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11:18pm 25/05/2010
  Soonest Mended

BY JOHN ASHBERY

http://www.wga.hu/art/i/ingres/06ingres.jpg

Barely tolerated, living on the margin
In our technological society, we were always having to be rescued
On the brink of destruction, like heroines in Orlando Furioso
Before it was time to start all over again.
There would be thunder in the bushes, a rustling of coils,
And Angelica, in the Ingres painting, was considering
The colorful but small monster near her toe, as though wondering whether forgetting
The whole thing might not, in the end, be the only solution.
And then there always came a time when
Happy Hooligan in his rusted green automobile
Came plowing down the course, just to make sure everything was O.K.,
Only by that time we were in another chapter and confused
About how to receive this latest piece of information.
Was it information? Weren’t we rather acting this out
For someone else’s benefit, thoughts in a mind
With room enough and to spare for our little problems (so they began to seem),
Our daily quandary about food and the rent and bills to be paid?
To reduce all this to a small variant,
To step free at last, minuscule on the gigantic plateau—
This was our ambition: to be small and clear and free.
Alas, the summer’s energy wanes quickly,
A moment and it is gone. And no longer
May we make the necessary arrangements, simple as they are.
Our star was brighter perhaps when it had water in it.
Now there is no question even of that, but only
Of holding on to the hard earth so as not to get thrown off,
With an occasional dream, a vision: a robin flies across
The upper corner of the window, you brush your hair away
And cannot quite see, or a wound will flash
Against the sweet faces of the others, something like:
This is what you wanted to hear, so why
Did you think of listening to something else? We are all talkers
It is true, but underneath the talk lies
The moving and not wanting to be moved, the loose
Meaning, untidy and simple like a threshing floor.

These then were some hazards of the course,
Yet though we knew the course was hazards and nothing else
It was still a shock when, almost a quarter of a century later,
The clarity of the rules dawned on you for the first time.
They were the players, and we who had struggled at the game
Were merely spectators, though subject to its vicissitudes
And moving with it out of the tearful stadium, borne on shoulders, at last.
Night after night this message returns, repeated
In the flickering bulbs of the sky, raised past us, taken away from us,
Yet ours over and over until the end that is past truth,
The being of our sentences, in the climate that fostered them,
Not ours to own, like a book, but to be with, and sometimes
To be without, alone and desperate.
But the fantasy makes it ours, a kind of fence-sitting
Raised to the level of an esthetic ideal. These were moments, years,
Solid with reality, faces, namable events, kisses, heroic acts,
But like the friendly beginning of a geometrical progression
Not too reassuring, as though meaning could be cast aside some day
When it had been outgrown. Better, you said, to stay cowering
Like this in the early lessons, since the promise of learning
Is a delusion, and I agreed, adding that
Tomorrow would alter the sense of what had already been learned,
That the learning process is extended in this way, so that from this standpoint
None of us ever graduates from college,
For time is an emulsion, and probably thinking not to grow up
Is the brightest kind of maturity for us, right now at any rate.
And you see, both of us were right, though nothing
Has somehow come to nothing; the avatars
Of our conforming to the rules and living
Around the home have made—well, in a sense, “good citizens” of us,
Brushing the teeth and all that, and learning to accept
The charity of the hard moments as they are doled out,
For this is action, this not being sure, this careless
Preparing, sowing the seeds crooked in the furrow,
Making ready to forget, and always coming back
To the mooring of starting out, that day so long ago.
 
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12:22am 04/05/2009
  i can think of nothing better right now than to live near all the people i love. to host big movie nights and bake-offs. to go to all the weddings. to see my friends loved. i can think of nothing better than to walk into a kindergarten classroom and see storytime happening and silly bright posters everywhere with animals on them and motivational slogans and a funny little person waiting for me to take them home. i can think of nothing better than a herd of boys scrapping and yelling. a big garden. a sunny house. mouthing "i love you" across a room. people who create something out of nothing, who leave things where there wasn't anything before, who believe in their own innocence. who have hurt and been hurt and decided they'd rather not. who love their elderly, even when they're silly or a bit bitter. who play board games. who want things to grow, because they'll grow either way. who can watch things die, because they will die either way. who bury their pets in their backyards and cry about it. i can think of nothing better than to watch someone grow old and watch them be ok with me getting old. to build things and paint things and clean out old houses and make them new again. to keep sunflowers.

these things are better than others.
 
