Saturday, 31 March 2012

shadows of things are not things

shadows of things are not things.

these silvery buds of smooth delight
that i gently brush against my skin:
they are called, you know, neko-yanagi
in japanese, a language which,
by drawing things
instead of pinning down
their shadows,
keeps both the cat
and the willow alive.

the cat is the key, then.
balancing on the rope
tightly wrapped around my ankles,
its fur aglow, all loveliness.
it reminds me of a cat
i once saw in vilnius.
it is still crossing the street, even now,
while you brush the image away,
with, i think, what could be called a smile:

photographs of things are not things.

the rose, oh the once flawless rose
lies there now, beheaded.
it is just one of those metaphors,
you think yet again,
refusing to see
the thin red line
widening upon my neck,
no shadow, as it were.



  1. Neko-yanagi: are these Catkins? These velvety ovals, these flower-pods -honeydew fur of bees on bark?

    In another land these are the fresh bud-burst of the Pussy-Willow: a first sight of spring, as Sakura.

    The Cat's eye has no human sight. Its life nine-fold and never in them one smile: it sees the cicatrice and does not flinch. Its gaze is always sanguine. It has always known the hidden ways and the human ways which obscure them. It never looks up to us only into us: this is why some call them distant though they have ever been familiar.

  2. she has such beautiful, sensuous lips!

  3. Lovely photos, Roxana. But what of us, your readers? Are we not just shadows to you?

  4. hello beautiful Roxana, ah que c'est magnifique- un autre chef d'oeuvre qui exprime la sensualité du moment et l'état éphémère de la vie ah tes photos sont si magnifiques que il sont meme le souffle de notre vie oui les photos magnifique deviennent notre souffle qui s'en vole avec le moment et qui fait respirer toute la terre.
    et oui l'ombrage et les objets deviennent un les objets et les créatures sont les formes dans les vagues de la vie ils sortent et reviennent et deviennent les vagues et sont toujours les vagues de la vie.
    yes my beautiful friend you have expressed the wave nature of our universe and the cosmos the waves of receding and becoming and I can't help but consider here a little physics how the longest electromagnet waves that sees into the light of our soul extends the entire length of the universe.(I added to physics that sees into the light of the soul haha.)
    and your powerful words wrap around and become this wave sensuality -nothing ever drowns in the sea of life the waves wash forever washed into the seas and recede on our shores-beautiful!
    YES and I love your line about the cat-it is still crossing the street now while you brush away the image all becomes the long wave of light
    and thankyou for sharing your delight of life the smooth delight of the neko yanagi and the cats fur and the shadows
    thankyou sending you colourful kisses

  5. does photography draw things, or does it pin down their shadows?
    wonderful, ambiguous text - which keeps me wondering

  6. Waaaooowww... quel très beau texte !
    Les choses ne sont pas la chose et l'oeil du photographe essaie de capturer l'insaisissable !
    Notre libre interprétation de tes photographies va apporter du sens - le nôtre - à la vision que nous croyons être la chose... mais elle n'existe pas !!!
    C'est pour cela que le pont flottant est plein de rêves et non de choses représentées par des objets cherchant à représenter la chose de l'objet !
    En deux mots, et j'aurai du commencer par là, les rêves que tu nous proposes sont toujours aussi génials!

  7. Chère Roxana, you leave me breathless as always... should I see a doctor ?

  8. i have been reading this poem over a number of times. it is both beautiful and disturbing to me, just as love can be a mix of these two attributes. i sense irony in the italicized phrases, for how can she have a red line around her neck if shadows are not, in some way, in some sense -- real? who has this woman's shadow pinned down? and what can she do?

  9. For some reason (i'm probably spending too much time in the sun), this reminded me of the poetry of William Carlos Williams. A cat, for instance, can be the reason for a poem--not reason as idea, but reason as a statement that such and such exists. There are no ideas--only things (imagist maxim). This philosophy is closer to Japanese sensibility, and yet Williams was American--seeking the sound of America, of American things.

  10. Roxana, you understand so well that the shadow and the substance are co-dependent - one cannot exist without the other. Of course there are stories - by Andersen, by von Chamisso - in which the shadow and the substance are separated and struggle for mastery. As a graphic artist you understand that forms are defined by the shapes between them - the negative spaces - and that to see if a composition works, you turn it upside down.

