Transfigured Night

Wild Strawberries (1957)

“What’s happened to me?” he thought. It wasn’t a dream. His room, a proper human room although a little too small, lay peacefully between its four familiar walls. A collection of textile samples lay spread out on the table — Samsa was a travelling salesman — and above it there hung a picture that he had recently cut out of an illustrated magazine and housed in a nice, gilded frame. It showed a lady fitted out with a fur hat and fur boa who sat upright, raising a heavy fur muff that covered the whole of her lower arm towards the viewer.

— Kafka, Metamorphosis

Modern Love

Ladies’ Home Journal, 1948

And what is love? It is a doll dress’d up
For idleness to cosset, nurse, and dandle;
A thing of soft misnomers, so divine
That silly youth doth think to make itself
Divine by loving, and so goes on
Yawning and doting a whole summer long…

— Keats, Modern Love (excerpt)

Marionette

Mercy Mercy Me

Jim Matchinga, “Roots” (Cincinnati Magazine, 1980)

Now this interconnection or adaptation of all created things to each and of each to all, means that each simple substance has relations which express all the others, and, consequently, that it is a perpetual living mirror of the universe.

— Leibniz, The Monadology
 

“Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology)” by Marvin Gaye

My dear Jim

Jack Delano, “Flagman walks back to flag any oncoming trains…” (1943)

Do not wear your soul out with tears but be as usually brave and look hopefully to the future.

— Letter to James Joyce from his mother (quoted in Richard Ellmann, James Joyce)

“tempus fugit”

Jack Corn, “Children During Recess…” (1974)

tempus fugit

nowadays
jobs
wives, husbands
houses
children
but I —
I was there
in that bright autumn dawn
on the playground
when we sparkled
and our dreams were the morning stars
still in the sky

— J.S.

Old Days

Enough; no more. ‘Tis not so sweet now as it was before.

Unhappy verse, the witness of my unhappy state,
Make thy self flutt’ring wings of thy fast flying
Thought, and fly forth unto my love, wheresoever she be:
Whether lying restless in heavy bed, or else
Sitting so cheerless at the cheerful board, or else
Playing alone careless on her heavenly virginals.
If in bed, tell her, that my eyes can take no rest:
If at board, tell her, that my mouth can eat no meat:
If at her virginals, tell her, I can hear no mirth.
Asked why? say: waking love suffereth no sleep:
Say that raging love doth appal the weak stomach:
Say, that lamenting love marreth the musical.

— Edmund Spenser, Iambicum Trimetrum (excerpt)

Don’t Rock the Jukebox

Hero

photograph by Liane Metzler via Unsplash

I believe I can cover most of the expenses of publication of my daughter’s “Alphabet.” My idea is not to persuade her that she is a Cézanne but that, on her 29th birthday, she may see something to persuade her that her whole past has not been a failure.

The reason I keep on trying by every means to find a solution for her case — which may come at any time as it did with my eyes — is that she may not think that she is left with a blank future as well.

I am aware that I am blamed by everybody for sacrificing that “precious metal” — money — to such an extent for such a purpose when it could be done so cheaply and quietly by locking her up in an economical “mental prison” for the rest of her life. I will not do so as long as I see a single chance of hope for her recovery nor blame her or punish her for the great crime she has committed in being a victim to one of the most elusive diseases known to men and unknown to medicine.

And I imagine that if you were where she is and felt as she must you would perhaps feel some hope if you felt that you were neither abandoned nor forgotten.

— Letter from James Joyce to Harriet Weaver, 1936 (quoted in Richard Ellmann, James Joyce)
 

I sat upon the shore fishing, with the arid plain behind me

Ian Livesey, “Rainy rainy Manchester” (detail) (2015)

On Margate Sands
I can’t stop connecting
everything with everything
the present
with the past
the broken fingernails of dirty hands.
To Carthage I came, once, many years ago
burning
now dull roots with spring rain
stirring

— J.S.

