Two for Tuesday: Two sections from Louise Glück’s poem “Marathon”
Tuesday afternoon, cloudy and temperate, 63 degrees.
So for a few hours today I thought that it was Monday, and I was going to write a regular post, and then I looked at the weather and realized that nope . . . it was Tuesday. Honestly, I’m no longer even surprised when this happens.
My back was better yesterday, but then a migraine hit, hard, and then it came roaring back during the night. However, I was able to get back to sleep this morning, and I managed to get a few good hours. That being said, the back situation is bad again—t’s just more of that vicious cycle that is my body’s daily existence.
As you know, I’m a huge lover of Louise Glück’s poems. Today I’m featuring two sections of her longer poem “Marathon,” which appears in The Triumph of Achilles (1985); the 26 poems in this book are are arranged in three parts, of which “Marathon” is the center; this poem contains nine sections.
Although this poem traces a relationship, I have chosen these two particular sections because of the imagery that I find so relatable. In particular, I feel as if I’ve had a version of the dream that she recounts in section 6, “The Beginning.” I cannot begin to count the number of times in which I’ve dreamed that I was in a different city in which I am lost and looking for something. This, precisely, is why I have such an affinity for Glück’s work.
More later. Peace.
5. Night Song
Look up into the light of the lantern.
Don’t you see? The calm of darkness
is the horror of Heaven.
We’ve been apart too long, too painfully separated.
How can you bear to dream,
to give up watching? I think you must be dreaming.
your face is full of mild expectancy.
I need to wake you, to remind you that there isn’t a future.
That’s why we’re free. And now some weakness in me
has been cured forever, so I’m not compelled
to close my eyes, to go back to rectify—
The beach is still; the sea, cleansed of its superfluous life,
opaque, rocklike. In mounds in vegetal clusters,
seabirds sleep on the jetty. Terns, assassins—
You’re tired; I can see that.
We’re both tired, we have acted in a great drama.
Even our hands our cold, that were like kindling.
Our clothes are scattered on the sand; strangely enough,
they never turned to ashes.
I have to tell you what I’ve learned, that I know now
what happens to the dreamers.
They don’t feel it when they change. One day
they wake, they dress, they are old.
Tonight I’m not afraid
to feel the revolutions. How can you want sleep
when passion gives you that peace?
You’re like me tonight, one of the lucky ones.
You’ll get what you want. You’ll get your oblivion.
6. The Beginning
I had come to a strange city, without belongings:
in the dream, it was your city, I was looking for you.
Then I was lost, on a dark street lined with fruit stands.
There was only fruit: blood oranges.
The markets made displays of them beautiful displays—
how else could they compete? And each arrangement had, at its center,
one fruit, cut open.
Then I was on a boulevard, in brilliant sunlight.
I was running; it was easy to run, since I had nothing.
In the distance, I could see your house; a woman knelt in the yard.
There were roses everywhere; in waves, they climbed the high trellis.
Then what began as love for you
became a hunger for structure: I could hear
the woman call to me in common kindness, knowing
I wouldn’t ask for you anymore—
So it was settled: I could have a childhood there.
Which came to mean being always alone.
Music by Manchester Orchestra, “The Silence”
“Among the personal objects inside a 2100-year-old Chinese tomb,
archaeologists found nine acupuncture needles,
four gold and five silver.
Long before knowing why,
ancient doctors knew that pain
must be fought with pain” ~ Luljeta Lleshanaku, from “Acupuncture” (Trans. Ani Gjika)
Friday evening, absolutely beautiful day and evening, 60 degrees.
Got the spring cleaning bug today. Deep cleaned for hours, and now I can’t move. Seriously. My back is spazzing, and I have shooting pains going down my right leg. The back/leg pain hasn’t been this bad in years . . . but my house is getting clean.
In my head, I can relate to those poor women called porteadoras, or mule women, the ones who are paid a pittance to carry heavy bales of goods across the border between the Spanish enclave of Melilla and Morocco for merchants. I cannot even imagine what that must be like.
Anyway, good thing I have an appointment with a pain management doctor in only seven . . . weeks. Yep—weeks. Nothing is ever easy around here. Absolutely nothing.
More later when I can sit in this chair without cringing.
Selections from “Mythologies”
If you were a painter, you’d paint the wind
Green. It would shake the boughs of the honey locust trees.
It would chase the leaves across the continent.
It would scatter their crumbs in a twist of swirling snow.
It would be colorless and green at the same time,
The wind that aligns the pond and the cloud,
The wind that is everywhere, in constant motion,
As buoyant as Ariel and as scornful of gross Caliban,
The wind that holds up the fly ball, drives it back
Into fair territory, causes it to drift within reach
Of the right-fielder, who waves off the second baseman,
Until a last gust lifts the ball over both their heads
And it lands safely for the double that ends the game
In extra innings, costing our team the pennant.
If we were painters we’d favor vibrant stripes,
Primary colors, flat surfaces, a lot of white
Remaining on the canvas. If we were composers
We’d take the music of exotic jungles with us
When we visit the vast vacant tundra. “If I were
Rich enough,” vowed the philanthropist, “I’d move
To a magnolia mansion and spend my days
Translating modern literature into ancient Greek.”
Great plans, distant vistas, a rearguard action
To sabotage the present—and here we’ve all assembled,
At the antiseptic airport, with haunted looks on our faces.
Occasional eye contact between man with tan and woman in white.
“You look like your voice,” she says, breaking the silence.
The rest of us know where we’re going, but we don’t know when.