  11. Saltimbanques

    Dans la plaine les baladins
    S'éloignent au long des jardins
    Devant l'huis des auberges grises
    Par les villages sans églises

    Et les enfants s'en vont devant
    Les autres suivent en rêvant
    Chaque arbre fruitier se résigne
    Quand de très loin ils lui font signe

    Ils ont des poids ronds ou carrés
    Des tambours des cerceaux dorés
    L'ours et le singe animaux sages
    Quêtent des sous sur leur passage

    Guillaume Apollinaire (1880 - 1918)

  12. We need the shadow in order to see the light.

  13. ...but of course shadows (photographs) of things are things, though they are not the things that cast them ... they are the disappearances of the things, the fore-memory of the things before they disappear ...

    i scare myself in the possibility that i might love the shadows more than the "real" things ... time is in the shadows, the photographs of what we are about to lose ... there are no photographs of roses, these do not exist, but there are photographs of the loss of roses (and of her, then, what of her?)

  14. mts
    (i keep calling you like this, as i first did when you came here :-)
    yes, catkins. and i knew you would be one of the cat's devotees, have you ever seen this older post of mine, i think it was before your miraculous stumbling upon the Bridge :-)

  15. anon, first one, i do hope you haven't been blinded by that and managed to see something else as well in this entire post!

    b, that's a good question. though Barthes &all would say it is almost the other way, the author is just a shadow of each reader (sorry for the literary criticism references, i know you are fed up with them as it is :-P)

    Madeleine, my photos, physics, wave sensuality, your comment is as always refreshening and interesting - and by a happy coincidence, i had just read a poem playing upon the wave-image (i thank swiss for that, who posted it on his lounge), i am sharing it below, i am sure you will enjoy it :-)
    bisous de tout coeur!

    Wave State
    (by Maria Grech Ganado)

    For years I’ve stalked you.

    Not consistently.

    There were times I lost the trail -
    or else some other tore my eyes away, because
    I’ve always had a curious mind, preferring
    to be the seeker than the prey.

    It was your spores of light which sometimes played
    in thickets or in clearings, on stone, through trees
    which still distracted me, slipping from night to night
    flitting in space, as if place and momentum
    could be measured simultaneously
    no matter what Heisenberg had claimed.

    And yet, about uncertainty – well, he was right –
    for even when I catch you moving, I’m moved too
    to find out where I am, or who. My principles
    grow watery, unsure. I become prey.

    I wish you’d let me stalk you as before, controlling
    my own time from spot to spot, stopping
    to watch you sport as particle or wave – by turns,
    not both at once, at once both wild and tame.

    This tension is immense. Immeasurable.

    I do not need it fathomed, or explained.

  16. fff, it is an essential question, isn't it? and yet it must remain undecided, as all essential questions :-)

    Jeff, quel plaisir de te lire de nouveau ici, oui, tu as compris exactement l'idee des ombres mais aussi l'allusion a la liberte infinie des interpretations... merci de tout coeur pour ton enthousiasme, je t'embrasse!

    Owen, if a doctor could heal this kind of breathlessness, then the world would be much less beautiful and exciting :-)

  17. anonymous,
    thank you for your comment, it is very subtle and to the point, indeed, you have expressed the exact reason for which i wrote the poem, and the central ambiguity on which it is based. except one thing, to me, at least how i conceived them, there is no irony in the italic lines, it is only the sad recognition of that truth, because it is a truth indeed, while at the same time the poem asserts that, simultaneously, there can be another truth as well, an opposite one: both real & not real, both more than real & less than real.

    thank you...

  18. Prospero, i am so grateful, such a wonderful comment, how could i be but delighted that you think of William Carlos Williams here - and you are so right about the japanese sensibility as well. did you know that one of my favourite poems ever is by him:

    munching a plum on
    the street a paper bag
    of them in her hand

    They taste good to her
    They taste good
    to her. They taste
    good to her

    You can see it by
    the way she gives herself
    to the one half
    sucked out in her hand

    a solace of ripe plums
    seeming to fill the air
    They taste good to her

    (To a Poor Old Woman)

  19. Neil, thank you for this thought-provoking contribution - yes, they can be separated, at least in a gedankenexperiment, but the result is always tragic, which says everything about that essential connectedness. about the negative spaces, indeed - i am reading through a marvelous book on japanese calligraphy right now, and even if one hadn't understood about negative spaces until then, one would be forced to see that upon contemplating the works there :-)
    (though 'negative' is such a poor word to express that, that empty interval for which japanese/chinese have the wonderful character MA, "representing door/gate surrounding the radical for sun showing through, indicating between/gap/space", with its many meanings:
    KAN: interval; space; between; among; discord; favorable opportunity.
    ai: interval; between, medium; crossbred.
    aida, awai: space, interval, gap; between, among; midway; on the way; distance; time, period; relationship.
    ma: space, room; interval; pause; rest (in music); time; a while, leisure; luck; timing, harmony)

  20. alain, merci pour ce beau poeme, j'ai toujours aime Apollinaire, je pense qu'il est un poete dont on a un peu l'oublie l'importance...
    je t'embrasse et te souhaite un bon week-end!

    yes, Lynne, yes.

