What can we gain by sailing to the moon if we are not able to cross the abyss that separates us from ourselves? This is the most important of all voyages of discovery, and without it, all the rest are not only useless, but disastrous.
The Darkening Ecliptic
“There are four kinds of people in the world, Ms. Harper. Those who build walls. Those who protect walls. Those who breach walls. And those who tear down walls. Much of life is discovering who you are. When you find out, you also realize there are places you can no longer go, things you can no longer do, words you can no longer say.”
foto – wall at the beachshack
For every intellectual a lapse, for every horse a stumble, and for every sword (bearer) a disaster.
Weekend markets, Broome: The gypsy’s story
This town takes people like me:
people who must have a greater distance…
The night Grandfather told me he could not go on,
could not work the night train to Budapest, I took off
my coat and placed it over the old man’s shoulders.
Grandfather came for me
when I was twenty. He meant to see if I would work
to keep him but it grew into love a hard love.
From him I learned my letters numbers and the cards.
In Hungary where I was born
they never gave us education. They could find us mad
if we did not read or write so being mad
we could be shut away again and cities looked better
with us off the streets.
The coat would be of some use:
a trade for a pack of cigarettes perhaps.
My people lived on nothing, always moving on
and when a man could not move on, he made a quick death.
We were at the back of the yards,
hands under armpits for the warmth.
Grandfather’s head was silvered by drizzle, a faint moon
making him saint-like, and this so far from truth
as to be laughable, saving me from tears.
I promised him
I would remake our cards in some safer country;
bring back their honour by working them again,
hearing the dance of symbols and colours speak,
seeing their wisdom come.
Yes, this town takes people like me
and the cards call only those who wish to hear.
But the nights burn: dark returns me
to Buda or some other city where police pull down
our shanties, gangs are paid to hunt us out
and if sleep comes, it is in fragments.
The rattle of palm fronds on my roof
sounds like distant gunfire…
“You are old, Father William,” the young man said,
“And your hair has become very white;
And yet you incessantly stand on your head—
Do you think, at your age, it is right?”
“In my youth,” Father William replied to his son,
“I feared it might injure the brain;
But now that I’m perfectly sure I have none,
Why, I do it again and again.”
“You are old,” said the youth, “As I mentioned before,
And have grown most uncommonly fat;
Yet you turned a back-somersault in at the door—
Pray, what is the reason of that?”
“In my youth,” said the sage, as he shook his grey locks,
“I kept all my limbs very supple
By the use of this ointment—one shilling the box—
Allow me to sell you a couple?”
“You are old,” said the youth, “And your jaws are too weak
For anything tougher than suet;
Yet you finished the goose, with the bones and the beak—
Pray, how did you manage to do it?”
“In my youth,” said his father, “I took to the law,
And argued each case with my wife;
And the muscular strength which it gave to my jaw,
Has lasted the rest of my life.”
“You are old,” said the youth, “one would hardly suppose
That your eye was as steady as ever;
Yet you balanced an eel on the end of your nose—
What made you so awfully clever?”
“I have answered three questions, and that is enough,”
Said his father; “don’t give yourself airs!
Do you think I can listen all day to such stuff?
Be off, or I’ll kick you down stairs!”
Skimbleshanks: The Railway Cat
There’s a whisper down the line at 11:39
When the Night Mail’s ready to depart,
Saying ‘Skimble where is Skimble has he gone to hunt the thimble?
We must find him or the train can’t start.’
All the guards and all the porters and the stationmaster’s daughters
They are searching high and low,
Saying ‘Skimble where is Skimble for unless he’s very nimble
Then the Night Mail just can’t go.’
At 11:42 then the signal’s nearly due
And the passengers are frantic to a man –
Then Skimble will appear and he’ll saunter to the rear:
He’s been busy in the luggage van!
He gives one flash of his glass-green eyes
And the signal goes ‘All Clear!’
And we’re off at last for the northern part
Of the Northern Hemisphere!
You may say that by and large it is Skimble who’s in charge
Of the Sleeping Car Express.
From the driver and the guards to the bagmen playing cards
He will supervise them all, more or less.
Down the corridor he paces and examines all the faces
Of the travellers in the First and in the Third;
He establishes control by a regular patrol
And he’d know at once if anything occurred.
He will watch you without winking and he sees what you are thinking
And it’s certain that he doesn’t approve
Of hilarity and riot, so the folk are very quiet
When Skimble is about and on them ove.
You can play no pranks with Skimbleshanks!
He’s a Cat that cannot be ignored;
So nothing goes wrong on the Northern Mail
When Skimbleshanks is aboard.
Oh it’s very pleasant when you have found your little den
With your name written up on the door.
And the berth is very neat with a newly folded sheet
And there’s not a speck of dust on the floor.
There is every sort of light – you can make it dark or bright;
There’s a button that you turn to make a breeze.
There’s a funny little basin you’re supposed to wash your face in
And a crank to shut the window if you sneeze.
Then the guard looks in politely and will ask you very brightly
‘Do you like your morning tea weak or strong?’
