When I was stone blue I knew what to do.

cf. National Geographic Magazine (1948)

EXERT thy voice, sweet harbinger of Spring!
This moment is thy time to sing,
This moment I attend to praise,
And set my numbers to thy lays.
Free as thine shall be my song;
As thy music, short or long.

Poets wild as thee were born,
Pleasing best when unconfined,
When to please is least designed,
Soothing but their cares to rest:
Cares do still their thoughts molest,
And still th’ unhappy poet’s breast,

Like thine, when best he sings, is placed against a thorn.
She begins, let all be still!
Muse, thy promise now fulfil!
Sweet, oh sweet! still sweeter yet!

— Anne Finch, Countess of Winchilsea, “To the Nightingale” (excerpt)

Stone Blue

coping: perspective

Photograph by Ioannis Ioannidis via Pixabay

A few light taps upon the pane made him turn to the window. It had begun to snow again. He watched sleepily the flakes, silver and dark, falling obliquely against the lamplight. The time had come for him to set out on his journey westward. Yes, the newspapers were right: snow was general all over Ireland. It was falling on every part of the dark central plain, on the treeless hills, falling softly upon the Bog of Allen and, farther westward, softly falling into the dark mutinous Shannon waves…

— from Dubliners, James Joyce

And the operator said, “May I help you please?”

National Geographic Magazine (1948)

I waited all night, I remember that
smoked a cigarette
watched TV
went out and saw some friends
drove by your house
went to a bar and had a beer
got back home and tried to sleep…

— J.S.

I knocked the phone off the nightstand
And the operator said, “May I help you please?”
and I said “No thanks, baby tonight there ain’t no help for me —
see I just had a bad dream, that’s all that’s wrong with me
see I just had a bad dream.”

Crying In My Sleep

Bipolar Disorder

Photograph by Nathan Dumlao via Unsplash

This is the debt I pay
Just for one riotous day,
Years of regret and grief,
Sorrow without relief.

Pay it I will to the end —
Until the grave, my friend,
Gives me a true release —
Gives me the clasp of peace.

Slight was the thing I bought,
Small was the debt I thought,
Poor was the loan at best —
God! but the interest!

— Paul Laurence Dunbar, The Debt

The Real Me

footfall

cf. Photograph by Shane Rounce (detail) via Unsplash and CGI by pixel shox

footfall

i stepped back into time
waded into the same river twice
you know, nick had some really good advice for gatsby
it’s easy to get lost
romance glancer
true love chancer
happiness chaser
gone again spacer

— J.S.

Spacer

evocation

Carol M. Highsmith, “Dramatic View of John Hancock Building, Boston, Massachusetts” (ca. 1980)

evocation

i called you on the telephone
i was on mass ave
with a guitar and flowers
on the wind
summer twilight
and your voice

— J.S.

Sharing The Night Together

“parking lot denouement”

Maclean’s Magazine, 1970

parking lot denouement

the passionate shepherd stood next to his honda civic
juliet stood nearby
all the stars in the sky
time slowed down
our lives were suspended
just for a moment
at a point turning
and then you were gone
the parking lot was empty,
all the pleasures waiting to be proved

— J.S.

There She Goes

Ceci n’est pas une intersection.

Photograph by Daniel Monteiro via Unsplash

Ceci n’est pas une intersection.

In the warm twilight
I am translated
refracted
at the red light
the song on the radio
preternatural
holding, as ‘twere,
the mirror up to nature
and unravels my heart

— J.S.

Inside Out

That man who sits in front of you

Harry E. Goodwin, “The Barker” (ca. 1935)

He seems very similar to the gods
That man who sits in front of you
And listens to you speaking
And smiles softly;
And suddenly my heart throbs.
When I glance at you,
I can no longer speak…

— Sappho, Fragment 31 (Tr. Labate)

Sideshow

Non Scholae Sed Vitae Discimus

Sports Illustrated, 1965

Non Scholae Sed Vitae Discimus

we shared a vanilla ice cream cone
under a vaulted arch
and a carillon chorale
through the leaded diamond pane window
I could hear
something about British history

— J.S.

See A Little Light

Hesperide Summer

Herbert L. Spencer, “Mere Man” (ca. 1934)

EXCEPT the smaller size, no Lives are round,
These hurry to a sphere, and show, and end.
The larger, slower grow, and later hang—
The Summers of Hesperides are long.

— Emily Dickinson

Lonely Weekend

“the docent”

Patio from the Castle of Vélez Blanco (1506–15) on view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 534

the docent

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

— J.S.

Hatchie — Sure

a fever, longing still

Hot Rod Girl (1956)

In these deep solitudes and awful cells,
Where heav’nly-pensive contemplation dwells,
And ever-musing melancholy reigns;
What means this tumult…?
Why rove my thoughts beyond this last retreat?
Why feels my heart its long-forgotten heat?

— Alexander Pope, Eloisa to Abelard

I Want You Bad

Rip Van Winkle

Northeastern University, Course Catalog (1973-74)

Tired I feel now. Will I get up? O wait… She kissed me. Never again. My youth. Only once it comes. Or hers. Take the train there tomorrow. No. Returning not the same. Like kids your second visit to a house. The new I want. Nothing new under the sun. Care of P. O. Dolphin’s Barn. Are you not happy in your? Naughty darling. At Dolphin’s barn charades in Luke Doyle’s house. Mat Dillon and his bevy of daughters: Tiny, Atty, Floey, Maimy, Louy, Hetty. Molly too. Eightyseven that was. Year before we. And the old major, partial to his drop of spirits. Curious she an only child, I an only child. So it returns. Think you’re escaping and run into yourself. Longest way round is the shortest way home. And just when he and she. Circus horse walking in a ring. Rip van Winkle we played. Rip: tear in Henny Doyle’s overcoat. Van: breadvan delivering. Winkle: cockles and periwinkles. Then I did Rip van Winkle coming back. She leaned on the sideboard watching. Moorish eyes. Twenty years asleep in Sleepy Hollow. All changed. Forgotten. The young are old…

— Joyce, Ulysses

Strawberry Wine

for all dishevelled wandering stars

cf. photograph by Alex Iby via Unsplash and

error46146, Subway Timelapse Experiment – YouTube (edited collage)

And brood on hopes and fear no more…

— W. B. Yeats, Who goes with Fergus?