Say Goodbye to Hollywood

For the thing which I greatly feared is come upon me

cf. video by SlowMoJoe via Pixabay

The “morbid melancholy,” which was lurking in his constitution, and to which we may ascribe those particularities, and that aversion to regular life, which, at a very early period, marked his character, gathered such strength in his twentieth year, as to afflict him in a dreadful manner. While he was at Lichfield, in the college vacation of the year 1729, he felt himself overwhelmed with a horrible hypochondria, with perpetual irritation, fretfulness, and impatience; and with a dejection, gloom, and despair, which made existence misery. From this dismal malady he never afterwards was perfectly relieved; and all his labours, and all his enjoyments, were but temporary interruptions of its baleful influence. He told Mr. Paradise that he was sometimes so languid and inefficient, that he could not distinguish the hour upon the town-clock.

Boswell’s Life of Johnson
 

“What is wrong with woollen gloves?”

cf. photograph by Joshua Coleman via Unsplash (edit)

The possibility of having [Ulysses] published in a more regular way came up again in June 1918, when Roger Fry suggested Miss Weaver call on Leonard and Virginia Woolf to induce them to publish the book at their new Hogarth Press. Virginia Woolf noted in her diary the incongruous appearance of Miss Weaver as the ‘buttoned-up’ and woollen-gloved missionary for a book that ‘reeled with indecency.’*

*Miss Weaver, when the passage was quoted to her, demanded with acerbity, ‘What is wrong with woollen gloves?’

— Richard Ellmann, James Joyce
 

“(Shine Your) Light Love Hope” by Bob Mould

Love And A Question

cf. Home Movie

He was standing with her in the cold, looking in through a grated window at a man making bottles in a roaring furnace. It was very cold. Her face, fragrant in the cold air, was quite close to his; and suddenly he called out to the man at the furnace:

“Is the fire hot, sir?”

But the man could not hear with the noise of the furnace. It was just as well. He might have answered rudely.

— Joyce, The Dead
 

“I Want To Know What Love Is” by Foreigner

Donna, donna, dark

cf. video by Coverr-Free-Footage via Pixabay (detail) (edit)

Donna, donna, dark,
Stooping in indigo gown
And cloudy constellations,
Conceal yourself or disclose
Fewest things to the lover —
A hand that bears a thick-leaved fruit,
A pungent bloom against your shade.

— Wallace Stevens, O Florida, Venereal Soil (excerpt)

Hot Cherie

One Art

cf. Gustave Caillebotte, “Interior, Woman at the Window” (detail) (1880) and photograph via unsplash (edit)

The art of losing isn’t hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster…

— Elizabeth Bishop, One Art

“Life Goes On Without You” — Jill Sobule

“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

“And sweetest in the gale is heard…”

Jerome B. Thompson, “A Pic Nick in the Woods of New England” (detail) (ca. 1855)

Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune without the words,
And never stops at all…

— Emily Dickinson
 

“All Right” by Christopher Cross

“Now Close the Windows”

Le feu follet (1963)

Now close the windows and hush all the fields;
If the trees must, let them silently toss;
No bird is singing now, and if there is,
Be it my loss.

It will be long ere the marshes resume,
It will be long ere the earliest bird:
So close the windows and not hear the wind,
But see all wind-stirred.

— Robert Frost

“It Wouldn’t Have Made Any Difference” — Alison Krauss

“Who has the most matches?”

Ernst Halberstadt, “City Hall Plaza–A Pleasant Setting for Rest and Conversation” (1973)

—He’s pretty well on, professor MacHugh said in a low voice.

—Seems to be, J. J. O’Molloy said, taking out a cigarettecase in murmuring meditation, but it is not always as it seems. Who has the most matches?

— Joyce, Ulysses

“Love Of The Common Man” — Todd Rundgren

“tanglewood in blue”

photograph by Jonathan Dubon via Unsplash (edit)

tanglewood in blue

a moment
I held
once forever
in the summer grass
steadfast bright stars
still turning

—J.S.