But Skimble’s just behind him and was ready to remind him,
For Skimble won’t let anything go wrong.
And when you creep into your cosy berth
And pull up the counterpane,
You are bound to admit that it’s very nice
To know that you won’t be bothered by mice –
You can leave all that to the Railway Cat,
The Cat of the Railway Train!
In the middle of the night he is always fresh and bright;
Every now and then he has a cup of tea
With perhaps a drop of Scotch while he’s keeping on the watch,
Only stopping here and there to catch a flea.
You were fast asleep at Crewe and so you never knew
That he was walking up and down the station;
You were sleeping all the while he was busy at Carlisle,
Where he greets the stationmaster with elation.
But you saw him at Dumfries, where he summons the police
If there’s anything they ought to know about:
When you get to Gallowgate there you do not have to wait –
For Skimbleshanks will help you to get out!
He gives you a wave of his long brown tail
Which says: ‘I’ll see you again!
You’ll meet without fail on the Midnight Mail
The Cat of the Railway Train.’
T S Elliot
Ye who know the Lone Trail fain would follow it,
Through it lead to glory or the darkness of the pit.
Ye who take the Lone Trail, bid your love good-bye;
The Lone Trail, the Lone Trail follow till you die.
The trails of the world be countless, and most of the trails be tried;
You tread on the heels of the many, till you come where the ways divide;
And one lies safe in the sunlight, and the other is dreary and wan,
Yet you look aslant at the Lone Trail, and the Lone Trail lures you on.
And somehow you’re sick of the highway, with its noise and its easy needs,
And sometimes it leads to the desert, and the tongue swells out of the mouth,
And you stagger blind to the mirage, to die in the mocking drought.
And sometimes it leads to the mountain, to the light of the lone camp-fire,
And you gnaw your belt in the anguish of hunger-goaded desire.
And sometimes it leads to the Southland, to the swamp where the orchid glows,
And you rave to your grave with the fever, and they rob the corpse for its clothes.
And sometimes it leads to the Northland, and the scurvy softens your bones,
And your flesh dints in like putty, and you spit out your teeth like stones.
And sometimes it leads to a coral reef in the wash of a weedy sea,
And you sit and stare at the empty glare where the gulls wait greedily.
And sometimes it leads to an Arctic trail, and the snows where your torn feet freeze,
And you whittle away the useless clay, and crawl on your hands and knees.
Often it leads to the dead-pit; always it leads to pain;
By the bones of your brothers ye know it, but oh, to follow you’re fain.
By your bones they will follow behind you, till the ways of the world are made plain.
Bid good-by to sweetheart, bid good-by to friend;
The Lone Trail, the Lone Trail follow to the end.
Tarry not, and fear not, chosen of the true;
Lover of the Lone Trail, the Lone Trail waits for you.
–ROBERT SERVICE, The Lone Trail, 1907
FRANCIS BEAUMONT (1584-1616).
What things have we seen Done at the Mermaid !
I have heard words that have been So nimble, and so full of subtle flame,
As if that everyone from whence they came
Had meant to put his whole wit in a jest,
And had resolved to live a fool the rest
Of his dull life.
Letter to Ben Jonson.
“Four be the things I am wiser to know:
Idleness, sorrow, a friend, and a foe.
Four be the things I’d been better without:
Love, curiosity, freckles, and doubt.
Three be the things I shall never attain:
Envy, content, and sufficient champagne.
Three be the things I shall have till I die:
Laughter and hope and a sock in the eye.”
― Dorothy Parker, The Complete Poems of Dorothy Parker
in the distance on the verandah
having said yes too many times and become loaded,
i believe you, “all doors lead to busy rooms”,
the darkness can roll in while you’re not looking
so that afternoon sprouts night outside your window
when you were turned away by talk and didn’t notice,
they say you can’t predict the tide accurately,
or turn back the future, but the telephone is continuous,
suddenly it occurs to me
that i have moved from being just a prisoner
to a more debatable shadowland
within which i am circling but not holding
from The Mask and the Jagged Star
it wasn’t pretend, I wasn’t in a fairytale or a fable. I shut my eyes and absorbed the silent whoomp that always accompanies this revelation. It’s the sound of the real world, gigantic and impossible, replacing the smaller version of reality that I wear like a bonnet, clutched tightly under my chin.”
― Miranda July, It Chooses You
― J.R.R. Tolkien
“Heroes take journeys, confront dragons, and discover the treasure of their true selves.”
~ Carol Lynn Pearson
“I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the seashore, and diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.” – Isaac Newton
― David Grann, The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon
Tobacco smoke! Blue-grey in wreaths,–
Blue laurel-wreaths which float in air,
As if, invisible, serene,
A dreaming angel hovered there,
A spirit of clam kindliness,–
A touch of eyes that smile through tears,–
A mantle of forgetfulness,
Thrown in the passions of the years.
