Wednesday 30 April 2008

Du im Voraus verlorene...

Du im Voraus
verlorne Geliebte, Nimmergekommene,
nicht weiß ich, welche Töne dir lieb sind.
Nicht mehr versuch ich, dich, wenn das Kommende wogt,
zu erkennen.


You, beloved, who were lost
before the beginning, who never came,
I do not know which sounds might be precious to you.
No longer do I try to recognize you, when, as a surging wave,
something is about to manifest.

How could a photograph show this Im-Voraus-Verlorensein, the loss before the beginning? the loss of what might or should have been? When it comes to the realms governed by the conditional, and above all by the past unreal conditional, photography is powerless. It moves inside the closed circle of Ça a été, in Barthes' words, "this has happened". The fascination with photography comes from our mourning of the loss in time. Irreparabile tempus. The evidence of reality which desintagrated. We suffer for each frozen moment that was ours, that belonged to life. But what about the tragedy of the time we might or should have had? We need words to inhabit these endless worlds, and to comfort ourselves when the possible dies in our hands. Photography cannot give us
that peacock-fan
The future was, in which temptingly spread
All that elaborative nature can.
or help us to grieve the loss of our infinite lives:
Matchless potential! but unlimited
Only so long as I elected nothing;
Simply to choose stopped all ways up but one,
And sent the tease-birds from the bushes flapping.
No future now.


At least, literature can give us the illusion. The fictional worlds. "Ich stelle mir vor:", "I imagine:", says Frisch's Gantenbein incessantly, and each time, after the colon, he offers us a new story, a new version of his life. "Mein Name sei Gantenbein", "Let my name be Gantenbein", not even this "be" can photography offer...

There is no past unreal conditional in Japanese. Not even present conditional. This came as a great shock to me when I first learned it. What would the universe, what would life itself look like in the eyes of people who cannot think the possible through their language?
Maybe this explains the japanese obsession with photography, a whole nation driven by an insane mania, to hunt down ephemerality, to expose it in the perfect picture. The arrested image, the clear wound of time: its perishability, the central trait of japanese aesthetics. Beauty defined primarily by its impermanence. If man were never to fade away like the dews of Adashino, never to vanish like the smoke over Toribeyama, but lingered on forever in this world, how things would lose their power to move us! The most precious thing in life is its uncertainty (Kenko, Essays in Idleness).

Still... what about the evanescence of the possible?

Saturday 26 April 2008

for her
who lives in the dunes
whose feet bear the wounds of salt
when she sails out in the thin morning
on the waters of loss
I am the song-shifting sand
retracing the gold of her skin.

Friday 25 April 2008

silence falls

softly, upon the veil that separates the beloved, the hand searches for an answer. silence falls into the heart. promise dawns. dark flowers bloom on the threshold of worlds. red and black mingle. light shines through vast, open spaces as it did on the first of days. blue. ink moves shiftly through the untouched air, creating a sign, then two, then many of them, the signs that will tell the story, pass it down to the others, the gentle ones who are not yet born.

Thursday 24 April 2008

purple in the shade

I wade into the thorny waters

to pick those plump rich berries

just a stretch away,

a scratch away, a curled hand,

two subtle fingers reaching up beneath a leaf,

the juice of picked berries staining

them, rich and red, purple in the shade.


I pick with either hand,

held in a cocoon of time,

lost in picking,

Lost in all the tangles of a life.

I eat a few; the juice exploding on my tongue.

David Fraser

Tuesday 22 April 2008

das Heilige

Jetzt aber tags! Ich harrt und sah es kommen,
Und was ich sah, das Heilige sei mein Wort.

Friedrich Hölderlin, Wie wenn am Feiertage ...

Now day breaks! I watched and saw it coming,
And what I saw, the holy, let it be my word.

Monday 21 April 2008

after all

and, after all, who knows what is real and what is not, what is mere coincidence and what is a pale wing of destiny. crawling between the less real and the more real, my knees have dried out, my bones have grown thinner, and the wild beating of my blood - oh the one, the same which once made the stars turn faster in their spirals of light - has faded to a rustle.

and then I became many, too many for you to count. my crowded souls stabbed the night.