—Yes. So you think…

The door closed behind the outgoer.

Rest suddenly possessed the discreet vaulted cell, rest of warm and brooding air.

A vestal’s lamp.

Here he ponders things that were not… what might have been: possibilities of the possible as possible: things not known…

— Joyce, Ulysses

“Fifty Years After The Fair” — Aimee Mann

“The problem with life is that it’s too daily.”

Horacio Villalobos, “Housewife in the Kitchen…” (ca. 1975)

“The problem with life is that it’s too daily.”

— Sarah E. Sapiro

At the violet hour, when the eyes and back
Turn upward from the desk, when the human engine waits
Like a taxi throbbing waiting,
I Tiresias, though blind, throbbing between two lives,
Old man with wrinkled female breasts, can see
At the violet hour, the evening hour that strives
Homeward, and brings the sailor home from sea,
The typist home at teatime, clears her breakfast, lights
Her stove, and lays out food in tins.
Out of the window perilously spread
Her drying combinations touched by the sun’s last rays,
On the divan are piled (at night her bed)
Stockings, slippers, camisoles, and stays.
I Tiresias, old man with wrinkled dugs
Perceived the scene, and foretold the rest…

— T. S. Eliot, The Waste Land

“Sweet Bird” — Joni Mitchell

“open tuning (august, 1981)”

cf. photograph by Genessa Panainte via Unsplash (edit)

open tuning (august, 1981)

under the proscenium arch
seeming you near me
staccato heartbeats
inspired and altered
what chord is that?
and I answered
I don’t
even
really
know

—J.S.

“Cinnamon Girl” — Neil Young

“doppelgänger”

Tom Hubbard, “…Public Plaza, Fountain Square…” (1973)

doppelgänger

long ago
I diverged in a yellow wood
and sorry I could not travel
long I stood
and looked as far as I could
doubting I should ever come back
I am telling this with a sigh
traveling by
has made all the difference

—J.S.

“Bridge of Sighs” — Robin Trower

“I’ve long wanted to ask you one thing.”

“Ah! I’ve scribbled all over the table!” she said, and, laying down the chalk, she made a movement as though to get up.

“What! shall I be left alone—without her?” he thought with horror, and he took the chalk. “Wait a minute,” he said, sitting down to the table. “I’ve long wanted to ask you one thing.”

He looked straight into her caressing, though frightened eyes.

“Please, ask it.”

“Here,” he said; and he wrote the initial letters, w. y. t. m. i. c. n. b. d. t. m. n. o. t.?

Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina (Part IV, Chapter 13) (Tr. Constance Garnett)

Vanessa Williams – “Save The Best For Last”

Lost Summer

Charles (Henry) Studios, Home Movie (1976)

“All of a sudden everything was over,” Nick said. “I don’t know why it was. I couldn’t help it. Just like when the three-day blows come now and rip all the leaves off the trees.”

…The big thing was that Marjorie was gone and that probably he would never see her again. He had talked to her about how they would go to Italy together and the fun they would have. Places they would be together. It was all gone now.

— Ernest Hemingway, “The Three-Day Blow”
 

“Kiss Me, Baby” by The Beach Boys

Say Yeah

Ernst Halberstadt, “Ice Skating in the Public Garden” (detail) (1973)

“Are you going to stay in town long?” asked Kitty.

“I don’t know,” he answered, not thinking of what he was saying.

The thought that if he were held in check by her tone of quiet friendliness he would end by going back again without deciding anything came into his mind, and he resolved to rebel against it.

“How is it you don’t know?”

“I don’t know why. It depends on you,” he said, and instantly he was horrified at his own words.

She either did not understand his words, or did not want to understand them, for, seeming to stumble once or twice, catching her foot, she hurriedly skated away from him. She skated up to Mlle. Linon, said something to her, and went towards the pavilion where the ladies took off their skates.

