John Stanmeyer, African immigrants on a Djibouti beach holding up their phones to the night sky, searching for a signal to reach their families before shipping off towards Europe and beyond, for National Geographic, 2013
“To Ingrid -
That pond, that night; I wanted to be theirs.
To belong I would be a man possessed.
I want to walk the trails I’ve carved, past
regrets hanging in the boughs, past
life on velvet groundsheets, dewed.
I want to walk them with you.
We would sweep a train of cottonwood
clouds, the trail leading nowhere but
from itself, its fringe leaving white lint.
From our lungs we could take
how far we’ve come; you breathe.
On the water, my eyes turn glassy
at the moon. You ask, I say it’s nothing.
“It isn’t nothing,” you say, and dive.
A witness on the shore, I’m prostrate at the tide.
Reflections bend with your curvature,
but they stand still in me. Upon death
will our lives converge, waves settling
to show the sky? On the pond
I wait. I smoke and watch the field.
Lightning bugs are born from the dark
and cicadas buzz from deep silence.
From my lungs I can drag
how far I’ve come; I heave
and walk alone towards the house.
Your life gleams from windows
confined, suspended, in light.
I pause at the threshold, then
walk through the doors.
The night will not take me;
I am nocturnally yours.”
We blame all human happiness or grief Upon a place, make figures of our feeling And move them, as a story-teller might Move modern heroes into ancient legends. Into the solid and acceptable land.
For who can keep a grief as pure grief Or hold a happiness against the heart? Noble indeed to impute our worthiest thoughts To a serene and splendid countryside And therefore logical to let our loathing See a storm looming in the summer light. The hills about to learn of landslides and The entire landscape be quite swallowed up In a surrender—a type of our death.
“The sea refreshes our imagination because it does not make us think of human life; yet it rejoices the soul, because, like the soul, it is an infinite and impotent striving, a strength that is ceaselessly broken by falls, an eternal and exquisite lament. The sea thus enchants us like music, which, unlike language, never bears the traces of things, never tells us anything about human beings, but imitates the stirrings of the soul. Sweeping up with the waves of those movements, plunging back with them, the heart thus forgets its own failures and finds solace in an intimate harmony between its own sadness and the sea’s sadness, which merges the sea’s destiny with the destinies of all things.”
— Marcel Proust, Regrets, Reveries the Color of Time (via frauleinzooey)
Years ago Kenneth Koch and I did an interview with each other, and something I said then, in 1964, is pertinent to what we are talking about. “It’s rather hard to be a good artist and also be able to explain intelligently what your art is about. In fact, the worse your art is, the easier it is…
feeling self destructive, drinking cheap coffee, hanging around highways, rediscovering anxiety, wanting to smoke more, feeling piecemeal and orchestrated at the same time, thinking absently about death, thinking desperately about memory, aimless, guilty, free?
“I read on a slip of paper at dinner tonight that
You must empty yourself before God may enter
so I emptied myself and found
the bottom of a lake bed
caked with sticky mud
next to a sign that said
do not swim.”