Saturday 28 February 2009


I am fascinated by this 99th pensum revolution of everyday life:

"there were days too
when nothing needed to be said

when the game was simply
to watch the petals fall"

Most surprisingly, I had exactly the same thought - or, should I say, feeling - when I looked at this picture of mine. I say 'surprisingly' because of the obvious difference in style and tone that separates the two photos. His maintains a very characteristic Japanese sensitivity - what could be more Japanese than this image of idling away one's time by contemplating the fall of petals? I think of a passage in a novel by Mishima in which the hero has an insight into the nature of things that is to change the course of his life while looking at the fallen petals floating on the water of a bowl. An insignificant detail, which goes practically unnoticed.

I also wonder about this 'too'. What if one would or could discard it, and make each day just that, a simple game of watching petals fall? What could be said about such a life? (and I don't even dare ask: how could be such a life lived?)

Yet when I took the picture I didn't think about any of these questions. I stood there in amazement at such a marvellous impossibility brought forth by life in my parents' garden, that a tulip could bend over a fern and its red embrace the green and the petals fall in exactly that place, which, by its very nature, seemed to constitute a kind of shelter for the frailty of this world.

And yet - another yet, as if one followed a spiral down to the core of things - when I changed the focus and looked closer, I stood there thoughtless, connected as if by a strange musical tune to the pure vibration of colours and patterns unfolding before my eyes.

"Art, in short, has no other goal, no other meaning than to express those subjective determinations that constitute the ground of our being and perhaps of being itself, the soul of things and of the universe—if it is true that all entities, all objective appearances have their own inner resonance and initially repose within it. It is because this subjective dimension of Being is identical to the essence of the universe and the abstract content, in other words absolutely real, that art wants to express it, that Kandinsky could call it “cosmic depth” and say that “the genesis of a work of art is of a cosmic character.”

The aim of art is indeed not to express a subjective state understood as a state of fact, a state of affairs, and it is in this sense that Kandinsky could say, “I do not paint the states of the soul.” Art paints life, in other words a capacity for growth, for life as subjectivity, that is as experiencing itself, is the power of attaining oneself and thus of expanding oneself at each moment. That is why each eye wants to see further and each force swells, becoming more efficient and stronger. Art is the endless attempt to resume carrying each of life’s powers to its highest degree of intensity and thus of pleasure, it is the response given by life to its most intimate essence and to the will which inhabits it—to its desire for excess (surpassement)."

excerpts from Michel Henry, Kandinsky and the Meaning of the Work of Art, translated by Michael Tweed and generously made available by pensum here

Friday 27 February 2009

two autumns

yuku ware ni
todomaru nare ni
aki futatsu


for the one leaving
for the one staying
two autumns

Wednesday 25 February 2009

erasing that tree

All the new thinking is about loss.

In this it resembles all the old thinking.

The idea, for example, that each particular erases

the luminous clarity of a general idea. That the clown-

faced woodpecker probing the dead sculpted trunk

of that black birch is, by his presence,

some tragic falling off from a first world

of undivided light.

from a poem by Robert Hass

I wanted to write about these lines that I had received some days ago, from somebody who is very dear to me. But no matter how hard I tried, I couldn't come up with something more beautiful (and 'beautiful' means here 'round', or 'whole', too) than the gift that I had been given along with this poem, and which is this small confession:

'I want all the little details of the world, I want to see them and touch them with something like love, the woodpecker and the knots and hollows of the birch - but, at the same time, I long for that “undivided light” so much that my eyes fill with tears and I ache with a feeling like thirst. I fear myself a little, because I think I might be willing to erase the birch and the woodpecker (a terrible, terrible thought) if that meant I could stand in this light.'

Tonight, looking at the tree in this picture, my friend's words have come back to me (they hadn't left me at all, to tell the truth). I remember how I stood on the shore of the frozen lake and opened the back side of my camera, slowly, letting the light in. The unbearable light of the winter sun.

And then other words have come, ancient words, that I had thought long forgotten, the words of the God echoing thus, in my mind:

'The Blessed Lord said: There is a banyan tree which has its roots upward and its branches down and whose leaves are the Vedic hymns. One who knows this tree is the knower of the Vedas.

