"I've always envied people who sleep easily. Their brains must be cleaner, the floorboards of the skull well swept, all the little monsters closed up in a steamer trunk at the foot of the bed."
- David Benioff
City of Thieves
You've walked those streets a thousand times and still
you end up here. Regret none of it, not one
of the wasted days you wanted to know nothing,
when the lights from the carnival rides
were the only stars you believed in, loving them
for their uselessness, not wanting to be saved.
You've traveled this far on the back of every mistake,
ridden in dark-eyed and morose but calm as a house
after the TV set has been pitched out the upstairs
window. Harmless as a broken ax. Emptied
of expectation. Relax. Don't bother remembering
any of it. Let's stop here, under the lit sign
on the corner, and watch all the people walk by.
- Dorianne Laux
The Book of Men
"What do we know of the world and the universe about us? Our means of receiving impressions are absurdly few, and our notions of surrounding objects, infinitely narrow. We see things only as we are constructed to see them, and can gain no idea of their absolute nature. With five feeble senses we pretend to comprehend the boundlessly complex cosmos, yet other beings with a wider, stronger, or different range of senses might not only see very differently the things we see, but might see and study whole worlds of matter, energy, and life which lie close at hand yet can never be detected with the senses we have. I have always believed that such strange, inaccessible worlds exist at our very elbows."
- H. P. Lovecraft
"It does always seem as though making things - including books - ends up a grand compromise, or at least negotiation, between one's ambition, visions, or inspiration for them, and the actual manifested result. This can seem disheartening or deflating until one has written enough to know that this isn't an impediment to the process of creating - it is the process. Then one can begin to marvel at the sometimes perverse, often surprising, relation between the imagined and the manifest: it can be engaged, expected, enjoyed."
- Maggie Nelson
"Wise men have regarded the earth as a tragedy, a farce, even an illusionist's trick; but all, if they are truly wise, and not merely intellectual rapists, recognize that it is certainly some kind of stage in which we all play roles, most of us being very poorly coached and totally unrehearsed before the curtain rises. Is it too much if I ask, tentatively, that we agree to look upon it as a circus, a touring carnival wandering about the sun for a record season of four billion years and producing new monsters and miracles, hoaxes and bloody mishaps, wonders and blunders, but never quite entertaining the customers well enough to prevent them from leaving, one by one, and returning to their homes for a long and bored winter's sleep under the dust?"
- Robert Anton Wilson
"If you celebrate your differentness, the world will, too. It believes exactly what you tell it - through the words you use to describe yourself, the actions you take to care for yourself, and the choices you make to express yourself. Tell the world you are a one-of-a-kind creation who came here to experience wonder and spread joy. Expect to be accommodated."
- Victoria Moran
Lit From Within
"Worship power, you will end up feeling weak and afraid, and you will need ever more power over others to numb you to your own fear. Worship your intellect, being seen as smart, you will end up feeling stupid, a fraud, always on the verge of being found out. But the insidious thing about these forms of worship is not that they're evil or sinful, it's that they're unconscious. They are default settings.
They're the kind of worship you just gradually slip into, day after day, getting more and more selective about what you see and how you measure value without ever being fully aware that that's what you're doing.
And the so-called real world will not discourage you from operating on your default settings, because the so-called real world of men and money and power hums merrily along in a pool of fear and anger and frustration and craving and worship of self. Our own present culture has harnessed these forces in ways that have yielded extraordinary wealth and comfort and personal freedom. The freedom all to be lords of our tiny skull-sized kingdoms, alone at the center of all creation. This kind of freedom has much to recommend it. But of course there are all different kinds of freedom, and the kind that is most precious you will not hear much talk about much in the great outside world of wanting and achieving. The really important kind of freedom involves attention and awareness and discipline, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them over and over in myriad petty, unsexy ways every day.
That is real freedom. That is being educated, and understanding how to think. The alternative is unconsciousness, the default setting, the rat race, the constant gnawing sense of having had, and lost, some infinite thing."
- David Foster Wallace
settled things strange
There are times when they gather at the edge of your life,
Shadows slipping over the far hills, daffodils
blooming too early, the dark matter of the universe
that threads its way through the few thousand blackbirds
that have invaded the trees out back. Every ending
sloughs off our dreams like snakeskin. This is the kind of
black ice the mind skids across. The candlelight burning down
into the sand. The night leaving its ashes in our eyes.
There are times when your voice turns over in my sleep.
It is no longer blind. The sky is no longer deaf.
There are times when it seems the stars practice
all night just to become fireflies, when it seems there is
no end to what our hearts scribble on corridor walls.
Only when we look at each other do we cease to be ourselves.
Only at a certain height does the smoke blend into air.
There are times when your words seem welded to that sky.
There are times when love is so complicated it circles
like chimney swifts unable to decide where to land.
There are endings so sad their shadows scuff the dirt.
Their sky is as inconsolable as the two year old, Zahra,
torn from her mother and beaten to death in the Sudan.
There are endings so sad I want the morning light
to scourge the fields. Endings that are only what the river
dreams when it dries up. Endings that are constant echoes.
There are times when I think we are satellites collecting
dust from one of the earlier births of the universe Don't give up.
Each ending is an hourglass filled with doors. There are times
when I feel you might be searching for me, when I can read
what is written on the far sides of stars. I'm nearly out of time.
