Wednesday, February 24, 2016

"My Father Photographed with Friends" by William Bronk

Historic Hudson Falls, New York State Archives

This is my father photographed with friends, when he was young
Unsettled on the steps of a wooden porch, and the one
who lived there elegant beside him. They and the others
hopefully casual in the face of the deciding camera,
the judgments of which are unfeeling but can be swayed.
And I, as in some later picture of myself, 
look for a person identified beyond doubt, and knowing that he
is none of the others that he is not, yet still unsure,
under the features composed and trusting, who is there.
As if the decision were long and legal when handed down,
hard to be read and truly rendered in a such a case.
And hard, in the face, to find our usual pitiful ends.
God sweeten the bitter judgements of our lives. We wish so much.

[From Life Supports, 1976]

Friday, February 12, 2016

"Magna est veritas" by Coventry Patmore

Here, in this little Bay
Full of tumultuous life and great repose,
Where, twice a day,
The purposeless, glad ocean comes and goes,
Under high cliffs, and far from the huge town,
I sit me down.
For want of me the world's course will not fail;
When all its work is done, the lie shall rot;
The truth is great, and shall prevail,
When none cares whether it prevail or not.

[From The Unknown Eros, 1877]

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

"...To catacombs, caverns, and deserts."

The Hermit, Mikhail Nesterov, 1889

And we, the wise men and the poets
       Custodians of truths and of secrets
Will bear off our torches of knowledge
       To catacombs, caverns and deserts.

[L.A. Lyusternik, quoted in Naming Infinity, by Loren Graham and Jean-Michel Kantor]

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

"A Marriage" by R.S. Thomas

White Herons in Falling Snow, Ohara Shoson, circa 1927

We met
           under a shower
of bird-notes.
           Fifty years passed,
love's moment
           in a world in
servitude to time.
           She was young;
I kissed with my eyes
           closed and opened
them on her wrinkles.
           'Come,' said death,
choosing her as his
            partner for
the last dance. And she,
            who in life
had done everything
            with a bird's grace,
opened her bill now
            for the shedding
of one sigh no
            heavier than a feather. 

[From Collected Poems: 1945-1990]

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Notes from an Old Journal

1. "People said of Sam Ward that he was the only man capable of strutting while seated."

2. "The effect of the telegraphic style is to intimate a whole spectrum of moral discriminations without ever making them explicit."

3. "Is the primary task of human reason to find formal solutions to abstract problems, and impose these solutions on the raw material of the world, as we experience it? Or is the primary task to get acquainted with the world of experience in all its concrete detail, stating our problems and resolving them later, in the light of that experience?"