Thursday, April 20, 2006

I just learned recently that my next-door neighbors (separated from me by a chain-link fence) have bought a house and are moving south. No more conversations and plant seedlings to pass over that fence (for the time being, anyway). No more puppies to run around the fence and sniff about while I weed or plant.

If 'good fences make good neighbors,' then this fence is a very good one. Hopefully it'll help conjure up new neighbors who are just as nice.

Mending Wall

Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it,
And spills the upper boulders in the sun;
And makes gaps even two can pass abreast.
The work of hunters is another thing:
I have come after them and made repair
Where they have left not one stone on a stone,
But they would have the rabbit out of hiding,
To please the yelping dogs. The gaps I mean,
No one has seen them made or heard them made,
But at spring mending-time we find them there.
I let my neighbor know beyond the hill;
And on a day we meet to walk the line
And set the wall between us once again.
We keep the wall between us as we go.
To each the boulders that have fallen to each.
And some are loaves and some so nearly balls
We have to use a spell to make them balance:
'Stay where you are until our backs are turned!'
We wear our fingers rough with handling them.
Oh, just another kind of outdoor game,
One on a side. It comes to little more:
There where it is we do not need the wall:
He is all pine and I am apple orchard.
My apple trees will never get across
And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him.
He only says, 'Good fences make good neighbors.'
Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder
If I could put a notion in his head:
'Why do they make good neighbors? Isn't it
Where there are cows? But here there are no cows.
Before I built a wall I'd ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offense.
Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
That wants it down.' I could say 'Elves' to him,
But it's not elves exactly, and I'd rather
He said it for himself. I see him there
Bringing a stone grasped firmly by the top
In each hand, like an old-stone savage armed.
He moves in darkness as it seems to me,
Not of woods only and the shade of trees.
He will not go behind his father's saying,
And he likes having thought of it so well
He says again, 'Good fences make good neighbors.'

-Robert Frost

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

First Fig

MY CANDLE burns at both ends;
It will not last the night;
But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends--
It gives a lovely light!

-Edna St. Vincent Millay

Yup, that's about right. Lots going on right now and I'm most certainly not as young as I used to be. (oh well).

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

When the big picture is too much to handle, I find that the incremental approach to living works pretty well.

Each Day A Life

I count each day a little life,
With birth and death complete;
I cloister it from care and strife
And keep it sane and sweet.

With eager eyes I greet the morn,
Exultant as a boy,
Knowing that I am newly born
To wonder and to joy.

And when the sunset splendours wane
And ripe for rest am I,
Knowing that I will live again,
Exultantly I die.

O that all Life were but a Day
Sunny and sweet and sane!
And that at Even I might say:
"I sleep to wake again."

- Robert Service

Monday, April 17, 2006

Oh, come on now. You knew that this was coming:

Paul Revere's Ride

Listen my children and you shall hear
Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere,
On the eighteenth of April, in Seventy-five;
Hardly a man is now alive
Who remembers that famous day and year.
He said to his friend, "If the British march
By land or sea from the town to-night,
Hang a lantern aloft in the belfry arch
Of the North Church tower as a signal light,--
One if by land, and two if by sea;
And I on the opposite shore will be,
Ready to ride and spread the alarm
Through every Middlesex village and farm,
For the country folk to be up and to arm."

Then he said "Good-night!" and with muffled oar
Silently rowed to the Charlestown shore,
Just as the moon rose over the bay,
Where swinging wide at her moorings lay
The Somerset, British man-of-war;
A phantom ship, with each mast and spar
Across the moon like a prison bar,
And a huge black hulk, that was magnified
By its own reflection in the tide.

Meanwhile, his friend through alley and street
Wanders and watches, with eager ears,
Till in the silence around him he hears
The muster of men at the barrack door,
The sound of arms, and the tramp of feet,
And the measured tread of the grenadiers,
Marching down to their boats on the shore.

