Mamma in her kerchief, and I in my cap, had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap…

He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself…

— Clement Clarke Moore, A Visit from St. Nicholas
 

“Cool Yule” by Louis Armstrong

“The past is a foreign country…”

August, 1984

To be sure, it is sheer madness… to return to the sites of one’s youth and try to relive at forty what one loved or keenly enjoyed at twenty. But I was forewarned of that madness… I hoped, I think, to recapture there a freedom I could not forget. In that spot, indeed, more than twenty years ago, I had spent whole mornings wandering… I was alive then.

— Camus, Return To Tipasa

“Free Man In Paris” — Joni Mitchell

Lux Aeterna

Provincial Archives of Alberta, “Marten River Provincial Park, Alberta” (1970)

Lux Aeterna

suddenly the memory reveals itself
so then, what is time?
time past is time present

I begin again with that summer
(borne back ceaselessly)
(It avails not, time)

wind waves
sun clouds glinting
forsaking the fragile
unredeemable future
I call to you

J.S.
 

“Come Back To Me” by Janet Jackson

Dream Sequence

U.S. National Archives, “St. Valentine’s Day Hop…” (detail) (1975)

“You’re wearing a new dress,” he said, as an excuse for gazing at her. And now he heard her answer.

“New? You are conversant with my wardrobe?”

“I am right, am I not?”

“Yes. I recently had it made here, by Lukaek, the tailor in the village. He does work for many of the ladies up here. Do you like it?”

“Very much,” he said, letting his gaze pass over her again before casting his eyes down. “Do you want to dance?” he added.

“Would you like to?” she asked, her brows raised in surprise, but still with a smile…

—Thomas Mann, The Magic Mountain
 

“Do You Want To Dance” by Bette Midler

“You must tell me something that you are sure is true”

William Strode, “Magazines And Newspapers Litter The Intersection Of Sixth & Broadway…” (1972)

You must tell me something that you are sure is true —
I don’t care much what it may be, I will take your word for it.
Things get into a muddle with me…

—Mary Temple, letter to John C. Gray

Through The Fire

I go on my way to-night, If I can; if not, to-morrow; emigrant train ten to fourteen days’ journey; warranted extreme discomfort…
I have been steadily drenched for twenty-four hours; water-proof wet through; immortal spirit fitfully blinking up in spite…
I am not beaten yet, though disappointed. If I am, it’s for good this time; you know what “for good” means in my vocabulary— something inside of 12 months perhaps; but who knows? At least, if I fail in my great purpose, I shall see some wild life in the West and visit both Florida and Labrador ere I return. But I don’t yet know if I have the courage to stick to life without it. Man, I was sick, sick, sick of this last year.

—Letter from Robert Louis Stevenson to Sidney Colvin (on board s.s. “Devonia,” an hour or two out of New York, August, 1879)
 

“Through The Fire” by Chaka Khan

“They also serve who only stand and wait.”

William Alexander Alcock, “A lonely Vigil” (detail) (ca. 1922);
August Krug, “The Portal” (detail) (ca. 1922);
Sophie L. Lauffer, “A Canaan Evening” (detail) (ca. 1922);
Edwin B. Collins, “Good Cheer Within” (detail) (ca. 1922)

When I consider how my light is spent,
Ere half my days, in this dark world and wide,
And that one Talent which is death to hide
Lodged with me useless, though my Soul more bent
To serve therewith my Maker, and present
My true account, lest he returning chide;
“Doth God exact day-labour, light denied?”
I fondly ask. But patience, to prevent
That murmur, soon replies, “God doth not need
Either man’s work or his own gifts; who best
Bear his mild yoke, they serve him best. His state
Is Kingly. Thousands at his bidding speed
And post o’er Land and Ocean without rest:
They also serve who only stand and wait.”

–John Milton, Sonnet 19: When I consider how my light is spent
 

J. S. Bach, “Wenn wir in höchsten Nöten sein” (“When we are in the greatest distress”)

I’ll Be Home For Christmas

The U.S. National Archives, “A youngster, clutching his soldier father, gazes upward while the latter lifts his wife from the ground to wish her a ‘Merry Christmas.’ The serviceman is one of those fortunate enough to be able to get home for the holidays.” (December, 1944)

 

“I’ll Be Home for Christmas” by Bing Crosby

Acquainted with the Night

Tom Hubbard, “Rainy Night…” (1973)

I have been one acquainted with the night.
I have walked out in rain—and back in rain.
I have outwalked the furthest city light.

