Saturday, April 10, 2010

Something from Pavel:

A poem about fatherhood. It was in a high-school poetry reader of mine. The phrase "slimesilvered stone" stuck in my mind. Found the rest again. Remarkable plays of sound in the first stanza.

On the Beach at Fontana

Wind whines and whines the shingle,
The crazy pierstakes groan;
A senile sea numbers each single
Slimesilvered stone.

From whining wind and colder
Grey sea I wrap him warm
And touch his trembling fineboned shoulder
And boyish arm.

Around us fear, descending
Darkness of fear above
And in my heart how deep unending
Ache of love!

-James Joyce

Friday, April 09, 2010

Apologies for the skip. Have been battling both on the physical and mental fronts. The friend below's post got me to thinking a fair bit - both productively and not much so. Anyway, what I can offer is two chestnuts, as I have them always with me:


I measure every grief I meet
With analytic eyes;
I wonder if it weighs like mine,
Or has an easier size.

I wonder if they bore it long,
Or did it just begin?
I could not tell the date of mine,
It feels so old a pain.

I wonder if it hurts to live,
And if they have to try,
And whether, could they choose between,
They would not rather die.

I wonder if when years have piled--
Some thousands--on the cause
Of early hurt, if such a lapse
Could give them any pause;

Or would they go on aching still
Through centuries above,
Enlightened to a larger pain
By contrast with the love.

The grieved are many, I am told;
The reason deeper lies;--
Death is but one and comes but once,
And only nails the eyes.

There's grief of want, and grief of cold,--
A sort they call 'despair;'
There's banishment from native eyes,
In sight of native air.

And though I may not guess the kind
Correctly, yet to me
A piercing comfort it affords
In passing Calvary,

To note the fashions of the cross,
Of those that stand alone,
Still fascinated to presume
That some are like my own.

And the 'money' lines from this:

The world stands out on either side
No wider than the heart is wide;
Above the world is stretched the sky, --
No higher than the soul is high.
The heart can push the sea and land
Farther away on either hand;
The soul can split the sky in two,
And let the face of God shine through.
But East and West will pinch the heart
That can not keep them pushed apart;
And he whose soul is flat -- the sky
Will cave in on him by and by.

Am sorry to keep repeating these two works; see that I actually started the blog with them. Think that they might be a sort of leitmotif.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

A friend who would like to remain anonymous sent this along. Found it in the newspaper the day they left an abusive relationship. Has kept a copy of it in their wallet ever since then.

After A While

After a while you learn
The subtle difference between
holding a hand and chaining a soul
and you learn that love doesn’t mean
and company doesn’t mean

And you begin to learn
that kisses are contracts and
presents aren’t promises
and you begin to accept your defeats
with you head up and your eyes
with the grace of a woman
not the grief of a child
and you learn
to build all your roads on today
because tomorrow’s ground is
too uncertain for plans
and futures have a way
of falling down in mid-flight.

After a while you learn that sunshine burns if you get
too much
so you plant your own garden
and decorate your own soul
instead of waiting
for someone to bring you flowers.

And you learn that you really can endure
that you really are strong
and you really do have worth
and you learn and you learn
with every goodbye you learn.

-Veronica A. Shoffstall

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

It's both a bit comforting and disquieting to think on how little things change, despite time and space.

To Have Taken the Trouble

I’m broke and practically homeless.
This fatal city, Antioch,
has devoured all my money:
this fatal city with its extravagant life.

But I’m young and in excellent health.
Prodigious master of things Greek,
I know Aristotle and Plato through and through,
poets, orators, or anyone else you could mention.
I have some idea about military matters
and friends among the senior mercenaries.
I also have a foot in the administrative world;
I spent six months in Alexandria last year:
I know (and this is useful) something about what goes on there—
the scheming of Kakergetis, his dirty deals, and the rest of it.

So I consider myself completely qualified
to serve this country,
my beloved fatherland, Syria.

Whatever job they give me,
I’ll try to be useful to the country. That’s my intention.
But if they frustrate me with their maneuvers—
we know them, those smart operators: no need to say more here—
if they frustrate me, it’s not my fault.

I’ll approach Zabinas first,
and if that idiot doesn’t appreciate me,
I’ll go to his rival, Grypos.
And if that imbecile doesn’t take me on,
I’ll go straight to Hyrkanos.