— Tolstoy, Anna Karenina

Utopia – “Say Yeah”

Sure (Ulysses)

David Falconer, “One Family of Four Moved Into the Attic of Their Home…” (1973)

I was happier then. Or was that I? Or am I now I?
Twentyeight I was. She twentythree.
When we left Lombard street west something changed.
Could never like it again after Rudy.
Can’t bring back time. Like holding water in your hand.
Would you go back to then? Just beginning then. Would you?

—James Joyce, Ulysses

Hatchie — “Sure”

Call me Ishmael.

photograph by Mark Jefferson Paraan via Unsplash

Because no man can ever feel his own identity aright except his eyes be closed; as if darkness were indeed the proper element of our essences, though light be more congenial to our clayey part.

— Melville, Moby Dick

Electric Light Orchestra – “Last Train To London”

“the bends”

cf. photograph by Sam Soffes via Unsplash (edit)

the bends

under
fog of fluorescence
this watch said
5:07
Wednesday
26
November
1986
grey noises
office
voices
footsteps
windows
already dark
radiating winter
compressioned
and
descending

—J.S.
 

Patty Griffin – “Rain”

“On First Looking Into Greene’s Chord Chemistry”

On First Looking into Greene’s “Chord Chemistry”

Yet did I never breathe its pure serene
Till I heard Greene speak out loud and bold:
Then felt I like some watcher of the skies
When a new planet swims into his ken;
Or like stout Cortez when with eagle eyes
He star’d at the Pacific—and all his men
Look’d at each other with a wild surmise—
Silent, upon a peak in Darien.

(cf. Keats, On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer)
 

You Go to My Head / Willow Weep for Me by Ted Greene

“The Year Of Living Collinsly (1985)”

Photograph by Florian Pérennès via Unsplash

The Year Of Living Collinsly (1985)

there’s a girl that’s been on my mind
all the time
i’ve been sitting here so long
wasting time
just staring at the phone
ooh
you got me inside out
oh yes
they all warned me
they told me don’t lose your heart to her
she’ll never give it back
now i know that i’m too young
my love has just begun

 

Phil Collins – “Sussudio” (Fatu’s Edit) by Fatu (F82)

CHAPTER 2

cf. video by Coverr-Free-Footage via Pixabay

The remote power of that voice, those old eyes full of tears, that noble and ruined face, had affected her extraordinarily she said. But perhaps what affected her was the shadow, the still living shadow of a great passion in the man’s heart.

Allegre remarked to her calmly: “He has been a little mad all his life.”

—Joseph Conrad, The Arrow of Gold

The Rubinoos – “The Girl”

Hyperion Summer

cf. Thomas A. Morgan, “After The Dip” (edit) (ca. 1904)

And all those acts which Deity supreme
Doth ease its heart of love in.—I am gone
Away from my own bosom: I have left
My strong identity, my real self,
Somewhere between the throne, and where I sit
Here on this spot of earth. Search, Thea, search!
Open thine eyes eterne, and sphere them round
Upon all space: space starr’d, and lorn of light;
Space region’d with life-air; and barren void;
Spaces of fire, and all the yawn of hell.—
Search, Thea, search! and tell me, if thou seest
A certain shape or shadow, making way
With wings or chariot fierce to repossess
A heaven he lost erewhile…

—John Keats, Hyperion
 

“Missing” by Everything But The Girl

Saving Grace

Dick Swanson, “Artist On Bank Of The Schuylkill River” (1973)

I think that if I can get into the habit of writing a little about what happens, or rather doesn’t happen, I may lose a little of the sense of loneliness and desolation which abides with me. My circumstances allowing of nothing but the ejaculation of one-syllabled reflections, a written monologue by that most interesting being, myself, may have its yet to be discovered consolations. I shall at least have it all my own way and it may bring relief as an outlet to that geyser of emotions, sensations, speculations and reflections…so here goes, my first Journal!