Then he climbed the tower of the Old North Church,
By the wooden stairs, with stealthy tread,
To the belfry chamber overhead,
And startled the pigeons from their perch
On the sombre rafters, that round him made
Masses and moving shapes of shade,--
By the trembling ladder, steep and tall,
To the highest window in the wall,
Where he paused to listen and look down
A moment on the roofs of the town
And the moonlight flowing over all.

Beneath, in the churchyard, lay the dead,
In their night encampment on the hill,
Wrapped in silence so deep and still
That he could hear, like a sentinel's tread,
The watchful night-wind, as it went
Creeping along from tent to tent,
And seeming to whisper, "All is well!"
A moment only he feels the spell
Of the place and the hour, and the secret dread
Of the lonely belfry and the dead;
For suddenly all his thoughts are bent
On a shadowy something far away,
Where the river widens to meet the bay,--
A line of black that bends and floats
On the rising tide like a bridge of boats.

Meanwhile, impatient to mount and ride,
Booted and spurred, with a heavy stride
On the opposite shore walked Paul Revere.
Now he patted his horse's side,
Now he gazed at the landscape far and near,
Then, impetuous, stamped the earth,
And turned and tightened his saddle girth;
But mostly he watched with eager search
The belfry tower of the Old North Church,
As it rose above the graves on the hill,
Lonely and spectral and sombre and still.
And lo! as he looks, on the belfry's height
A glimmer, and then a gleam of light!
He springs to the saddle, the bridle he turns,
But lingers and gazes, till full on his sight
A second lamp in the belfry burns.

A hurry of hoofs in a village street,
A shape in the moonlight, a bulk in the dark,
And beneath, from the pebbles, in passing, a spark
Struck out by a steed flying fearless and fleet;
That was all! And yet, through the gloom and the light,
The fate of a nation was riding that night;
And the spark struck out by that steed, in his flight,
Kindled the land into flame with its heat.
He has left the village and mounted the steep,
And beneath him, tranquil and broad and deep,
Is the Mystic, meeting the ocean tides;
And under the alders that skirt its edge,
Now soft on the sand, now loud on the ledge,
Is heard the tramp of his steed as he rides.

It was twelve by the village clock
When he crossed the bridge into Medford town.
He heard the crowing of the cock,
And the barking of the farmer's dog,
And felt the damp of the river fog,
That rises after the sun goes down.

It was one by the village clock,
When he galloped into Lexington.
He saw the gilded weathercock
Swim in the moonlight as he passed,
And the meeting-house windows, black and bare,
Gaze at him with a spectral glare,
As if they already stood aghast
At the bloody work they would look upon.

It was two by the village clock,
When he came to the bridge in Concord town.
He heard the bleating of the flock,
And the twitter of birds among the trees,
And felt the breath of the morning breeze
Blowing over the meadow brown.
And one was safe and asleep in his bed
Who at the bridge would be first to fall,
Who that day would be lying dead,
Pierced by a British musket ball.

You know the rest. In the books you have read
How the British Regulars fired and fled,---
How the farmers gave them ball for ball,
>From behind each fence and farmyard wall,
Chasing the redcoats down the lane,
Then crossing the fields to emerge again
Under the trees at the turn of the road,
And only pausing to fire and load.

So through the night rode Paul Revere;
And so through the night went his cry of alarm
To every Middlesex village and farm,---
A cry of defiance, and not of fear,
A voice in the darkness, a knock at the door,
And a word that shall echo for evermore!
For, borne on the night-wind of the Past,
Through all our history, to the last,
In the hour of darkness and peril and need,
The people will waken and listen to hear
The hurrying hoof-beats of that steed,
And the midnight message of Paul Revere.

-Henry Wadsworth Longfellow


Happy Patriots Day! Happy Marathon Monday!

Saturday, April 15, 2006

"And It Goes Like This: 0-1-1-2-3-5-8"

My friend Anna Maria (yes, Pablo's little sister - they're a family of mathematically-inclined types) sent not a poem, but a link to a poetic structure based on Fibonacci numbers. Enjoy!

(You bet I'm going to give this a try...if anyone else has the urge/courage to do so, why not send in your results? Would love to see them.)