Feelin’ Stronger Every Day

my lost self

cf. photograph by Cherry Laithang via Unsplash (edited collage)

like Antaeus
drifting in the darkest night
searching for my long lost self —
my strength
my spirit
myself
and then I touch ground
again

— J.S.

Van Halen – 6/12/81 – Oakland Coliseum

“I was in love once — would you believe that?”

Northeastern University Course Catalog, 1978-79

“I, uh, I was in love once — would you believe that? But I possessed neither the courage nor the optimism — perhaps the depth of feeling — that you two have.”

— A Christmas Carol (1984)

that incurable depression of spirits

cf. John C. Higgins, “Man in Bottle” (detail) (ca. 1888) and
video by Vimeo-Free-Videos via Pixabay (edited collage)

Every man must take the measure of his own strength. I may, I do, regret my want of fortitude; but so it is, that incurable depression of Spirits, Brooding, Indolence, Despondence, thence Pains and nightly Horrors…

— Letter from Coleridge to Daniel Stuart quoted in Richard Holmes, Coleridge: Darker Reflections

Black Sheets Of Rain

This is the line that for him I pen

cf. photograph by Les Anderson via Unsplash (edited)

I remember
when I was young
rowing into a storm
you were on the shore
running alongside me
shouting something
but I wasn’t listening
now, many years later
I’m still rowing
and I still see you
and I remember
everything you said

— J.S.

Song For My Father

“the first return since undergraduate days twelve years previously…”

collage including video by Anatwell-Group via Pixabay (edited)

Another expedition took him to Cambridge, the first return since undergraduate days twelve years previously, where the young men all looked just the same in the university pubs and “the only alteration” was in himself…

— Richard Holmes, Coleridge: Darker Reflections

Linda Bruner, “Rainy Night In Georgia”

“behind the camera”

cf. Tom Hubbard, “Fountain Square…” (June, 1973)

behind the camera

as you were focusing
on your friend
smiling in his summer suit
next to the fountain
on that hot june afternoon in 1973
her heart was breaking
he had lost his way
fate and destiny
enkindled and unsettled
set in motion
held alone by gossamer threads
and if you look closely
someplace far away
I’m on my bicycle
riding as fast as I can

— J.S.

Sandy Cove

When Smokey Sings

Who, through long days of labor,
And nights devoid of ease,
Still heard in his soul the music
Of wonderful melodies.

Such songs have power to quiet
The restless pulse of care,
And come like the benediction
That follows after prayer.

— Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, The Day is Done (excerpt)

When Smokey Sings

palimpsest

Nationaal Archief, “Festive lights in Amsterdam”

palimpsest

for I walked down the sidestreets
with a headache self-conscious looking at the full moon
whispered lunar incantations
dissolved the floors of memory
a fever, longing still —
absence seems my flame
bright star,
I am as steadfast as thou art

— J.S.

All I Do

Spring and Fall

cf. Carol M. Highsmith, “Tremont Street, Boston” (between 1980 and 2006) and
video by Coverr-Free-Footage via Pixabay (edited)

Márgarét, áre you gríeving
Over Goldengrove unleaving?
Leáves like the things of man, you
With your fresh thoughts care for, can you?
Ah! ás the heart grows older
It will come to such sights colder
By and by, nor spare a sigh
Though worlds of wanwood leafmeal lie;
And yet you wíll weep and know why.
Now no matter, child, the name:
Sórrow’s spríngs áre the same.
Nor mouth had, no nor mind, expressed
What heart heard of, ghost guessed:
It ís the blight man was born for,
It is Margaret you mourn for.

— Gerard Manley Hopkins, Spring and Fall

If These Walls Could Speak

“bright stars”

cf. photograph by StockSnap via Pixabay (edit)

bright stars

like Keats and Fanny Brawne
butterflies
for three summer days
filled with more delight than those fifty common years
ever contained
in the twilight streetlamps
the warm night air
and the car radio
I turned
and looked at you

— J.S.

Rush Hour

recurring scenario

Ernst Halberstadt, “Elevated Railroad Structure…” (1973)

A kind of strange oblivion has overspread me, so that I know not what has become of the last year; and perceive that incidents and intelligence pass over me without leaving any impression.

— Samuel Johnson, Prayers and Meditations

70’s Scenario

Metaphysics

Left: Cesare Guilio, “Palestra Bianca” (ca. 1940)
Right: A.K. Aster, “On Salons” (Camera Craft, 1940)

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could…

In the room the women come and go
Talking of Michelangelo…

“reverie”

Tom Hubbard, “…Saturday Night” (1973)

reverie

your smile
on a summer night
the starlight
shining after light years
the light in the window
the wind and your voice
I looked up at the sky last night
and thought of you

—J.S.
 

“I’d Really Love To See You Tonight” by England Dan & J.F. Coley

I remember the night the Green–Schwarz mechanism was discovered…

Northeastern University Course Catalog, 1984-85

String Theory

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.

–J.S.

ENG 101

David De Vries, “Room 103, small classroom…” (2001)

ENG 101

I heard his raspy old voice talking

about a poem about a spider

and he even looked like Frost

but I was looking

out the door out the window

at the ultrablue sky

and wondered

about designs

–J.S.

“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”