One of the three will want me anyway.

And my conscience is quiet
about my not caring which one I chose:
the three of them are equally bad for Syria.

But, a ruined man, it’s not my fault.
I’m only trying, poor devil, to make ends meet.
The almighty gods ought to have taken the trouble
to create a fourth, an honest man.
I would gladly have gone along with him.

-C. P. Cavafy

Monday, April 05, 2010


I met a traveller from an antique land,
Who said -- "two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert ... near them, on the sand,
Half sunk a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lips, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed;
And on the pedestal these words appear:

My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings,
Look on my Works ye Mighty, and despair!
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away." -

-Percy Bysshe Shelley

I don't normally give a lot of thought to the what will be remembered of me when I'm gone, as I don't think I've had much of a life so far and I don't really know that I am legacy-worthy.

Lately have been working on cleaning up the legacies of three people from the two generations preceding mine and thinking an awful on the irony of their situations. Can't rightly say that any of the departed had intended for things to be as they turned out, much like Ozymandias/Ramses the Second couldn't have imagined the above outcome thousands of years after his death.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Happy Easter!

(From one of my favorite Easter works.)

(When I chase down one of my Messiah scores, will get the words from this duet down; the sound quality and diction are both excellent, so not much of a problem understanding. Love the Tenor's "dancing on the forehead of God" metaphor. Back when I used to sing, loved a lot of the folks who got threatened with excommunication under the Council of Trent; saw them as communing with Angels.)
Apologies for no post for yesterday: we were out enjoying the beautiful, summery day with an adventure of sorts for Pavel's Birthday. Normally when we take walks, we head north or west; lots of water and trees there, therefore lots of birds to look at. Yesterday, though, Pavel wanted to visit one of the sites near us on the Freedom Trail. So, we wandered on over to Charlestown to the Bunker Hill Monument.

He thought it would be fun to climb to the top; I don't do heights, crowds or enclosed spaces, so decided to park myself on a bench and knock off a few rows on a current project.

Felt like a happy turtle basking in the sun. Also enjoyed the waves of different languages washing over me. A large family of Spanish speakers was sitting on the steps of the monument in the shade enjoying a picnic lunch. Listened to the strange French of a number of Canadian teenagers next to the Latin family who were draping themselves against the columns and mugging for the camera. From behind me, caught the beautiful English (and this is, honestly, the flower of our Language) of an Indian couple playing on the lawn with a whole bunch of toddlers while the rest of the extended family climbed stairs.

Glanced up periodically from my work to look at the handsome as anything middle aged man on the bench next to mine as he compared the English Language site map with a Japanese one. While I was admiring the fellow next to me's cheekbones and crow-colored hair shot through with silver, the three Australian ladies who were sharing a bench with me left. Taking their place was a young fellow in baggy jeans and flip flops who looked surprisingly like me. Made no effort to hide his interest in my handwork or the pattern I referred to from time to time next to him. Glancing up as inobtrusively as possible, I tried to figure out where he was from. Eventually, his friend, a really pretty Latin-looking girl, sat down between us and they started chatting in something that was decidedly not Indo European. Took the brain a bit of channel surfing to figure out that it was Hebrew of all things.

Anyway, here I was resting in the center of what I honestly consider a new Athens marveling at the pilgrims to one of the monuments to honest, representative Democracy. Felt the words of (yeah, I'm going to call him that) an American Herodotus well up:


My spirit has pass'd in compassion and determination around the whole earth,
I have look'd for equals and lovers and found them ready for me in
all lands,
I think some divine rapport has equalized me with them.

You vapors, I think I have risen with you, moved away to distant
continents, and fallen down there, for reasons,
I think I have blown with you you winds;
You waters I have finger'd every shore with you,
I have run through what any river or strait of the globe has run through,
I have taken my stand on the bases of peninsulas and on the high
embedded rocks, to cry thence:

What cities the light or warmth penetrates I penetrate those cities myself,
All islands to which birds wing their way I wing my way myself.

Toward you all, in America's name,
I raise high the perpendicular hand, I make the signal,
To remain after me in sight forever,
For all the haunts and homes of men.

Happy Birthday, Pavel, and Salut au Monde!