The branches of this tree extend downward and upward, nourished by the three modes of material nature. The twigs are the objects of the senses. This tree also has roots going down, and these are bound to the fruitive actions of human society.

The real form of this tree cannot be perceived in this world. No one can understand where it ends, where it begins, or where its foundation is. But with determination one must cut down this tree with the weapon of detachment. So doing, one must seek that place from which, having once gone, one never returns, and there surrender to that Supreme Personality of Godhead from whom everything has began and in whom everything is abiding since time immemorial.'

Bhagavad Gita, from Chapter 15

Tuesday 24 February 2009

in the small hours of the morning
when mist is the chosen path of the thorn
she breathes the world

in and out
until things lose their names
like a flower its petals
in early winter.

Sunday 22 February 2009

las olas que faltan para morir

Como el náufrago metódico que contase las olas
que faltan para morir,
y las contase, y las volviese a contar, para evitar
errores, hasta la última,
hasta aquella que tiene la estatura de un niño
y le besa y le cubre la frente,
así he vivido yo con una vaga prudencia de
caballo de cartón en el baño,
sabiendo que jamás me he equivocado en nada,
sino en las cosas que yo más quería.


Like the methodical shipwrecked man
who counts how many waves he needs to die
and he counts them and he counts them again,
to avoid mistakes, until he gets to the last one
the one that is the height of a small child
and he kisses it and covers its forehead
that is how I have lived with a strange sort of care
like a cardboard horse in a bath
knowing that I have never made any mistakes
apart from the really important ones

translation by Rachel Fox


from luis rosales

as i am shipwrecked
counting the waves
one by one
of tides
as the white crests
fall and die

and to count
to return to
the safety of the count
to have method
to avoid mistakes
to be unequivocal
to catalogue
until that last one
the last wave
in a calming sea
gentle as child
kisses the shore

so i have always lived
with a vague care
a prudence
so i illustrate myself
simple, precise
sure in all things
except in those precious
beyond count
beyond measure
my fingers flail
in the grasp
of the blue ocean

'translation' by swiss

I'd like to thank Rachel and Swiss for this collaboration - their very different approaches to translation prove once again what a Sisyphic challenge poetry translation is and how controversial the translator's choices can be. I too have tried my own hand at it lately and yes, I agree with you, Rachel, it is a maddening affair. And, still puzzled by the many philosophical and poetical issues at stake, I remember Novalis tonight:

'The transforming translations [which, by the way, are not yet the ideal ones, these being only the 'mythical translations', but because they are impossible to achieve anyway, I left them aside], if they are to be authentic, require the highest poetic spirit. They easily lapse into travesty, like Bürger's iambic Homer, Pope's Homer
, and the French translations in their entirety. The true translator of this kind must in effect be the artist himself, able to render the idea of the whole in this or in that manner as he pleases. He must be the poet of the poet, able to let him speak simultaneously according to the poet's idea and to his own. The genius of humanity stands in a similar relation to each individual man'.

Saturday 21 February 2009

Night had fallen in Lancre, and it was an old night. It was not the simple absence of day, patrolled by the moon and stars, but an extension of something that had existed long before there was any light to define by its absence. It was unfolding itself from under tree roots and inside stones, crawling back across the land.

Terry Pratchett

How can anything present itself truly to us since its synthesis is never completed? How could I gain the experience of the world since none of the views or perceptions I have of it can exhaust it and the horizons remain forever open? Open to continual renewal ... a flight from the old, solid, concept of necessity. A centre must emerge, a centre is allowed to emerge.


(thank you, Manuela and Black Sun, for the quotes and the darkness posts which have inspired mine today)

Thursday 19 February 2009


I am free
in the evening
the door is open
to the wind
your thoughts travel
on the distance.

I know them
they are old thoughts
and I am new.

I don’t remember
it is not memory
it is now
I feel the breeze
of your thoughts.

Distance has
carried me
and I am enjoined to you.

I am free
alone in the evening
I feel your breeze
as I could
blow on your skin.