I have looked down the saddest city lane.
I have passed by the watchman on his beat
And dropped my eyes, unwilling to explain.

I have stood still and stopped the sound of feet
When far away an interrupted cry
Came over houses from another street,

But not to call me back or say good-bye;
And further still at an unearthly height,
One luminary clock against the sky

Proclaimed the time was neither wrong nor right.
I have been one acquainted with the night.

–Robert Frost, Acquainted with the Night

“Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came”

State Archives of North Carolina, “…Duplin County Schools” (ca.1949)

I saw them and I knew them all. And yet
Dauntless the slug-horn to my lips I set,
And blew “Childe Roland to the Dark Tower came.”

—Robert Browning, “Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came”
 

“School Day” by Chuck Berry

The Day I Ran The Projector

Anna Curtis Chandler & Irene F. Cypher, “Audio-visual techniques for enrichment of the curriculum” (1948)

Go, wondrous creature! mount where science guides,
Go, measure earth, weigh air, and state the tides;
Instruct the planets in what orbs to run,
Correct old time, and regulate the sun…

—Alexander Pope, An Essay on Man

“No, we are all as old as we feel, but no older…”

cf. LIFE, 1968

…the sight of his own sharp features and grey hair plunged him in hopeless mortification; he made desperate efforts to recover the appearance and freshness of his youth and began paying frequent visits to the hotel barber. Enveloped in the white sheet, beneath the hands of that garrulous personage, he would lean back in the chair and look at himself in the glass with misgiving.

“Grey,” he said, with a grimace.

“Slightly,” answered the man. “Entirely due to neglect, to a lack of regard for appearances. Very natural, of course, in men of affairs, but, after all, not very sensible, for it is just such people who ought to be above vulgar prejudice in matters like these. Some folk have very strict ideas about the use of cosmetics; but they never extend them to the teeth, as they logically should. And very disgusted other people would be if they did. No, we are all as old as we feel, but no older, and grey hair can misrepresent a man worse than dyed. You, for instance, signore, have a right to your natural colour. Surely you will permit me to restore what belongs to you?”

“How?” asked Aschenbach.

For answer the talker washed his client’s hair in two waters, one clear and one dark, and lo, it was as black as in the days of his youth. He waved it with the tongs in wide, flat undulations, and stepped back to admire the effect…

—Thomas Mann, Death In Venice

“Out of the cradle endlessly rocking…”

Keystone View Company, “In Olden Times…the Stork Would Bring a Baby Sweet and Fair” (1907)

“Out of the cradle endlessly rocking…”

—Walt Whitman

Seven Thirty Seven comin’ out of the sky
Oh! Won’t you take me down to Memphis on a midnight ride,
I wanna move…

 

Travelin’ Band – Creedence Clearwater Revival

“For him, however, it meant freedom finally won, and by now his heart no longer fluttered at the thought.”

Tom Hubbard, August Brings the “D’aug Days” to Fountain Square… (1973)

And that was the end of the attempt by the flatlands to reclaim Hans Castorp. The young man admitted quite openly to himself that such total failure, which he had seen coming, was of decisive importance for his relationship to the people down there. For the flatlands it meant a final shrug, the abandonment of any claim; for him, however, it meant freedom finally won, and by now his heart no longer fluttered at the thought.

–Thomas Mann, The Magic Mountain

“Doctor Gordon doesn’t think you’ve improved at all…”

D Coetzee, “Neurology waiting room…” (2008)

I watched my mother grow smaller and smaller until she disappeared into the door of Doctor Gordon’s office building. Then I watched her grow larger and larger as she came back to the car.
“Well?” I could tell she had been crying.
My mother didn’t look at me. She started the car.
Then she said, as we glided under the cool, deep-sea shade of the elms, “Doctor Gordon doesn’t think you’ve improved at all. He thinks you should have some shock treatments at his private hospital in Walton.”
I felt a sharp stab of curiosity, as if I had just read a terrible newspaper headline about somebody else.
“Does he mean live there?”
“No,” my mother said, and her chin quivered.
I thought she must be lying.
“You tell me the truth,” I said, “or I’ll never speak to you again.”
“Don’t I always tell you the truth?” my mother said, and burst into tears.

—Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar

Won’t you look down upon me, Jesus
You got to help me make a stand
You just got to see me through another day
My body’s aching
And my time is at hand
And I won’t make it any other way…

 

Fire And Rain by James Taylor

at the music store, August, 1979

Benjamin Balázs, “Where My Heart Belongs…”

at the music store, August, 1979

I had to reach way up

rosewood,
sunburst,
cigarette burn—

the salesman plugged it into a Pignose

the sun was streaming in through the windows

He gave me an imitation tortoise-shell pick

my index finger pressed across

e

a

c#

a circuit closed

on the way home

the late summer afternoon sun was starting to set

I rolled down the car window and

reached for the Pat Travers 8-track tape on the passenger seat

–J.S.

“Open, unlidded eye of golden day! O marching light…”

CHORUS:
Now the long blade of the sun, lying
Level east to west, touches with glory
Thebes of the Seven Gates. Open, unlidded
Eye of golden day! O marching light…

—Sophocles, Antigone (Tr. by Dudley Fitts and Robert Fitzgerald)

Traveling down the sandy track
Compass in hand, guitar on my back…

 


cf. photograph by Ben White (edit) via Unsplash

“His life had been confused and disordered since then…”

cf. photograph by Henrique Félix via Unsplash

He talked a lot about the past and I gathered that he wanted to recover something, some idea of himself perhaps, that had gone into loving Daisy. His life had been confused and disordered since then, but if he could once return to a certain starting place and go over it all slowly, he could find out what that thing was….

–F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

I get the same old dreams same time every night…

“Have you noticed a change in Steve?”

Eastman Kodak Company, “How to make good movies…” (1938)

“Have you noticed a change in Steve?
Boy, I have!
Oh, It’s wonderful, I’ll tell ya!”

–Entry from girl’s diary (ca. 1961) quoted in Thomas Mallon, A Book of One’s Own: People and Their Diaries

“An oasis that I needed.”

Carol M. Highsmith, Fountain and front view of Mission San Buenaventura, Ventura, California (2012)

“An oasis that I needed.”

–Entry in the Visitor’s Book at St Peter’s Church, Cambridge, September 12, 1982, quoted in Thomas Mallon, A Book of One’s Own: People and Their Diaries

As a deer longs for flowing streams,
so my soul longs for you, O God…

–Psalm 42, New Revised Standard Version
 


Palestrina – Sicut Cervus

Duet On Mass Ave, June, 1981

Mohamed Hayibor, Church of Christ, Scientist (2016)

Duet On Mass Ave, June, 1981

Over the sound of water splashing in the fountain
and the warm summer night air

I heard your melody echoing around the entire city

then I gave you my guitar and you played the introduction to Roundabout

Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive,
But to be young was very heaven!

–J.S.

“Yet see in the uncertain sky above your uncertain station– the sign she left you…”

Eastman Kodak Company, “How to make good movies…” (1938)

The many faces of defeat
Invite you home:
They offer you such silence
As has no truck with time.
The face of horrid purpose,
The train of circumstance
There, the door is closed upon;
They shall no more advance.
Yet see in the uncertain sky
Above your uncertain station–
The sign she left you, passing,
Persists in affirmation.

—Ray Smith, The Sign

“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…

Reading “Ivy Day In The Committee Room” On The Train, November, 1980

cf. Lottie, “Train view” (2012)

Reading “Ivy Day In The Committee Room” On The Train, November, 1980

his face lapsed into darkness but, as he set himself to fan the fire again, his crouching shadow ascended the opposite wall and his face slowly reemerged into light. It was

a gray day with an almost constant and heavy rain beating down against the train window.

“What are you doing in the dark?” asked a voice.

The cabin lights were off. I stared at the distant red signal light in the mist and felt a chill. I fumbled for my book.