Friday, April 14, 2006


My birch-swinger friend didn't start out that way: he began as a city boy. City flora is a bit different from country flora, but that doesn't mean that one might wax less poetical about it:

"...When I think of spring, I think of a few things. I
think of baseball. I am sure I could find some good [poetry] there but I
didn't know if you'd like them or your readers would as much. I think of
dirt. Digging in it, to be specific. I didn't have a lot of luck there.
I think of flowers, of course, but that is just too broad a subject so
I went with the flowers that say spring to me the most, forsythia. I
had no real appreciation for them when I was a kid, or so I thought.
But this poet reminded me that I did as I had more than one Forsythia
Fortress myself back in the day(s). Thanks for inspiring me to look. It was neat to figure out that this shrub has been a part of me for all this time.

Tenth Poem of Merit

Yes, I remember
My forsythia fortress
A summer sanctuary
That berry bakery
And many muddy smiles.

Occupied for hours
In a heavenly haven
Always wildly wondering
About the planes passing
And worldly wiles.

So many feelings
In the damp daylight
Feet feeling fingers
Drawing vain Van Gogh's
To rhythm and rhyme.

How can I forget
So many mysteries
The lifting laughter
That privileged privacy
In my forsythia fortress.

-Brooke Umstead Good, Ocean View, Delaware

(This was printed in a book called Windows, Rainbows, and Salt Spray II,
the Anthology of the Ocean City Poetry Chapter and the Ocean City
Museum Society. This one was published in 1985.)"


I will always associate forsythias with my Danish grandma and love them because of that. She lived in the city and had a huge, rank bush practically flush with her front porch. How I enjoyed holing up with my little brother behind its densness, shaded by stray, arching branches laden with gold blooms.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

We're a bit late in getting the first hike up Pumpelley/Cascade this year. It's an easy (albeit longer) hike up, but it's also very scenic and about what the knee can handle nowadays. We've hiked it enough now that my body can just about feel its way up.

Of course, I pay attention to where I'm going; am very vigilant (of course I am! Lack of focus is what caused me to fall and hurt myself two falls ago) now. Just comfortable as well. That's a rare feeling for me, and it's funny to feel so with such an imposing-looking mountain.

Monadnock in Early Spring

Cloud-topped and splendid, dominating all
The little lesser hills which compass thee,
Thou standest, bright with April's buoyancy,
Yet holding Winter in some shaded wall
Of stern, steep rock; and startled by the call
Of Spring, thy trees flush with expectancy
And cast a cloud of crimson, silently,
Above thy snowy crevices where fall
Pale shrivelled oak leaves, while the snow beneath
Melts at their phantom touch. Another year
Is quick with import. Such each year has been.
Unmoved thou watchest all, and all bequeath
Some jewel to thy diadem of power,
Thou pledge of greater majesty unseen.

-Amy Lowell

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

On Vamps and Vampires

Monsieur Co-lihn sends some more Kipling, along with a woman's response to it:

"Kipling's "The Vampire" has always been a guilty pleasure of mine, and I
found this retort to that poem in an old collection of poems published circa

A Woman's Answer To "The Vampire"

A fool there was, and she lowered her pride,
(Even as you and I!)
To a bunch of conceit in a masculine hide-
We saw the faults that could not be denied,
But the fool saw only his manly side,
(Even as you and I!)

Oh, the love she laid on her own heart's grave,
With care of her head and hand,
Belongs to the man who did not know,
(And now she knows that he could never know),
And did not understand.

A fool there was and her best she gave,
(Even as you and I!)
Of noble thoughts, of gay and grave,
(And all were accepted as due to the knave).
But the fool would never her folly save-
(Even as you and I!)

Oh, the stabs she hid, which the Lord forbid,
Had ever been really planned,
She took from the man who didn't know why,
(And now she knows he never knew why),
And did not understnand.

The fool was loved while the game was new
(Even as you and I!)
And when it was played, she took her cue,
(Plodding along as most of us do),
Trying to keep his faults from view
(Even as you and I!)

