Going Through the Motions
Eventually, the way you don't notice
dirt on the windshield until someone
sweeps a finger across, and it's clear
you've been driving through a fog
for longer than you know, it's easy
to get used to fear and anger, the kind
they served at the diner, closed for months
of course, or the kind you've been feeding
on alone in the back of the garage where
you keep tools you bought for some task
long abandoned. They lean against each other,
rattle from a wind through a cracked window
making a sound like skeletons would
if they could say what they thought of you
now. Hope is a thin membrane, maybe
patience too, a lake we float on looking down
to see what we lost, but seeing instead
our own unsteady reflection.
- Grant Clauser
five branch tree
"Ours is essentially a tragic age, so we refuse to take it tragically. The cataclysm has happened, we are among the ruins, we start to build up new little habitats, to have new little hopes. It is rather hard work: there is now no smooth road into the future: but we go round, or scramble over the obstacles. We've got to live, no matter how many skies have fallen."
- D. H. Lawrence
Lady Chatterley's Lover
"I sometimes think the worst thing a young person can feel is when you can find no answer to the question of what you are supposed to do with this life you've been given. At moments you're aware of it balanced on your tongue, but not what comes next. Something like that. I can now say that another version of that happens in old age, when it occurs to you that since you've lived this long you must have learned something, so you open your eyes before dawn and think: What is it that I've learned, what is it I want to say?"
- Niall Williams
This Is Happiness
"Yes, and the luminous and shocking beauty of the everyday is something I try to remain alert to, if only as an antidote to the chronic cynicism and disenchantment that seems to surround everything, these days. It tells me that, despite how debased or corrupt we are told humanity is and how degraded the world has become, it just keeps on being beautiful. It can't help it."
- Nick Cave and Seán O'Hagan
Faith, Hope and Carnage
& still, the waves
"A world in which there are monsters, and ghosts, and things that want to steal your heart is a world in which there are angels, and dreams and a world in which there is hope."
- Neil Gaiman
"Half the harm that is done in this world is due to people who want to feel important. They don't mean to do harm; but the harm does not interest them. Or they do not see it, or they justify it because they are absorbed in the endless struggle to think well of themselves."
- T. S. Eliot
"Take a moment from time to time to remember that you are alive. I know this sounds a trifle obvious, but it is amazing how little time we take to remark upon this singular and gratifying fact. By the most astounding stroke of luck an infinitesimal portion of all the matter in the universe came together to create you and for the tiniest moment in the great span of eternity you have the incomparable privilege to exist."
- Bill Bryson
I'm a Stranger Here Myself
"Remember how long you have been putting these things off, and how often you have received an opportunity from the gods and have not made use of it. By now you ought to realize what cosmos you are a part of, and what divine administrator you owe your existence to, and that an end to your time here has been marked out, and if you do not use this time for clearing the clouds from your mind, it will be gone and so will you."
Take a long time with your anger,
Don't waste it in riots.
Don't tangle it with ideas.
The Devil won't let me speak,
will only let me hint
that you are a slave,
your misery a deliberate policy
of those in whose thrall you suffer,
and who are sustained
by your misfortune.
The atrocities over there,
the interior paralysis over here -
Pleased with the better deal?
You are clamped down.
You are being bred for pain.
The Devil ties my tongue.
I'm speaking to you,
'friend of my scribbled life'.
You have been conquered by those
who know how to conquer invisibly.
The curtains move so beautifully,
lace curtains of some
sweet old intrigue:
the Devil tempting me
to turn away from alarming you.
So I must say it quickly.
Whoever is in your life,
those who harm you,
those who help you;
those whom you know
and those whom you do not know -
let them off the hook,
help them off the hook.
Recognize the hook.
You are listening to Radio Resistance.
- Leonard Cohen
Book of Longing
"I do believe that there's no meaning to our lives except for that which we create, and can live by. The world, however, occasionally gets in the way. Other people tend to complicate things. Love and duty often muddy up a good plan, scarcity has been known to abrogate dearly held principles, neuroses undermines will; it's pretty hard, and maybe not entirely desirable, to live any ism."
- Stephen Dunn
the commonline journal
"Every time I hear a political speech or I read those of our leaders, I am horrified at having, for years, heard nothing which sounded human. It is always the same words telling the same lies. And the fact that men accept this, that the people's anger has not destroyed these hollow clowns, strikes me as proof that men attribute no importance to the way they are governed; that they gamble - yes, gamble - with a whole part of their life and their so called 'vital interests'."
- Albert Camus
"The moment we no longer have a free press, anything can happen. What makes it possible for a totalitarian or any other dictatorship to rule is that people are not informed; how can you have an opinion if you are not informed? If everybody always lies to you, the consequence is not that you believe the lies, but rather that nobody believes anything any longer. This is because lies, by their very nature, have to be changed, and a lying government has constantly to rewrite its own history. On the receiving end you get not only one lie - a lie which you could go on for the rest of your days - but you get a great number of lies, depending on how the political wind blows. And a people that no longer can believe anything cannot make up its mind. It is deprived not only of its capacity to act but also of its capacity to think and to judge. And with such a people you can then do what you please."
If we deny our happiness, resist our satisfaction,
we lessen the importance of their deprivation.
We must risk delight. We can do without pleasure,
but not delight. Not enjoyment. We must have
the stubbornness to accept our gladness in the ruthless
furnace of this world. To make injustice the only
measure of our attention is to praise the Devil.
- Jack Gilbert
from A Brief For The Defense
"You can waste a perfectly good life trying to meet the standards of someone who thinks you're not good enough because they can't understand who you are."
- Barbara Sher
"We're a race of elsewhere people. That's what makes us the best saints and the best poets and the best musicians and the world's worst bankers. That's why wherever you go you'll see some of us - and it makes no difference if the place is soft and warm and lovely and there's not a thing anyone could find wrong with it, there'll always be what Jimmy the Yank calls A Hankering. It's in the eyes. The idea of the better home. Some of us have it worse than others."
- Niall Williams
History of the Rain
"It depends on what you want and how much you want it and how you place yourself in relation to the generally accepted system of morality. You know that old argument that some people have the right to set aside conventional morality because of their superiority or whatever? Clearly, there are people who do terrible things and are able to justify their misconduct by need or superiority or by saying they weren't responsible. But if these things continue and if you're unable to avoid self-deception, then you reach a point where you have to say, No, I am not a good person. I have behaved badly. That is the first admission. The second admission is that I will continue to behave badly."
- Stephen Dobyns
The Two Deaths of Senora Puccini
Now I'm not the brightest
knife in the drawer, but
I know a couple things
about this life: poverty
discipline and mystery
The world is not illusory, we are
From crimson thread to toe tag
If you are not disturbed
there is something seriously wrong with you, I'm sorry
And I know who I am
I'll be a voice
coming from nowhere,
be glad for me.
- Franz Wright
Walking to Martha's Vineyard