A denuded room came into view and the fire lost all its cheerful colour. The walls of the room were bare except for a

smoking compartment sign. I was alone. A voice asked for my ticket.

“Is that you, Hynes?” asked Mr. O’Connor.
“Yes. What are you doing in the dark?” said Mr. Hynes. advancing into the light of the fire.

The train pulled out of the station and I thought about what you said.

“Tell me,” he said across the fire, “what brings our friend in here? What does he want?”

I guess I just wanted to see you one last time.

“What age are you?” he asked.
“Seventeen,” said the boy.

As the train slowed into the station I looked for you. A man was getting into his car and heading home.

“Tell me, John,” said Mr. O’Connor, lighting his cigarette with another pasteboard card.
“Hm? ”
“What he is exactly?”
“Ask me an easier one,” said Mr. Henchy.

–J.S.

Into My Own

Ernst Halberstadt, “Westward” Sails Back to Long Wharf from Outing at Great Brewster Island… (1973)

One of my wishes is that those dark trees,
So old and firm they scarcely show the breeze,
Were not, as ’twere, the merest mask of gloom,
But stretched away unto the edge of doom.

I should not be withheld but that some day
Into their vastness I should steal away,
Fearless of ever finding open land,
Or highway where the slow wheel pours the sand.

I do not see why I should e’er turn back,
Or those should not set forth upon my track
To overtake me, who should miss me here
And long to know if still I held them dear.

They would not find me changed from him they knew—
Only more sure of all I thought was true.

–Robert Frost, Into My Own
 

Kansas – “Point Of Know Return”

“Gatsby walked over and stood beside her…”

J.B.B. Wellington, “The Toast” (ca. 1914)

Gatsby walked over and stood beside her.
“Daisy, that’s all over now,” he said earnestly. “It doesn’t matter any more. Just tell him the truth — that you never loved him — and it’s all wiped out forever.”
She looked at him blindly. “Why — how could I love him — possibly?”
“You never loved him.”
She hesitated. Her eyes fell on Jordan and me with a sort of appeal, as though she realized at last what she was doing — and as though she had never, all along, intended doing anything at all. But it was done now. It was too late.
“I never loved him,” she said, with perceptible reluctance…

—F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

Lines on my head from that one thing she said…

 

Peter Frampton – “Lines On My Face”

“…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…

 

star-wars-party-1080
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)

“While on the shop and street I gazed my body of a sudden blazed”

cf. Deseronto Archives, “Woman standing outside Bismark Leroy Detlor’s bake shop…” (ca. 1920)
and photograph by Jeff Sheldon via Unsplash

My fiftieth year had come and gone,
I sat, a solitary man,
In a crowded London shop,
An open book and empty cup
On the marble table-top.

While on the shop and street I gazed
My body of a sudden blazed;
And twenty minutes more or less
It seemed, so great my happiness,
That I was blessed and could bless.

–W. B. Yeats, “Vacillation” (IV)

“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 did not know that it was already behind him, somewhere back in that vast obscurity beyond the city…”

Abul Haque, “Students Arriving By School Bus…” (ca. 1976)

And as I sat there brooding on the old, unknown world, 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. He did not know that it was already behind him, somewhere back in that vast obscurity beyond the city, where the dark fields of the republic rolled on under the night.

—F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

A girl comes towards you
You once used to know
You reach out your hand
But you’re all alone…

“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

“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

“Now you recall this memory as if it were someone else’s story.”

cf. The Fire Within (Le feu follet) (1963) and Home Movie: 98927: St. Croix River and 1956 Honeymoon

“Now, you recall this memory, as if
it were someone else’s story…”

—from Margo Button, “With No Explanation”

Been breaking down
Do you want me now?