Saturday 19 April 2008

Lilac Wine

I lost myself on a cool damp night
I gave myself in that misty light
Was hypnotized by a strange delight
Under a lilac tree

I made wine from the lilac tree
Put my heart in its recipe
It makes me see what I want to see
And be what I want to be

When I think more than I want to think
I do things I never should do
I drink much more than I ought to drink
Because it brings me back you...

Friday 18 April 2008

cancelled meeting

I hide behind simple things so you'll find me;
If you don't find me, you'll find the things,
you'll touch what my hand has touched,
our hand-prints will merge.

The August moon glitters in the kitchen
like a tin-plated pot (it gets that way
because of what I'm saying to you),
it lights up the empty house and
the house's kneeling silence-
always the silence remains kneeling.

Every word is a doorway
to a meeting, one often cancelled,
and that's when a word is true:
when it insists on the meeting.

Yannis Ritsos, The Meaning of Simplicity

And I have to quote the Black Sun again. Our thoughts don't always take the same road, yet the beauty of the voyage lies in the small intertwining paths. At those crossroads the floating bridge grasps its reflection in the evening waters. And it is true that our search for the mirror of the Other sometimes ends in a solipsistic infinity of self-reflections - Romanticism had warned about this too, Jean-Paul's infinite mirrors blindly repeating their reflection and the reflection of the reflection and so on -, but I prefer to think of Novalis and his Umarmung, loving embrace, which I truly believe possible, that discovery of oneself in the Other and the integration of the Other - be it a shell or a cloud, a lover or a sword, a stranger in the corn field - in oneself as an "inner you". There, in this free-floating in-between, and how much I love this word, emerges the sparkling tissue of Life.

Every word is a doorway to a meeting. But only one word takes us there, only one unlocks the door. Then, and only then, do we unfasten our hair, loosen up our being, unfold our hands. And then there is no door, no inner or outer. Then, when everything silently falls away, how shall we speak face to face? (Black Sun)

Thursday 17 April 2008

red flowers

and all red flowers are for him, the fresh ones in the morning, brighter than the velvety girls

above all the withered ones late at night, when the veil of sorrow falls down on bed and mirror alike, on wild-weathery girls and ripening truths

Wednesday 16 April 2008

ich war nicht stolz

Ich war nicht stolz. Ich vergaß keinen Augenblick, wie leicht es war, mich ganz zu vernichten.

Martin Walser

(I was not proud. I didn't forget any minute how easy it was to destroy myself completely).

Tuesday 15 April 2008

the black circle

But sometimes we also want the heart to break; sometimes we want nothing more than to break free, to fall, to fly. We want what cannot be achieved - except by grace: to be a broken circle.

The Black Sun

the red circle

the circle is broken
the circle you put on my ankle
when you decided
I should be born

Saturday 12 April 2008

Friday 11 April 2008

Odilon Redon. The Marsh Flower, a Sad Human Head plate II

a sad and human head
like a signature
upon the waters of the stillborn
their flower heavy
with imaginary time
tell me about
the wounded in-between
if you still dare to speak


Die Hand voller Stunden, so kamst du zu mir – ich sprach:
Dein Haar ist nicht braun.
So hobst du es leicht auf die Waage des Leids, da war es schwerer als ich…

Sie kommen auf Schiffen zu dir und laden es auf, sie bieten es feil auf den Märkten der Lust –
Du lächelst zu mir aus der Tiefe, ich weine zu dir aus der Schale, die leicht bleibt.
Ich weine: Dein Haar ist nicht braun, sie bieten das Wasser der See, und du gibst ihnen Locken…
Du flüsterst: Sie füllen die Welt schon mit mir, und ich bleib dir ein Hohlweg im Herzen!
Du sagst: Leg das Blattwerk der Jahre zu dir – es ist Zeit, daß du kommst und mich küssest!

Das Blattwerk der Jahre ist braun, dein Haar ist es nicht.

Paul Celan

Your Hand full of Hours, you came to me - and I said

‘Your Hair is not brown.’

So you lifted it, lightly, onto the Balance of Grief, it was

Heavier than I…

They come to you on Ships, make it their load, then place it

on sale in the Markets of Lust –

You smile at me from the Depths, I weep at you from the

Scale that’s still light.

I weep: Your hair is not brown, they offer Salt-Waves of the

Sea, and you give them spume.

