SAVAGE BEAUTY (do I dare? do I dare?)

Huay Tung (Brian) Naam Tok Dtaat Mook — a hidden waterfall on the Huay Tung. Over 300 feet high, Dtaat Mook is rarely visited by ordinary people, encircled as it is by the dark rituals that protect the jungle. My intrepid friend, Brian Hayden, photographed three odd fires beside the track as we made our way up the mountain, all three of which contained the charred remains of broken bamboo poles tightly wrapped in saffron robes and bound with plastic string. Click about and see what you can see —  if you dare, if you dare.
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Huay Tung Hex (small)

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………THE COMMENTS THAT FOLLOW DEVELOP THE THREAD

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22 Comments

  1. January 14, 2015 at 10:32 am

    Here’s how brave you have to be — Brian Hayden a few days later with his students at Wat Suan Dok:

    Brian at Wat Suan Dok

    ………………

    Vivian Hylton illuminated, just as she had been before she got back:

    Vivian at Wat Pha Lad

    ………………

    And me, logovoyant, telling the story as the Buddha whispers in my one good ear, “fool! fool!”

    CW w/Melanie - Xmas

  2. January 21, 2015 at 11:35 am

    Is anyone daring to dare here? Like what all this might mean? Like that waterfall, for example, or Brian in the Wat sitting beside his student pointing at him like a prophet, or Vivian illuminated — or me, oh you foolish Merlin collared?

    I’m referring to My Name is Red, of course, having become a sort of disembodied Orhan Pamuk reporting back from my landlocked Asian steppes and fastnesses where nobody goes anymore – first from over the footlights of Snow, then from the archives of The Museum of Innocence, today from the endless ramifications of My Name is Red.

    For one thing those books take a lot of time — I have to read them over and over again to get them, I’m so slow. And that interests me a lot, the way I’m slow — because each of my books has taken me 20 years to write yet nobody, as far as I know, has ever managed even to start one of them what is more gone right through to the end and come back to tell about it. Indeed, I can’t recall that I’ve ever had a reader at all, and even here on my own block my poetry can hardly be said to be “read,” even by my closest friends.

    So why is my work so simple-minded, so in-artistic, so “difficult” they even say, yes, all those things at once despite my best efforts to make it perfect? By contrast, way back 20 years ago when I was still in my fifties I had a lot of good readers — I had wonderful handwritten responses from James Laughlin and Theodore Weiss, for example, scarcely comprehensible, I admit, one in his last wobbly hand-writing, the other on an old type-writer with almost no ribbon, notes at the end of great lives. So what do you think those old men read in my work that has now become illegible?

    Was it something like this?

    In Chapter 26 of My Name is Red, the beautiful Shekure wonders how the old Persian masters might have illustrated the beauty of her and her lover’s embrace:

    “…the lovers would be depicted so small, so far in the distance, that for a moment it’d seem like the story wasn’t about them at all, but had to do with the starry night, the dark trees, the exquisite palace where they met, its courtyard and its wonderful garden whose every leaf was lovingly and particularly rendered. If, however, one paid very close attention to the secret symmetry of the colors, which the miniaturist could only convey with total resignation to his art, and to the mysterious light infusing the entire painting, the careful observer would immediately see that the secret behind these illustrations is that they’re created by love itself. It’s as if a light were emanating from the lovers, from the very depths of the illustration. And when Black and I embraced, well-being flooded the world in the very same manner.”

    Such a viewer would have hardly noticed her beautiful thighs or his smooth torso and taut nipples, indeed the viewer wasn’t supposed to as the Persian artist never rendered anything personal. As I don’t either, even when I’m so often anatomical, even when I’m sometimes crude which I love — yet still never personal, not in anything I write.

    Is that where I go wrong, is that why my poetry’s impossible?

    Christopher

    P.S. As usual I will be reinventing this and other wheels from day to day, at least if I’m lucky I will. So do come back from time to time to see where we might be headed.

