Saturday, April 12, 2008

This is a side of Whitman I don't tend to think about much - the sorrowful one, the more introspective, and perhaps even slightly depressed one.

I Sit and Look Out

I sit and look out upon all the sorrows of the world, and upon all
oppression and shame;
I hear secret convulsive sobs from young men, at anguish with
themselves, remorseful after deeds done;
I see, in low life, the mother misused by her children, dying,
neglected, gaunt, desperate;
I see the wife misused by her husband--I see the treacherous seducer
of young women;
I mark the ranklings of jealousy and unrequited love, attempted to be
hid--I see these sights on the earth;
I see the workings of battle, pestilence, tyranny--I see martyrs and
I observe a famine at sea--I observe the sailors casting lots who
shall be kill'd, to preserve the lives of the rest;
I observe the slights and degradations cast by arrogant persons upon
laborers, the poor, and upon negroes, and the like;
All these--All the meanness and agony without end, I sitting, look
out upon,
See, hear, and am silent.

-Walt Whitman

He is very much in tune with Emily Dickinson here, I think.

Friday, April 11, 2008

I guess I stand in good company when I say I want to blow this two-bit town and head for the hills.

A Letter

Dear brother, would you know the life,
Please God, that I would lead?
On the first wheels that quit this weary town
Over yon western bridges I would ride
And with a cheerful benison forsake
Each street and spire and roof incontinent.
Then would I seek where God might guide my steps,
Deep in a woodland tract, a sunny farm,
Amid the mountain counties, Hant, Franklin, Berks,
Where down the rock ravine a river roars,
Even from a brook, and where old woods
Not tamed and cleared cumber the ground
With their centennial wrecks.
Find me a slope where I can feel the sun
And mark the rising of the early stars.
There will I bring my books, - my household gods,
The reliquaries of my dead saint, and dwell
In the sweet odor of her memory.
Then in the uncouth solitude unlock
My stock of art, plant dials in the grass,
Hang in the air a bright thermometer
And aim a telescope at the inviolate sun.

-Ralph Waldo Emerson, Chardon Street, Boston, 1831

(In truth, I feel this way every Spring. Never Ever intended to stay here as long as I have.)

Thursday, April 10, 2008

A lot of focus has been on the Free Tibet movement lately. One can argue the merits for or against, of course. In my opinion, anything that makes the Chinese government uncomfortable can't be all that bad.

What I found interesting was this bit in the news. It surprises me that it took China this long to start framing their abysmal treatment of the Uighurs in some sort of global terrorist threat context.

I don't have much faith that things will improve much for the Tibetans or any other groups marked for repression by China. I have even less for the Turkic people from the western lands, mainly because of their being largely followers of Islam.

Wake up!

Hey, poor Uyghur, wake up, you have slept long enough,
You have nothing, what is now at stake is your very life.
If you don’t rescue yourself from this death,
Ah, your end will be looming, your end will be looming.

Stand up! I said, raise up your head, no more slumber,
Behead your enemy, spill his blood!
If you don’t open your eyes and look around,
The end of your frustrated existence is certain.

Already, your body looks lifeless,
Is that why you are indifferent to death?
You remain unmoved by my calls,
Do you want to perish this way, without coming to your senses?

Open your eyes wide, look around,
Think well about your future,
If you let this one chance escape,
Tomorrow will be nothing but sorrow, nothing but sorrow.

My heart pities you, o my Uyghur,
My companion, my brother, my relative,
With a burning soul, I am calling out to you,
But your are not hearing me, what is going on?

One day will come, and you will regret,
That day you will understand the reason of my calls.
You will say “alas!”, but it will be too late,
Then you will realize what Uyghur (the poet) meant.

-Abduxaliq Uyghur, Turpan, 1921

Original translator: Unknown
© Retranslated by: Rahman & Waris A. Janbaz
Paris, August 21, 2004

Here's what it looks like in the original language (followed by a transliteration).

A tiny bit about the poet.

A bit about the Uighur people themselves.

Some on the Uighur detainees in limbo in Guantanamo Bay.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

8 Count

from my bed
I watch
3 birds
on a telephone
one flies
one is left,
it too
is gone.
my typewriter is
and I am
reduced to bird
just thought I'd
let you

-Charles Bukowski

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

I know things are getting bad when I start losing concentration. When things like the phone ringing, emails or even people asking me how my day is going start making my head spin in a fit of rage. Relationships during the brighter periods become entanglements I need to extricate myself from. Sleep becomes an obsession.

It becomes apparent in my writing when the prose becomes dull or flat. When I speak, I screw up word order and often substitute one homophone for another. Eventually, I'll have a hard time reminding myself to pay bills, wash, even eat.

I've crashed pretty badly four times in my life, the last being two years back at around this time. It was maybe 1/2 a year ago that I was convinced to try medicine. The stuff has had a pretty good effect thus far but I'm scared to death of it.

Having it Out with Melancholy

"If many remedies are prescribed for an illness, you may be certain that the illness has no cure."

-A P Chekhov, The Cherry Orchard


When I was born, you waited
behind a pile of linen in the nursery,
and when we were alone, you lay down
on top of me, pressing
the bile of desolation into every pore.

And from that day on
everything under the sun and moon
made me sad -- even the yellow
wooden beads that slid and spun
along a spindle on my crib.

You taught me to exist without gratitude.
You ruined my manners toward God:
"We're here simply to wait for death;
the pleasures of earth are overrated."

I only appeared to belong to my mother,
to live among blocks and cotton undershirts
with snaps; among red tin lunch boxes
and report cards in ugly brown slipcases.
I was already yours -- the anti-urge,
the mutilator of souls.


