Monday 10 November 2008

this silence.

I come before you as if you were God.
I know, people don't usually do such sort of things
but I could never be bothered
with the small details of breathing.

If my body fails to adore you,
I will punish it.
My eyes, I will say to my eyes,
if you fail to see
through his blade of grass,
I will take you out of my eyes.
My mouth, I will say to my mouth,
if you fail to glow
beyond the word and its absence,
if you fail to open as the sin at dusk,
I will take you out of my mouth.
My blood and my bones,
I will say to you then,
if you fail to build his house,
his temple of snow,
his ark of sorrow,
his throne of wine
I will take you out of my blood and my bones

until I,
stripped of myself,
learn to be.

Still, Ingeborg knows better, after all she writes about Todesarten, ways to die:

Und ich muss erzählen, ich werde erzählen, bald gibt es nichts mehr... Denn wenn I. nicht zu mir gehören sollte, wie ich zu ihm gehöre, dann wird er eines Tages existieren in einem gewöhnlichen Leben, und er wird davon gewöhnlich werden, nicht mehr gefeiert werden, aber I. will vielleicht nichts anderes als sein einfaches Leben, und ich habe ihm ... ein Stück Leben schwierig gemacht.
I. sagt lachend, aber nur einmal: Ich kann dort nicht atmen, wo du mich hinstellst, bitte nicht so hoch hinauf, trag niemand mehr in die dünne Luft, das rat ich dir, das lern noch für später! Ich habe nicht gesagt: Aber wenn soll ich noch nach dir? aber du denkst doch nicht, dass ich nach dir? ich lerne lieber noch alles für dich. Für sonst niemand mehr.


And what if all is useless? in spite of all that learning, of becoming the work of art, what if nothing is enough, ever enough? the word is helpless, the image worthless.
I have to find a way to make sense again, a way to continue. until then, silence, the most unbearable thing, is the only thing I - hope to - bear.

Monday 3 November 2008

the untold stories

the untold stories
plunging their roots
into the bone of
my heart
poisonous and hungry
the unwritten sisters and
daughters of mine
agitating their dark foliage
in me

listen to me you
to whose feet my untold

my unwritten
bodies of despair command
me to kneel
they put a rope around
my neck
they take my
they want revenge
they tear me
in search of
hear me out you
to whose feet I don't

Friday 31 October 2008

Thursday 30 October 2008

revenge of a mortal hand

Not a thing will ever happen unless I say so.
Without my blessing, not a leaf will fall,
not a blade of grass will bend beneath that little hoof's full stop.

Is there then a world
where I rule absolutely on fate?
A time I bind with chains of signs?
An existence become endless at my bidding?

The joy of writing.
The power of preserving.
Revenge of a mortal hand.

Wislawa Szymborska (from The Joy of Writing)

Note: I chose this quote in response to Kubla's comment on my previous post, in which he argues that writing doesn't get us anywhere and wonders why we keep on writing anyway. I have mixed feelings about this poem, I like the first part but not the ending, I don't know about the revenge of a mortal hand, even if I understand that this can be a motivation for many. I don't think there is a time we can bind with chains of signs. No time can be bound, there is no 'next time', we can never begin again. Still, it is a poet's answer and maybe when the words desert us, we should always turn to those voices which resound in our hearts.
and I don't believe in the joy of writing either, but then I am not a writer. nevertheless, I believe in the joy of photographing. no, maybe I am wrong: when the words desert us, we should turn to images and sounds and most of all, to gestures. the tenderness and yet ambiguity of a mortal hand.