  3. January 28, 2015 at 11:30 am

    P.P.S. Or give me a leg-up, as they say, a boost, a hand-hold, a crutch even as I once wrote in some lines I’d be very pleased if any of you remember:

    ………………………My beloved’s yet a dancer—
    ………………………every move she makes
    ………………………is dangerous, braced
    ………………………as she is to lean upon
    ………………………her beauty’s broken wing.

    …you can click here if you don’t;

    …or click even further here, like turning the pages in an illuminated manuscript that remains forever new and fresh because there’s no printing to make you impatient or the pictures stale. Because you’ve got what you’ve got and without reproduction that’s more than enough!

    C.

  4. January 29, 2015 at 10:41 am

    Did you get that, where the red words went? Did you go back and see how they looked in blue last March 2014, or back even farther beyond the icon (March 2010), beyond the photo of Simone Weil, beyond the poem of George Herbert, down, down through W.C.Williams, Ezra Pound, Sharon Olds, Zen in the Art of Archery and Omino23 to come to the green and the girl on the boat at the end? Did you do that and then ask yourself what it must have been like to live through all that yet be forever on exactly the same page? How he dared to live with that simple little miniature poem so long just to see what it was in the end?

    Never to be still yet always the same like the lover inside the master miniaturist’s blue, green, and red?
    ………………

    ……………………………..Ottoman Miniaturist (200)

    ………………

  5. February 2, 2015 at 11:05 am

    Or like the eternal salmon, never to be still yet always the same like the lover in the painting just above.

    Finding myself almost a year ago in the same sort of bind, I took refuge in Stanley Kunitz’s “King of the River,” a poem that was also decades in the writing. That was in a new thread called “Bordando el Manto Terrestre” which began with an apology for having aborted yet another thread, “Make It New”, which I had started on my 74th birthday, December 7th, 2013. Because like the lover and the poet, the salmon dies in water too shallow to float its own body, and therein lies not only the savage beauty of love but of eternity.

    Here’s what I wrote, and I’m thinking of myself now as the artisan miniaturist in the Sultan’s workshop above, an anonymous helper in the kitchen but nevertheless with a finger in the noble pot:

    …being a failed poet is a great help because all you can do is read to yourself your own work in a similar way, and listen, over and over again.

    Here’s one of my favorites written in direct response to “King of the River” many years ago. You too will just have to read it quietly to yourselves as all I have is this small space to show you [as if, as I said above, “before printing”].

    ………………

    ………. BECAUSE TO STAY IS TO BE NOWHERE

    ………………The sedge-green wastes roar
    ………………and bend before the stern
    ………………iron stem—
    ………………then lie partway back,
    ………………chilled by the viscous glaze
    ………………and waiting for the helmsman’s
    ………………crafting hands to warm them.

    ………………But there will be no arrangements
    ………………again this year,
    ………………for this is the long wake
    ………………of the diffident old master,
    ………………the prodigal father who always
    ………………moves on despondent
    ………………just before the spring.

    ………………How sad to be propelled
    ………………like Arctic terns
    ………………whirling the ocean waves
    ………………even in our ploughing.

    ………………And so we tear lines of longitude
    ………………in the pale earth with beaks
    ………………sharpened by the cruel compulsion
    ………………ever to love what’s lost
    ………………and then steadfastly
    ………………lose what’s left,
    ………………migrating mercilessly
    ………………from pole to mating pole until
    ………………swooning back to where it starts
    ………………we glide like wistful fish
    ………………high above the falls
    ………………and fill with what remains
    ………………of just a little lust
    ………………the same old rills again.

    ………………How sad the whole
    ………………latitudinous earth
    ………………should just become faint
    ………………coordinates for crossing it.

    ………………Yesterday we passed
    ………………the Ile Saint Germain
    ………………white with flowers
    ………………in February—
    ………………today we are over
    ………………grey industrial snow.

