30 September 2010

César Vallejo

[from César Vallejo's Trilce, tr. Clayton Eshleman, Wesleyan, 1992]


       Who would have told us that on a Sunday
like this, over arachnoid slopes
the shadow would rear completely frontal.
(A mollusc is attacking barren foundered eyes,
at the rate of two or more tantalean possibilities
against a half death rattle of remorseful blood).

       Then, not even the very back of the uninhabited
screen could wipe dry the arteries
extradosed with double neverthelesses.
As if they would have let us leave! As
if we weren't always meshed
at the two daily flanks of fatality!

       And how much we might have offended each other.
And yet how much we might have annoyed each other and
fought and made up again
and again.

       Who would have thought of such a Sunday,
when, dragging, six elbows are licking
this way, addled Mondayescent yolks.

       We might have pulled out against it, from under
the two wings of Love,
lustral third feathers, daggers,
new passages on oriental paper.
For today when we test if we even live,
almost a front at the most.

28 September 2010

Barbara Deming

[from Mab Segrest's My Mama's Dead Squirrel: Lesbian Essays on Southern Culture, Firebrand, 1985]

. . . my father's death. Years ago now. It was on a weekend in the country and he'd been working outside with a pick and shovel, making a new garden plot. He'd had a heart attack and fallen there in the loose dirt. We'd called a rescue squad, and they were trying to bring him back to life, but -- couldn't. I was half-lying on the ground next to him, with my arms around his body. I realized that this was the first time in my life that I had felt able to really touch my father's body. I was holding hard to it -- with my love -- and with my grief. And my grief was partly that my father, whom I loved, was dying. But it was also that I knew already that his death would allow me to feel freer. I was mourning that this had to be so. It's a grief that is hard for me to speak of. That the only time I would feel free to touch him without feeling threatened by his power over me was when he lay dead -- it's unbearable to me. And I think there can hardly be a woman who hasn't felt a comparable grief. So it's an oversimplification to speak the truth that we sometimes wish men dead -- unless we also speak the truth which is perhaps even harder to face (as we try to find our own powers, to be our own women): the truth that this wish is unbearable to us. It rends us.

23 September 2010

Walter Benjamin

[from Walter Benjamin's essay "The Storyteller" from Illuminations: Essays and Reflections, Harcourt Brace, 1968]

There is nothing that commends a story to memory more effectively than that chaste compactness which precludes psychological analysis. And the more natural the process by which the storyteller forgoes psychological shading, the greater becomes the story’s claim to a place in the memory of the listener, the more completely is it integrated into his own experience, the greater will be his inclination to repeat it to someone else someday, sooner or later. This process of assimilation, which takes place in depth, requires a state of relaxation which is becoming rarer and rarer. If sleep is the apogee of physical relaxation, boredom is the apogee of mental relaxation. Boredom is the dream bird that hatches the egg of experience. A rustling in the leaves drives him away. His nesting places — the activities that are intimately associated with boredom — are already extinct in the cities and are declining in the country as well. With this the gift for listening is lost and the community of listeners disappears. For storytelling is always the art of repeating stories, and this art is lost when the stories are no longer retained. It is lost because there is no more weaving and spinning to go on while they are being listened to. The more self-forgetful the listener is, the more deeply is what he listens to impressed upon his memory. When the rhythm of work has seized him, he listens to the tales in such a way that the gift of retelling them comes to him all by itself. This, then, is the nature of the web in which the gift of storytelling is cradled. This is how today it is becoming unraveled at all its ends after being woven thousands of years ago in the ambience of the oldest forms of craftsmanship.

17 September 2010

César Vallejo

[from César Vallejo's Trilce, tr. Clayton Eshleman, Wesleyan, 1992)

The grown-ups
— when are they coming back?
Blind Santiago is ringing six o'clock,
and it's already pretty dark.

Mother said she wouldn't be late.

Aguedita, Nativa, Miguel,
be careful going around there, where
stooped souls in torment
have just passed twanging their memories,
toward the silent barnyard, and where
the hens still getting settled,
had been so frightened.
We'd better stay here.
Mother said she wouldn't be late.

We shouldn't fret. Let's keep looking at
the boats — mine's the nicest of all!
we've been playing with all day long,
without fighting, how it should be:
they've stayed on the well water, ready,
loaded with candy for tomorrow.

So let's wait, obedient and with no
other choice, for the return, the apologies
of the grown-ups always in front
leaving us the little ones at home,
as if we couldn't
go away.

Aguedita, Nativa, Miguel?
I call out, I grope in the dark.
They can't have left me all alone,
the only prisoner can't be me.

01 September 2010

Michel Houellebecq

[Michel Houellebecq, tr. Frank Wynne, The Elementary Particles, Knopf, 2000]

Generally, the initial reaction of a thwarted animal is to try harder to attain its goal. A starving chicken (Gallus domesticus) prevented from reaching its food by a wire fence will make increasingly frantic efforts to get through it. Gradually, however, this behavior is replaced by another which has no obvious purpose. When unable to find food, for example, pigeons (Columba livia) will frequently peck the ground even if nothing there is edible. Not only will they peck indiscriminately, but they start to preen their feathers; such inappropriate behavior, frequently observed in situations of frustration or conflict, is known as displacement activity. Early in 1986, just after he turned thirty, Bruno began to write.