Wednesday 29 October 2008

on the essence of writing

nu trebuie să povesteşti în poezie-am citit
un sfat către un tânăr poet-deci să nu povestesc
cum,foarte devreme, ea se scula dimineaţa,şi aşezându-se pe pat
aştepta să i se liniştească respiraţia,cu faţa în mâini-
să nu spun nimic despre chipul ei atâta de obosit
încât i se încovoiau umerii,în faţa oglinzii,când
se pieptăna încet.să nu-mi mărturisesc spaimele
lângă faţa ei înstrăinată,întoarsă de la mine.
să nu umblu cu versuri,ca şi cu oglinda în mâini
în care se răsfrâng acele dimineţi cu lumina cenuşie
dinainte de zori.poezia nu trebuie să fie reprezentare,
serie de imagini-aşa scrie.poezia
trebuie să fie vorbire interioară.adică
tot eu să vorbesc despre faţa ei înecându-se,căutându-şi
respiraţia?însă atunci ar fi numai felul în care eu vorbesc
despre faţa ei,despre mişcările încetinite prin straturi
de remuşcări tulburi,de gânduri doar ale mele,
ale imaginii ei-ar fi numai un chip,o imagine-
şi ea-adevărata ei fiinţă?

Mircea Ivănescu (Poezia e altceva?)

You must not narrate in poetry - I once read
this piece of advice to a young poet - so I must not narrate
how, very early, she would get up in the morning,
and sit down on the bed,
and wait for her breath to be still, her face in her hands -
I must tell nothing of her face so tired
that her shoulders bent, in front of the mirror,
as she combed herself slowly. I must not confess my fears
to her estranged face, turned away from me.
I must not use verses, as I do the mirror
reflecting those mornings with the grey light
before dawn. Poetry must not be representation,
a series of images - so it is written. Poetry
must be inward talk. Now is it me
who should speak about her face choking, struggling
for breath? Then it would only be the way in which I speak
about her face, about the gestures slowed down through layers
of blurred remorses, of thoughts all mine,
of her image - it would be just a likeness, an image -
and she - her true self then?

(Is Poetry Something Else?, tr. Dan Duţescu)

[dedicated to all the poets who read my blog]

Tuesday 28 October 2008

lost dialogue

'Are you hungry?'


'Are you cold?'


'Are you ill?'


'Are you alive?'

'I don't know anymore'

Suddenly he opens his arms and she leaps into his heart.

Sunday 26 October 2008

warming her pearls

Next to my own skin, her pearls. My mistress
bids me wear them, warm them, until evening
when I´ll brush her hair. At six, I place them
round her cool, white throat. All day I think of her,

resting in the Yellow Room, contemplating silk
or taffeta, which gown tonight? She fans herself
whilst I work willingly, my slow heat entering
each pearl. Slack on my neck, her rope.

She´s beautiful. I dream about her
in my attic bed; picture her dancing
with tall men, puzzled by my faint, persistent scent
beneath her French perfume, her milky stones.

I dust her shoulders with a rabbit´s foot,
watch the soft blush seep through her skin
like an indolent sigh. In her looking-glass
my red lips part as though I want to speak.

Full moon. Her carriage brings her home. I see
her every movement in my head.... Undressing,
taking off her jewels, her slim hand reaching
for the case, slipping naked into bed, the way

she always does.... And I lie here awake,
knowing the pearls are cooling even now
in the room where my mistress sleeps. All night
I feel their absence and I burn.

Carol Ann Duffy (Warming Her Pearls)

Thursday 23 October 2008

in this slow, sad october of gold

I am lost
the gold dripping off your fingers

the useless gold

making my hair heavy

too heavy for this life

the gold dripping off your feet

the weary gold

making my breasts heavy

too heavy for this death

all that gold
I used to be the gentian

growing out of your footstep

light and soft

I used to be

I turned into gold

that tired gold
all that gold

heavy gold

that you don't need

I am lost

das unmögliche Warten auf die Versicherung in einem Satz, die nicht von dieser Welt ist