    ………………Look, far below us now
    ………………moves another young
    ………………family in flight—
    ………………they leave hennaed footprints
    ………………in the flinty field.

    ………………Tomorrow perhaps
    ………………the baby will stop crying
    ………………pater noster
    ………………in the wilderness

    ………………as trembling
    ………………we endure the loss
    ………………of not quite knowing
    ………………why it is we cried

    ………………ourselves, or where,
    ………………for what we prayed—
    ………………almost as if a god were there
    ………………and really meant to stay.
    ………………

    ………………

    Christopher

    ………………

  6. February 5, 2015 at 11:34 am

    One of the seminal images in My Name is Red is the blind painter, a conundrum posed by a miniaturist named Olive in the 16th Century court workshop of the Ottoman Sultan Murad III. Bent over the Sultan’s revolutionary new book, the painter narrates “Three Stories on Blindness and Memory,” concluding at the very end:

    Before the art of illumination there was blackness and afterwards there will also be blackness. Through our colors, paint, art and love we remember that Allah had commanded us to “See”! To know is to remember that you’ve seen. To see is to know without remembering. Thus, painting is remembering the blackness.

    The poetry of a failed artist is very similar to the art of an artist whose name is unknown because the artist has never had anyone admire what he or she does as a person. On the other hand, it is equally true of the artist who is unknown because he or she never thought to sign a name to a manuscript, canvas, or piece of handiwork. Needless to say, the latter category includes the vast majority of artists who have ever lived, including most of the greatest producing most of the world’s greatest art from Sulawesi to Lascaux, Lindisfarne, Istanbul, Cape Dorset and Alice Springs.

    I fall into the failed category because my name is unknown, and as such my index remains blank. That’s why I can quote myself as often as I like without compromising my reputation or confusing my audience, and also why I can talk so freely about my own work. Because if you don’t have a reputation you don’t have to worry about losing it because nobody knows what you’ve written what is more where you might have left it lying about, or whether indeed it ever got finished. Because an unprinted poem is a codex.

    For example, the following poem. Where does it fit into my story, or yours, or anybody else’s?

    ………………
    …………………….WHY WE CAN’T LOVE YOU

    ……………………….Our balkaned country’s

    ……………………….not so quick as your

    ……………………….kitchen-garden kingdom.

    ……………………….The escarpments rise too

    ……………………….precipitously white

    ……………………….and difficult

    ……………………….for courtship unfamiliar

    ……………………….with the dry-stone divinations

    ……………………….cast in fields logic can’t plough

    ……………………….or lessons harvest.

    ……………………….Don’t be astonished that

    ……………………….your green hips and poppy

    ……………………….stained embankments

    ……………………….can’t distract us from our grief—

    ……………………….it’s the scent of the tight fruit

    ……………………….of old trees and lost hedgerows

    ……………………….makes us wild

    ……………………….for dark restless brides

    ……………………….with high-arched country feet.

    ……………………….If we sit down and weep

    ……………………….beside your still waters with you

    ……………………….we will never quench our

    ……………………….thirst for those lean,

    ……………………….burn and briar spun limbs

    ……………………….that leap

    ……………………….the starveling falls

    ……………………….and make the last return

    ……………………….the furious bridegroom’s best—

    ……………………….the saintly salmon’s honeymoon

    ……………………….our bliss—

    ……………………….the blood-streaked spawn,

    ……………………….the long white body’s gentle rest.

    ………………………………………………~

    My favorite landscape in the world, the most lyrical, the most melancholy, filled with the most longing, loneliness and sometimes horror. And of course the most beauty.

    Dumfriesshire with its burns, wrecked hills, huge sky, treacherous black bogs, and heather.

    There was a geo-survey station situated near where I lived in the hills above Eskdalemuir because it was the most remote from artificial vibrations of any place in the whole of the U.K. Then Flight 103 came down in Lockerbie — that was where my nearest shop was located, 18 miles from my house by a single-lane, unfenced road. There were sheep lying all over it.