~ David Lehman
Music by The Corrs, “Everybody Hurts”
Two for Tuesday: Rainer Maria Rilke (1875-1926)
Tuesday afternoon, partly cloudy, 48 degrees.
Not two poems today, but prose by the prolific German-language poets. Rilke was born in Prague in what was at that time called the Austro-Hungarian empire. His earlier work evokes a sense of romanticism, but after two life-changing trips to Russia, Rilke’s work evolved into what would become his predominant approach to writing: [these trips provided hims with] “poetic material and inspiration essential to his developing philosophy of existential materialism and art as religion” (Poetry Foundation).
Throughout his life, Rilke interacted with key artists of the period, including Tolstoy, Pasternak, and Rodin, for whom Rilke worked as secretary (1905-06). Although best known for his German language work, Rilke’s ouevre included 400 poems written in French. Additionally, he was a prodigious letter writer, especially to the significant women in his life, and many of his letters reflect the poet’s continual search for meaning through art and his desire to determine poet’s overarching role in society.
In 1912, Rilke began writing Duino Elegies, so called because Rilke began the collection while visiting Duino Castle on the Italian Adriatic coast. The collection, considered to be his magnum opus, took him ten years to write. Rilke, who suffered from health problems his entire life, including stifling depression, died of leukemia in 1926.
Go here or here for more information on the poet and his work. The selections below are from Rilke’s only novel, which was considered to be semi-autobiographical, The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge (1910).
All the lost fears are here again.
The fear that a small woolen thread sticking out of the hem of my blanket may be hard, hard and sharp as a steel needle; the fear that this little button on my night-shirt may be bigger than my head, bigger and heavier; the fear that the breadcrumpbwhich just dropped off my bed may turn into glass, and shatter when it hits the floor, and the sickening worry that when it does, everything will be broken, for ever; the fear that the ragged edge of a letter which was torn open may be something forbidden, which no one out to see, something indescribably precious, for which no place in the room is safe enough; the fear that if I fell asleep I might swallow the piece of coal lying in front of the stove; the fear that some number may begin to grow in my brain until there is no more room for it inside me; the fear that I may be lying on granite, on gray granite; the fear that I may start screaming, and people will come running to y door ad finally force it open, the fear that I might betray myself and tell everything I drea, and the fear that I might not be able to say anything because everything is unsayable,—and the other fears . . . the fears.
From “For the Sake of a Single Poem”
. . . Ah poems amount to so little when you write then too early in your life. You ought to wait and gather sense and sweetness for a whole lifetime, and a long one if possible, and then, at the very end, you might perhaps be able to write ten good lines For poems are not, as people think, simply emotions (one has emotions early enough)—they are experiences. For the sake of a single poem, you must see many cities, many people and Things, you must understand animals, must feel how birds fly, and know the gesture which small flowers make when they open in the morning. You must be able to think back to streets in unknown neighborhoods, to unexpected encounters, and to partings you had long seen coming; to days of childhood whose mystery is still unexplained, to parents whom you had to hurt when they brought in a joy and you didn’t pick it up (it was a joy meant for somebody else—); to childhood illnesses that began so strangely with so many profound and difficult transformations, to days in quiet, restrained rooms and to mornings by the sea, to the sea itself, to seas to nights of travel that rushed along high overhead and went flying with all the stars,—and it is still not enough to be able to think of all that. You must have memories of many nights of love, each one different from all the others, memories of women screaming in labor, and of light, pale, sleeping girls who have just given birth and are closing again. But you must also have been beside the dying, must have sat beside the dead in the room with the open window and the scattered noises. And it is not yet enough to have memories. You must be able to forget them when they are many, and you must have the immense patience to wait until they return. For the memories themselves are not important. Only when they have changed into our very blood, into glance and gesture, and are nameless, no longer to be distinguished from ourselves—only then can it happen that in some very rare hour the first word of a poem arises in their midst and goes forth from them.
Music by The National, “Heavenfaced”
My Migraine Brain
Monday evening, cloudy, 55 degrees.
April Fool! I wish . . .
Years ago I created an image that I called “My Migraine Brain.” Of course, that image is on a hard drive somewhere in the house, so I had to resort to google and a little bit of adjustment. Anyway, this is what’s going on with me today. Fiercely. And not in that good way.
“there were times when I could believe
we were the children of stars
and our words were made of the same
dust that flames in space,
times when I could feel in the lightness of breath
the weight of a whole day
come to rest.” ~ Mark Strand, from “For Jessica, My Daughter”
Saturday afternoon, sunny and warm, 69 degrees.
Too nice to concentrate on my words today, so I’m offering some new pictures of the animals.
Everyone was outside in the bright sunshine as Corey did more work on the pasture fence. We’re trying to let Max and Ruby wander around like the dogs, and so far, they stay close; although, they are just as mischievous as the puppies: Ruby jumped inside Corey’s truck, but I couldn’t get a good picture of that particular moment; then both goats figured out how to get inside the front door because, yep, that’s what goats do.
Ruby made a beeline for the horses’ apple treats, which I had to snatch before she inhaled them. Max has a hard time with the treats because they are too big, and he has a jaw problem.
Man, how do I always end up with animals with too much personality, animals who don’t know they’re animals? I wouldn’t have it any other way.
More later. Peace.
Music by John Denver, “Today” (I cannot begin to tell you what this song means to me)
The red sun rises
and shines the same on all of us.
We play like children under the sun.
One day, our ashes will scatter—
…………………………………….it doesn’t matter when.
Now the sun finds our innermost hearts,
…………………………………….fills us with oblivion
intense as the forest, winter and sea.
~ Edith Södergran (Trans. Brooklyn Copeland)