... [ich] höre nicht auf, Ivan, der noch eine Viertelstunde schlafen darf, im Halbdunkel anzusehen, zu hoffen, zu betteln und zu meinen, einen Satz gehört zu haben, der nicht nur von der Müdigkeit gekommen ist, einen Satz, der mich versichert in der Welt ... aber da Ivan mich nicht liebt, mich auch nicht braucht, warum sollte er mich eines Tages lieben oder brauchen? Er sieht nur mein glatter werdendes Gesicht und freut sich, wenn er mich zum Lachen bringt, und er wird mir wieder erklären, dass wir gegen alles versichert sind, wie unsere Autos, gegen die Erdbeben und die Hurrikane, gegen die Diebstähle und die Unfälle, gegen die Feuerbrünste und gegen den Hagel, aber ich bin versichert in einem Satz und in sonst nichts. Die Welt kennt keine Versicherung fuer mich.

Ingeborg Bachmann (Malina)

for a, who humbled me by saying that my writing reminds her of Ingeborg's.

Tuesday 21 October 2008

and look at me now

I entered into him as into a rose garden. Young and spoiled, fluttering my black tides, my hair undone, my dance unfolding into the evening maze which was his. Easy the way out, I thought back then, I will teach the garden to surrender, the thorns to be soft on my thighs, the scents to need me, the time to be good and behave. And look at me, look at me now, after so many years, you who sit out there at your small tables and eat your dinners and make love to your wives and put your children to bed, all that quiet breathing in and out of 'life', or what you have decided to call as such. Barely alive, my dance folded back into the evening maze which is still his, I wait for the garden to let me out, I beg the time to 'resume his course', or what you have decided that time usually does.

There is no such thing as a merciful rose, I have learned, I who had thought to be the teacher, the imperial sister, the courtesan with the cruelest smile. He forgets that I am still there, I am sure of it. Only at times, when he talks matter-of-factly about the autumn of his soul and nobody can make out if he is serious or not, as it often happens, I wonder if he doesn't mean me.

Friday 17 October 2008

tobacco stained, bloodied

i want to take this poem
on a long train journey
through old countries
and foreign stations
i want to forget it
so that it can find
its way back to me
dog eared and tattered
i want to hear it
wheezed in other languages
tobacco stained, bloodied
a survivor’s tale

i want to bring this poem to you
open it out in some bar or café
where you can see it sunlit
lined and underlined
road-worn, used
and there we will hear the poem
in each others’ mouths
and there we will begin
to talk, to see, to know

swiss (it was living)

Saturday 11 October 2008

neither living nor dead

Yet when we came back, late, from the Hyacinth garden, 
Your arms full, and your hair wet, I could not 
Speak, and my eyes failed, I was neither 
Living nor dead, and I knew nothing,                                   
Looking into the heart of light, the silence.

Eliot (The Waste Land)

her flesh opened up, her mutiny futile.
the rose is not.

what are you doing to me, she says.

the floating. the dark thorns of dreams.

The rose that shouldn't be 
longs to become.

Thursday 9 October 2008

And the night flowed back into the rose.

And she flowed back into the soft curve of her death. 

Saturday 27 September 2008

the lost grace of my hands

She wants to throw herself into the river. From a stone bridge. Or maybe iron, I can't remember. He doesn't let that happen and takes her with him. He teaches her another kind of throwing: knives. At her. In the circus. When they are alone, in a forlorn barn, where she unfolds in pleasure and becomes a veil of light. They never touch. Their eyes meet. Their eyes close, they don't need to see each other to know the only love and the only truth: that they inhabit together a land of pure trust. Inhuman trust, concentration of being reaching that centre of the centre, where the world ceases to spin. Self-abandon, the kind that only grass knows when kneeling to become the sickle.

And I remember your words: 'You've already plunged so many knives into me by making me see all my flaws, my faults, my pitiful frailties'. In the silence that followed, I contemplated my hands. My hands had failed me. The glowing knives of love and song that I used to throw at you had missed. Your transparent mind, the shape of your heart, that my knives knew how to draw again and again, your dark body which I had taught a pale shade of white, a burning shade of gold, they were suddenly out of my reach.