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08:10pm 18/02/2009
  i finally get the scientific method. people say, "it's not about your hypothesis being right, failed experiments are often the most valuable." i'd hear that and think, yeah right. it's better to guess correctly.

but i get it now. because i feel like college has been one failed experiment after another, and i feel better for it. i've tested so many conditions and measured so many variables, and god knows very little has been right, and moving ahead now, knowing all of that doesn't work, i'm amazingly free. i've tested them and re-tested them and tried to bully them into shape, just to make sure, and one by one they've fallen away. i'm free of so many things now because i've proven to myself, beyond a reasonable doubt, that they are wrong.

one right hypothesis tells you nothing. you live wondering if the results were a fluke. a thousand wrong hypotheses shape the truth like negative space, one by one forming something that can only be seen through the absence of something else.

we'll never KNOW evolution is truth. but we've tried everything else, and everything else has failed, and evolution is still there.

and that is the most beautiful thing.
 
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11:01pm 25/01/2009
  "please tell me even if it hurts"-- i've had several conversations where that's been said lately; please tell me the truth, even if its hard to say.

it seems like a lot of people are growing, and trying to grow. and since we're not our own planets, we need feedback. its pretty simple, it makes sense. but we really do conceal things instead-- how we feel about one another, what it is that we love about one other, what we could do without, what it is that hurt us, what it is we need to hear before we can move on.

maybe part of us doesn't know what to say, or doesn't want to get involved, or is tired of trying.

i've been trying, really trying lately, to get over discomfort and say them.

because call me romantic, but i really think we make a difference in one another's lives. not just by being someone to have fun with, but by saying things. giving feedback instead of holding back. even if we're tired of someone, or angry. maybe especially then, we should say it plain. because sometimes people really do screw up. and they need feedback about that too. and help. because they usually screw up when they're hurting and need help.

the more i listen, the more i realize we're all going through tough times most of the time. life's hard to figure. and with life so hard to figure, i'd like people in my life to tell me things. please don't ever let me "figure it out myself." i'd like help. if you love me, i'd like you to tell me sometimes. if you think i'm looking at something the wrong way, say, "i think you might be looking at this the wrong way." if i amaze you or impress you, it would mean so much more to me than you can know if you would tell me why. and if i hurt you, please tell me. maybe that most of all.

i'll try to listen, really listen, and be honest.

it seems to me that one of the major differences between movies and reality is that in the movies, people don't give up on one another. they argue. they show up and say "i love you." they say "you're a bastard," and "you need to stop doing that." and even if reality isn't the movies, even if it shouldn't be, there's something to that. more and more, i find myself admiring people in my life who say how they feel. and i dont think i'll ever be a wild, crazy, emotional person... ha. although thats funny to imagine. but i do want to start taking some hints from it.

life's just too hard to hold back.
 
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02:08am 10/12/2008
  Down at the water's edge, at the place
where they haul up the boats, up the long ramp
descending into the water, thin silver
tree trunks are laid horizontally
across the gray stones, down and down
at intervals of four or five feet.

Cold dark deep and absolutely clear,
element bearable to no mortal,
to fish and to seals . . . One seal particularly
I have seen here evening after evening.
He was curious about me. He was interested in music;
like me a believer in total immersion,
so I used to sing him Baptist hymns.
I also sang "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God."
He stood up in the water and regarded me
steadily, moving his head a little.
Then he would disappear, then suddenly emerge
almost in the same spot, with a sort of shrug
as if it were against his better judgment.
Cold dark deep and absolutely clear,
the clear gray icy water . . . Back, behind us,
the dignified tall firs begin.
Bluish, associating with their shadows,
a million Christmas trees stand
waiting for Christmas. The water seems suspended
above the rounded gray and blue-gray stones.
I have seen it over and over, the same sea, the same,
slightly, indifferently swinging above the stones,
icily free above the stones,
above the stones and then the world...
--Elizabeth Bishop






i don't know why i find elizabeth bishop so compelling. maybe it's that she's so casual and at the same time so measured. playful, very playful. but underneath everything there is the deepest loneliness. its loneliness with patience and humor instead of loudness... but she really is alone.
 
