Uncategorized

“Meeting Point,” by Louis MacNeice

 

Time was away and somewhere else,

There were two glasses and two chairs

And two people with the one pulse

(Somebody stopped the moving stairs)

Time was away and somewhere else.  

 

And they were neither up nor down;

The stream’s music did not stop

Flowing through heather, limpid brown,

Although they sat in a coffee shop

And they were neither up nor down.  

 

The bell was silent in the air

Holding its inverted poise –

Between the clang and clang a flower,

A brazen calyx of no noise:

The bell was silent in the air.  

 

The camels crossed the miles of sand

That stretched around the cups and plates;

The desert was their own, they planned

To portion out the stars and dates:

The camels crossed the miles of sand.  

 

Time was away and somewhere else.

The waiter did not come, the clock

Forgot them and the radio waltz

Came out like water from a rock:

Time was away and somewhere else.  

 

Her fingers flicked away the ash

That bloomed again in tropic trees:

Not caring if the markets crash

When they had forests such as these,

Her fingers flicked away the ash.  

 

God or whatever means the Good

Be praised that time can stop like this,

That what the heart has understood

Can verify in the body’s peace

God or whatever means the Good.  

 

Time was away and she was here

And life no longer what it was,

The bell was silent in the air

And all the room one glow because

Time was away and she was here.

 Image

Edward Hopper, “Automat” (1927)

***

Leonard Cohen, “Coming Back To You

Aside
Uncategorized

Thinking about Stonewall Riots

“Bone-flower Elegy,” by Robert Hayden

In the dream I enter the house

wander vast rooms that are

catacombs midnight subway

cavernous ruined movie-palace

where presences in vulture masks

play scenes of erotic violence

on a scaffold stage I want

to stay and watch but know somehow

I must not linger and come to the funeral

chamber in its icy nonlight see

a naked corpse

turning with sensual movements

on its coffin-bed

I have wept for you many times

I whisper but shrink from the arms

That would embrace me

And treading water reach

arched portals opening on a desert

groves of enormous nameless flowers

twist up from firegold sand

skull flowers flowers of sawtooth bone

their leaves and petals interlock

caging me for you beastangel

raging toward me

angelbeast shining come

to rend me and redeem

***

20140629-034758-13678847.jpg

20140629-034758-13678659.jpg

***
Diana Ross, “I’m Coming Out

Standard
Uncategorized

Pride Weekend, 2014

“Queer,” by Frank Bidart

 

Lie to yourself about this and you will

forever lie about everything.

 

Everybody already knows everything

 

so you can

lie to them. That’s what they want.

 

But lie to yourself, what you will

 

lose is yourself. Then you

turn into them.                  

 

               *

 

For each gay kid whose adolescence

 

was America in the forties or fifties

the primary, the crucial

 

scenario

 

forever is coming out—

or not. Or not. Or not. Or not. Or not.

 

                 *

 

Involuted velleities of self-erasure.

 

                   *

 

Quickly after my parents

died, I came out. Foundational narrative

 

designed to confer existence.

 

If I had managed to come out to my

mother, she would have blamed not

 

me, but herself.

 

The door through which you were shoved out

into the light

 

was self-loathing and terror.

 

                   *

 

Thank you, terror!

 

You learned early that adults’ genteel

fantasies about human life

 

were not, for you, life. You think sex

 

is a knife

driven into you to teach you that.

 

Image

Neon sculpture by Lili Lakich, “Pray the Gay Away/Way”

***

Judy Garland (from Judy At Carnegie Hall), “Over the Rainbow

Standard
Uncategorized

from “Don Juan,” Canto XIV by Lord Byron, George Gordon

If from great nature’s or our own abyss
  Of thought we could but snatch a certainty,
Perhaps mankind might find the path they miss—
  But then ‘t would spoil much good philosophy.
One system eats another up, and this
  Much as old Saturn ate his progeny;
For when his pious consort gave him stones
In lieu of sons, of these he made no bones.

But System doth reverse the Titan’s breakfast,
  And eats her parents, albeit the digestion
Is difficult. Pray tell me, can you make fast,
  After due search, your faith to any question?
Look back o’er ages, ere unto the stake fast
  You bind yourself, and call some mode the best one.
Nothing more true than not to trust your senses;
And yet what are your other evidences?

For me, I know nought; nothing I deny,
  Admit, reject, contemn; and what know you,
Except perhaps that you were born to die?
  And both may after all turn out untrue.
An age may come, Font of Eternity,
  When nothing shall be either old or new.
Death, so call’d, is a thing which makes men weep,
And yet a third of life is pass’d in sleep.

A sleep without dreams, after a rough day
  Of toil, is what we covet most; and yet
How clay shrinks back from more quiescent clay!
  The very Suicide that pays his debt
At once without instalments (an old way
  Of paying debts, which creditors regret)
Lets out impatiently his rushing breath,
Less from disgust of life than dread of death.