You whisper: ‘They’re filling the World with me now, and for you

I’m still a Hollow-Way in the Heart!

You say: ‘Lay the Leaf-Work of Years beside you, it’s Time that you

came here and kissed me!

The Leaf-Work of Years is brown: your Hair is not brown.

(Translation: A.S. Kline)

Tuesday 8 April 2008


There was no airt or direction to guide one on one's way.
There was no place or time there, but one great, deep
stillness. The world was full of tenderness, under druidry
and under a cloak, and there was a fairy blindfolding on
my eyes in the smirry drizzle of mist.

Cha robh àird no iùl arm a stifiùreadh neach 'na ròd.
Cha robh àit no ùin' ann, ach aon chiùneas domhain, mòr.
Bha 'n saoghal Iàn de'n mhaoithe,
fo dhraoidheachd is fo chlèoc,
is bann-sithe air mo shùilean arms a' chiùran cheòban cheò.

Hillside and slopes were lost to sight in the clouds. There
was no colour or sound there, or hour, or light of day.
The slow, caressing rain was on hill and hollow and meadow,
and the Wee Patch was in a smoke in the
foggy drizzle of mist.

Chaidh sliosan agus leathadan à sealladh arms na neòil.
Cha robh dath no fuaim arm, no uair, no solus lò.
Bha 'n sileadh mall, rèidh, socrach air cnoc, air glaic, air lòn,
is bha 'm Paiste Beag fo dheataich

anns a' cheathach cheòban cheò.

The showers of drizzly mist came closely down, all
voiceless; whispering and fragrant, soft and fresh, without
voice or melody, they floated about hilltops and cliffs
and closed in about every hollow. Gentleness and
pleasure were drifting down in the smirry drizzle of mist.

George Campbell Hay,
The Smirry Drizzle Of Mist

Bha na ciothan ceathaich chùiranaich,
's iad dùmhail, dlùth, gun ghlòir,

gu cagarsach, gu cùbhraidh, tais, ùr, gun ghuth, gun cheòl,
a' snàmh mu mhill is stùcan, 's a' cùnadh mu gach còs.
Bha tlàths is tlachd a' tùirling anns a' chùiran cheòban cheò.

Deòrsa Mac Iain Deòrsa,
An Ciuran Ceoban Ceo

Friday 4 April 2008


Odilon Redon

L'Oeil, comme un ballon bizarre se dirige vers l'infini

The Eye Like a Strange Balloon Mounts Toward Infinity

It was, if it was, numbers fly as balloons,
you said to me
the other day.
People need to tie everything down,
I replied,
taking my nets and ropes and twines
fastening myself into
the hollow space of your palm.

Wednesday 2 April 2008


La Luna loves music, flamenco, rembetika, the sweat of the singers flung into the choked air of the dance floor. Sometimes she even dances, cigar clenched in her teeth, a rose in her hand and those dancers who do not see her, later they will swear there was something special in the air. La Luna drinks thick rum, sweet with the memory of molasses, the billow of sails and sailors laughter, brandy, cognac, anything with the scent of the cask or nameless concoctions in bottles without labels, bursting onto the tongue like gypsy music, words flying into the sky in a shower of sparks.

La Luna loves a sad story, will meet the Angel, who never sleeps, find him in his usual corner hunched over a drink, hiding his eyes an she will place a friend’s hand on his shoulder, the greeting of the otherwordly and he will begin to speak of advice rejected, help not given, lives lost and helpless. Sometimes Death will join them, wipe the seat with his handkerchief, and gently, for the Angel is a creature who still believes in hope, will tell his own stories.

La Luna cries for all the lost, all the disappointed, the heart broken but not least for herself as in her weeping comes the realisation that dawn is coming and with its light she must fade, evaporate and return once more to the blasted moon, to her lover, his empty eyes forever trapped in the gaping void.

excerpts from
La Luna,
a gift from Swiss

I am fascinated with the moon, how writers have written about the moon, and how poets have been moonstruck [...] The Moon, as character here, is a performer, broken-hearted, but she still has to dress up and step onto the universal stage every night. If she doesn’t, it stays dark down here and all Chaos will ensue. This is her dilemma.

Patricia Barber