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02:47am 28/10/2008
  i haven't written anything in a long time, but tonight i can't sleep. i'm watching videos and reading articles about tomorrow.

i'm thinking of a video i watched in class, of martin luther king before he was assassinated. he was scheduled to speak but got sick and cancelled. when he got there he changed his mind, though, and spoke without notes:


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o0FiCxZKuv8



i'm not posting this because of the election, though, this isn't about the election. this is about me seeing this tape in my rap music and the african american poetical tradition class, his face, whatever magic is in his voice, how moved i was, the lecture, which was about tonation in oration, my african professor, who sat in the back of the room and couldnt keep himself from responding with him, his excitement, my professor who never got less than a B in college except when he wrote a paper about african art, how he got a D, with the comment "there is no such thing as african art," how he leads class like a race and laughs like he knows nothing when i suspect he knows everything, how he just published his book, and showed us, and is so proud.

this is about me being so nauseous lately. and wellesley ghosts. being tired but ready for things that matter, about walking through the north end, caring, and wooden elephants and indians, working hard, leaves, heating blankets and wine talks and good cries, songs and kitchens and records and porches and walking, friends who make pizzas and friends who write songs and friends who will do amazing things.

and this is about my grandparents auction, where i found a plate with the words "ive been to the mountaintop" on it, with martin luther king's face on it, about history, family and ancestry, grandparents you thought were racist, and how much we don't know, about hope, about how much we hope, how much they've seen and heard on their radios and felt in their hands, what our children won't know about us, about now, about today, about how we might not get there but we see it, even when we've seen terrible things, to say lunch counters to presidency within one lifetime is more than amazing, and we will celebrate what that means, more than black or white or president we will celebrate what it means that everything can change. so yes, this is about the election. its about the election, and me, and us and right now, and everything. all the reasons i can't sleep, and all the reasons i'm ok with that.

and i'm tired, and wish i could give an eloquent appraisal of the times and the importance of today, but what i have is this collection of thoughts. and i think i'm glad i'm writing some down.
 
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11:40pm 03/05/2008
  i am excited, so so so excited, for summer.

the only thing i know is that i'll be living in chicago. i think its always best for me, when possible, to know as little about my future as i can. i've always felt healthiest with long spans of the unknown before me, no expectations, no goals, no prospects, no ability to predict or project.

the last few weeks, towards the end of august, i'd like to go somewhere. anyone up for a trip? anywhere, really, maybe mexico. i've never been, and its cheaper than europe.
 
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01:48am 28/04/2008
  And the rest, a few,
Escape their prison and depart
On the wide ocean of life anew.
There the freed prisoner, where'er his heart
Listeth, will sail;

And then the tempest strikes him; and between
The lightning-bursts is seen
Only a driving wreck,
An the pale master on his spar-strewn deck
With anguish'd face and flying hair
Grasping the rudder hard
Still bent to make some port he knows not where,
Still standing for some false, impossible shore.
And sterner comes the roar
Of sea and wind, and through the deepening gloom
Fainter and fainter wreck and helmsman loom,
And he too disappears, and comes no more.

Is there no life, but these alone?
Madman or slave, must man be one?



Matthew Arnold
 
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10:50pm 15/04/2008
  Sleeping Standing Up

As we lie down to sleep the world turns half away
through ninety dark degrees;
the bureau lies on the wall
and thoughts that were recumbent in the day
rise as others fall,
stand up and make a forest of thick-set trees.

The armored cars of dreams, contrived to let us do
so many a dangerous thing,
are chugging at its edge
all camouflaged, and ready to go through
the swiftest streams, or up a ledge
of crumbling shale, while plates and trappings ring.

--Through turret-slits we saw the crumbs or pebbles that lay
below the riveted flanks
on the green forest floor,
like those the clever children placed by day
and followed to their door
one night, at least; and in the ugly tanks

we tracked them all night. Sometimes they disappeared,
dissolving in the moss,
sometimes we went too fast
and ground them underneath. How stupidly we steered
until the night was past
and never found out where the cottage was.

Elizabeth Bishop
 
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01:52pm 08/04/2008
  "dearest, I cannot loiter here in lather like a polar bear." --robert lowell

i feel so far away from everyone i love. most of my companions are books, mostly sad ones, mostly ones written by authors who killed themselves or were alcoholics, or both.

please, someone, move to boston and cuddle with me.
 
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01:22am 31/03/2008
  "One doesn't discover new lands without consenting to lose sight of the shore for a very long time."
--Andre Gide

so i undeleted my journal. do you ever get that feeling that theres too much stuff around you? ive been feeling that way off and on lately-- it started the last time i was sick, and its the reason i deleted this. i realized there was so much around me, and i felt heavy. so i started thinking about what i would do. i could give away a bunch of clothes. i could pack away my box of letters in the attic of my parents house, i thought, maybe even burn them if i that didn't feel like too dramatic a gesture, then they'd disappear forever, and i'd have less. i could to do the same with all my journals, there are lots of them, i could get rid of them all, and i could delete this one. it calmed me to think about getting rid of things, all things, to cut myself free and just be a human being standing in this particular spot.