And it isn't the ache of the heart, or its break
That stings like a white-hot brand-
It's learning to know that she raised the rod,
And bent her head to kiss the rod
For one who could not understand.

-Felicia Blake

Here's the original, in its mysoginistic glory:

The Vampire

A FOOL there was and he made his prayer
(Even as you and I!)
To a rag and a bone and a hank of hair
(We called her the woman who did not care),
But the fool he called her his lady fair
(Even as you and I!)
Oh the years we waste and the tears we waste
And the work of our head and hand,
Belong to the woman who did not know
(And now we know that she never could know)
And did not understand.

A fool there was and his goods he spent
(Even as you and I!)
Honor and faith and a sure intent
But a fool must follow his natural bent
(And it wasn’t the least what the lady meant),
(Even as you and I!)

Oh the toil we lost and the spoil we lost
And the excellent things we planned,
Belong to the woman who didn’t know why
(And now we know she never knew why)
And did not understand.

The fool we stripped to his foolish hide
(Even as you and I!)
Which she might have seen when she threw him aside—
(But it isn’t on record the lady tried)
So some of him lived but the most of him died—
(Even as you and I!)

And it isn’t the shame and it isn’t the blame
That stings like a white hot brand.
It’s coming to know that she never knew why
(Seeing at last she could never know why)
And never could understand.

-Rudyard Kipling

A little bit of old movie trivia: this poem was sort of turned into a silent
flick called "A Fool There Was", starring Theda Bara as the screen's
first "Vamp". I saw this movie years ago, it wasn't bad."

I actually have a copy of it: it's pretty darn melodramatic and one can see very well how Theda Bara got her nickname from it.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Avril, j'écris ton nom!

Mon ami du loin (who I'm trying hard not to call Madame Defarge) felt inspired to create a bit of concrete poetry:

"Avril, le mois de la nature, de la poésie, des mots, des verbes, des fleurs des champs, des espoirs, des rêves du futur et du passe...Avril, j'écris ton nom!"

(April, month of nature, of poetry, of words, of verbs (actions), of flowers in the fields, of hopes, of dreams of the future and the past...April, I write your name!)

Monday, April 10, 2006

Silly Little Moth.

Harry paid a visit this morning and left me with this gem that he heard on the David Lee Roth show:

Silly little moth:
Drawn into the flame for warmth,
Stupid idiot.

It really captures the feeling of coming into work on a Monday morning, now, doesn't it?

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Purple Cows (and Pink Elephants?)

I never saw a purple cow,
I never hope to see one;
But I can tell you, anyhow,
I'd rather see than be one!

-Gellett Burgess, 1895

Apparently he regretted penning those lines, as can be seen in this followup:

Ah yes, I wrote The Purple Cow,
I'm sorry now I wrote it;
But I can tell you, anyhow,
I'll kill you if you quote it!

My dad tells me that Burgess and his friends were quite the pranksters. One incident in San Francisco apparently caused him to lose his job:

"He would lose his job, shortly, when he and some of his fellow members of
the writing circle known as Les Jeunes would commit an outrageous act of
prankersterism. Cogswell, a noted teototaller, had given the City of San
Francisco several statues of himself holding a glass of water. A concealed
pipe kept the glass filled. Burgess and his confederates altered one of
these monuments in a way which no biographer has found fit to describe."

-Thanks, Dad, for remembering this one!

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Aimee downstairs, though a writer, absolutely hates poetry. "I only do prose," she once told me.

How funny to find her in her cubicle reciting this in her best Sco?ish accent:

To a Haggis

Fair fa' your honest, sonsie face,
Great chieftain o' the pudding-race!
Aboon them a' yet tak your place,
Painch, tripe, or thairm:
Weel are ye wordy o'a grace
As lang's my arm.

The groaning trencher there ye fill,
Your hurdies like a distant hill,
Your pin was help to mend a mill
In time o'need,
While thro' your pores the dews distil
Like amber bead.

His knife see rustic Labour dight,
An' cut you up wi' ready sleight,
Trenching your gushing entrails bright,
Like ony ditch;
And then, O what a glorious sight,
Warm-reekin', rich!