“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…

 

a-large-erratic-resting-on-gneiss-cape-denison-area-1200
State Library of New South Wales, “A large erratic resting on gneiss Cape Denison area” (ca. 1911)

“I think I’ll just call up my wife…”

Ron Hoffman, Vail Village at Night (1974)

I think I’ll just call up my wife and tell her
I’m here—so far—and starting on again.
I’ll call her softly so that if she’s wise
And gone to sleep, she needn’t wake to answer.”
Three times he barely stirred the bell, then listened.
“Why, Lett, still up? Lett, I’m at Cole’s. I’m late.
I called you up to say Good-night from here
Before I went to say Good-morning there.—
I thought I would.— I know, but, Lett—I know—
I could, but what’s the sense? The rest won’t be
So bad.— Give me an hour for it.— Ho, ho,
Three hours to here! But that was all up hill;
The rest is down.— Why no, no, not a wallow:
They kept their heads and took their time to it
Like darlings, both of them. They’re in the barn.—
My dear, I’m coming just the same. I didn’t
Call you to ask you to invite me home.—”
He lingered for some word she wouldn’t say,
Said it at last himself, “Good-night,” and then,
Getting no answer, closed the telephone.
The three stood in the lamplight round the table
With lowered eyes a moment till he said,
“I’ll just see how the horses are.”

–Robert Frost, Snow (excerpt)

“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”

The Importance of Being Earnest

cf. U.S. National Archives, Photograph of Guests at Refreshment Table… (detail) (1963)

Jack: You really love me, Gwendolen?

Gwendolen: Passionately!

Jack: Darling! You don’t know how happy you’ve made me.

Gwendolen: My own Ernest!

Jack: But you don’t really mean to say that you couldn’t love me if my name wasn’t Ernest?

Gwendolen: But your name is Ernest.

Jack: Yes, I know it is. But supposing it was something else? Do you mean to say you couldn’t love me then?

Gwendolen: [Glibly.] Ah! that is clearly a metaphysical speculation, and like most metaphysical speculations has very little reference at all to the actual facts of real life, as we know them.

Jack: Personally, darling, to speak quite candidly, I don’t much care about the name of Ernest… I don’t think the name suits me at all.

Gwendolen: It suits you perfectly. It is a divine name. It has a music of its own. It produces vibrations.

Jack: Well, really, Gwendolen, I must say that I think there are lots of other much nicer names. I think Jack, for instance, a charming name.

Gwendolen: Jack?… No, there is very little music in the name Jack, if any at all, indeed. It does not thrill. It produces absolutely no vibrations… I have known several Jacks, and they all, without exception, were more than usually plain. Besides, Jack is a notorious domesticity for John! And I pity any woman who is married to a man called John. She would probably never be allowed to know the entrancing pleasure of a single moment’s solitude. The only really safe name is Ernest.

Jack: Gwendolen, I must get christened at once—I mean we must get married at once. There is no time to be lost…

–Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest

“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.

“Alone he stood there and empty like a castaway on the shore…”

Geo. H. Scheer, “The Road In The Sand” (ca. 1915)

Starting up from this dream, he felt encompassed by a deep sadness. Worthless, so it seemed to him, worthless and pointless was the way he had been going through life; nothing which was alive, nothing which was in some way delicious or worth keeping he had left in his hands. Alone he stood there and empty like a castaway on the shore…

—Herman Hesse, Siddhartha

“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…

Too like the lightning, which doth cease to be ere one can say “It lightens.”

cf. photograph by Everton Vila via Unsplash and ridgerider04, Time Lapse Lightning Storm 2012

JULIET:
Well, do not swear: although I joy in thee,
I have no joy of this contract tonight:
It is too rash, too unadvised, too sudden;
Too like the lightning, which doth cease to be
Ere one can say “It lightens.”

Romeo and Juliet

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

“Milly drew the feet of water and…her companion floated off with the sense of rocking violently at her side.”

Popular Mechanics (1960)

Her situation, as such things were called, was on the grand scale; but it still was not that. It was her nature, once for all—a nature that reminded Mrs. Stringham of the term always used in the newspapers about the great new steamers, the inordinate number of “feet of water” they drew; so that if, in your little boat, you had chosen to hover and approach, you had but yourself to thank, when once motion was started, for the way the draught pulled you. Milly drew the feet of water, and odd though it might seem that a lonely girl, who was not robust and who hated sound and show, should stir the stream like a leviathan, her companion floated off with the sense of rocking violently at her side.

—Henry James, The Wings of the Dove

So I’d like to know where you got the notion
Said I’d like to know where you got the notion
To rock the boat,
Don’t rock the boat baby!