Elavil, Ludiomil, Doxepin,
Norpramin, Prozac, Lithium, Xanax,
Wellbutrin, Parnate, Nardil, Zoloft.
The coated ones smell sweet or have
no smell; the powdery ones smell
like the chemistry lab at school
that made me hold my breath.


You wouldn't be so depressed
if you really believed in God.


Often I go to bed as soon after dinner
as seems adult
(I mean I try to wait for dark)
in order to push away
from the massive pain in sleep's
frail wicker coracle.


Once, in my early thirties, I saw
that I was a speck of light in the great
river of light that undulates through time.

I was floating with the whole
human family. We were all colors -- those
who are living now, those who have died,
those who are not yet born. For a few

moments I floated, completely calm,
and I no longer hated having to exist.

Like a crow who smells hot blood
you came flying to pull me out
of the glowing stream.
"I'll hold you up. I never let my dear
ones drown!" After that, I wept for days.


The dog searches until he finds me
upstairs, lies down with a clatter
of elbows, puts his head on my foot.

Sometimes the sound of his breathing
saves my life -- in and out, in
and out; a pause, a long sigh. . . .


A piece of burned meat
wears my clothes, speaks
in my voice, dispatches obligations
haltingly, or not at all.
It is tired of trying
to be stouthearted, tired
beyond measure.

We move on to the monoamine
oxidase inhibitors. Day and night
I feel as if I had drunk six cups
of coffee, but the pain stops
abruptly. With the wonder
and bitterness of someone pardoned
for a crime she did not commit
I come back to marriage and friends,
to pink fringed hollyhocks; come back
to my desk, books, and chair.


Pharmaceutical wonders are at work
but I believe only in this moment
of well-being. Unholy ghost,
you are certain to come again.

Coarse, mean, you'll put your feet
on the coffee table, lean back,
and turn me into someone who can't
take the trouble to speak; someone
who can't sleep, or who does nothing
but sleep; can't read, or call
for an appointment for help.

There is nothing I can do
against your coming.
When I awake, I am still with thee.


High on Nardil and June light
I wake at four,
waiting greedily for the first
note of the wood thrush. Easeful air
presses through the screen
with the wild, complex song
of the bird, and I am overcome

by ordinary contentment.
What hurt me so terribly
all my life until this moment?
How I love the small, swiftly
beating heart of the bird
singing in the great maples;
its bright, unequivocal eye.

-Jane Kenyon


This probably is the best description of the pain or lack of feeling and eventual rejeuvenation I've seen since Millay's Renascence. Actually, this might be better, as it addresses the cyclical nature of the sickness, the momentary well-being tempered by the ever-present fear of the slipping into that other awful, awful world. (I also love the image of the wood thrush in the last verse; it reminds me of the chickadee who brought me back to the world of the living years ago.)

I guess right now I feel myself slipping and am trying to figure out how to shore myself up. I have so much that needs to be done but am getting so tired again. The meds aren't meant to be a cure, I don't think. They just help the symptoms. The illness is something that needs to be lived with. I need to figure out how to either expand the good periods or reduce the depth/length of the bad periods. How, though?

Monday, April 07, 2008

A resurrected post on the insights of a thoughtful friend:

I ended up with two classics. They may bore you because although I did search long, they were easy to find and not very original or different. I picked them because they speak of spring in a way that I have never considered. I found it actually fascinating that I had never thought this way or even read of men, or women for that matter, thinking of spring in a negative light because of jealousy or bitterness. And this is coming from a man who has never been accused of being overly optimistic.

The first is a passage from Love’s Labors Lost (Act V, Scene 2)

When daisies pied, and violets blue,
And lady-smocks all silver-white,
And cuckoo-buds of yellow hue
Do paint the me adows with delight,
The cuckoo then, on every tree,
Mocks married men, for thus sings he:
Cuckoo, cuckoo!” O word of fear,
Unpleasing to a married ear.

When shepherds pipe on oaten straws,
And merry larks are plough men’s clocks,
When turtles tread, and rooks, and daws,
And maidens bleach their sum me r smocks,
The cuckoo then, on every tree,
Mocks married men, for thus sings he:
Cuckoo, cuckoo!” O word of fear,
Unpleasing to a married ear.

The next is by Wordsworth. Again, he speaks of the beauty of spring but can’t take it for what it is. I’m not sure why these two struck me like they did. I’m going to have to think more on that. Once again, thank you for making me think.

Lines Written in Early Spring

I heard a thousand blended notes,
While in a grove I sate reclined,
In that sweet mood when pleasant thoughts
Bring sad thoughts to the mind.

To her fair works did Nature link
The human soul that through me ran;
And much it grieved my heart to think
What man has made of man.

Through primrose tufts, in that green bower,
The periwinkle trailed its wreaths;
And ’tis my faith that every flower
Enjoys the air it breathes.

The birds around me hopped and played,
Their thoughts I cannot me asure:--
But the least motion which they made
It see me d a thrill of pleasure.

The budding twigs spread out their fan,
To catch the breezy air;
And I must think, do all I can,
That there was pleasure there.

If this belief from heaven be sent,
If such be Nature’s holy plan,
Have I not reason to lament
What man has made of man?


I'm sorry it took me so long to post this. I always learn something from this person.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Last Snow

Although the snow still lingers
Heaped on the ivy's blunt webbed fingers
And painting tree-trunks on one ide,
Here in the sunlit ride
The fresh unchristened things appear,
Leaf, spathe and stem,
With crumbs of earth clinging ot them
To show the way they came
But no flower yet to tell their name,
And one green spear
Stabbing a dead leaf from below
Kills winter at a blow.

-Andrew Young (from The Century's Poetry 5: Bridges to the Present Day; compiled by Denys Kilham Roberts)


Crocuses in my yard.