But your devotion for me had also failed. Your longing for the soft bow of my hands in the air, your hunger for my sacred knives of mystery had faded away. Oh how I wished you to resist, to fight the growing loss of grace in my fingers, to lure me back into the spiral of throwing, that perfect act of abolition - death and rebirth of time - the only one possible between us. It would have been so easy. But you just stood there, blinking gently, as if through a haze, smiling in defeat, and I knew then that you hadn't even grasped what had happened. As the meaning dawned upon us, we had already forgotten the face of each other.

Wednesday 24 September 2008

Mit wechselndem Schlüssel

Mit wechselndem Schlüssel
schliesst du das Haus auf, darin
der Schnee des Verschwiegenen treibt.
Je nach dem Blut, das dir quillt
aus Aug oder Mund oder Ohr,
wechselt dein Schlüssel.

Wechselt dein Schlüssel, wechselt das Wort,
das treiben darf mit den Flocken.
Je nach dem Wind, der dich fortstösst,
ballt um das Wort sich der Schnee.

Paul Celan

With a changing key
you unlock the house, where
the snow of what’s silenced drifts.
Tuned to the blood that wells
from your eye or mouth or ear,
it changes, your key.

Changes your key, changes the word
that may drift with the flakes.
Tuned to the wind that pushes you back,
it gloms onto the word, that snow.

With a changing key,
trans. James Owen

[thanking James for giving me what I had asked for and ffflaneur for first quoting these lines on my blog :-)]

Saturday 20 September 2008

speaking a strange language

What a terrible mistake, thought Drogo, perhaps everything is like that -- we think there are beings like ourselves around us and instead there is nothing but ice and stones speaking a strange language; we are on the point of greeting a friend but our arm falls inert, the smile dies away because we are completely alone.

Dino Buzzati,
The Tartar Steppe

Monday 15 September 2008

The paradoxical character of the truth is its objective uncertainty. This uncertainty is the expression for passionate inwardness, and this passion is precisely the truth.


Thursday 11 September 2008

Mount Zao covered with snow

The Chinese poet, Su Shih (Su Tung-po, 1036-1101) wrote:

Tu Fu's poems are figureless paintings, Han Kan's paintings are wordless poems.

Sunday 7 September 2008

oh Princess Bird, are you there ?

What do we know about life? Even if you think hard about it. Who told it to be? Life, that is. Why does the sun roll across the sky, why does the mouse scuttle and scurry, the tree stretch upward, the mermaid splash in the river, the wind smell of flowers? Why do people hit each other over the head with sticks? Why is it that sometimes you don't feel like hitting, but want to go off somewhere in the summer, without roads, without paths, toward the sunrise, where the greengrass grows all around, shoulder high, where the blue rivers play, and above the rivers the golden flies swarm, the branches of unknown trees hang down to the water, and on those branches, white as white can be, sits the Princess Bird.

And her eyes take up half her face, and her mouth is human, red. And she's so beautiful, that fancy Princess Bird, that she can't get over herself. Her body is covered with lavish, delicate white feathers, and she's got a tale seven yards wide that hangs like a braided net, like lacy goosefoot. The Princess Bird turns her head this way and that, admiring herself, kissing her lovely self all over. And no one in his life has ever been harmed by that white bird. And no one ever will be. Amen.

Tatyana Tolstaya
(The Slynx)

Tuesday 2 September 2008

it is in vain that...

Wir nennen das eine Krankheit zum Tode, wodurch die Natur so angegriffen wird, daß teils ihre Kräfte verzehrt, teils so außer Wirkung gesetzt werden, daß sie sich nicht wieder aufzuhelfen, durch keine glückliche Revolution den gewöhnlichen Umlauf des Lebens wieder herzustellen fähig ist.