Then, horn for horn, they stretch an' strive:
Deil tak the hindmost! on they drive,
Till a' their weel-swall'd kytes belyve
Are bent like drums;
Then auld Guidman, maist like to rive,
Bethankit! hums.

Is there that owre his French ragout
Or olio that wad staw a sow,
Or fricassee wad make her spew
Wi' perfect sconner,
Looks down wi' sneering, scornfu' view
On sic a dinner?

Poor devil! see him owre his trash,
As feckles as wither'd rash,
His spindle shank, a guid whip-lash;
His nieve a nit;
Thro' blody flood or field to dash,
O how unfit!

But mark the Rustic, haggis-fed,
The trembling earth resounds his tread.
Clap in his walie nieve a blade,
He'll mak it whissle;
An' legs an' arms, an' hands will sned,
Like taps o' trissle.

Ye Pow'rs, wha mak mankind your care,
And dish them out their bill o' fare,
Auld Scotland wants nae skinking ware
That jaups in luggies;
But, if ye wish her gratefu' prayer
Gie her a haggis!

-Robert Burns, 1786


Never tried Haggis before, but anything that's had an ode penned to it by a bard has to be food of the gods. The foods claimed by my forebears, kishka and lutefisk, don't have quite the cache, but are still quite good (if you ignore what's in them).

Friday, April 07, 2006

Another Friday in Lent.

Should I get myself oysters or fried smelts for dinner? Maybe I should see if the market up the street still has any yellow pike left. Freshwater fish is somewhat of a rarity on the seacoast, so this childhood favorite would be a real treat.

Fish Crier

I KNOW a Jew fish crier down on Maxwell Street with a voice like a north wind blowing over corn stubble in January.
He dangles herring before prospective customers evincing a joy identical with that of Pavlowa dancing.
His face is that of a man terribly glad to be selling fish, terribly glad that God made fish, and customers to whom he may call his wares, from a pushcart.

-Carl Sandburg, from Chicago Poems

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Losing and finding one's self in love; loving for the sake of love...better than sex in my book.

The whole world is a marketplace for Love,
For naught that is, from Love remains remote.
The Eternal Wisdom made all things in Love.
On Love they all depend, to Love all turn.
The earth, the heavens, the sun, the moon, the stars
The center of their orbit find in Love.
By Love are all bewildered, stupefied,
Intoxicated by the Wine of Love.

From each, Love demands a mystic silence.
What do all seek so earnestly? "Tis Love.
Love is the subject of their inmost thoughts,
In Love no longer "Thou" and "I" exist,
For self has passed away in the Beloved.
Now will I draw aside the veil from Love,
And in the temple of mine inmost soul
Behold the Friend, Incomparable Love.
He who would know the secret of both worlds
Will find that the secret of them both is Love.

-Farid ud Din Attar

-"The Concourse of the Birds" from Attar's The Conference of the Birds, painted by Habib Allah, ca. 1600.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006


Razors pain you; Rivers are damp;
Acids stain you; And drugs cause cramp.
Guns aren't lawful; Nooses give;
Gas smells awful; You might as well live.

-Dorothy Parker

Most of the time it's only by sheer force of will that I get myself out of bed in the morning and drag me into work.

I really do have to get my résumé updated.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Warmed by the glow of a star that may or may not have died on him, Pablo decided to learn the Romanian Language. Here is one of the fruits of his translation efforts along with a bit of explanation:

I mailed a “La mulţi ani” to Stefan in Singapore. He is two years younger than I. He sent back likewise.

Now one more time, my submission for the (poetry) blog. A poem I like intellectually for the sense of paradox that it builds up and reiterates in a few short lines, but also for the ambiguous conclusion. Is it about hope? Or regret? Or just about making the most of pleasant memories?

La Steaua

La steaua care-a răsărit
E-o cale-atât de lungă,
Că mii de ani i-au trebuit
Luminii să ne-ajungă.