    Of course it could also have been the Hebrides, Donegal or Connemara. Or Innishmore even.

    ………………………………………………~

    The shepherd children ‘guddled’ for salmon with their bare hands under the banks of the little stream that ran near my house. There were 16 in the MacTaggart family but there were only 5 beds in the 2 rooms where they slept. I saw them and I counted and held my breath.

    ………………………………………………~

    “Deprivation is for me what daffodils were for Wordsworth.” Philip Larkin

    Christopher

  7. February 8, 2015 at 4:21 pm

    The irony is that deprivation was for Wordsworth very much the same as it was for Philip Larkin.

    Because the emotions that Wordsworth recollected in tranquility weren’t necessarily the same that were aroused in him by the event itself — indeed, we can never know any “real experience,” as we like to call what “actually happens,” because we only have what we remember, second-hand — “the artifact” as we call it on a dig through the midden. Even the freshest, most beautiful of daffodils is lost before it’s had, after all, which is why a flower like a kiss can only be known when it’s recollected just as nothing can be ‘seen’ and ‘drawn’ at the same time — the eye as well as the hand always has to move away from the object to render it on the page, even if just for a second. And isn’t that sad yet at the same time miraculous? For as Olive says, there’s always a gap between the seen thing and the remembered thing, the remembered thing being all there is that can be experienced intimately by human beings. That’s why the ancient illuminators never drew from nature but only from the archetypal approximations of what countless numbers of predecessors, laborers, artisans and other “artists” in the workshop extracted from generations of masters, copying and copying and copying yet again. Copying to have a perfect copy, in other words, like Wordsworth his daffodils. But also like Philip Larkin at the very end of “High Windows,” a deprivation poem if there ever was one, smutty. Yet look where it goes:

    ……………………..Rather than words comes the thought of high windows:
    ……………………..The sun comprehending glass,
    ……………………..And beyond it, the deep blue air, that shows
    ……………………..Nothing, and is nowhere, and is endless.”

    And that’s light, truly, even from this man of darkness – or perhaps “blackness” as visualized by Olive the colorist.

    So how lucky I am that my poems have never been “set down” or “copyrighted” as we say, or “indexed,” “accepted for publication,” “selected” or “collected.” Yes, how lucky I am that my poems can still talk as they please, and that I never have to concede that they’re slaves, pimps, or dead.

    Like the following which has changed very little in almost 10 years now, and might even be done but doesn’t have to be – because “Do Not Assume Because You Cannot See” is under no pressure from anyone, nor is they’re any brief to control it. And it’s a little wonder if you give it a chance — particularly if two people you love have read it and tell you it has talked to them personally. That doesn’t mean the poem is great or good even, just that unlike the dated dasein that whelped it, formless and puling, it’s here!
    ………………………..

    ……………………DO NOT ASSUME BECAUSE YOU CANNOT SEE

    ………………………….Do not assume because you cannot see
    ………………………….the emperor’s new clothes
    ………………………….he’s surely naked,
    ………………………….nor just because you’re not waving
    ………………………….when you raise your hand
    ………………………….you cannot see the fine new lineaments at all
    ………………………….or touch the freshly woken garments
    ………………………….just for fun—
    ………………………….when you’re but
    ………………………….an ordinary ageing man
    ………………………….or better yet a woman
    ………………………….born to tailor out the bitter truth
    ………………………….of being here alone by chance
    ………………………….and dimmed,
    ………………………….you find solace not
    ………………………….in being one with anyone
    ………………………….or silver dove or dawn
    ………………………….but in not giving in
    ………………………….to contradictions
    ………………………….either.

