Monday, March 30, 2009


Alberto Savinio

Once we imploded the world enlarged, eroding every trace that anything had vanished, rain reclaiming our very atoms the better not to mourn us.


Xul Solar

We were carrying bags from the grocer, polishing hammers, playing cards, dreaming of lost bodies, when the effacing brilliance distracted us.

A Cloud of Dust

Impossible not to forget the beautiful men, the children clever at their books, women full of wisdom, dead, my own body vaporized, my nation.

A Living

Judith Schaechter

Before they burned the bodies, they killed them; before they killed them they tortured them; before they tortured them, they gave them jobs.


Crispin de Passe (1564-1637)

The lovers dressed, pulling underwear from under the chaise, stockings from the mantle, fur from bushes, hiding their feelers, hooves, horns.

Quitting Time

Giacomo Brunelli

The final radiance arrives: everyone ossifies, tipping statues undercut by erosion, skeletons in derelict museums punching out, departing.

Knights of the Golden Dawn

Jaroš Griemiller of Třebsko

Under the bridge, the alchemy of sunrise is failing in its ancient transmutation, carbon dioxide and mercury sloughing off molecules of shit.

Day Labor

photo by Abdalrahem Alarjan

They threw the bodies down the stairs, opened the warehouse door, rolled them inside, where the dead were logging hours on the loading dock.

Morning Executions

Charles-Frédéric Soehnée

It was like a hanging: being marched along streets with others, through great institutional doors, up stairs, to a desk, the groaning inbox.

Sunday, March 29, 2009


A box of coins: One my fate, one my face, the others counterfeit. I close my eyes, reach in, choose: wrong, yes, but so it had been written.

It's A Living

The slum in the heart of the flower, alley in the slum, door in the alley: in a grimy room, the homunculus sits, crippled, selling a flower.

On Break

Walking the shining hallway to the toilet, the busboy tripped over a marble head with a disgusted face, a patron who refused to leave a tip.

Michelin 3 Stars

Claudia X. Valdes. Tests. Suite of 12 watercolors on paper, 2006. 11 x 16 in. each.

Entropy broke through the cafe window, tipping a dish of cornichon, blinding the waiter with its radiation, emptying the diners' wallets.

It's Really a Simple Operation, Jig, They Just Let the Air In and Then it's All Perfectly Natural

As he went under anesthesia, the stockbroker dreamed the money he'd stolen had written itself into a poem, and the poem into an epitaph.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Evolution of Faith

No one believed in demons, which made the exorcism a great success: there was dance, drink, and the guest of honor bleeding from the mouth.

Signing the Lien

Signing the lien, he felt a twinge in his abdomen, as if someone were writing his own name on his belly with a pen of white phosphorus.

Cleaning Day

We knew it was the day they clean the crematorium, but we pretended to be surprised that the rain smelled of ointment, hair oil, and lymph.

The Man with a Headache

The man with a headache reached into his mind and extracted a bit of shrapnel, which, examined, was the clone of a passage from Bach.

Monday, March 23, 2009


The space where reader meets poem is a wrecked zone in the ruin of cultural memory, in the ghetto on the south side of the medulla oblongata.


The Centrifuge of the Muse

To extract the enzyme that carries the poem from the mind of the reader to the mind of the body politic requires the centrifuge of the muse.

Black Square


Poetry is one strand spun in the double helix of the DNA of the body politic; each poem is a molecule thereof.

Clark Little's wave photographs

Sunday, March 22, 2009


The space where reader meets poem is a wrecked zone in the ruin of cultural memory, in the ghetto on the south side of the medulla oblongata.

New England Ruins


Between Auden's "Poetry makes nothing happen" and Milosz's "What good is a poetry that does not change nations" walk the ghosts of all poems.



The fact of the poem is a microscopic entity in the upper atmosphere, only discoverable by a superlight vehicle soaked in liquid neon.

Scientists in India seek, and discover, extremophiles.


The dream of the poem is of an explosion creating unalterable change in its environment; what good is a poetry that does not change geology?

See incredible photographs of undersea volcanic eruption near Tonga.

We Like to Pile Things Up

The human tendency to make piles of things does not differentiate us from our brothers and sisters in the animal kingdom but reveals our oneness with them. If there are any differences about the human tendency to place a small stone on a larger stone, they reside first in our tendency to feel guilty about having done so (see the Tower of Babel); second in our interest (obsession), and our potential delight, in observing the result of our labors (hey, wouldja look at that!); and finally, in our competitiveness about the result (mine is bigger than yours).