I do not know
how this is so
I relax and catch
your words
they are soundless

Peter Bradburn
(From Mercurius, Poems On Change & Union)

(my deep gratitude to merc, the poet and painter, for allowing me to post this wonderful poem.
I know that my picture cannot compare with his drawing accompanying it on his blog,
but then I am telling myself that this is not a matter of comparing, but of searching for different ways of expressing
a - perhaps - similar feeling. and of being true to it.)

Sunday 15 February 2009

Friday 13 February 2009

more or less anonymous walls, windows and doors, even if windows and doors are said to be no good in winter

ogives of Horezu monastery, built around 1690

old house on my street, surrounded by tall grass whose name I don't know, 2008

Bran Castle (now said to be Dracula's), built between 1377 and 1395

defence wall of the fortress-church in Prejmer, near Brasov, first mentioned in 1240

doors to the monks' chambers,
fortress-church in Prejmer, near Brasov, first mentioned in 1240

walls of a communist building, left unattended after 1989 and conquered by the mountain meadow

wall of Horezu monastery, built around 1690, in front of which a nun hesitates in the rain, 2007

Wednesday 11 February 2009

this world of ours

Walking up a mountain track, I fell to thinking. Approach everything rationally, and you become harsh. Pole along in the stream of emotions, and you will be swept away by the current. Give free rein to your desires, and you become uncomfortably confined. It is not a very agreeable place to live, this world of ours.

When the unpleasantness increases, you want to draw yourself up to some place where life is easier. It is just at the point when you first realize that life will be no more agreeable no matter what heights you may attain, that a poem may be given birth, or a picture created.

Natsume Soseki, The Three-Cornered World

Tuesday 10 February 2009

Low at the knee that bore her once unto [royal] wordless rest [now] Daisy [stoops] kneels a culprit--tell her her [offence] fault--Master--if it is [not so] small eno' to cancel with her life, [Daisy] she is satisfied--but punish [do not] dont banish her--shut her in prison, Sir--only pledge that you will forgive--sometime--before the grave, and Daisy will not mind--she will awaken in [his] your likeness.

You send the water over the Dam in my brown eyes--

I've got a Tomahawk in my side but that dont hurt me much.
[If you] Her master stabs her more--

Master--open your life wide, and take me in forever, I will never be tired--I will never be noisy when you want to be still. I will be [glad] [as the] your best little girl--nobody else will see me, but you--that is enough--I shall not want any more--and all that Heaven only will disappoint me--will be because it's not so dear.

Excerpts from Emily Dickinson's Master Letters


I thank Clavdia for making me remember these letters, which I had come across at the end of last year. I immediately knew I wanted to post them, but Clavdia made more than this, she started a wonderful series of inquiries on the secret women who wrote about their love in such and similar terms. Clavdia explains: 'I wrote recently about certain secret Women -- the women valorized, glamorized in literature -- the women who lay down in front of a man, who sacrifice, who submit, who are more beautiful and stronger and greater and nobler for their submission. I wrote, earlier, that this rhetoric frightened me -- that it was too beautiful to be dismissed, too pervasive to be ignored, and too terrible to hold in my mind for very long. But I've been thinking about this -- about this rhetoric -- wondering if it is in fact rhetoric, wondering if there is some truth to it, if there is truth, what that truth might be'.

And she also asks the right questions:
'How can this be real? That's what I wonder most -- how is this love? How is this good?'

My post is a small mirror of her search (the women in the pictures she selects for her posts never show their faces, I have chosen mine to look straight into the eyes). And a sign of my gratitude for her fascinating world. Also, last but not least, a gift for her
three-year web-writing anniversary :-)

Monday 9 February 2009

do flowers bloom if they are not looked at?

do gods kill the summer meadow?
do they go gently into their twilight if there is no one left to wash their feet, except the wind?

little girl, pick the wild camomile, sweetening the god's air. they tell me it is good for wounds and sorrow. put one foot before the other, slowly, through the golden wheat. without faltering, look into his eyes. adorn his dark hair with the small flowers, they are good for the dead, I have heard. do not fear the shadow of the sacred finger. it has crushed the ripe breast of the priestess, but it cannot harm you.

little girl, pick up her thin bones, sweetening the absence of the word. I have been told they will bloom at the end of summer, even if they will not be looked at. tall and proud, they will conquer the field and wipe out the traces. the meadow born out of the god's heel, she will bloom once again, but not as his altar.

little girl, forget my prayer.
I have lied to you.

look at the flower until you go blind.
that is all that will be done.