next i would drop everything i ever said, who i was, what i did, who i loved, the pictures that we took, and every look i ever noticed anyone giving me, anything thats ever tied me down, and i would be so light then, aerodynamic and agile.

and then, further, i'd delete whatever mechanism notices in the first place, so no new ties would be formed. it notices everything about a person before you can stop it. like the way he fake yawns when hes nervous, the way her face becomes slightly strained when she sees me now. SOO heavy. too much clutter in the brain. those would be gone. people would just be people doing things.

so i've been thinking i could do it, i even started, i was doing pretty well, forgetting lots of things, i even deleted this journal.

but all i kept hearing, over and over, was the name of this journal, tapping on my shoulder and saying,

... oh no, it is an ever-fixed mark
that looks on tempests and is never shaken;


and the words settled in me a little further every time, and still do. they settle and settle and stare at me, like a deer right before it runs away, except they don't run away, they burrow. they dont tell me im being coward, they just stare. never shaken, they say, but fixed--

so today i packed up my journals and put them in the back of my closet. i doubt they'll ever be burned, but theyre out of the way. then i got rid of a bunch of clothes, put them in a box outside my room for people to take. i cleaned, threw out old papers, opened up the windows, and stretched. i realized when i looked around my room that ive gotten rid of a lot, and it felt good. then i reactivated this journal before the 30 days were up.

something knows, slowly, that certain things can never be gotten rid of.
 
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things i like   
05:09pm 29/02/2008
  * goofy full of life people
* reading magazines in my underwear
* nice doctors
* getting mail
* my dad's funny phrases
* the sweater im wearing
* and the fact that its from walgreens
* oprah
* feeling the sun shining on me
* having long hair
* fruit and cheese and crackers, especially together
* going on adventures with people who will take risks and be spontaneous
* when people call me to tell me about their day
* cheesy bread from dominoes
* pictures of wolves and horses and lions on just about anything
* elizabeth bishop's dream poems
* AVACADOS
* big fat happy snowflakes
* people who will go sledding
* being a regular at trident
* netflicks, and rating movies on netflicks
* turkey sandwiches
* conversations that bring up memories you havent thought about in forever
* the dunes at the VERY beginning of spring (the dunes at any time, really)
* late night driving ranges
* late night driving
* august
* stretching like a cat


and a few dislikes:
* gnats buzzing around
* social climbers
* coughing for a long time
 
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10:16pm 17/02/2008
  ahhhahaa. i just looked over some past entries, and cracked myself up. looking back, it seems like i took everything so seriously sometimes. its strange though, because when i remember how i felt at the time, i was never as serious as i came across. and i wonder, do my entries sound so serious now? i think they probably do. right now i can tell that they arent, but only because i can still remember my thoughts at the time.

i think i come here to sort out glitches sometimes, magnifying moments, trying to take a position or ask some important questions. i guess that serves a purpose, but why dwell on that stuff? those are the least interesting and least informative entries. in fact, sometimes i dont even know what i was refering to. all those hours of tortuous self doubt, and i cant even remember what it was about.

looking back, my favorite entries are the ones where i say some dumb story, or make fun of myself, or say something ridiculously optimistic. and i completely underestimate the value of concrete details. "today i did ___" entries. sometimes those details are so good.

so umm... today i did laundry and then completley forgot about it for about 13 hours? heh. theres one for the record books.

blergg! i want a puppy.
 
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11:19pm 13/02/2008
  OHHHHHhhhhhhhhhh valentines day.

i have a date! with my friends boyfriend. shes out of town, and didnt want him to be alone. aww. that makes me... a surrogate valentine.

im pretty sure thats weird.

the person i wish was my valentine posted a picture of whoopie goldburg on my wall, then deleted it. that means he likes me back, right?

sigh.
 
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06:34pm 10/02/2008
  im not sure im ambitious. there, i said it! im not sure. thats such a dirty phrase where im from. last night, the bouncer outside the bar i went to was writing a novel. he stood outside, tiny moleskine in his hands, scribbling and letting people in the door. "shit," i noted, "i'm drunk and youre writing a novel." he shrugged, as if to say, "well?" like he certainly wasnt going to argue with the facts. even bouncers are making me feel like a slacker now.

is what im doing really not enough? sometimes i have to slow down and think about it. im doing fine in college, president of a club, and an editor of the literary magazine. when did that become not enough? and, the real question: is it that im not happy with myself, or that im scared i dont measure up to those around me? its a difficult question to answer. i do know something though: its hard not to feel a little bad about yourself when half the people you know are already making $12,000 a summer, are up to date on the presidential race, can name drop more authors than you despite being economics majors, AND have valentines two years running.