Uncle Vanya

VOITSKI: …I met her first ten years ago, at her sister’s house, when she was seventeen and I was thirty-seven. Why did I not fall in love with her then and propose to her? It would have been so easy! And now she would have been my wife. Yes, we would both have been waked tonight by the thunderstorm, and she would have been frightened, but I would have held her in my arms and whispered: “Don’t be afraid! I am here.” Oh, enchanting dream, so sweet that I laugh to think of it. [He laughs] But my God! My head reels! Why am I so old? Why won’t she understand me?…

–Anton Checkov, Uncle Vanya

And you can’t turn back
There is never any starting over
Parallel lines never do cross over…

 

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Frau E. Nothmann, “In The Garden” (detail) (ca. 1896)

“legato con amore in un volume”

James Jowers, Tompkins Sq. Park (1967)

Nel suo profondo vidi che s’ interna,
legato con amore in un volume…

I saw within its depth how it conceives all things in a single volume bound by love…

–Dante Alighieri, The Divine Comedy: Paradiso

on revisiting my school playground

I was still there

in the same place

right where I left me

when I looked up

the grass was greener

and I had a magical feeling

it was all in front of me

I turned around

I looked back and waved

and got in my car

–John Sapiro, “on revisiting my school playground”
 


Michael Philip Manheim, Neighborhood Youngsters in the Playground… (1973)

“White in the moon the long road lies”

Gertrude Kasebier, “Study Of A Boy” (1901)
and Martin-Eero Kõressaar, Eero – Reports (Night sky time-lapse compilation) – YouTube

White in the moon the long road lies,
The moon stands blank above;
White in the moon the long road lies
That leads me from my love.

Still hangs the hedge without a gust,
Still, still the shadows stay:
My feet upon the moonlit dust
Pursue the ceaseless way.

The world is round, so travellers tell,
And straight though reach the track,
Trudge on, trudge on, ’twill all be well,
The way will guide one back.

But ere the circle homeward hies
Far, far must it remove:
White in the moon the long road lies
That leads me from my love.

–A. E. Housman, A Shropshire Lad: White in the moon the long road lies

See her how she flies
Golden sails across the sky
Close enough to touch
But careful if you try
Though she looks as warm as gold
The moon’s a harsh mistress
The moon can be so cold…

“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?”

“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)

“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…

“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
 

far-from-the-madding-crowd-edit-1220
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)

“Ah, ha! Come, some music!”

“Specimen Of Platinotype After Development”
from “The Book Of Photography, Practical, Theoretic And Applied”, Paul N. Hasluck, Ed. (1907)

HAMLET:
O good Horatio, I’ll take the ghost’s word for a thousand pound. Didst perceive?

HORATIO:
Very well, my lord.

HAMLET:
Upon the talk of the poisoning?

HORATIO:
I did very well note him.

HAMLET:
Ah, ha! Come, some music! come, the recorders!
For if the king like not the comedy,
Why then, belike, he likes it not, perdy.
Come, some music!

Hamlet

Got one for the money
Two for the show
Three for my honey
And four to let you know that I
Let the music do the talking…

Turn Around

Take, O, take those lips away,
That so sweetly were forsworn;
And those eyes, the break of day,
Lights that do mislead the morn:
But my kisses bring again, bring again;
Seals of love, but sealed in vain, sealed in vain.

–Shakespeare, Measure for Measure
 

multi-photograph-of-cissy-fitzgerald-edit-1080
cf. H. L. Bostwick, “Multi-Photograph Of Cissy Fitzgerald” (ca. 1905)

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…

“So are you to my thoughts as food to life”

So are you to my thoughts as food to life
Or as sweet-season’d showers are to the ground;
And for the peace of you I hold such strife
As ’twixt a miser and his wealth is found;
Now proud as an enjoyer, and anon
Doubting the filching age will steal his treasure;
Now counting best to be with you alone,
Then better’d that the world may see my pleasure:
Sometime, all full with feasting on your sight,
And by and by clean starved for a look;
Possessing or pursuing no delight,
Save what is had or must from you be took.
Thus do I pine and surfeit day by day,
Or gluttoning on all, or all away.