Nun, mein Lieber, laß uns das auf den Geist anwenden. Sieh den Menschen an in seiner Eingeschränktheit, wie Eindrücke auf ihn wirken, Ideen sich bei ihm festsetzen, bis endlich eine wachsende Leidenschaft ihn aller ruhigen Sinneskraft beraubt und ihn zugrunde richtet.

Vergebens, daß der gelassene, vernünftige Mensch den Zustand Unglücklichen übersieht, vergebens, daß er ihm zuredet! Ebenso wie ein Gesunder, der am Bette des Kranken steht, ihm von seinen Kräften nicht das geringste einflößen kann.

Goethe (Die Leiden des jungen Werther)

You allow that we designate a disease as mortal when nature is so severely attacked, and her strength so far exhausted, that she cannot possibly recover her former condition under any change that may take place.

Now, my good friend, apply this to the mind; observe a man in his natural, isolated condition; consider how ideas work, and how
impressions fasten on him, till at length a violent passion seizes him, destroying all his powers of calm reflection, and utterly ruining him.

It is in vain that a man of sound mind and cool temper understands the condition of such a wretched being, in vain he counsels him. He can no more communicate his own wisdom to him than a healthy man can instil his strength into the invalid, by whose bedside he is seated.

(The Sorrows of Werther)

Friday 29 August 2008

in our thirst-haunted dreams...

You all know the wild grief that besets us when we remember times of happiness. How far beyond recall they are, and we are severed from them by something more pitiless than leagues and miles. In the afterlight, too, the images stand out more enticing than before...

And constantly in our thirst-haunted dreams we grope for the past in its every detail, in its every line and fold. Then it cannot but seem to us as if we had not had our fill of love and life; yet no regret brings back what has been let slip. Would that this mood might be a lesson to us for each moment of our happiness.

Ernst Jünger (On the Marble Cliffs)

Thursday 28 August 2008

yet what happens

Lasă-mă să-ţi amintesc de gândul filozofului antic ce se întreba:

când aduni pe unu cu unu, care unu se adună cu celălalt?

Care unu devine doi?

Au stat muţi matematicienii în faţa unei asemenea întrebări

căci ei nu ştiu decât de mărimi comutative.

Dar când prietenul întâlneşte prietenul?

Constantin Noica, Trei poeme filozofice pentru S. (Poemul I)

let me remind you of the ancient philosopher’s thought

who used to ask himself: when one is added to one

which one is added to which one?

which one becomes two?

silent remained the mathematicians before such a question

because they only knew of commutative elements.

yet what happens when the friend meets the friend?

Constantin Noica, Three Philosophical Poems for S.

(Poem I)


Constantin Noica: Romanian philosopher, close friend of Cioran and Ionesco, who chose to refuse the exile because he believed in resisting history through culture. He tried to set up the example of a Romanian paideia but there are many voices who accuse him now of having made a pact with the regime in order to be able to pursue his dream. As an anecdote, he used to select his disciples after a several hours’ discussion in German. Oh yes, and they were asked to learn ancient Greek, of course – and if possibly, Latin too. I think this makes A very happy :-).

Tuesday 26 August 2008

instead of 'ars poetica' 2

The Glimpse.
The waves, as I drove back this afternoon, and the high foam, how it was suspended in the air before it fell... What is it that happens in that moment of suspension? It is timeless. In that moment (what do I mean) the whole life of the soul is contained. One is flung up - out of life - one is 'held', and then, - down, bright, broken, glittering on to the rocks, tossed back, part of the ebb and flow.
I don't want to be sentimental. But while one hangs, suspended in the air, held - while I watched the spray, I was conscious for life of the white sky with a web of torn grey over it; of the slipping, sliding, slithering sea; of the dark woods blotted against the cape; of the flowers on the tree I was passing; and more - of a huge cavern where my selves (who were like ancient sea-weed gatherers) mumbled, indifferent and intimate...

Katherine Mansfield, who doesn't write about pictures here, but for me this is what photography is about: the glimpse.