Thursday, August 2, 2012

I sleep a lot

I sleep a lot and read St. Thomas Aquinas
Or The Death of God (that's a Protestant book).
To the right the bay as if molten tin,
Beyond the bay, city, beyond the city, ocean,
Beyond the ocean, ocean, till Japan.
To the left dry hills with white grass,
Beyond the hills an irrigated valley where rice is grown,
Beyond the valley, mountains and Ponderosa pines,
Beyond the mountains, desert and sheep.

When I couldn't do without alcohol, I drove myself on alcohol,
When I couldn't do without cigarettes and coffee, I drove myself
On cigarettes and coffee.
I was courageous. Industrious. Nearly a model of virtue.
But that is good for nothing.

I feel a pain.
not here. Even I don't know.
many islands and continents,
words, bazaars, wooden flutes,
Or too much drinking to the mirror, without beauty,
Though one was to be a kind of archangel
Or a Saint George, over there, on St. George Street.
Please, Doctor,
Not here. No,
Maybe it's too

Please, Medicine Man, I feel a pain.
I always believed in spells and incantations.
Sure, women have only one, Catholic, soul,
But we have two. When you start to dance
You visit remote pueblos in your sleep
And even lands you have never seen.
Put on, I beg you, charms made of feathers,
Now it's time to help one of your own.
I have read many books but I don't believe them.
When it hurts we return to the banks of certain rivers.

I remember those crosses with chiseled suns and moons
And wizards, how they worked during an outbreak of typhus.
Send your second soul beyond the mountains, beyond time.
Tell me what you saw, I will wait.

— Czeslaw Milosz


  1. for old times' sake.

    Where I stand with regard to the game

    At first I played the game
    as I was given to play the game.
    I played without grace, without pretense-
    I played with pure joy, and with a brutality all my own.
    I played the game without understanding
    that there was a game.
    This could not continue.
    I could not help but be taken in by the other,
    by the warmth of their casual concern.
    I had great potential for grace, they said,
    so I gave myself to them.
    I learned how to hold a pretense,
    how to hold myself in check,
    and in my play there gradually arose
    a kind of grace, a swift intelligence about the game.
    This could not continue.
    Pretense gave rise to grace, I gathered,
    and so I held myself even more firmly in check.
    I withdrew as powerfully as I had first played.
    The game went on around me
    and I taught myself to keep out of it-
    I taught myself to watch.
    To demonstrate my decided detachment,
    I began to describe the game.
    At first, the lay of the field,
    the way the weather came,
    and how the light made the mood
    in which the players were given to play.
    Then i described the players themselves,
    the waxing and waning of their graces,
    and the shouts that seemed to be the glory
    of certain residency, of certain vacancy.
    The shouts, that is, that defied description.
    I turned away from them-
    turned away from my failure to describe them-
    turned instead to the rules of the game,
    which everyone had to admit
    had never really been clarified.
    How is the field of play bounded,
    and how is this binding productive of zones within itself?
    And the techniques the players make use of-
    what is legal and what is not?
    How should the children,
    who soon enough will begin to play,
    move out onto the field?
    There was room for wisdom such as mine
    to make itself known-to make fresh remarks.
    In clarifying the rules of the game,
    I no longer felt graceful, exactly,
    but I did feel as though I was developing a clarity
    in which the graces of the extant players
    would have to be more apparent-
    more accessible, if you will.
    I also felt that, as long as I was clarifying
    the rules of the game, I could not be blamed
    for my failure to describe the shouts of the players.
    As I worked, the game went on, of course,
    untouched by my efforts.
    As I poured forth my eloquent logics
    and settled fine points never before addressed,
    it was as though the players were not listening.
    I felt, at first, that this was not of any consequence-
    the players, in the midst of play,
    could not reasonably be expected to listen to me.
    I realized, however, as time went by,
    and as my work became
    an increasingly undeniable success,
    that even those who were not playing,
    those who, like myself, were content to watch-
    even those were not at all interested
    in making the amendments to the rules
    that my hard and subtle work made prescient.
    This irked me.
    I began to ask myself why I continued with my work.
    I began to write less about the rules of the game
    and more about why I felt the need to clarify said rules.
    The question of play arose-
    the question, that is, of whether or not
    I should have ever stopped playing,
    and the question of whether or not
    it would be possible to resume play,
    to play now.
    I began to speculate, from the incredible distance
    I had worked years to create
    about the potential benefits of a life of play.
    Such speculation only proved the distance
    I had worked so many years to create.
    If I was to resume play-
    if I was to abandon everything I had ever worked for
    in favor of again embracing a life of play-
    there could be no graceful approach.
    There could be no speculation.
    There would have to be something new,
    something defying description.
    There would have to be
    a complete and hopeless destruction
    of every grace, every distance.
    And that is where I stand.

    -Joe Wenderoth