video by cottonbro studio via Pexels
The highway is full of big cars going nowhere fast And folks is smoking anything that’ll burn Some people wrap their lies around a cocktail glass And you sit wondering where you’re going to turn I got it. Come. And be my baby.
FULL many a glorious morning have I seen Flatter the mountain-tops with sovereign eye, Kissing with golden face the meadows green, Gilding pale streams with heavenly alchemy; Anon permit the basest clouds to ride With ugly rack on his celestial face, And from the forlorn world his visage hide, Stealing unseen to west with this disgrace: Even so my sun one early morn did shine, With all-triumphant splendour on my brow; But, out! alack! he was but one hour mine, The region cloud hath mask’d him from me now. Yet him for this my love no whit disdaineth; Suns of the world may stain when heaven’s sun staineth.
THAT time of year thou mayst in me behold When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang Upon those boughs which shake against the cold, Bare ruin’d choirs, where late the sweet birds sang. In me thou see’st the twilight of such day As after sunset fadeth in the west; Which by and by black night doth take away, Death’s second self, that seals up all in rest. In me thou see’st the glowing of such fire, That on the ashes of his youth doth lie, As the death-bed whereon it must expire Consum’d with that which it was nourish’d by. This thou perceiv’st, which makes thy love more strong, To love that well which thou must leave ere long.
To be in love, where scorn is bought with groans, Coy looks with heart-sore sighs, one fading moment’s mirth With twenty watchful, weary, tedious nights; If haply won, perhaps a hapless gain; If lost, why then a grievous labor won; How ever, but a folly bought with wit, Or else a wit by folly vanquishèd.
Admiringly, my liege. At first I stuck my choice upon her, ere my heart Durst make too bold a herald of my tongue; Where the impression of mine eye infixing, Contempt his scornful perspective did lend me, Which warped the line of every other favor, Scorned a fair color or expressed it stol’n, Extended or contracted all proportions To a most hideous object. Thence it came That she whom all men praised and whom myself, Since I have lost, have loved, was in mine eye The dust that did offend it.
TO me, fair friend, you never can be old For as you were when first your eye I ey’d, Such seems your beauty still. Three winters cold Have from the forests shook three summers’ pride, Three beauteous springs to yellow autumn turn’d In process of the seasons have I seen, Three April perfumes in three hot Junes burn’d, Since first I saw you fresh, which yet are green. Ah! yet doth beauty, like a dial-hand, Steal from his figure, and no pace perceiv’d; So your sweet hue, which methinks still doth stand, Hath motion…
I remember the night the Green–Schwarz mechanism was discovered — It was a stormy summer night in 1984. The lightning that flashed across the equations on the blackboard also flashed across my curtains, two oranges on the dining room table, a Pat Metheny album on the blue shag carpet. I, too, thought I had solved something. I, too, thought I was free of anomalies. But the next day I still couldn’t figure it out.
onrushing out into the 42nd street passage huddled in the corner frayed and fallen drifted from the street in pieces and broken-down Yamaha nylon string guitar the third Brandenburg reverberated, echoed, re-echoed transfixed and transfigured I put all my money in his well-worn open case It was almost Christmas
I LEFT you in the morning, And in the morning glow, You walked a way beside me To make me sad to go. Do you know me in the gloaming, Gaunt and dusty grey with roaming? Are you dumb because you know me not, Or dumb because you know?
All for me? And not a question For the faded flowers gay That could take me from beside you For the ages of a day? They are yours, and be the measure Of their worth for you to treasure, The measure of the little while That I’ve been long away.
edited digital collage including photograph by Yoann Boyer via Unsplash
There’ll be that crowd to make men wild through all the centuries, And maybe there’ll be some young belle walk out to make men wild Who is my beauty’s equal, though that my heart denies, But not the exact likeness, the simplicity of a child, And that proud look as though she had gazed into the burning sun, And all the shapely body no tittle gone astray, I mourn for that most lonely thing; and yet God’s will be done, I knew a phoenix in my youth, so let them have their day.
A third time pass’d they by, and, passing, turn’d Each one the face a moment whiles to me; Then faded, and to follow them I burn’d And ached for wings, because I knew the three; The first was a fair Maid, and Love her name…
WHY, who makes much of a miracle? As to me I know of nothing else but miracles, Whether I walk the streets of Manhattan, Or dart my sight over the roofs of houses toward the sky… Or talk by day with any one I love…