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A poem for our night & times, by Carolyn Forché

Wednesday, October 31st, 2018

[ by Charles Cameron — Halloween greetings, and a pre-midterm reminder of what demagoguery brings ]
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The box is a box of Halloween humor, a slight thing and entirely innocent, designed to delight with a nostaligic frisson on Halloweens past.. Spooky Halloween Feel Boxes for Adults: Put your hand in — preferably with eyes averted or blindfold — and feel, as in touchy-feel..

Among the sensations you are invited to feel.. cold spaghetti.. worms in a fishing box.. you get the idea.

**

My first association, when I saw a pointer to this article was the Gom Jabbar in Dune — a box containing pain, increasing pain. Should the candidate withdraw his hand from the box, he dies by cyanide needle, and the only means of survival is the ability to overcome instinct, which Paul Atreides manages by recitation of the Litany against Fear:

I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.
Only I will remain.

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Here’s the movie version:

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Black boxes..

The very idea of boxes filled with feelings is, to my mind, a fine one to explore, in humor, as in the New Yorker piece, or in deadly earnest, as in Frank Herbert‘s masterpiece, Dune.

**

But then, reading Colin Stokes and Ellis Rosen‘s NYorker humor piece, I came inevitably to this image:

I said inevitably, perhaps unavoidably would have been keener to the point. I couldn’t avoid my second association.

**

That second association was to Carolyn Forché:‘s prose-poem The Colonel from her second volume, The Country Between Us.

On reading her poem itself again after so many years, after reading it aloud to audiences on various occasions, after one miraculous night in the early eighties when I heard her read in LA, after reading her American Poetry Review piece about the experiences inn Al Salvador that lead to this particular poem and others — The Memory of Elena with its unforgettable paella among them — that second and more powerful association was to:

The Colonel

What you have heard is true. I was in his house. His wife carried a tray of coffee and sugar. His daughter filed her nails, his son went out for the night. There were daily papers, pet dogs, a pistol on the cushion beside him. The moon swung bare on its black cord over the house. On the television was a cop show. It was in English. Broken bottles were embedded in the walls around the house to scoop the kneecaps from a man’s legs or cut his hands to lace. On the windows there were gratings like those in liquor stores. We had dinner, rack of lamb, good wine, a gold bell was on the table for calling the maid. The maid brought green mangoes, salt, a type of bread. I was asked how I enjoyed the country. There was a brief commercial in Spanish. His wife took everything away. There was some talk then of how difficult it had become to govern. The parrot said hello on the terrace. The colonel told it to shut up, and pushed himself from the table. My friend said to me with his eyes: say nothing. The colonel returned with a sack used to bring groceries home. He spilled many human ears on the table. They were like dried peach halves. There is no other way to say this. He took one of them in his hands, shook it in our faces, dropped it into a water glass. It came alive there. I am tired of fooling around he said. As for the rights of anyone, tell your people they can go fuck themselves. He swept the ears to the floor with his arm and held the last of his wine in the air. Something for your poetry, no? he said. Some of the ears on the floor caught this scrap of his voice. Some of the ears on the floor were pressed to the ground.

**

Shattering.

Humor has darkened to tragedy — tragedy does not suffice to speak of this horror — the box of touchy-feelies has become the Colonel’s grocery sack spilled on the floor, dried apricots are dried peach halves — despite the differences, the associative leap was, for me, inevitable.

And far too All Hallows Eve appropriate for comfort..

Far too apt for the upcoming midterms, too..

Beach umbrellas impaling East Coast women

Monday, July 23rd, 2018

[ by Charles Cameron — the writer is an indoors man, both literally and in GM Hopkins’ metaphorical sense ]
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The first event took place in Seaside Heights, NJ, and the second in Ocean City, MD:

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One instance, I have always argued, is a poor indicator of anything — but two instances could be early indicators of a trend.

Two beach umbrella impalings in about a week seems less than plausible by coincidence — it looks like there’s a master plan at work, and while the first umbrella pierced an ankle, the second reached the chest. It is time to take notice, and prepare appropriate defenses..

Instance #1:

A pleasant day at the Jersey shore turned into a bloody nightmare for a British sunbather when a gust of wind blew an umbrella straight through her ankle, officials said.

Margaret Reynolds, 67, of London was impaled by one of the tips of the aluminum umbrella, which turned into a projectile about 4:30 p.m. Monday in Seaside Heights, police Detective Steve Korman told The Post.

Instance #2:

OCEAN CITY, Md. — A spokeswoman for a Maryland beach town says a woman has been accidentally impaled in the chest by a beach umbrella.

Ocean City spokeswoman Jessica Waters said it happened Sunday afternoon on the beach. She says the 54-year-old woman was conscious, but that her condition is not known at this time.

A bolt-cutter was used to help withdraw the projectile from the British tourist in Instance #1, whiln a helicopter airlift to a nearby hospital was required in instance #2.

**

Sources:

  • New York Post, Tourist impaled by beach umbrella on Jersey Shore
  • New York Post, Woman impaled in chest by beach umbrella
  • **

    I am happy to re-report of the woman in instance #2, the more grievously attacked of the two:

    She was flown to an area hospital for treatment of non-life threatening injuries.