    ………………………….Then the royal consort’s
    ………………………….gnarled and tufted mons displayed
    ………………………….beside the emperor’s sagging torso’s
    ………………………….mystery enough—
    ………………………….let them strut their stuff
    ………………………….and let the new age courtiers
    ………………………….define the cut and fashion
    ………………………….coming up with fantasy designs
    ………………………….just as Nature with her furtive flourishes
    ………………………….in welts and tucks and turned-up tails
    ………………………….excites sex here,
    ………………………….fills the textbooks, educates,
    ………………………….and in the end mythologizes yet again
    ………………………….our lust for wonder
    ………………………….working
    ………………………….miracles instead.

    ………………………….Yes, just as the pauper prophet says of figs:
    ………………………….Pray for what you’ve got
    ………………………….and really have it!

    ………………………….New and better worlds are
    ………………………….just paper patterns in
    ………………………….the homely seamstress mind,
    ………………………….neither pinned nor cut
    ………………………….nor saddled—
    ………………………….believe
    ………………………….in what you’ve got
    ………………………….and you can walk her arm in arm
    ………………………….in heaven’s fabulous parade
    ………………………….decked out in God’s own
    ………………………….fabric.

    Christopher

    ………………………..

  8. omino23 said,

    June 19, 2015 at 3:48 am

    “So how lucky I am that my poems have never been “set down” or “copyrighted” as we say, or “indexed,” “accepted for publication,” “selected” or “collected.” Yes, how lucky I am that my poems can still talk as they please, and that I never have to concede that they’re slaves, pimps, or dead.”

    Amen Brother, Amen

    When de Co’n Pone’s Hot
    Dunbar, Paul Laurence

    Dey is times in life when Nature
    Seems to slip a cog an’ go,
    Jes’ a-rattlin’ down creation,
    Lak an ocean’s overflow;
    When de worl’ jes’ stahts a-spinnin’
    Lak a picaninny’s top,
    An’ yo’ cup o’ joy is brimmin’
    ‘Twell it seems about to slop,
    An’ you feel jes’ lak a racah,
    Dat is trainin’ fu’ to trot–
    When yo’ mammy says de blessin’
    An’ de co’n pone’s hot.
    When you set down at de table,
    Kin’ o’ weary lak an’ sad,
    An’ you ‘se jes’ a little tiahed
    An’ purhaps a little mad;
    How yo’ gloom tu’ns into gladness,
    How yo’ joy drives out de doubt
    When de oven do’ is opened,
    An’ de smell comes po’in’ out;
    Why, de ‘lectric light o’ Heaven
    Seems to settle on de spot,
    When yo’ mammy says de blessin’
    An’ de co’n pone’s hot.
    When de cabbage pot is steamin’
    An’ de bacon good an’ fat,
    When de chittlins is a-sputter’n’
    So’s to show you whah dey’s at;
    Tek away yo’ sody biscuit,
    Tek away yo’ cake an’ pie,
    Fu’ de glory time is comin’,
    An’ it’s ‘proachin’ mighty nigh,
    An’ you want to jump an’ hollah,
    Dough you know you’d bettah not,
    When yo’ mammy says de blessin’
    An’ de co’n pone’s hot.
    I have hyeahd a’ lots o’ sermons,
    An’ I’ve hyeahd o’ lots o’ prayers,
    An I’ve listened to some singin’
    Dat has tuck me up de stairs
    Of de Glory-Lan’ an’ set me
    Jes’ below de Mastah’s th’one,
    An’ have lef’ my hea’t a-singin’
    In a happy aftah tone;
    But dem wu’ds so sweetly murmured
    Seem to tech de softes’ spot,
    When my mammy says de blessin’,
    An’ de co’n pone’s hot.

  9. June 19, 2015 at 7:10 pm

    Thanks, Omino — you’re as ever the only one who gets it.

    C.

  10. omino23 said,

    November 23, 2015 at 4:40 am

    “Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
    With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
    Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
    A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
    Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
    Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
    Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
    The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
    “Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
    With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
    Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
    The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
    Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
    I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

  11. November 25, 2015 at 12:53 pm

    Thanks again, Omino — generous.

    But what I said in my previous comment applies equally here, I’m afraid — i.e. that as usual you seem to get it and I don’t.