—Diary of Alice James, May 31, 1889

“Everything Else” – Jennifer Damiano

I’m out here in the meadow

TV Commercial

All stood amazed, until an old woman, tottering out from among the crowd, put her hand to her brow, and peering under it in his face for a moment, exclaimed, “Sure enough! it is Rip Van Winkle—it is himself! Welcome home again, old neighbor—Why, where have you been these twenty long years?”

—Washington Irving, Rip Van Winkle

“Meadows” – Joe Walsh

“a closed book”

Camden Public Library, “The 6-masted schooner George W. Wells…” (detail) (ca. 1900)

a closed book

just for an instant
the future,
ionized and incandescent
split the sky
then was lost

—J.S.
 

G. F. Handel – Suite No. 2 – Adagio by Elina Christova

“back issue (june, 1981)”

cf. photograph by Tyler Springhetti via Unsplash

back issue (june, 1981)

on the prudential tower escalator
the wind
and your smile
blithe spirits
moving beyond me

—J.S.
 

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

They Shut Me Up In Prose

cf. Jean Antoine Houdon, “Bather” (1782) and video by Vimeo-Free-Videos via Pixabay

They shut me up in Prose –
As when a little Girl
They put me in the Closet –
Because they liked me “still” –

Still! Could themself have peeped –
And seen my Brain – go round –
They might as wise have lodged a Bird
For Treason – in the Pound –

Himself has but to will
And easy as a Star
Abolish his Captivity –
And laugh – No more have I –

—Emily Dickinson
 

Aretha Franklin – “Respect”

Loomings

LSE Library, “Student in the library, 1981”

CHAPTER 1. Loomings.

Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul…then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can.

—Herman Melville, Moby Dick
 

“Keep Your Head Up” by Ben Howard

“returner”

cf. photographs by Noel Y. C., Artful Dioramas of North American Mammals at the American Museum of Natural History and Warren Wong via unsplash

returner

into the diorama
quickly by the buffalo
down the mountain
along the freeway
I flag down the driver
of a 1965 ford fairlane

—J.S.
 

“The Middle Ages” by Mary Chapin Carpenter

ACT I, SCENE II: A café near the Duke’s palace.

The Finnish Museum of Photography, “The counter of a café at the new Centrum department store of Voima cooperative.” (detail) (1961)

What passion hangs these weights upon my tongue?
I cannot speak to her, yet she urged conference.
O poor Orlando! Thou art overthrown.

—As You Like It

“Magnet and Steel” – Walter Egan

Renaissance

Tom Hubbard, “…Troupes Dancing in the Square Are Joined by Young-In-Heart Spectator” (1973)

Thou shalt find
That I’ll resume the shape which thou dost think
I have cast off forever…

King Lear

“Love Is Alive” – Gary Wright

Livin’ It Up

Photograph by Paul Trienekens via Unsplash

“My sister is in the country. I have a house all to myself, wear no clothes, take 10 big baths a day, & dine on lemonade and ice-cream…”

—Letter from Henry James to his London publisher quoted in Jean Strouse, Alice James: A Biography

“Livin’ It Up (Friday Night)” – Bell And James

“fluorescence”

cf. Finnish Museum of Photography, “Osuusliike Mäki-Matin uuden liikekeskuksen ravintolasali.” (1958)

fluorescence

a long time ago
someone told me
reflected light waves travel out into space
eternally
if you turn around
from someplace far away
you will see
the past
again
eternally
now
I understand

—J.S.

