A little to the left….


"give me a place to stand and I will move the world"-Archimedes

“Shut up the world at large, let Bedlam out;
And you will be perhaps surprised to find
All things pursue exactly the same route, As now with those of soi-disant sound mind.
This I could prove beyond a single doubt,
Were there a jot of sense among mankind; but till that point d’appui is found, alas! Like Archimedes, I leave the earth as it was”                                                                                                                                         Lord Byron (1824)


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Both Ends of the Rainbow

The Wrong End Of The Rainbow: Charles Wright

Charles François Daubigny c. 1871

Charles François Daubigny c. 1871

It must have been Ischia, Forio d’Ischia.

Or Rome. The Pensione Margutta. Or Naples

Somewhere, on some dark side street in 1959

With What’s-Her-Name, dear golden-haired What’s-Her-Name.

Or Yes-Of-Course

In Florence, in back of S. Maria Novella,

And later wherever the Carabinieri let us lurk.

Milano, with That’s-The-One, two streets from the Bar Giamaica.

Venice and Come-On-Back,

three flights up,

Canal as black as an onyx, and twice as ground down.

Look, we were young then, and the world would sway to our sway.

We were riverrun, we were hawk’s breath.

Heart’s lid, we were center’s heat at the center of things.

Remember us as we were, amigo,

And not as we are, stretched out at the wrong end of the rainbow,

Our feet in the clouds,

our heads in the small, still pulse-pause of age,

Gazing out of some window, still taking it all in,

Our arms around memory,

Her full lips telling us just those things

she thinks we want to hear.


… I heard Charles Wright read this in 2008 at Yale, he has a wonderful voice, warm and beguiling…

I am nothing like the speaker in this poem, but I feel as though I am, or could be. I want to be. I feel as though I’ve felt these things about What’s-His-Name, but, really, I’m at the point in my life where I’m learning these names, not forgetting them. Or does the forgetting start when you play kiss and tell on the playground? That last bit’s probably an American thing. In any case it’s the last names I forget. Young, wanting to be older so that I can want to be younger? That’s the folly of a rainbow.

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Persian art in the British Library, or food in my stomach?

Page from 'Nimmatnama-i Nasiruddin-Shahi' (date unknown, 1495-1505?) Deccan Plateau, India

The above is a page from Nimmatnama-i Nasiruddin-Shahi (The Book of Recipes): In the image on the left, the family gathers, and on the left a woman of the family is milking the cows. The text contains recipes for both Kheer, or a milk heavy rice pudding, and Kheema or savoury mincemeat. The book advises that in order to get the sweetest milk for puddings, a healthy cow should be selected and fed on sugar cane for weeks before beginning to milk her…

IndianFoodForever.com tells me that the recipe for Kheer is the following:

1/4th cup long grain rice (washed and drained)
4-5 cups milk
2-3 cardamom seeds (crushed)
2 tbsp almonds (blanched silvered)
A pinch of saffron threads, soaked in a little hot milk
1 tbsp skinned pistachio nuts (chopped)
1 tbsp raisins (optional)
2-3 tbsp sugar or as desired

(Put the rice, milk and cardamom in a pan, bring to boil and simmer gently until the rice is soft and the grains are starting to break up. Add almonds, pistachio, saffron and raisins and simmer for 3-4 minutes. Add the sugar and stir until completely dissolved. Remove the rice kheer from heat and serve either warm or chilled.)

And where do I, the one who will cook, and eat what I cook, come in?

The image is not so different, perhaps, from a cookbook I would buy tomorrow, or even a recipe I would print out from the internet: it would have a picture in the upper left hand corner, or maybe it would take up half the page, and the text would come after.  I would probably find suggestions for techniques and ingredient substitutions which would help me refine my recipe, like the sugar cane hint. But it feels different, even so. And why? Even when I come home, without a cookbook, and turn instead to my great grandmother’s recipe box,  which has been added to by nearly every paternal relative, and finally by me (although I have rewritten my notecards several times), I feel as though I have lost something between it and Nimmatnama-i Nasiruddin-Shahi’. But what, exactly?

Not beauty, because there is as much happiness to be found in thumbing through the pieces of card-stock, and handwritten, typewriter punched, or computer printed paper; those chocolate streaks around the hot fudge recipe are as rewarding as these colors, and this beautiful language I do not, might not ever, understand. Maybe it is the cow? 3/4 cup of milk, 1/4 cup of sugar, or feed your cow sugar cane? But I have killed a chicken and found it difficult to concentrate afterward, so it cannot be a messy, honest farm life I am craving…

According to The British Library, which holds this book, “Ghiyas-ud-din Khalji, the Sultan of Mandu, who ruled from 1469-1500, was a sybarite who cut himself off from the cares of state to amuse himself with food, drink, and innumerable women. By this period, North India had a fairly unified painting style from the combination of two sources, Hindu-Jaina and Persian. The convention was to depict Indians in full profile and non-Indians with three-quarter profile. Nimmatnamah, or Book of Recipes (written in Persian), appears to have been filled with delicacies and aphrodisiacs for Ghiyas-ud-din’s benefit, but completed in the reign of his son Nasir-ud-din Shah…”

I wonder why it was not completed in time? And whether it was kept by Nadir-ud-din Shah, or by the Palace cook?

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Love in faith to a lover

“…and the simple truth is that though so much is made of the woman’s beauty in love stories, passion does not require it. Plato’s idea that lovers were originally one person, the two parts having become separated and desiring to be joined is as good an explanation as any for what cannot, in  (William Maxwell, on the nature of love affairs,                               the mind of the outsider,           So Long See You Tomorrow, 1980)                      ever be convincingly accounted for.”