    That pattern came to a head for me in your thunderous intervention way back here: https://cowpattyhammer.wordpress.com/2014/02/10/bordando-el-manto-terrestre-remedios-varo/#comment-2205 .

    I was sure you were offering a way out at the time but as I worked and worked with your words I realized I hadn’t a clue what you meant.

    It was that sort of thing that made me give up in the end — just not being able to follow.

    C.

  12. omino23 said,

    November 26, 2015 at 8:51 am

    I suppose, in the spirit of generosity at this time of thanksgiving, I will oblige and clarify my remarks, or at least try to the very best of my extremely limited ability to do so, as I am neither a “real” poet or much of a writer I can only clumsily bat at the shadows appearing on my cave wall after reading your stuff. I can only thank you for putting up with me in your poetry blog, and not totally losing faith.

    If it comes across as incomprehensible know that the problem is really me, not you, hence your well justified request for clarification, and since you are truly one of my only readers I am more than willing to try and offer one up. After all, what other duty does a writer really have? Even when he must purposefully obfuscate the point, it is only really fun if someone else can puzzle it out, right?

    So, going back to your initial post in this thread, you bring us images of waterfalls, burnt offerings, and the bravery of those who travel into the unknown to find savage beauty. These notions, the astronomer who knew the world revolved around the sun and not the other way, the fishers at the river, a three hundred foot tall waterfall in the middle of a forbidden jungle, deep images that come from adventures of the heart and mind are what I like best about your blog and about poetry in general. The way that poetry can become a vehicle for us to both meditate on the secrets of the universe and to share the feeling with others.

    I have no idea how we were supposed to puzzle “My Name Is Red” out of that but then again I have not read it, I am sure that I would at least have a foggy idea if I had read it, but once again I am almost totally ignorant. I am however inspired to take a look, which is another reason I tune in. I gather though, that you are be bringing up this novel because of the idea within that viewing these Turkish miniature paintings takes the characters out of their “realspace” (http://starwars.wikia.com/wiki/Realspace). Excellent idea, and in my mind so in line with what I like so much about your writing on poetry/fiction/the arts.

    As I read though I also pick up another underlying tone which I interpret as frustration:

    “each of my books has taken me 20 years to write yet nobody, as far as I know, has ever managed even to start one of them what is more gone right through to the end and come back to tell about it.

    I can’t recall that I’ve ever had a reader at all, and even here on my own block my poetry can hardly be said to be “read,” even by my closest friends

    So why is my work so simple-minded, so in-artistic, so “difficult” they even say, yes, all those things at once despite my best efforts to make it perfect?

    my work that has now become illegible

    Is that where I go wrong, is that why my poetry’s impossible?

    Where does it fit into my story, or yours, or anybody else’s?

    slaves, pimps, or dead.”

    This lead me to my first response, which was mostly “amen, brother, amen”, being no stranger to frustration, especially the kind I felt you were expressing. So I offered up “When de Co’n Pone’s Hot”, perhaps as a reminder that life is really what we make of it, that satisfaction can be as simple as a hot meal.

    Dey is times in life when Nature
    Seems to slip a cog an’ go,
    Jes’ a-rattlin’ down creation,
    Lak an ocean’s overflow;

    I also liked how this poem expressed the same inexplicable and perhaps unintelligible or untransmittable theme (perhaps like a Koan?) that I like so much about some of your work in this blog.

    I have hyeahd a’ lots o’ sermons,
    An’ I’ve hyeahd o’ lots o’ prayers,
    An I’ve listened to some singin’
    Dat has tuck me up de stairs
    Of de Glory-Lan’ an’ set me
    Jes’ below de Mastah’s th’one,
    An’ have lef’ my hea’t a-singin’
    In a happy aftah tone;
    But dem wu’ds so sweetly murmured
    Seem to tech de softes’ spot,
    When my mammy says de blessin’,
    An’ de co’n pone’s hot.