Friday 6 February 2009

On a mountain slope,
Solitary, uncompanioned,
Stands a cherry tree.
Except for you, lonely friend,
To others I am unknown.

Abbot Gyoson

Morotomo ni
Aware to omoe
Hana yori hoka ni
Shiru hito mo nashi

Daisojo Gyoson

Wednesday 4 February 2009

into the rose garden

I have been tagged by Mansuetude, the one who resides at the heart of peace, to post 'a phrase: a few lines from a poem, a song, or an overheard sentence that rings important inside you'. I thank her for that and I will certainly play the game, because one of my souls is a player's one. My choice won't surprise anybody, I have reason to fear, I had already posted these lines before and everybody who has come to know me a little knows that they are crucial to me.

I don't know if I should pass this tag onward... does anybody want to continue playing like this? I'd be happy to read your choice. Still, I will name three people, but they don't have to do anything if they don't feel like it (most probably Kubla won't feel like it, I can't imagine him play): Edith,
Sorlil, Kubla and the Black Sun (b, just because I'd hate to dwell alone on these fertile fields of predictability, I give you the possibility not to surprise anybody with another wonderful Salter quote :-P, and yes, I know I know, again, forgive me for what was once known as my wicked tongue).

After this quite long introduction, let me lead you to the never opened door, into the rose garden, once again.

What might have been and what has been
Point to one end, which is always present.
Footfalls echo in the memory
Down the passage which we did not take
Towards the door we never opened
Into the rose-garden. My words echo
Thus, in your mind.

Go, go, go, said the bird: human kind
Cannot bear very much reality.
Time past and time future
What might have been and what has been
Point to one end, which is always present.

T.S. Eliot, Quartet No. 1, Burnt Norton

Tuesday 3 February 2009

the time of snows

timpul zăpezilor - un fel de a spune
că revezi o faţă,pe care n-ai mai privit-o demult,
şi umbli spre ea prin zăpadă - scriind urme
într-un timp, trecut de acum, unde n-ai mai fost. şi e mult

coborâtă în iarna mată, îngropată în tăcere,
această fiinţă. şi întoarcerea către ea
e ca o înmormântare de viking, împingând greu acea
corabie, care prin zăpadă are o altă putere

a răsfrângrii din ape verzui - şi care apoi
se înalţă în flacără, repede acoperită, cu o rună
de fum - ca acum când mergi spre faţa ei, cu ciudată

lumină moartă. de aici, te întorci înapoi
şi neadevărurile se aşează, fiecare o urmă
a gesturilor care s-au scris - şi faţa ei e bătrână.

Mircea Ivănescu (Vremea zăpezilor)

the time of snows – one way of saying
that you see a face again,
which you haven't seen
for a long time,
and you move towards it through snow –

inscribing tracks
in a time in which you were not. and it's a long time.

plunged into matte winter, buried in silence, this being.
and the return to it
is like a viking burial,
struggling to push out
that ship, which through snow
has a
different power of refraction in greenish waters

– and which then
towers in flame, quickly engulfed, with a rune of smoke –
as now, when you walk toward
her face,
with a strange
dead light.

hence, you turn back
and the non-truths settle,
each a trace
of the gestures that were written –
and her
face is old.

Sunday 1 February 2009

the tree said

open up your chest, the tree said, his fingers ready to knead my heart. for years I had been trained to obey, so I obeyed instantly and tore apart my ribs, as one would open the frail box of a violin. I stood straight up before his eyes, inviting him to taste my music. only my legs trembled a little.

your blood is fade
, the tree said. in some corners I can still spot the soft fur of hope, the shadow of some limping god dragging his net in the snow, the muzzle of the aroused deer.

I need a sharp and clear whip for my vision, the tree said, letting me go.