‘T is round him, near him, here, there, every where;
  And there ‘s a courage which grows out of fear,
Perhaps of all most desperate, which will dare
  The worst to know it:—when the mountains rear
Their peaks beneath your human foot, and there
  You look down o’er the precipice, and drear
The gulf of rock yawns,—you can’t gaze a minute
Without an awful wish to plunge within it.

‘T is true, you don’t—but, pale and struck with terror,
  Retire: but look into your past impression!
And you will find, though shuddering at the mirror
  Of your own thoughts, in all their self-confession,
The lurking bias, be it truth or error,
  To the unknown; a secret prepossession,
To plunge with all your fears—but where? You know not,
And that’s the reason why you do—or do not.

But what ‘s this to the purpose? you will say.
  Gent. reader, nothing; a mere speculation,
For which my sole excuse is—‘t is my way;
  Sometimes with and sometimes without occasion
I write what ‘s uppermost, without delay:
  This narrative is not meant for narration,
But a mere airy and fantastic basis,
To build up common things with common places.

You know, or don’t know, that great Bacon saith,
  ‘Fling up a straw, ‘t will show the way the wind blows;'
And such a straw, borne on by human breath,
  Is poesy, according as the mind glows;
A paper kite which flies ‘twixt life and death,
  A shadow which the onward soul behind throws:
And mine ‘s a bubble, not blown up for praise,
But just to play with, as an infant plays.

The world is all before me—or behind;
  For I have seen a portion of that same,
And quite enough for me to keep in mind;—
  Of passions, too, I have proved enough to blame,
To the great pleasure of our friends, mankind,
  Who like to mix some slight alloy with fame;
For I was rather famous in my time,
Until I fairly knock’d it up with rhyme.

I have brought this world about my ears, and eke
  The other; that ‘s to say, the clergy, who
Upon my head have bid their thunders break
  In pious libels by no means a few.
And yet I can’t help scribbling once a week,
  Tiring old readers, nor discovering new.
In youth I wrote because my mind was full,
And now because I feel it growing dull.

But ‘why then publish?'—There are no rewards
  Of fame or profit when the world grows weary.
I ask in turn,—Why do you play at cards?
  Why drink? Why read?—To make some hour less dreary.
It occupies me to turn back regards
  On what I ‘ve seen or ponder’d, sad or cheery;
And what I write I cast upon the stream,
To swim or sink—I have had at least my dream.

I think that were I certain of success,
  I hardly could compose another line:
So long I ‘ve battled either more or less,
  That no defeat can drive me from the Nine.
This feeling ‘t is not easy to express,
  And yet ‘t is not affected, I opine.
In play, there are two pleasures for your choosing—
The one is winning, and the other losing.

Besides, my Muse by no means deals in fiction:
  She gathers a repertory of facts,
Of course with some reserve and slight restriction,
  But mostly sings of human things and acts—
And that ‘s one cause she meets with contradiction;
  For too much truth, at first sight, ne’er attracts;
And were her object only what ‘s call’d glory,
With more ease too she ‘d tell a different story.

Love, war, a tempest—surely there ‘s variety;
  Also a seasoning slight of lucubration;
A bird’s-eye view, too, of that wild, Society;
  A slight glance thrown on men of every station.
If you have nought else, here ‘s at least satiety
  Both in performance and in preparation;
And though these lines should only line portmanteaus,
Trade will be all the better for these Cantos.

The portion of this world which I at present
  Have taken up to fill the following sermon,
Is one of which there ‘s no description recent.
  The reason why is easy to determine:
Although it seems both prominent and pleasant,
  There is a sameness in its gems and ermine,
A dull and family likeness through all ages,
Of no great promise for poetic pages.

With much to excite, there ‘s little to exalt;
  Nothing that speaks to all men and all times;
A sort of varnish over every fault;
  A kind of common-place, even in their crimes;
Factitious passions, wit without much salt,
  A want of that true nature which sublimes
Whate’er it shows with truth; a smooth monotony
Of character, in those at least who have got any.

Sometimes, indeed, like soldiers off parade,
  They break their ranks and gladly leave the drill;
But then the roll-call draws them back afraid,
  And they must be or seem what they were: still
Doubtless it is a brilliant masquerade;
  But when of the first sight you have had your fill,
It palls—at least it did so upon me,
This paradise of pleasure and ennui.

When we have made our love, and gamed our gaming,
  Drest, voted, shone, and, may be, something more;
With dandies dined; heard senators declaiming;
  Seen beauties brought to market by the score,
Sad rakes to sadder husbands chastely taming;
  There ‘s little left but to be bored or bore.
Witness those ‘ci-devant jeunes hommes’ who stem
The stream, nor leave the world which leaveth them.