“Sweet Baby” – George Duke / Stanley Clarke

“Once Again To Zelda”

Missouri Historical Society, “Capturing the City: Photographs from the Streets of St. Louis, 1900–1930 — Strand Motion Picture Theater entrance at 419 North Sixth Street featuring advertisement for the movie “Bootles’ Baby,” 1915. The large colorful poster catches the attention of the woman passing at far right.” (detail)

Darling, I’ve nearly sat it off in the Strand to-day and all because W.E. Lawrence of the Movies is your physical counter-part. So I was informed by half a dozen girls before I could slam on a hat and see for myself—He made me so homesick…

—letter from Zelda Fitzgerald to F. Scott Fitzgerald, March, 1919

“errata”

cf. UL Digital Library, “Interior of Foundation Building”

errata

so much milk spilled
so much bridged water
so much greener grass
so much silver lining
so much unglittered gold—
so much unsaid
so much unsaid,
even now

–J.S.

Ringo Starr – “Photograph”

For Guy

Patricia D. Duncan, “Sunset View of a Horse in Pastureland…” (1975)

As my eyes search the prairie
I feel the summer in the spring.

—Anonymous, “Spring Song” (Tr. Frances Densmore) from Chippewa Music II Bulletin 53 (1913)
 


“Wildfire” by Michael Martin Murphey

accompagnato

Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, “Youth at a restaurant night club…” (ca. 1941)

accompagnato

Scarlatti went to dinner with
Scriabin and Rameau
and at the table next to them were
Schoenberg and Milhaud

Scarlatti sang 440 “A”
to catch the waiter’s ear
Arnold sang eleven more
and Webern drank his beer

—J.S.

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

“Keats, walk a hundred yards over the rim”

cf. photograph by Felix Russell-Saw via Unsplash

“Keats, walk a hundred yards over the rim”

Keats,
leave the Piazza di Spagna
walk a hundred yards over the rim
I have your penicillin
I won’t let you go
there are more poems to write
and she is still waiting for you

—J.S.
(cf. “The Twilight Zone”, Season 2, Episode 23, 1961)

“At The College Art Gallery, October, 1981”

cf. Home Movie (1947)

at the college art gallery, october, 1981

the ultrablue sunset sky
radiated around the white church spire
I walked into the art gallery
because I was a romantic
fair creature of an hour
was looking at chippendale furniture
but I shall never look upon thee more
my footfalls echoed around decorative arts
down the passage which I did not take
another door was opening
into another rose-garden
this fire is now my quarry
vissi d’arte, vissi d’amore

—J.S.

“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

Panic Station

cf. photograph by Andy Beales via Unsplash (edited)

It was very early in the morning, the streets were clean and deserted, I was on my way to the train station. When I compared the time on a clock tower with that on my pocket watch and realized that it was already much later than I thought, I really had to rush, the shock at this discovery made me suddenly uncertain as to the right direction, I didn’t yet know my way all that well in this city…

— Franz Kafka, “Give It Up!”

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

Charlotte’s Web

Wil Blanche, “In Battery Park, on the Lower Tip of Manhattan Island” (1973)

Wilbur blushed. “But I’m not terrific, Charlotte.
I’m just about average for a pig.”

“You’re terrific as far as I’m concerned,” replied
Charlotte, sweetly, “and that’s what counts. You’re my
best friend, and I think you’re sensational. Now stop
arguing and go get some sleep!”

—E. B. White, Charlotte’s Web

“How would it be…if you were to pack your things tonight and be on your way with one of the scheduled express trains tomorrow morning?”

Cincinnati Magazine, 1977

“…In your twenty-fourth year, you say? Hmm … please permit me one more question, or if you will, a modest suggestion. Since your stay here appears not to be good for you — neither physically nor, if I am not mistaken, mentally — how would it be, if you were to forgo the pleasure of growing older here, in short, if you were to pack your things tonight and be on your way with one of the scheduled express trains tomorrow morning?”

“You mean I should leave?” Hans Castorp asked. “When I’ve only just arrived? But no, how can I possibly decide about that after only one day?”

And as he said it, quite by chance he caught a glimpse of Frau Chauchat in the next room…

—Thomas Mann, The Magic Mountain

“King Of August”

cf. photograph by StockSnap via Pixabay

king of august

driving home from my first date
a symphony of street lights
and a million stars in the sky
an incandescent spark
flying through a dark street
midnight holds no secret
only my triumphant heart

—J.S.

