When you watch the sun come up and go down. When you feel the bitter cold of winter with or without your warmest jacket. When you listen to the music you love and it makes you weep in joy and cry for reasons unknown...you're happy but sad at the same time. These are feelings we are never able to express in words, we can only point them out with images. I feel these things when I read W.G. Sebald's Austerlitz. I'm not done reading and I hope to review it when I am done. However it touches so lightly on that which causes great pain and magnifies simple beauty as if it is that which is most important to focus on. And yet in doing so, the pain hurts more. It sinks into the subconscience like smoke seeps into clothing. So you see the ugliness that we human beings create and you expect that there will be more on that, but no. You see the ugliness that nature creates, and unlike ours it's always beautiful. Even when it is harming us, like wiping out a village of people. He shows you the sunset, the warmth of love, and the charm of simplicity, and in all of it there is a suggestion that we lack something that is somehow abundant around us. Austerlitz seems to suggest that we are mad because we compete with nature. We mean not to copy her but to outdo her, and when we're not doing so, then we are keen on dissecting her, or perfecting her. Therein lies our constant grief.
I am—yet what I am none cares or knows;
My friends forsake me like a memory lost:
I am the self-consumer of my woes—
They rise and vanish in oblivious host,
Like shadows in love’s frenzied stifled throes
And yet I am, and live—like vapours tossed
Into the nothingness of scorn and noise,
Into the living sea of waking dreams,
Where there is neither sense of life or joys,
But the vast shipwreck of my life’s esteems;
Even the dearest that I loved the best
Are strange—nay, rather, stranger than the rest.
I long for scenes where man hath never trod
A place where woman never smiled or wept
There to abide with my Creator, God,
And sleep as I in childhood sweetly slept,
Untroubling and untroubled where I lie
The grass below—above the vaulted sky.
This poem of John Clare's is quite exquisite. It is and it is not and it says just so and explains just so. As is often the case, the complication and resolution of the poem reside in its title, which is the same …
I tell her she has outlived her usefulness.
I point to the corner where dust gathers,
where light has never touched. But there she sits,
a thousand years, hands folded, in a tattered armchair,
with yesterday’s news, “the Golden Mountain Edition.”
The morning sun slants down the broken eaves,
shading half of her sallow face.
On the upper northwest corner (I‘d consulted a geomancer),
a deathtrap shines on the dying bougainvillea.
The carcass of a goatmoth hangs upsidedown,
hollowed out. The only evidence
of her seasonal life is a dash of shimmery powder, a last cry.
She, who was attracted to that bare bulb,
who danced around that immigrant dream,
will find her end here, this corner,
this solemn altar.
Marilyn Chin’s “Altar” seems a tongue-in-cheek treatment of the intriguing subject that is human desire in the need to improve one's state, through the theme of immigration and specifically as a transmission of culture. The poem traces the transpla…
Safe upon the solid rock the ugly houses stand:
Come and see my shining palace built upon the sand!
There has been a little conversation between myself and Edna St. Vincent Millay’s speaker in “Second Fig” for months now. Sometimes I would forget to think or talk to her for days or even weeks, then run into her riding the shades of a slow afternoon or merging with the shadows of an eerie night. Most recently, though, I have been finding her lisping within conversations shared with others and reading her on pages here and there. The thing is, often, in polite society, we speak only of our minor headaches in such ways that arouse neither genuine pity nor concern for our wellbeing but shine a dim light on our shared struggles in the search of infinite satiation. And this is why the lines of “Second Fig” are irritating––they are shamelessly honest. They can even be called coarse in that they seem to mock and brag simultaneously without apology. T…