do i need to wake up and start taking my life seriously, or is this just the east coast pressure talking? or both? the fact is, im 21 years old and still have no idea what i want to do with my life, not even remotely. and everyone keeps telling me thats ok, that its fine, that i shouldnt worry about requirements-- but thats what they said about the graduation requirements, too, and now i have to take a lab science my senior year.

even my writing class wants an answer. my main character, they said, lacked a driving force. beautiful, but why was she there? what was her motivation? i dont know! i wanted to yell. leave me alone! but i nodded and said id try to make that clearer next draft. trying to fix it now, the words arent coming. even my fictional characters lack direction.
 
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07:08pm 27/01/2008
  my dreams have been out of control lately; i dream all night and i wake up exhausted. most of them are complicated and bizarre, life but louder. friday i ran into an old fling, botched my way through a 30 second conversation about my earrings he still has, ran away, then dreamed lame dreams about him all night. i dont remember much, but im pretty sure one involved standing in an airport security line, him angrily declaring his love for me, and me being nervous.

i'm just so nervous.

a few weeks ago, when i was staring at all these egon schiele drawings, i felt this deep feeling in my chest-- i wanted to do that. i wanted to make lines like that. it was the deepest feeling of simultaneous love and desire that ive had in a while, and it hurt. i stepped up close and followed the lines, the blending, the colors like i was doing it myself, remembering what it was like to bring something out of a page where there was nothing before. in that moment i was calm and confident, and i knew what i wanted.

i want to feel that. i'm sad that i don't feel it more often. and i'm especially sad that when i do feel it, i've had such a hard time expressing it to someone else, sharing it. being able to share it is key. it's so much easier to blow people off and read a book, which means i've gotten so shy again.

and my horoscope, which is always so accurate,

"You may be moody now that the Moon is in your sign and your erratic feelings could make you uneasy, tempting you to overcompensate by acting cool. Others may think that they can see through your veneer of detachment, but your emotions are elusive enough that you can keep everyone guessing. Don't struggle; you have nothing to gain by hiding the truth."

and the truth is, i don't want to blow people off anymore.
 
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09:45pm 19/01/2008
  people used to call me an "old soul" a lot, and i was thinking about that term today.

i think its definitely wrong; i think i must be a new soul, a very new soul.

i think i must have arrived here so new that incredible astonishment was really the only possible path to take; its a path that looks deceptively like wisdom sometimes, but i dont think it is the same thing at all. my mind isnt strong. stubborn, yes, very stubborn. clever, sometimes, yes. but strong... no.

i think if there are multiple lives, or a path to enlightenment, im pretty much at the beginning.

im so calm right now. i think ive stumbled across something amazing. cats and music and sleeping. and the ocean. i think ive stumbled across something really amazing.
 
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05:04pm 16/01/2008
  i did not expect to love vienna this much. today is my last day, and i suddenly don't want to leave. i've started to love the things that always make me nervous for the first two weeks in a strange place-- here, its things like... sour looks from old women in fur coats, especially potent when my fellow americans talk too loud on the subway. things like this embarrass me sometimes, but recently its been funny. and the buildings-- everything is beautiful here. its like stepping into a post-WW2 movie that has chosen eastern european aristocracy as its subject matter, then added chandeleirs to every room and half a million ominous black crows. and as a finishing touch they threw in a constantly grey that somehow only makes everything more complete.

this is the kind of place vienna is: i went to the opera one night, werter, starring a spanish tenor (kind of dreamy) who everyone loves-- and the next night, as i was walking through karlsplatz, i saw him get stopped by a trendy and very excited 11 year old boy who, more than just about anything in the world it seemed, wanted this man's autograph and picture. an opera star. afterwards he ran back to a huge group of his friends who crowded around him to see the picture, talking excitedly.

internet time's almost up. which is fine, because there are a thousand cafe's i still have to sit and be cool in.

!!!
 
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01:19am 16/12/2007
  when it comes down to it, its just better to be in my own bed, in my own company. it all feels like a sham after a while, like one big elaborate scheme to convince one another that we're alive.

is that a sign of depression? i hope not. i dont feel depressed, just surprised.
 
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03:28pm 03/12/2007
  its walking back from a physics lecture on quantum mechanical computers and the nature of the universe, its tramping through big fat happy chunks of snow to my warm room, its in my warm room with hot chocolate sitting by my window that i feel, for the first time in a long time, that i belong here, in this time and place, in college, in boston, in the world, in the universe, forever and ever (or just right now), amen.  
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