"One ought, every day at least, to hear a little song, read a good poem, see a fine picture
and, if possible, speak a few reasonable words. " ~Goethe

~ also, if possible, to dwell in "a house where all's accustomed, ceremonious." ~Yeats

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Winnow the Dreams

A HOUSE WHERE ALL'S ACCUSTOMED, CEREMONIOUS
Sun and Wind on the Roof, 1915
John French Sloan, 1871 - 1951

“Oh, let there be nothing on earth but laundry,
Nothing but rosy hands in the rising steam
And clear dances done in the sight of heaven."

Love Calls Us to the Things of This World
The eyes open to a cry of pulleys,
And spirited from sleep, the astounded soul
Hangs for a moment bodiless and simple
As false dawn.

Outside the open window
The morning air is all awash with angels.

Some are in bed-sheets, some are in blouses,
Some are in smocks: but truly there they are.
Now they are rising together in calm swells
Of halcyon feeling, filling whatever they wear
With the deep joy of their impersonal breathing;

Now they are flying in place, conveying
The terrible speed of their omnipresence, moving
And staying like white water; and now of a sudden
They swoon down into so rapt a quiet
That nobody seems to be there.

The soul shrinks

From all that is about to remember,
From the punctual rape of every blessed day,
And cries,

“Oh, let there be nothing on earth but laundry,
Nothing but rosy hands in the rising steam
And clear dances done in the sight of heaven."

Yet, as the sun acknowledges
With a warm look the world's hunks and colors,
The soul descends once more in bitter love
To accept the waking body, saying now
In a changed voice as the man yawns and rises,

"Bring them down from their ruddy gallows;
Let there be clean linen for the backs of thieves;
Let lovers go fresh and sweet to be undone,
And the heaviest nuns walk in a pure floating
Of dark habits,
keeping their difficult balance."


by Richard Wilbur

Click to hear poet Richard Wilbur read this amazing poem
and explain how he was inspired by the idea of the floating laundry.

Another painting by artisit John French Sloan ~ also inspired by laundry!
Red Kimono on the Roof, 1912


See also:
1. additional perspectives on Wilbur's poem
2. interesting blog post on "Love Calls Us"
3. clever little analysis for beginners

And a few more connections:

1. Contemporary poet, Barbara Kunz Loots describes the tension between possibility and duty with elegant simplicity. For her the "infinite possibilities" are "delicate grain" and the "infinite duties" are "the plain bread of day."

Waking
How hard it is to winnow the dreams from waking,
To watch the gold illusion drift away
And turning to the delicate grain of morning
Grind it into the plain bread of day.

by Barbara Kunz Loots

2. Last week on facebook, epigrammatist and collage artist Michael Lipsey captured the same idea in this fetching visual. Is it a beaver, as in "busy as a beaver" (infinite duty)? Or is it a groundhog, as in if I don't like what I see, I'm not coming out! Maybe it is not the bright sunshine so much as the it is the sheen of infinite possibility that causes the groundhog to shrink from its shadow and run away, overwhelmed. Perhaps love does not call the groundhog to the things of this world.

"There's an in between time when you wake up,
hanging onto the dream, but beginning to remember
things you need to do today." ~ Michael Lispsy

When I read Lipsey's caption concerning the "in between time," I couldn't help thinking of what Loots says about watching "the gold illusion drift away," as the dreamer sifts the wheat from the chaff; and of the "astounded soul" in Wilbur's poem, hanging "bodiless and simple," waiting to rejoin the waking body for another round of mundane errands. At first "the soul shrinks from all that it is about to remember" -- the repetition, the banality, the laundry. But after a few moments of semi - wakeful debate, "the soul descends . . . in bitter love" to accept the reality of the day at hand. Similarly, we rise up "in bitter love" to embrace each day, despite a thousand misgivings. The voice in both poems is resigned yet optimistic: the grain is delicate, the laundry is sacred, the day redeems itself.

3. Our friend Eileen was reminded of her E. B. White "To - Do - List" fridge magnet:
"If the world were merely seductive, that would be easy.
If it were merely challenging, that would be no problem.
But I arise in the morning torn between
a desire to improve the world
and a desire to enjoy the world.
This makes it hard to plan the day."

As Eileen puts it, White vacillates between enjoyment and accomplishment, as do the sunstruck groundhog (though maybe not the industrious beaver), the reluctant dreamer, and the astounded soul. The vacillation makes it "hard to plan the day" -- but not impossible. One way or another, even if only by "habit" (Wilbur's pun), we accept the challenge of the sun, yawn, rise, go forth day after day, keeping our "difficult balance." I especially like the way that Wilbur's conlcusion can actually be found in his title: "love call us to the things of this world."