  21. James, how many days and nights have we 'lost' pondering these impossible questions? (the language betrays us here as well).
    "i scare myself in the possibility that i might love the shadows more than the "real" things" - i think this is somehow what 'i', the i in the poem, was trying to tell her dialogue partner, in that imaginary conversation... you understand, deep down into the heart of the poem, you know...

    "and of her, then, what of her?" - we don't know, nobody knows. yet we keep asking, and re-drawing her face, both beyond and at the center of loss.

  22. The shadow cannot exist without the substance, yet the substance can exist without the shadow; only in our stories does it seem otherwise, and we are so ensnared by our stories. Proof? It is irrefutable. Could the sum of all things have a shadow? No, with no light to cast it and no surface on which it might be cast. Always trust the art, never the artist, for art also is a shadow.

    That cat and the string is one of the most enduring encounters remembered on the Bridge. (:

  23. It is interesting, this talk of shadows and "negative spaces." Particularly for me, living on the edge of a vast desert. There are hundreds of miles where there is only space with literally no shadows, and it is fierce. Almost life-threatening if one wanders too long and far. The trail that I run has no shadows besides the one your own body makes. And I can't figure out a way to crawl into that one! I guess environment shapes perception to a great degree. I'm also reminded of "The Treachery of Images: Ceci n'est pas une pipe" ~ Magritte. Beautiful images/words of complex explorations.

  24. i think all things are necessary, the thing itself, the shadow, the wall, the light, the question, the artist. could there be a catkin alone without any of the rest of this? could a catkin exist in a vacuum? if this is so, i would not want to be that catkin.

    your photography is stunning. it speaks to me like hands passing in and out of light and then settling to touch my eyelids. do you understand? it passes through countries. it passes through a cyber world (now, what of that existence?) and becomes something inside of me. perhaps a catkin?


  25. somewhere between
    the street and the
    the ghost of the last
    ashes donot return to wood
    donot return to flesh

  26. You say, "...there can be another truth as well, an opposite one: both real & not real, both more than real & less than real." These are ideas, philosophies, truths; and there are times when an idea(a way of seeing something, justifying a certain reality) can alleviate suffering, but in this poem there is pain: the line around the neck, the rope around the feet, the decapitated rose -- this is real suffering that ideas of "real or not real" haven't cushioned, have not lessened. Perhaps the woman in the poem has no other choice but to accept a filtered down love...she is trapped, there is not way she must just accept it??? How is this love?

  27. anonymous, the poem speaks its own language, it says what it says... i think it is for everyone of us to make out what is says (including me, the 'author'), which then becomes _our_ own meaning... oh, and to answer the questions, the most difficult thing, if only we could find the answers, indeed... perhaps the answer is different for each person, i suspect that much.

    (your heart goes with the woman in this poem, and for this i am most grateful)

  28. Dear Roxana, you are poetic, smart and you can translate well. Will you help me? I desperately want to understand this poem, the spirit of it. Will you please tell me what you think it is saying? Can you translate it for me?

    Entrés en contact My_peine_friend
    doux choc électrique
    réseau sous tension
    correspondants correspondant
    pris dans cette toile
    dansant sur le fil

    My peine friend
    je ne peux prendre avec moi
    tes pannes de cœur
    peines d’ordinateur

    My peine friend
    j’ai des stylos plein les poches
    de toutes les couleurs, encres et longueurs … d’ondes

    Mon cœur brûle cette toile
    dont nous étions épris
    Retour expéditif à son expéditeur

    My peine friend
    je ne peux prendre avec moi
    tes pannes de cœur
    peines d’ordinateur

    My peine friend
    Pas plus qu’une bague au doigt
    n’aime ce fil à ma patte

    My peine friend
    mes stylos s’entrechoquent, se répandent, me bécottent

    My peine friend
    leurs plumes me picorent, je vais vers d’autres mondes

    My peine friend.