I cross my knees, I puff my pipe,
The gentle Summer warmth creeps in;
The Summer warmth ‘mid Winter’s snows,–
For indolence shall banish sin,–
And watch the tasselled smoke-drops fall,
And note the fringed smoke-plumes rise,
And see the dreams, in legions, turn
To smoky nothings in the skies.
Tobacco smoke, like silken web,
Suspended in the restful airs,
To me and mine in soothing rhymes
A dainty, artless burden bears;
Let cares rage on– let hopes renew–
The Yesterday, Tomorrow be–
But we are wise the smoke and I;
We cease regrets and troubles flee.
-A. B. Tucker
Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking-Glass
“Through the Looking Glass” by Lewis Carroll.
The sun was shining on the sea,
Shining with all his might:
He did his very best to make
The billows smooth and bright —
And this was odd, because it was
The middle of the night.
The moon was shining sulkily,
Because she thought the sun
Had got no business to be there
After the day was done —
‘It’s very rude of him.’ she said,
‘To come and spoil the fun!’
The sea was wet as wet could be,
The sands were dry as dry.
You could not see a cloud, because
No cloud was in the sky:
No birds were flying overhead —
There were no birds to fly.
The Walrus and the Carpenter
Were walking close at hand:
They wept like anything to see
Such quantities of sand:
‘If this were only cleared away,’
They said, ‘it would be grand.’
‘If seven maids with seven mops
Swept it for half a year,
Do you suppose,’ the Walrus said,
‘That they could get it clear?’
‘l doubt it,’ said the Carpenter,
And shed a bitter tear.
‘O Oysters, come and walk with us!
The Walrus did beseech.
‘A pleasant walk, a pleasant talk,
Along the briny beach:
We cannot do with more than four,
To give a hand to each.’
The eldest Oyster looked at him,
But never a word he said:
The eldest Oyster winked his eye,
And shook his heavy head —
Meaning to say he did not choose
To leave the oyster-bed.
Out four young Oysters hurried up.
All eager for the treat:
Their coats were brushed, their faces washed,
Their shoes were clean and neat —
And this was odd, because, you know,
They hadn’t any feet.
Four other Oysters followed them,
And yet another four;
And thick and fast they came at last,
And more, and more, and more —
All hopping through the frothy waves,
And scrambling to the shore.
The Walrus and the Carpenter
Walked on a mile or so,
And then they rested on a rock
And all the little Oysters stood
And waited in a row.
‘The time has come,’ the Walrus said,
‘To talk of many things:
Of shoes — and ships — and sealing wax —
Of cabbages — and kings —
And why the sea is boiling hot —
And whether pigs have wings.’
‘But wait a bit,’ the Oysters cried,
‘Before we have our chat;
For some of us are out of breath,
And all of us are fat!’
‘No hurry!’ said the Carpenter.
They thanked him much for that.
‘A loaf of bread,’ the Walrus said,
‘Is what we chiefly need:
Pepper and vinegar besides
Are very good indeed —
Now, if you’re ready, Oysters dear,
We can begin to feed.’
‘But not on us!’ the Oysters cried,
Turning a little blue.
‘After such kindness, that would be
A dismal thing to do!’
‘The night is fine,’ the Walrus said,
‘Do you admire the view?’
‘It was so kind of you to come!
And you are very nice!’
The Carpenter said nothing but
‘Cut us another slice-
I wish you were not quite so deaf-
I’ve had to ask you twice!’
‘It seems a shame,’ the Walrus said,
‘To play them such a trick.
After we’ve brought them out so far,
And made them trot so quick!’
The Carpenter said nothing but
‘The butter’s spread too thick!’
‘I weep for you,’the Walrus said:
‘I deeply sympathize.’
With sobs and tears he sorted out
Those of the largest size,
Holding his pocket-handkerchief
Before his streaming eyes.
‘O Oysters,’ said the Carpenter,
‘You’ve had a pleasant run!
Shall we be trotting home again?’
But answer came there none —
And this was scarcely odd, because
They’d eaten every one.
My entire delight was in observing without being myself noticed,— if I could have been invisible, all the better. I was absolutely interested in men and their ways, as I was interested in marmots and chamois, in tomtits and trout. If only they would stay still and let me look at them, and not get into their holes and up their heights! The living inhabitation of the world — the grazing and nesting in it, — the spiritual power of the air, the rocks, the waters, to be in the midst of it, and rejoice and wonder at it, and help it if I could, — happier if it needed no help of mine, — this was the essential love of Nature in me, this the root of all that I have usefully become, and the light of all that I have rightly learned.
Praeterita, volume I, chapter IX (1885-1889). JOHN RUSKIN,
― P.G. Wodehouse
“This is that moment in the hangover in which you discover that your keys are in your hat, the cat is in the sink, and you attempted late the previous night to make stew out of a pot holder. Things are in the wrong place. Religion is in the box where science used to be. Politics is on the shelf where you thought you left science the previous afternoon. Entertainment seems to have been knocked over and spilled on
― Charles P. Pierce, Idiot America: How Stupidity Became a Virtue in the Land of the Free