SEE YOU IN TWO WEEKS FOR MY
Next Fortnightly Post
Wednesday, August 14th

Between now and then, read
THE QUOTIDIAN KIT
my shorter, almost daily blog posts
www.dailykitticarriker.blogspot.com


Looking for a good book? Try
KITTI'S LIST
my running list of recent reading
www.kittislist.blogspot.com

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Two Poems for Bastille Day

A HOUSE WHERE ALL'S ACCUSTOMED, CEREMONIOUS
The Acqua Claudia, built between 38 - 52 AD

"All right . . . all right . . . but apart from better sanitation
and medicine and education and irrigation and public health
and roads and a freshwater system and baths and public order . . .
what have the Romans done for us?"

"Brought peace!"


From Monty Python's Life of Brian

********************
The Fall of Rome
(for Cyril Connolly)

The piers are pummelled by the waves;
In a lonely field the rain
Lashes an abandoned train;
Outlaws fill the mountain caves.

Fantastic grow the evening gowns;
Agents of the Fisc pursue
Absconding tax-defaulters through
The sewers of provincial towns.

Private rites of magic send
The temple prostitutes to sleep;
All the literati keep
An imaginary friend.

Cerebrotonic Cato may
Extol the Ancient Disciplines,
But the muscle-bound Marines
Mutiny for food and pay.

Caesar's double-bed is warm
As an unimportant clerk
Writes I DO NOT LIKE MY WORK
On a pink official form.

Unendowed with wealth or pity,
Little birds with scarlet legs,
Sitting on their speckled eggs,
Eye each flu-infected city.

Altogether elsewhere, vast
Herds of reindeer move across
Miles and miles of golden moss,
Silently and very fast.

1947
W. H. Auden

"Altogether elsewhere . . . "

Four Preludes
On Playthings of the Wind


1
The woman named Tomorrow
sits with a hairpin in her teeth
and takes her time
and does her hair the way she wants it
and fastens at last the last braid and coil
and puts the hairpin where it belongs
and turns and drawls: Well, what of it?
My grandmother, Yesterday, is gone.
What of it? Let the dead be dead.

2
The doors were cedar
and the panel strips of gold
and the girls were golden girls
and the panels read and the girls chanted:
We are the greatest city,
the greatest nation:
nothing like us every was.
The doors are twisted on broken hinges.
Sheets of rain swish through on the wind
where golden girls ran and the panels read:
We are the greatest city,
the greatest nation:
nothing like us ever was.

Rainy Day at the Colosseum

3
It has happened before.
Strong men put up a city and got
a nation together,
And paid singers to sing and women
to warble: We are the greatest city,
the greatest nation,
nothing like us ever was.

And while the singers sang
and the strong men listened
and paid the singers well
and felt good about it all,
there were rats and lizards who listened
... and the only listeners left now
... are ... the rats .. and the lizards.

And there are black crows
crying, "Caw, caw,"
bringing mud and sticks
building a nest over the words carved
on the doors where the panels were cedar
and the strips on the panels were gold
and the golden girls came singing:
We are the greatest city,
the greatest nation:
nothing like us ever was.

The only singers now are crows crying, "Caw, caw,"
And the sheets of rain whine in the wind and doorways.
And the only listeners now are ... the rats ... and the lizards.

~ "the orange dot marks the trail" ~

4
The feet of the rats
scribble on the doorsills;
the hieroglyphs of the rat footprints
chatter the pedigrees of the rats
and babble of the blood
and gabble of the breed
of the grandfathers and the great-grandfathers
of the rats.

And the wind shifts
and the dust on a doorsill shifts
and even the writing of the rat footprints
tells us nothing, nothing at all
about the greatest city, the greatest nation
where the strong men listened
and the women warbled: Nothing like us ever was.


1926
Carl Sandburg

Via Scala
All photos of Rome and environs taken by Ben McCartney
~ Summer 2012 ~

SEE YOU IN TWO WEEKS FOR MY
Next Fortnightly Post
Sunday, July 28th

Between now and then, read
THE QUOTIDIAN KIT
my shorter, almost daily blog posts
www.dailykitticarriker.blogspot.com


Currently featuring photographs from Paris
by Steven La Vigne

Looking for a good book? Try
KITTI'S LIST
my running list of recent reading
www.kittislist.blogspot.com