Quote

“Portraits” (V-VIII)

“Portraits” (V-VIII)

V
(John Keats)

The thought of her
in that darkest winter
fevered torment
but your eternal summer
will not fade

VI
(Jane Dornacker)

You did not know me
but I was always listening
and when I lost you
I pulled my car over to the side of the road
and prayed

VII
(Hans Castorp)

As Spender said of Eliot,
A wonderful poet disguised as a businessman.
Just ask Clavdia.

VIII
(F. Scott Fitzgerald)

A romantic resting against a mantelpiece clock.
You were right, Scott—
the past is forever.

—J.S.

Quote

“Portraits” (I-IV)

“Portraits” (I-IV)

I
(Van Temple)

I saw you singing that song again
and I thought of art
burning like a flame
through time and tide
and I was driving with the radio on
again

II
(Arland D. Williams Jr.)

When you boarded the plane
Did the other passengers recognize you?

III
(Samuel Johnson)

Put her letters in the fire
Striven back onto yourself
A place you’ve been before

IV
(Walt Whitman)

When you listened to the aria in New Orleans
Did it unravel and fathom your heart?

—J.S.

“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.

“Soli Deo Gloria”: Grand Central, December, 1982

Grego, Street Musician (2014)

“Soli Deo Gloria”: Grand Central, December, 1982

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

–J.S.
 

Brandenburg Concerto No. 3, BWV 1048 – III. Allegro by TXGQ

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.

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.

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.

“Cheering” is a paltry description…

cf. LIFE, 1957 and Skyline New York : Dudley Pictures Corporation

Each weekend I traveled the fifty-odd miles from Glacial Falls to Watertown, where I spent Friday night and all day Saturday in some sustained whisky drinking, tapering off Sundays with a few bottles of beer at The Parrot, eyes fixed on the television screen, cheering for my team. “Cheering” is a paltry description. The Giants were my delight, my folly, my anodyne…

—Frederick Exley, A Fan’s Notes
 

“Sensorium”

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

“Sensorium”

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

1966: a hand in my hand on a frozen pond

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

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

1969: a light in the darkness

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

—J.S., “Sensorium”

“Driftwood”

At Cape Cod, August, 1969

I am scattered in a thousand places

here and there —

now and then

the wind and waves wash me ashore

ceaselessly

leaving something behind

a remindering

a finding of lost time

I never left

–J.S., “Driftwood”

“Santa Agonistes” (A True Story)

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

My family arrived early.

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

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

My father put me on his shoulders.

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

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

Murmurs ran through the crowd.

When the cabin door finally opened Santa looked very pale.

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

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

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

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

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

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

You probably don’t remember me.

I was standing next to you waiting.

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

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

You’ve been married for 35 years.

It doesn’t seem possible

Because the sun is still reflecting off the luggage compartment door

And the driver is still getting impatient

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

And I knew I was going to be late.

–J.S.

“So here I am, in the middle way, having had twenty years- twenty years largely wasted…”

cf. “Build Your Vocabulary”

So here I am, in the middle way, having had twenty years-
Twenty years largely wasted, the years of l’entre deux guerres-
Trying to use words, and every attempt
Is a wholy new start, and a different kind of failure
Because one has only learnt to get the better of words
For the thing one no longer has to say, or the way in which
One is no longer disposed to say it. And so each venture
Is a new beginning, a raid on the inarticulate,
With shabby equipment always deteriorating
In the general mess of imprecision of feeling,
Undisciplined squads of emotion. And what there is to conquer
By strength and submission, has already been discovered
Once or twice, or several times, by men whom one cannot hope
To emulate – but there is no competition –
There is only the fight to recover what has been lost
And found and lost again and again: and now, under conditions
That seem unpropitious. But perhaps neither gain nor loss.
For us, there is only the trying. The rest is not our business.