‘T is said—indeed a general complaint—
  That no one has succeeded in describing
The monde, exactly as they ought to paint:
  Some say, that authors only snatch, by bribing
The porter, some slight scandals strange and quaint,
  To furnish matter for their moral gibing;
And that their books have but one style in common—
My lady’s prattle, filter’d through her woman.

But this can’t well be true, just now; for writers
  Are grown of the beau monde a part potential:
I ‘ve seen them balance even the scale with fighters,
  Especially when young, for that ‘s essential.
Why do their sketches fail them as inditers
  Of what they deem themselves most consequential,
The real portrait of the highest tribe?
‘T is that, in fact, there ‘s little to describe.

‘Haud ignara loquor;' these are Nugae, ‘quarum
  Pars parva fui,' but still art and part.
Now I could much more easily sketch a harem,
  A battle, wreck, or history of the heart,
Than these things; and besides, I wish to spare ‘em,
  For reasons which I choose to keep apart.
‘Vetabo Cereris sacrum qui vulgarit—'
Which means that vulgar people must not share it.

And therefore what I throw off is ideal—
  Lower’d, leaven’d, like a history of freemasons;
Which bears the same relation to the real,
  As Captain Parry’s voyage may do to Jason’s.
The grand arcanum ‘s not for men to see all;
  My music has some mystic diapasons;
And there is much which could not be appreciated
In any manner by the uninitiated.

Alas! worlds fall—and woman, since she fell’d
  The world (as, since that history less polite
Than true, hath been a creed so strictly held)
  Has not yet given up the practice quite.
Poor thing of usages! coerced, compell’d,
  Victim when wrong, and martyr oft when right,
Condemn’d to child-bed, as men for their sins
Have shaving too entail’d upon their chins,—

A daily plague, which in the aggregate
  May average on the whole with parturition.
But as to women, who can penetrate
  The real sufferings of their she condition?
Man’s very sympathy with their estate
  Has much of selfishness, and more suspicion.
Their love, their virtue, beauty, education,
But form good housekeepers, to breed a nation.

All this were very well, and can’t be better;
  But even this is difficult, Heaven knows,
So many troubles from her birth beset her,
  Such small distinction between friends and foes,
The gilding wears so soon from off her fetter,
  That—but ask any woman if she’d choose
(Take her at thirty, that is) to have been
Female or male? a schoolboy or a queen?

‘Petticoat influence’ is a great reproach,
  Which even those who obey would fain be thought
To fly from, as from hungry pikes a roach;
  But since beneath it upon earth we are brought,
By various joltings of life’s hackney coach,
  I for one venerate a petticoat—
A garment of a mystical sublimity,
No matter whether russet, silk, or dimity.

Much I respect, and much I have adored,
  In my young days, that chaste and goodly veil,
Which holds a treasure, like a miser’s hoard,
  And more attracts by all it doth conceal—
A golden scabbard on a Damasque sword,
  A loving letter with a mystic seal,
A cure for grief—for what can ever rankle
Before a petticoat and peeping ankle?

And when upon a silent, sullen day,
  With a sirocco, for example, blowing,
When even the sea looks dim with all its spray,
  And sulkily the river’s ripple ‘s flowing,
And the sky shows that very ancient gray,
  The sober, sad antithesis to glowing,—
‘T is pleasant, if then any thing is pleasant,
To catch a glimpse even of a pretty peasant.

We left our heroes and our heroines
  In that fair clime which don’t depend on climate,
Quite independent of the Zodiac’s signs,
  Though certainly more difficult to rhyme at,
Because the sun, and stars, and aught that shines,
  Mountains, and all we can be most sublime at,
Are there oft dull and dreary as a dun—
Whether a sky’s or tradesman’s is all one.

An in-door life is less poetical;
  And out of door hath showers, and mists, and sleet,
With which I could not brew a pastoral.
  But be it as it may, a bard must meet
All difficulties, whether great or small,
  To spoil his undertaking or complete,
And work away like spirit upon matter,
Embarrass’d somewhat both with fire and water.

Image

photo is by Erwin Olaf, "Pearls (Square)" (1999)

***
Steely Dan, "Show Biz Kids"
Standard
Uncategorized

On the Eve of Destruction

“The Second Coming,” by William Butler Yeats

Turning and turning in the widening gyre   
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere   
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst   
Are full of passionate intensity.

 

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.   
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out   
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert   
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,   
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,   
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it   
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.   
The darkness drops again; but now I know   
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,   
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,   
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?
 
Image
 
The Winged Assyrian Bull of Nineveh, destroyed recently by ISIS?
 
***
Bobby McGuire, “On the Eve of Destruction
Standard