    We wish her a speedy recovery.

    Of the woman in instance #1, I take pleasure in re-noting:

    Reynolds was taken to Jersey Shore University Medical Center for treatment and has been discharged.

    A satisfactory conclusion to a difficult affair.

    **

    The perpetrator in each case would appear to be the wind:

    Instance #1:

    A pleasant day at the Jersey shore turned into a bloody nightmare for a British sunbather when a gust of wind blew an umbrella straight through her ankle, officials said.

    Instance #2:

    Witnesses said one gust lifted the umbrella

    No winds have been apprehended at this time. John 3.8:

    The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth:

    Conflict resolution — contrapuntal humor

    Wednesday, April 4th, 2018

    [ by Charles Cameron — some late night foolishness, with a plea for forgiveness ]
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    As you know, I’m interested in conflict in need of resolution and the means of achieving it — and I’m also of the opinion that it’s essential for all voices to the situation to be heard — hence the need for a method of graphically mapping contending voices in a verbal equivalent to polyphonic (many voiced, Palestrina, Giovanni Pierluigi da, eg) counterpoint (see especially Bach, JS).

    Here’s a fairly absurd take on at least some parts of that er, equation:

    **

    I was pointed to this video by PTheWeek. What caught my eye was their headline:

    How could I resist?

    **

    Please forgive us all. As I said, these things took place late at night..

    I’m trying to figure it out

    Saturday, August 26th, 2017

    [ by Charles Cameron — oh, i mean, the whole ball of wax, kit & kaboodle ]
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    I’m trying to figure it out by catching glimpses in other people’s work, finding somethat are part of their pretty obvious ideas that are assumptions for tuthem and indicative of the state of affairs for me. I suppose I’m always on the lookout for such things, but today I’m going to shoot for the big picture.

    Item #1 comes from David Ronfeldt, friend of this blog, who posted at TIMN:

    It is no longer possible to think of corruption as just the iniquitous doings of individuals, be they street-level bribe payers, government officials, or business executives. In the five dozen or so countries of which Honduras is emblematic, corruption is the operating system of sophisticated networks that link together public and private sectors and out-and-out criminals — including killers — and whose main objective is maximizing returns for network members.

    Boom! The main objective is to maximize returns, returns. Nobody says what retiurns are, everybody knows: returns are cash, money, moolah is what everyone is after, “follow the money” is equalled in popularity only by “cherchez la femme” — although “follow the dead Russians” has a temporary place in the sun if you follow John Schindler. Money, sex, that’s about it.

    Sex. I’ll need an item for sex, eh?

    **

    Item #2 is prestige. I ound it at Tom Whipple‘s post, Starman, whichb describes a Norwegian jazz player’s rooftop searches for items of stardust.

    So began the journey that would end with an autodidact gypsy-jazz musician publishing a scientific paper in a prestigious American geology journal,

    The item here is prestige, yes, in the words “prestigious journal” — and the thing here is that anm autodidact made it into some prestigious pages, a jazz musician, imagine that!

    Oh, and BTW, we are stardust:

    I suppose you could call Joni Mitchell a jazz musician too, but she’s not — as far as I know — Norwegian,

    **

    Money, prestige, stardust.

    Those are my findings so far, that’s what it’s all about. And I’m guessing, sex too, once I find an appopriate reference — oh, totally inappropriate, I’m afraid, not suited to office viewing. .

    Sorry about that, I should have used a title-srolling clip from Sex and the City. I mean, good-looking means do it, plain and simple. Those guys who make films know what they’re doing.

    I know, I know, I wemt from fishing phrases out of articles into fishing songs out of YouTube — but I’m still after “it” — and now we have money, prestige, stardust, sex..

    I am beginning to see a glimmer of the human condition, la condition humaine. I mean, wars — civil and uncivil, compromise, film makers knowing who to film in filmy nightgowns, tight short skirts, and so on, and frankly, Trump, who epitomizes Sex and the City, has moola and no tax returns, and is made of greater stardust than the rest of us, I mean, he Trumps!

    **

    What else? I ask you, what else are we?

    Frankly, there’s transcendence. We are golden. We’ve got to get ourselves back to the garden. This one’s from my memory trove — it’s from Thomas Traherne‘s little book, Centuries of Meditations:

    You never enjoy the world aright, till the Sea itself floweth in your veins, till you are clothed with the heavens, and crowned with the stars: and perceive yourself to be the sole heir of the whole world, and more than so, because men are in it who are every one sole heirs as well as you. Till you can sing and rejoice and delight in God, as misers do in gold, and Kings in sceptres, you never enjoy the world.

    Like father, like son

    Thursday, August 24th, 2017

    [ by Charles Cameron — a DoubleQuote in the Wild ]
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    This came up in my feed today —

    Richard Landes was just tweeting –

    Ouch!

    Not like me, not like my sons, btw.

    **

    Or as Baudrillard might say:

    Reality no longer has the time to take on the appearance of reality. It no longer even surpasses fiction: it captures every dream even before it takes on the appearance of a dream.

    Ouch. Pinch me.


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