—T. S. Eliot, East Coker (excerpt)

“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?”

“You won’t like them,” she returned indirectly; “they’ve run wild…”

“You’re from the white boat that sailed in at sunset?”

“Yes,” he replied, “and I am returning immediately.”

“It was like magic! ” she continued. “Suddenly, without a sound, you were anchored in the bay.”

Even this quiet statement bore the shadowy alarm. John Woolfolk realized that it had not been caused by his abrupt appearance; the faint accent of dread was fixed in the illusive form before him.

“I have robbed you too,” he continued in a lighter tone. “Your oranges are in my pocket.”

“You won’t like them,” she returned indirectly; “they’ve run wild. We can’t sell them.”

“They have a distinct flavor of their own,” he assured her. “I should be glad to have some on the Gar.

“All you want…”

—Joseph Hergesheimer, “Wild Oranges”

young-woman-with-basket-of-oranges-and-lemons-1080

cf. Eugene de Blaas, Young Woman With Basket Of Oranges And Lemons (1902)

 

Joan Jett and the Blackhearts – “Crimson and Clover”

“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

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

F. Holland Day, Peggy Lee Writing (1898)

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

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

Quote

“You Say Picasso And I Say Pimento” (To Be Sung To The Tune Of “Let’s Call The Whole Thing Off”)

“You Say Picasso And I Say Pimento”
(To be sung to the tune of “Let’s Call The Whole Thing Off”)

Things have come to a pretty pass
Our romance is growing flat,
For you like this and the other
While I go for this and that,

Goodness knows what the end will be
Oh I don’t know where I’m at
It looks as if we two will never be one
Something must be done:

You say Albert Einstein and I say Dianne Feinstein,
You say Phil Niekro and I say George Knightley
Einstein, Feinstein, Niekro, Knightley
Let’s call the whole thing off.

You like Polanski and I like Pizarro
You like Ptolemy and I like Palladio
Polanski, Pizarro, Ptolemy, Palladio
Let’s call the whole thing off

But oh, if we call the whole thing off
Then we must part
And oh, if we ever part, then that might break my heart

So if you like Polybius and I like Pythagoras
I’ll read Polybius not theorem Pythagoras
For we know we need each other so we
Better call the whole thing off
Let’s call the whole thing off.

You say Hedy Lamarr and I say Dorothy Lamour
You say Bella Abzug and I say Dan Aykroyd
Lamarr, Lamour, Abzug, Aykroyd
Let’s call the whole thing off,

You like Velázquez and I like Herve Villachaize
You Marquis deSade and I Sade
Velázquez, Villachaize, Claus Von Bulow, Abe Vigoda
Let’s call the whole thing off

But oh if we call the whole thing of then we must part
And oh, if we ever part, then that might break my heart

So if you go for Frederick Law Olmsted and I go for Edward James Olmos
I’ll garden Olmsted no Netflix James Olmos
For we know we need each other so we
Better call the calling off off,
Let’s call the whole thing off.

I say Jose Feliciano, and you say Annette Funicello,
I say Chuck Mangioni and you say Guglielmo Marconi
Pavarotti, Pocahontas, Leslie Uggams, that’s my auntie — let’s call the whole thing off!

I like Barbara Bel Geddes and you like Jean Paul Belmondo
I say Herodotus and I get Humperdinck
Bel Geddes, Belmondo, Herodotus, Humperdinck
Go your way, I’ll go mine

So if I go for Schopenhauer and you go for Bill Shoemaker,
So all right no contest we’ll wager Shoemaker
For we know we need each other so we
Better call the calling off off,
Let’s call the whole thing off.

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

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

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

“To fill the hour, — that is happiness”

To fill the hour, — that is happiness; to fill the hour, and leave no crevice for a repentance or an approval…To finish the moment, to find the journey’s end in every step of the road, to live the greatest number of good hours, is wisdom.

–Ralph Waldo Emerson, Experience from Essays: Second Series (1844)