Stories and poems

"The metaphoric image of 'orphan lines' is a contrivance of the detached onlooker to whom the verbal art of continuous correspondences remains aesthetically alien. Orphan lines in poetry of pervasive parallels are a contradiction in terms, since whatever the status of a line, all its structure and functions are indissolubly interlaced with the near and distant verbal environment, and the task of linguistic analysis is to disclose the levels of this coaction. When seen from the inside of the parallelistic system, the supposed orphanhood, like any other componential status, turns into a network of multifarious compelling affinities.'
Roman JAKOBSON, "Grammatical Parallelism and its Russian Facet", Language, 42/2, 1966, pp. 399-429, p. 428-429

Thursday, August 4, 2011


The words have slown to a trickle. I've been writing at home, listening to France Culture on the radio, washing rugs, baking, cooking, cleaning, putting corrections into my file, now saved on my old laptop, so young yet so old, in the current scheme of things.  

Technology makes me feel old. Do we think better with our computers? I don't think so. I love The Book of Memory by Mary Carruthers. I'm learning and talking about how we used to read, in medieval times. Our minds were huge, if one were to stretch them out in space, then the size of a football field, now the size of a thimble. They built mansions in their brains to house ideas in. I suppose I'm nostalgic. I think my mind, if well trained then, would have flourished. But how can I know? I found a tortorous past life there, once, in medieval times, and one in antiquity, a village in the desert, which was even more traumatic.

I suppose I'm glad I'm writing now, the ease with which I can here. I can look things up at the drop of a hat, what was her name again? What was that quote or the name of that book? The search engine allows me to make leaps in knowledge with an ease unavailable in ancient times.

But I'm still not sure we are smarter. On the contrary. Computers make us lazy.
But it's August, hot finally, and tired.


Waiting for summer to end.
Berries on carpets,
blue-black stains of summer ending,
I have flowers on my undergarments.

Five hundred grams of plums,
small, dark and clouded,
bites of time and sun
which I bought at the market today.

My mind changes every day
but my body stays the same.
I think, "Winter will be my Spring,"
I think, "Summer will end."

I'll send you a poem by Pasternak called August,
I'll write one too, which maybe I won't send to you,
waiting for melancholic Autumn,
waiting for summer to end.

I'm not sure I sent either, actually. I wrote that years ago. Here is the Pasternak poem: 


This was its promise, held to faithfully:
The early morning sun came in this way
Until the angle of its saffron beam
Between the curtains and the sofa lay,

And with its ochre heat it spread across
The village houses, and the nearby wood,
Upon my bed and on my dampened pillow
And to the corner where the bookcase stood.

Then I recalled the reason why my pillow
Had been so dampened by those tears that fell-
I'd dreamt I saw you coming one by one
Across the wood to wish me your farewell.

You came in ones and twos, a straggling crowd;
Then suddenly someone mentioned a word:
It was the sixth of August, by Old Style,
And the Transfiguration of Our Lord.

For from Mount Tabor usually this day
There comes a light without a flame to shine,
And autumn draws all eyes upon itself
As clear and unmistaken as a sign.

But you came forward through the tiny, stripped,
The pauperly and trembling alder grove,
Into the graveyard's coppice, russet-red,
Which, like stamped gingerbread, lay there and glowed.

And with the silence of those high treetops
Was neighbour only the imposing sky
And in the echoed crowing of the cocks
The distances and distances rang by:

There in the churchyard underneath the trees,
Like some surveyor from the government
Death gazed on my pale face to estimate
How large a grave would suit my measurement.

All those who stood there could distinctly hear
A quiet voice emerge from where I lay:
The voice was mine, my past; prophetic words
That sounded now, unsullied by decay:

'Farewell, wonder of azure and of gold
Surrounding the Transfiguration's power:
Assuage now with a woman's last caress
The bitterness of my predestined hour!

'Farewell timeless expanse of passing years!
Farewell, woman who flung your challenge steeled
Against the abyss of humiliations:
For it is I who am your battlefield!

'Farewell, you span of open wings outspread,
The voluntary obstinacy of flight,
O figure of the world revealed in speech,
Creative genius, wonder-working might!' 

Tomorrow, on death, for now, I love this allegory of writing!
Found online so sweetly and easily, perhaps the internet is the new library of Alexandria, but I miss the smells.

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