My heart is a dragonfly. I'll have to settle for this, standing under
a waterfall of words you never said. There are times like this
when no ending appears, times when I am so inconsolably happy.
- Richard Jackson
They asked: How would you like your death?
Blue, like stars pouring from a window.
I took the blue pill, and then
another. It was easy
but still my ghost, here, tethered.
I have been living such a long time
for someone my age.
I have been living in pain, etc. etc.
Yes I have tried
the hard labor of joy. Yes
most days I do not want
to die and too take pleasure
in sparrows, splashed sun.
Sadness has a long tongue and wide mouth and hounds
me wherever I go.
There are women
who hold the door open, beckon.
They are blue and it is blue where I am not.
The thing about stars is they are dead,
or some are and there is no discernable difference.
Do you understand? Something calls my name
like my mother used to.
I am tired
and something is calling, calling.
- Leila Chatti
Explaining the Attempt to the Doctors,
Beginning with Two Lines from Darwish
"The job of being human is not figuring things out, but getting lost in thought. Isn't that what holding a vestige to the light is? Holding a vignette in mind? Shards, bits. Considering them, lost in thought . . . Isn't thought supposed to find something, find an answer? But lost in thought is where we often were, where we wanted to be, you and I across the yellow kitchen table, another cup of coffee."
- Patricia Hampl
The Art of the Wasted Day
Ten Things I Have Learned about Life
1. Life will lure you into oblivion.
2. Life is inconceivably bigger than me.
3. Life is a mirror. If I am happy, it will be happy. If I am sad, it will be sad.
4. Life doesn't know what time it is, since time lies in life itself.
5. Life is a living creature, and no breathing movement of it is equal to the previous.
6. Life will kick your sorry human ass, no matter what, anytime.
7. Life will bore you to death.
8. Or it could make you feel like a six year old kid again.
9. Life is both heaven and hell, and the living soul can only guess what awaits beneath.
10. Life knows something that we don't.
- adapted from Lorenzo Fonda's Ten Things I Have Learned About The Sea
"Look, America is no more a democracy than Russia is a Communist state. The governments of the U.S. and Russia are practically the same. There's only a difference of degree. We both have the same basic form of government: economic totalitarianism. In other words, the settlement to all questions, the solutions to all issues are determined not by what will make the people most healthy and happy in their bodies and their minds but by economics. Dollars or rubles. Economy über alles. Let nothing interfere with economic growth, even though that growth is castrating truth, poisoning beauty, turning a continent into a shit-heap and driving an entire civilization insane. Don't spill the Coca-Cola, boys, and keep those monthly payments coming."
- Tom Robbins
Another Roadside Attraction
A Prayer for Rain
Let it come down: these thicknesses of air
have long enough walled love away from love;
stillness has hardened until words despair
of their high leaps and kisses shut themselves
back into wishing. Crippled lovers lie
against a weather which holds out on them,
waiting, awaiting some shrill sign, some cry,
some screaming cat that smells a sacrifice
and spells them thunder. Start the mumbling lips,
syllable by monotonous syllable,
that wash away the sullen griefs of love
and drown out knowledge of an ancient war -
o, ill-willed dark, give with the sound of rain,
let love be brought to ignorance again.
- Lisel Mueller
If ever there were a spring day so perfect,
so uplifted by a warm intermittent breeze
that it made you want to throw
open all the windows in the house
and unlatch the door to the canary's cage,
indeed, rip the little door from its jamb,
a day when the cool brick paths
and the garden bursting with peonies
seemed so etched in sunlight
that you felt like taking
a hammer to the glass paperweight
on the living room end table,
releasing the inhabitants
from their snow-covered cottage
so they could walk out,
holding hands and squinting
into this larger dome of blue and white,
well, today is just that kind of day.
- Billy Collins
"Once upon a time there were mass media, and they were wicked, of course, and there was a guilty party. Then there were the virtuous voices that accused the criminals. And Art (ah, what luck!) offered alternatives, for those who were not prisoners to the mass media.
Well, it's all over. We have to start again from the beginning, asking one another what's going on."
- Umberto Eco
Travels in Hyperreality
"The world is a wonderfully weird place, consensual reality is significantly flawed, no institution can be trusted, certainty is a mirage, security a delusion, and the tyranny of the dull mind forever threatens - but our lives are not as limited as we think they are, all things are possible, laughter is holier than piety, freedom is sweeter than fame, and in the end it's love and love alone that really matters."
- Tom Robbins
I've decided to waste my life again,
Like I used to: get drunk on
The light in the leaves, find a wall
Against which something can happen,
Whatever may have happened
Long ago - let a bullet hole echoing
The will of an executioner, a crevice
In which a love note was hidden,
Be a cell where a struggling tendril
Utters a few spare syllables at dawn.
I've decided to waste my life
In a new way, to forget whoever
Touched a hair on my head, because
It doesn't matter what came to pass,
Only that it passed, because we repeat
Ourselves, we repeat ourselves.
I've decided to walk a long way
Out of the way, to allow something
Dreaded to waken for no good reason,
Let it go without saying,
Let it go as it will to the place
It will go without saying: a wall
Against which a body was pressed
For no good reason, other than this.
- Phillis Levin