Tuesday, April 30, 2013

“Lines” by Anne Carson

While talking to my mother I neaten things. Spines of books by the phone.
in a china dish. Fragments of eraser that dot the desk. She speaks
of death. I begin tilting all the paperclips in the other direction.
the window snow is falling straight down in lines. To my mother,
of my life, I describe what I had for brunch. The lines are falling
now. Fate has put little weights on the ends (to speed us up) I
to tell her—sign of God’s pity. She won’t keep me
she says, she
won’t run up my bill. Miracles slip past us. The
are immortally aligned. God’s pity! How long
it feel like burning, said the child trying to be

Monday, April 22, 2013

Letter to Kafka

Berlin-Charlottenburg, April 10, 1917
       Dear Sir,
       You made me unhappy.
       I bought your "Metamorphosis" as a gift for my cousin. But, she is incapable of understanding the story. My cousin gave it to her mother who doesn't understand it either. The mother gave the book to my other cousin, who also didn't find an explanation. Now they have written to me: They expect me to explain the story to them as I am the doctor in the family. But I am at a loss.
       Sir! I have spent months in the trenches exchanging blows with the Russians without batting an eyelid. But I could not stand losing my good name with my cousins. Only you can help me. You must do it, as you are the one who landed me in this mess. So please tell me what my cousin should think about "Metamorphosis."
       Most respectfully yours,
       Dr. Siegfried Wolff

Monday, April 15, 2013

"Stanzas, Sexes, Seductions" by Anne Carson

It’s good to be neuter.
             I want to have meaningless legs.
                          There are things unbearable.
                                       One can evade them a long time.
Then you die.

The ocean reminds me
             of your green room.
                          There are things unbearable.
                                       Scorn, princes, this little size
of dying.

My personal poetry is a failure.
             I do not want to be a person.
                          I want to be unbearable.
                                       Lover to lover, the greenness of love.
Cool, cooling.

Earth bears no such plant.
             Who does not end up
                          a female impersonator?
                                       Drink all the sex there is.
Still die.

I tempt you.
             I blush.
                         There are things unbearable.
                                      Legs, alas.
Legs die.

Rocking themselves down,
             crazy slow,
                          some ballet term for it —
                                       fragment of foil, little
             little drunk,
                          little do,
                                       little oh,

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Jorie Graham on Caravaggio’s Supper at Emmaus

I often teach a painting of Caravaggio’s, Supper at Emmaus. Christ is sitting before us in an alcove against the “back wall” of the painting. We face into a dinner table covered with things for the meal. We are quite sure that the edge of this table is identical with the absolute front of the canvas. But then one undergoes a troubling sensation. The basket of fruit, the edge of the wicker basket, sticks out into our “actual” space, our here and now. The host suddenly recognizes the stranger at his table as Christ and throws open his arms, like this. [Gestures.] His left hand comes out, beyond the border—further than the sacramental grapes in their wicker—out here into the same air that you (and I) are breathing in the National Gallery. At the same time, his right hand penetrates the crucial illusionistic space, the alcove in which Christ sits. What he does, by going like this, is enact what it is to be “taken” by surprise, to be, suddenly, in that spiritual place where the otherness of the world, of possibility, “turns” one’s soul—taking one off the path of mere “ongoingness” onto the other path of “journey.” At any rate, the host’s gesture connects that immortal-because-imaginary space Christ occupies, with the mortal one of the gallery in which I am standing breathing my minutes—and you suddenly realize Caravaggio has activated what I call the “sensation of real time”: the time of the painting’s represented action has crossed over into the time in which my only days are taking place. So you cannot read the painting without being inside the terms of the painting, which are these graduating degrees of temporality: mortal time, immortal time, represented time, actual time, the “time” of process. The activity of the painting is to do that. The host is crucified in this position—a position the artist is also in—saying, You reader and you subject (God, Christ), I have put you two together. It’s my job. That’s what the meal is. That’s what we eat.