"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

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Longly, Longingly

Lady Lavery Banknote

James Joyce Banknote

Why can't the United States of America ever have writers
on our paper money like Ireland and England?

In a novel of so many unforgettable lines and phrases, one passage more than any other stood out for me when I first read Joyce's Ulysses as an undergraduate. It was this:
"A warm shock of air heat of mustard hanched on Mr Bloom's heart. He raised his eyes and met the stare of a bilious clock. Two. Pub clock five minutes fast. Time going on. Hands moving. Two. Not yet.

His midriff yearned then upward, sank within him, yearned more longly longingly.

~ James Joyce, Ulysses, 172 - 73

The ache in Bloom's midriff brought to mind a few lines from a poem that I had loved back in highschool:
"I felt a soft caving in my stomach
As at the top of the highest slide
When I had been a child, but was not afraid . . ."
~ John Logan, "The Picnic"

So unexpected to encounter in fiction, poetry, or otherwise, such a visceral sensation described so accurately -- and the word longly -- had I ever heard it before? I don't think so. Though I've never fancied myself a poet, Joyce's strong, sad imagery inspired me to attempt my own rendition of heartache in the gut:

The Ache You Wear

You fall into her arms like crying,
feel her lips in your hair,
soothing like a parent
and something else.

Wooden and broken,
you lean rigidly.
Your forehead rests against breasts
which must be like your own.

With each soft motion,
the ache you wear like a brace
begins to melt, drips
slowly down your back.

Like congestion, it seeps inside,
fills the space between every rib,
then tatters into loose bits
that choke upward and sink within you.

Yearning for a familiarity,
you move toward this woman
and this one comfort
after taking leave of him.

For this time you fall away
from any pain.
Thick rags are floating
now in your stomach.

As connection and coincidence would have it, I recently came across the following within just a few months of each other:

1." . . . The feeling
resembles lumps of raw dough

weighing down a child’s stomach on baking day.
Or Rilke said it, ‘My heart. . .
Could I say of it, it overflows
with bitterness . . . but no, as though

its contents were simply balled into
formless lumps, thus
do I carry it about.’ . . . "

~ Denise Levertov, "Life At War"

2. "The pain he had felt in his chest after breakfast was gone: in its place he now had in his middle a curious, dry, empty, swollen feeling. As if he carried something inside him, hollow, but beyond his size and growing bigger."

~ Jessamyn West, Friendly Persuasion, 73

3. "For weeks, thinking of that made me feel like a chute had opened in my stomach and my heart was descending through it."

~ Curtis Sittenfeld, American Wife, 20

4. "This is what I liked about my friends: just sitting around and telling stories. . . . I couldn't help but think about school and everything else ending. I liked standing just outside the couches and watching them -- it was kind of sad I didn't mind, and so I just listened, letting all the happiness and the sadness of this ending swirl around in mine, each sharpening the other. For the longest time, it felt kind of like my chest was cracking open, but not precisely in an unpleasant way."

~ John Green, Paper Towns, 215

5. "They were nowhere near butterflies in the stomach. They were electric bricks. They sunk. They zapped. They made me want to keel over."

~ Heather Kirn Lanier, Teaching in the Terrordome, 37


Not unlike the sunset:
" . . . all the happiness and the sadness of this ending swirl . . . "

Next Fortnightly Post
Saturday, November 28th

Between now and then, read
my shorter, almost daily blog posts

Looking for a good book? Try
my running list of recent reading

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