Poate de mult s-a stins în drum
În depărtări albastre,
Iar raza ei abia acum
Luci vederii noastre,

Icoana stelei ce-a murit
Încet pe cer se suie:
Era pe când nu s-a zărit,
Azi o vedem, şi nu e.

Tot astfel când al nostru dor
Pieri în noapte-adâncă,
Lumina stinsului amor
Ne urmăreşte încă.

-Mihai Eminescu

For the Star

For the star that just arose
There lies so long a way,
Thousands of years must come to close
That we might see its ray.

And very like it flickered out,
Out in the blue expanses,
Yet now its light has come about
To glimmer in our glances.

The image of the star that died,
A slowly climbing dot,
Though when it was, it wasn’t spied,
Is seen now, and is not.

Just so, when in the deepest dark
Our longings perished lay,
Extinguished love has sent a spark
Pursuing us today.

-My translation

Monday, April 03, 2006

Pablo, however, is alive and well and is celebrating his 38th April today. I wish him all the happiness in the world and send out about the best definition of this state I've come across:


I ASKED the professors who teach the meaning of life to tell me what is happiness.
And I went to famous executives who boss the work of thousands of men.
They all shook their heads and gave me a smile as though I was trying to fool with them
And then one Sunday afternoon I wandered out along the Desplaines river
And I saw a crowd of Hungarians under the trees with their women and children and a keg of beer and an accordion.

-Carl Sandburg
Missed Birthday.

I was in a bit of a panic this morning because I didn't get a birthday card out in time. Then I remembered: Vince would have been 92 today.


To what purpose, April, do you return again?
Beauty is not enough.
You can no longer quiet me with the redness
Of little leaves opening stickily.
I know what I know.
The sun is hot on my neck as I observe
The spikes of the crocus.
The smell of the earth is good.
It is apparent that there is no death.
But what does that signify?
Not only under ground are the brains of men
Eaten by maggots,
Life in itself
Is nothing,
An empty cup, a flight of uncarpeted stairs.
It is not enough that yearly, down this hill,
Comes like an idiot, babbling and strewing flowers.

-Edna St. Vincent Millay

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Hard to believe, but I'm not the hugest fan of Poetry. I particularly hated it when I was younger and had to submit to it (along with its interpretations) being crammed down my throat like horse pills:


I, too, dislike it: there are things that are important beyond all
this fiddle.
Reading it, however, with a perfect contempt for it, one
discovers in
it after all, a place for the genuine.
Hands that can grasp, eyes
that can dilate, hair that can rise
if it must, these things are important not because a

high-sounding interpretation can be put upon them but because
they are
useful. When they become so derivative as to become
the same thing may be said for all of us, that we
do not admire what
we cannot understand: the bat
holding on upside down or in quest of something to

eat, elephants pushing, a wild horse taking a roll, a tireless wolf
a tree, the immovable critic twitching his skin like a horse that
feels a
flea, the base-
ball fan, the statistician--
nor is it valid
to discriminate against 'business documents and

school-books'; all these phenomena are important. One must
make a distinction
however: when dragged into prominence by half poets, the
result is not poetry,
nor till the poets among us can be
'literalists of
the imagination'--above
insolence and triviality and can present

for inspection, 'imaginary gardens with real toads in them', shall
we have
it. In the meantime, if you demand on the one hand,
the raw material of poetry in
all its rawness and
that which is on the other hand
genuine, you are interested in poetry.

It's taken a fair bit of time for me to come around to enjoying it, much like it's been taking me some time to warm up to Marianne Moore. There's a lot to be said for poetry that works (for me), just like there's a lot to be said for a poet who loves baseball and animals, who writes of beautiful things she's dreamt of acquiring, who is so plain-speaking, and who just gets it.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

We do take requests here, so drop a line if you'd like. Send a link if you have a blog. Let us know what sort of rhythmic word arrangements (from songs to favorite childhood rhymes) move you!
April Fool

April, 2006: My 35th year, year five of the poetry month escapades, the job, the current residence and the relationship. Eight years since I gave up the musical pursuits for more lucrative ones and 14 since I finished structured study. It's 18 years (half a lifetime) that I've been living in a place I'd only meant to stay in for four. To what end?

