we observe the armistice
between our shadows
today,
we live in a world
of small things

was originally published on Meandering home

Leading a life that will never be approved of

So there. This is what you have done.

Something inside is waiting until you are gone.

My highest morality is a travesty.

My greatest love, revolting.

My sacred ones, a blemish on your race.

My hatred, the purest thing I know.

Leading a life that will never be approved of was originally published on Meandering home

Gentle lady, do not sing
Sad songs about the end of love;
Lay aside sadness and sing,
How love that passes is enough.

Sing about the long deep sleep
Of lovers that are dead and how
In the grave all love shall sleep
Love is aweary now

– James Joyce

was originally published on Meandering home

Lyrics: Take me to church by Hozier

It took me a while before I realized the words of Hozier’s famous song Take me to church.

Take me to church
I’ll worship like a dog at the shrine of your lies
I’ll tell you my sins and you can sharpen your knife
Offer me that deathless death
Good God, let me give you my life

If I’m a pagan of the good times
My lover’s the sunlight
To keep the Goddess on my side
She demands a sacrifice

There is no sweeter innocence than our gentle sin
In the madness and soil of that sad earthly scene
Only then I am human
Only then I am clean
Amen

This is a concise expression of what I call atheist religion. The reversal of Christian values is cunning. Truth is replaced by a shrine of lies. The protagonist doesn’t want to be saved or forgiven but sacrificed (doesn’t identify with Abraham but with Isaac). He wants a deathless death, not the lifeless life of heavenly bliss.

Of course the value of innocence and sin is also reversed, and the common metaphor of angelic cleanliness is now applied to the soild of that sad earthly scene.

This is informed paganism, executed in a precise way as a clean reversal of the standard Christian story, and in that dialectical way it is of course itself profoundly Christian.

Here is that wonderful clip with ballet dancer Sergej Polunin:

Lyrics: Take me to church by Hozier was originally published on Meandering home

Reading: Nocturnal Sailing by Mario Wirz

Mario Wirz (1956-2013) was a German poet and writer who started his career as theater actor and director. I read a poem in a translation by Renate Latimer:

the wind in your dream
swells the curtains into a sail
tears asunder
all the things we have collected
in the fearful light of the bedside lamp
I search in vain for our life vests
high waves rise above your sleep
and toss the night onto the side of the moon
perhaps you’d rather be
the sole sailor
untroubled by my fears
this question too
I now cast overboard
cautiously descending into your dream
and following its course
the sea which I haven’t questioned
all these years
imagines in our sleep
a new story

This is a gentle poem about love and anxiety. The curtains becoming sails and the pale moonlight dancing over the ocean’s surface imitated by the bedside lamp are a straightforward metaphor.
The author is cast overboard (intentionally?) because he didn’t want to bother his partner with his fears. That at least is what I read here. It gives him the chance to finally question the sea itself, and it creates the opening for a new story.

Reading: Nocturnal Sailing by Mario Wirz was originally published on Meandering home

Reading: Sudden Movements by Bob Hicok

Bob Hicok (1960) is a poet from Michigan who writes accessible and meditative poetry. He currently teaches creative writing at Purdue University.

My father’s head has become a mystery to him.
We finally have something in common.
When he moves his head his eyes
get big as roses filled
with the commotion of spring.
Not long ago he was a man
who had tomato soup for lunch
and dusted with the earnestness
of a gun fight. Now he’s a man
who sits at the table trying to breathe
in tiny bites. When they told him
his spinal column is closing, I thought
of all the branches he’s cut
with loppers and piled and burned
in the fall, the pinch of the blades
on the green and vital pulp. Surgeons
can fuse vertebrae, a welders art,
and scrape the ring through which
the soul-wires flow as a dentist
would clean your teeth.
And still it could happen, one turn
of his head toward a hummingbird,
wings keeping that brittle life
afloat, working hard against the fall,
and he might freeze in that pose
of astonishment, a man estranged
from the neck down, who can only share
with his body the silence
he’s pawned on his children as love.

I like this kind of poems that paint a world with a precise and prosaic description of a life and its discomfort, to redeem it with considerable verbal magic (share with his body the silence / he’s pawned on his children as love).

The metaphorical unity of the once strong father who cut through the green and vital pulp, and the weak old man who is estranged from the neck down, is an obvious device and some may call it boring. The nerves are called soul-wires and they are now cut off. Life has become mysterious to him – is that what the son calls ‘something in common’?

I think so. The father has learned astonishment at the hummingbird-like fragility of life. He has learned about love.

Or: Silence can give you enough cash in the pawn shop of love.

Reading: Sudden Movements by Bob Hicok was originally published on Meandering home

Reading: A Found Photo by Jacques Réda

Jacques Réda (b.1929) is a French poet and lover of jazz. His poetry often conveys small and innocent scenes. I read a poem about an old photo, wonderfully translated by Jenny Feldman:

A Found Photo
One day the three of us out in this boat.
The day black and white but clearly summer
For in the wavy-edged photo the trees
Stand full-leafed on the bank; and they’re all but
Naked, this trio, each with a paddle.
The air was hot, the light carefree, and where
The river’s now grey and inert, a breeze
Must have quickened its flow to a dazzle.
Kneeling astern, back arched and already
Womanly in the clasp of a swimsuit
There you are, Janine. And innocently
In love one boy looks cast in bronze, robust,
The other (me) a scrawny pale-faced kid.
Fifty years the scene has held unmoving
Though each day swept us further off. But I’d
Say they’re still aboard the skiff and drifting
On the spot, these three, radiant in the dull
Print where they squint against the sun and see,
On the other side, only my shadow
Through thickening time that has distanced me
So as to let this delight even now
Live on.

It’s an experience that may be lost to future generations: watching an old yellowing photograph after fifty years. There is surely some magic in there, some connection to the “other side” where we live on. The description of the three young people (I think of an French film by Truffaut but you can have your own visual association, not that this is necessary). The womanly girl kneeling astern in her swimsuit, and the two admiring boys (assuming the other boy was admiring her also. Perhaps this was not the case and he rather was in love with the me of the poem, so we have a love triangle here).

Time is thickening. I have such memories from when I was 16, or 23. No photographs, but I know enough to reproduce them with thickening confidence.

Reading: A Found Photo by Jacques Réda was originally published on Meandering home