–Sonnet LXXV

Whenever you’re on my mind
I leave the world behind…

 


LIFE (1957)

In The Dark

The night is darkening round me,
The wild winds coldly blow;
But a tyrant spell has bound me,
And I cannot, cannot go.

The giant trees are bending
Their bare boughs weighed with snow;
The storm is fast descending,
And yet I cannot go.

Clouds beyond clouds above me,
Wastes beyond wastes below;
But nothing drear can move me;
I will not, cannot go.

–Emily Brontë, The night is darkening round me
 
stereoscopic-night-photography-and-john-sting-edit-2-1200

cf. from “The Book Of Photography, Practical, Theoretic And Applied”, Paul N. Hasluck, Ed. (1907)
and
Photograph by John Sting via Unsplash

Time heals the wounds that no one can see

But if your heart,
Your heart has been broken
And you don’t wear it on your sleeve
No one can tell,
Your hell goes unspoken
But there’s one thing you must believe…

 

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Untitled photograph by R. E. Scaife (ca. 1919)

“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

“I can wade grief, whole pools of it,—”

cf. A. McFarlin, “A Symphony” (ca. 1918)

I can wade grief,
Whole pools of it,—
I ’m used to that.
But the least push of joy
Breaks up my feet,
And I tip—drunken.
Let no pebble smile,
’T was the new liquor,—
That was all!

–Emily Dickinson

Sad lady, blue lady…

“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)

“Rather, it represented his normal condition…”

cf. Julian Alden Weir, Man Reclining on a Beach (1879) and photograph by Markus Spiske via Unsplash

With Oblomov, lying in bed was neither a necessity (as in the case of an invalid or of a man who stands badly in need of sleep) nor an accident (as in the case of a man who is feeling worn out) nor a gratification (as in the case of a man who is purely lazy). Rather, it represented his normal condition. Whenever he was at home–and almost always he was at home–he would spend his time in lying on his back. Likewise he used but the one room–which was combined to serve both as bedroom, as study, and as reception-room–in which we have just discovered him. True, two other rooms lay at his disposal, but seldom did he look into them save on mornings (which did not comprise by any means every morning) when his old valet happened to be sweeping out the study. The furniture in them stood perennially covered over, and never were the blinds drawn up.

—Ivan Goncharov, Oblomov

I’m so tired
Tired of waiting
Tired of waiting for you…

“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)

“He stretched out his arms toward the dark water in a curious way…”

cf. H. H. Brook, “The Warning Light” (ca. 1916)

I decided to call to him. Miss Baker had mentioned him at dinner, and that would do for an introduction. But I didn’t call to him, for he gave a sudden intimation that he was content to be alone — he stretched out his arms toward the dark water in a curious way, and, far as I was from him, I could have sworn he was trembling. Involuntarily I glanced seaward — and distinguished nothing except a single green light, minute and far away, that might have been the end of a dock. When I looked once more for Gatsby he had vanished, and I was alone again in the unquiet darkness.

–F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

“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)

A Light Left On

Louis Estrella, “Bedtime” (ca. 1921)

When we came home together
We found the inside weather.
All of our love unended
The quiet light demanded,
And we gave, in a look
At yellow walls and open book.
The deepest world we share
and do not talk about
But have to have, was there,
And by that light found out.

–May Sarton, “A Light Left On” (excerpt)

“O, never say that I was false of heart”

Benjamin Balázs, Together / Együtt

O, never say that I was false of heart,
Though absence seem’d my flame to qualify.
As easy might I from myself depart,
As from my soul, which in thy breast doth lie:
That is my home of love; if I have ranged,
Like him that travels I return again,
Just to the time, not with the time exchanged,
So that myself bring water for my stain.
Never believe, though in my nature reign’d
All frailties that besiege all kinds of blood,
That it could so prepost’rously be stain’d,
To leave for nothing all thy sum of good;
For nothing this wide Universe I call,
Save thou, my Rose; in it thou art my all.

Sonnet CIX

All the days became so long
Did you really think I’d do you wrong?
Dixie, when I let you go
Thought you’d realize that I would know,
I would show the special love I have for you, my baby blue…

 

“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