I would argue that a large percentage of all human activity comes somewhere under the heading of piling things up and reacting to the product. Dr. Johnson's "No man would have wished it longer" is another way of saying "Just don't make it any bigger" while admiring the magnitude of the thing. Milton had no more desire to restrain himself than Dickens or Whitman or John Irving; Dickinson's corpus is an enormous pile of pebbles, all of which are startlingly uniform (sometimes making a gigantic heap of very tiny things is the most startling project of all).

We could likely make a system of psychological typing out of the nature of the piles an individual creates and cherishes (or hates). Do magazine editors secretly love their so-called "slush piles" because the magnitude of them is a badge of importance? If an artist makes endless drawings of the same subject, is it because she is trying to get the lines right, or because the accrual of images is a sure sign of her industry? Do you have heaps of dirty clothes in your bedroom, or stacks of folded laundry? Why is Scrooge McDuck so fond of going into his vault and sitting on his money?

And where does the recent financial bubble, and its implosion, fit into this theory? It gives some of us so much satisfaction to make great heaps of imaginary money that we are willing to sacrifice reason to achieve the seeming of the thing.

We have, maybe, just witnessed the fall of our fiscal Tower of Babel.

RIP Marjorie Grene

The Los Angeles Times today publishes an obituary of the philosopher Marjorie Grene, at the age of 98. A student of Whitehead's, Heidegger's, and Jaspers's, she was an important and idiosyncratic presence in philosophic circles for seven decades. Though she made important contributions to the then-emergent field of existentialism, she is best known for founding the and doing seminal work in the philosophy of biology. Her work was included in the highly prestigious Library of Living Philosophers series. Fired from the University of Chicago in 1944, she went into voluntary academic exile, working as a farmer in the US and later in Ireland; eventually she settled at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, VA.

Beer Into Water: A Sunday Morning Meditation

Over on Front Porch Republic, Susan McWilliams laments the national drift from beer to bottled water. She writes:

The news is dreadful: According to the Census, since 2006 we have been living in a republic where, for the first time in the history of the republic, Americans drink more bottled water than we drank beer.

Why is this important? It’s important because beer is a socially oriented beverage, and bottled water is a privately oriented one.

From an environmentalist point of view, the trend is disastrous as well: mountains of beer cans are more beautiful under a sunset than mountains of plastic water bottles. And if all beer drinkers used glass bottles, America would be the utopia we always dreamed of.

Fight this trend. Throw away your Evian, stock up on Budweiser, get sociable! I suggest the back seat of a large American car is a good place to start.

Salt Art

At the end of the world an empty beach, empty sea, empty wind, flat, lifeless, leaving nothing behind but its poisonous etching of salt.

Salt art by
Motoi Yamamoto.

Star Pressing Club, Mississippi, 1936: Walker Evans

There was always filth, someone had to touch it, love it, lest it fade like the traces, eons after, at great distance, of a burnt-out star.

Image from here. Caption:
February 1936. Vicksburg, Mississippi. "Negro shop fronts. Laundry and barber shop." Large-format nitrate negative by Walker Evans.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

The Return of History and the End of Dreams

What happened at the end, when everyone thought there was no one left to think, was simple: they forgot it all had ended, and went on.

Find it here.  And a review here.

The Park Schöntal during spring - a historical park in Aschaffenburg (Germany)

Willows laced over the pond water of history, their image fractured by the ordnance of a war only the dead remember, or a simple wind.

Wittgenstein and Wittgenstein and Wittgenstein

As if geniuses weren't bad enough on their own, they occur in families! And in the case of the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein, his was a family of (mostly) geniuses.

Who's more brilliant? Who's more neurotic? Who's the dummy of the lot? Alexander Waugh, son of the comic genius, is a promising biographer for the Wittgenstein family. His book about the whole luminous lot of 'em is reviewed in the New York Times.

The Goth Sisters

Think about it for a moment: have you ever seen them together?

Joyce Carol Oates is likely the perfect reviewer for Brad Gooch's new Flannery: A Life of Flannery O'Connor. She is in the first place a brilliant essayist and a subtle interpreter of texts; and in the second place, she is as fascinated (or obsessed) with violence in her own writing as O'Connor was. Oates is the author of one of the best essays ever written on boxing; she wrote a spectacular piece, years ago, on James Dickey. O'Connor is surely a hero of hers, for any number of reasons.

Oates's essay-review in The New York Review of Books will reward any reader interested in O'Connor, or, well, most anything.


First Wine, then Water -- Is There Something Backward Here?

What would Jesus drink?

Boxed water comes in cartons made from recycled material. That makes sense. But will it catch on? Maybe it's just the thing for the recession. This looks generic, not designer.

Investigate it here.

Long-Tailed Hummer

No, the long-tailed hummer is not me or any of my relatives. Neither is it a stretch SUV. It's a spectacular animal. Find out more here.