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)