The Conundrum of the Workshops

WHEN the flush of a newborn sun fell first on Eden's green and gold,
Our father Adam sat under the Tree and scratched with a stick in the mold;
And the first rude sketch that the world had seen was joy to his mighty heart,
Til the Devil whispered behind the leaves: "It's pretty, but is it Art?"

Wherefore he called to his wife and fled to fashion his work anew—
The first of his race who cared a fig for the first, most dread review;
And he left his lore to the use of his sons—and that was a glorious gain
When the Devil chuckled: "Is it Art?" in the ear of the branded Cain.

They builded a tower to shiver the sky and wrench the stars apart,
Till the Devil grunted behind the bricks: "It's striking, but is it Art?"
The stone was dropped by the quarry-side, and the idle derrick swung,
While each man talked of the aims of art, and each in an alien tongue.

They fought and they talked in the north and the south, they talked and they fought in the west,
Till the waters rose on the jabbering land, and the poor Red Clay had rest—
Had rest till the dank blank-canvas dawn when the dove was preened to start,
And the Devil bubbled below the keel: "It's human, but is it Art?"

The tale is old as the Eden Tree—as new as the new-cut tooth—
For each man knows ere his lip-thatch grows he is master of Art and Truth;
And each man hears as the twilight nears, to the beat of his dying heart,
The Devil drum on the darkened pane: "You did it, but was it Art?"

We have learned to whittle the Eden Tree to the shape of a surplice-peg,
We have learned to bottle our parents twain in the yolk of an addled egg,
We know that the tail must wag the dog, as the horse is drawn by the cart;
But the Devil whoops, as he whooped of old: "It's clever, but is it Art?"

When the flicker of London's sun falls faint on the club-room's green and gold,
The sons of Adam sit them down and scratch with their pens in the mold—
They scratch with their pens in the mold of their graves, and the ink and the anguish start
When the Devil mutters behind the leaves: "It's pretty, but is it art?"

Now, if we could win to the Eden Tree where the four great rivers flow,
And the wreath of Eve is red on the turf as she left it long ago,
And if we could come when the sentry slept, and softly scurry through,
By the favor of God we might know as much—as our father Adam knew.

-Rudyard Kipling

This also comes to mind:


Horloge! dieu sinistre, effrayant, impassible,
Dont le doigt nous menace et nous dit: «Souviens-toi!
Les vibrantes Douleurs dans ton coeur plein d'effroi
Se planteront bientôt comme dans une cible;

Le Plaisir vaporeux fuira vers l'horizon
Ainsi qu'une sylphide au fond de la coulisse;
Chaque instant te dévore un morceau du délice
À chaque homme accordé pour toute sa saison.

Trois mille six cents fois par heure, la Seconde
Chuchote: Souviens-toi! — Rapide, avec sa voix
D'insecte, Maintenant dit: Je suis Autrefois,
Et j'ai pompé ta vie avec ma trompe immonde!

Remember! Souviens-toi! prodigue! Esto memor!
(Mon gosier de métal parle toutes les langues.)
Les minutes, mortel folâtre, sont des gangues
Qu'il ne faut pas lâcher sans en extraire l'or!

Souviens-toi que le Temps est un joueur avide
Qui gagne sans tricher, à tout coup! c'est la loi.
Le jour décroît; la nuit augmente; Souviens-toi!
Le gouffre a toujours soif; la clepsydre se vide.

Tantôt sonnera l'heure où le divin Hasard,
Où l'auguste Vertu, ton épouse encor vierge,
Où le Repentir même (oh! la dernière auberge!),
Où tout te dira Meurs, vieux lâche! il est trop tard!»

-Charles Baudelaire

Why such darkness at the beginning of spring? Why all this self-questioning? I guess because with spring comes flight, and I never took wing like so many others did. I find myself frozen and aging in a city that's perpetually young; unable to move forward as I'm always questioning the footsteps and weighing one expert opinion against another conflicting one.