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And this one’s for the 5:30 A.M. bird on the roof of the building in which I could be sleeping…

“I love to hear you get undressed” Jim Morrison tells me, and then, “I don’t care how loud you snore”…thanks!

It’s around 5:20 A.M. and the work that I am doing here is free from any and all constraints except the most important one…(you know)…(my brain)

There is a lid, somewhere, on the world, there is a lid, she says. Or said, and I’ve remembered.

Jim’s back again: “do you want a little sooouuul?”

He was probably a good man. And that might be all I want currently. A few of those.

Teachers die easily, it seems…

What else do I spend my time with but the conversion of energy from love to love to lover?

And what else can I do but come to the very edge of you?

And to come even that close, takes a stomach.

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The Waste Lands, I. The Burial Of The Dead, T.S. Eliot

APRIL is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.
Winter kept us warm, covering 5
Earth in forgetful snow, feeding
A little life with dried tubers.
Summer surprised us, coming over the Starnbergersee
With a shower of rain; we stopped in the colonnade,
And went on in sunlight, into the Hofgarten, 10
And drank coffee, and talked for an hour.
Bin gar keine Russin, stamm’ aus Litauen, echt deutsch.
And when we were children, staying at the archduke’s,
My cousin’s, he took me out on a sled,
And I was frightened. He said, Marie, 15
Marie, hold on tight. And down we went.
In the mountains, there you feel free.
I read, much of the night, and go south in the winter.
What are the roots that clutch, what branches grow
Out of this stony rubbish? Son of man, 20
You cannot say, or guess, for you know only
A heap of broken images, where the sun beats,
And the dead tree gives no shelter, the cricket no relief,
And the dry stone no sound of water. Only
There is shadow under this red rock, 25
(Come in under the shadow of this red rock),
And I will show you something different from either
Your shadow at morning striding behind you
Or your shadow at evening rising to meet you;
I will show you fear in a handful of dust. 30
Frisch weht der Wind
Der Heimat zu.
Mein Irisch Kind,
Wo weilest du?
‘You gave me hyacinths first a year ago; 35
‘They called me the hyacinth girl.’
—Yet when we came back, late, from the Hyacinth garden,
Your arms full, and your hair wet, I could not
Speak, and my eyes failed, I was neither
Living nor dead, and I knew nothing, 40
Looking into the heart of light, the silence.
Od’ und leer das Meer.
Madame Sosostris, famous clairvoyante,
Had a bad cold, nevertheless
Is known to be the wisest woman in Europe, 45
With a wicked pack of cards. Here, said she,
Is your card, the drowned Phoenician Sailor,
(Those are pearls that were his eyes. Look!)
Here is Belladonna, the Lady of the Rocks,
The lady of situations. 50
Here is the man with three staves, and here the Wheel,
And here is the one-eyed merchant, and this card,
Which is blank, is something he carries on his back,
Which I am forbidden to see. I do not find
The Hanged Man. Fear death by water. 55
I see crowds of people, walking round in a ring.
Thank you. If you see dear Mrs. Equitone,
Tell her I bring the horoscope myself:
One must be so careful these days.
Unreal City, 60
Under the brown fog of a winter dawn,
A crowd flowed over London Bridge, so many,
I had not thought death had undone so many.
Sighs, short and infrequent, were exhaled,
And each man fixed his eyes before his feet. 65
Flowed up the hill and down King William Street,
To where Saint Mary Woolnoth kept the hours
With a dead sound on the final stroke of nine.
There I saw one I knew, and stopped him, crying ‘Stetson!
‘You who were with me in the ships at Mylae! 70
‘That corpse you planted last year in your garden,
‘Has it begun to sprout? Will it bloom this year?
‘Or has the sudden frost disturbed its bed?
‘Oh keep the Dog far hence, that’s friend to men,
‘Or with his nails he’ll dig it up again! 75
‘You! hypocrite lecteur!—mon semblable,—mon frère!
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On Iraqi Kurdistan

Brendan O’Leary, who recently lectured at Bennington College, is recorded here along with street camera work in Iraqi Kurdistan.

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What will happen today isn’t this:

The garden was readier than I might ever be,

so I stole three tomatoes,

just in case.

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The Palace at 4 A.M.

A spare and strange sculpture found in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York. In a letter to Matisse, the sculptor Alberto Giacometti describes how  The Palace at 4 A.M.  came into being:

Alberto Giacometti (1932)

“This object took shape little by little in the late summer of 1932; it revealed itself to me slowly, the various parts taking their exact form and their precise place within the whole. By autumn it had attained such a reality that its actual execution in space took no more than one day. It is related without any doubt to a period in my life that had come to an end a year before, when for six whole months, hour after hour was passed in the company of a woman, who, concentrating all life in herself, magically transformed my every moment. We used to construct a fantastical palace at night – days and nights had the same color, as if everything happened just before daybreak; throughout the whole time I never saw the sun – a very fragile palace of matchsticks. At the slightest false move a whole section of this tiny construction would collapse. We would always begin it over again. I don’t know why it came to be inhabited by a spinal column in a cage – the spinal column this woman sold me one of the very first nights I met her on the street – and by one of the skeleton birds that she saw the very night before the morning in which our life together collapsed – the skeleton birds that flutter with cries of joy at four o’clock in the morning very high above the pool of clear, green water where the extremely fine, white skeletons of fish float in the great un-roofed hall. In the middle there rises the scaffolding of a tower, perhaps unfinished or, since its top has collapsed, perhaps also broken. On the other side there appeared the statue of a woman, in which I recognize my mother, just as she appears in my earliest memories. The mystery of her long black dress touching the floor troubled me; it seemed to me like a part of her body and aroused in me a feeling of fear and confusion…” (excerpt from a letter from Giacometti to Pierre Matisse)

…the residue of a dream a girl carries over a few minutes into waking life…

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