    So I guess I wanted to you continue searching, continue writing, and continue to share your poetry and views, and every now and again let us glimpse the secret fire.

    My second post in this thread is the famous poem by Emma Lazarus that is beneath the Statue of Liberty in New York City.

    With the recent shootings in Paris on my mind, and on the blog of someone who I know has ties to both Paris and New York, I figured I would share, since the xenophobic response around the world has been disheartening, and there is something about lifting the golden welcome lamp to all people that has been lacking in general lately.

    Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
    I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

    I remember sitting in your living room in 2001 drinking a Chang when news had arrived that someone had “blown up Grand Central Station”, of course it was really the Twin Towers, and we tuned into the television in time to see the second plane hit, into the night we nervously watched and chain smoked, as the entire world changed (I suppose I have just revealed who I really am too, but this blog was already infested with Kammanns).

    They are all fairly simple points really, perhaps that is why I don’t include any notation, background, or punctuation. But keep writing if you can, you do have at least one, albeit sorely lacking reader.

  13. November 27, 2015 at 9:55 am

    Thanks so much for that, M. I always knew who you were but as you were the only person who ever responded to me as if I had something to say I had to hold my breath and pretend. Because numerous times you raised the whole tenor of the place, and gave me not only the hope to go on but the courage to climb higher, never mind the vertigo and the folly.

    A courage and hope which I’ve lost now, I’m afraid. Maybe the foolishness will come back — we’ll have to wait and see.

    Just read a tribute to Michael Jackson by Carvell Wallace in the NYRB which reminded me of you in your cubbyhole in the basement at Court Street:

    “I have a son of my own now. He’s twelve. He recently told me that one of his earliest memories is of coming home from school to find the television on, trumpeting the news that Jackson had died. I can picture my son at that age, wide eyes like dark moons; soft, simple skin; the tiniest and most perfect hands; centuries of soul packed layers deep in his little voice. He reminded us, in fact, of a young Michael Jackson. Probably many children, in a certain light, remind people of a young Michael Jackson. My son remembers walking into the kitchen and seeing his parents, grown, weary, and old, embracing each other and crying as though they were the babies. He did not understand why.

    Now I think I do. We were not crying for the loss of Michael Jackson, the Plastic Freak, pained, megalomaniacal, and frail. We were crying for the inevitable loss of all of our childhoods.”

    ………………

  14. November 27, 2015 at 7:31 pm

    A few years later I wrote this in the same cubbyhole in the basement, and like most things I guess I’m still writing it now.

    ROCK-CLIMBING (do I dare? do I dare?)

    ………………

  15. November 28, 2015 at 11:56 am

    Here’s another story.

    When he was 45, Charles Dickens fell in love with Ellen Ternan, an 18 year old actress. At the time he was the most famous man in Britain, perhaps in the world. The young girl held him at arms length for two years, she felt so nervous, but then she gave in and spent 11 years as his most intimate friend and secret lover, “the magic circle of one,” he called her. He set her up in a house of her own and visited her secretly at least twice a week for the rest of his life.

    A few of his closest friends knew, but nobody else ever found out, and not a word was spoken at the time in public.

    As to the quality of their relationship, that’s impossible to know. Did she love him in the beginning and then feel trapped? Quite possibly. Was she the most important person in Charles Dickens’ life, or did she become a guilty burden? Indeed, did she ever love him, and I mean at all? Did those 11 years with him lift her life, or did they ruin it?

    This story like my previous one has an extraordinary ending.

    Ellen Ternan disappeared after Dickens’ death at 58, then re-emerged 6 years later to marry a 25 year old Oxford clergyman from a very good family who had been in love with her for years. At the time of the church wedding she identified herself as “in her twenties,” though she was in reality 37. It was as if the woman who had loved Dickens for 13 years had never existed.

    And it was a very successful marriage too. A respectable, hard-working and loving wife, she had 2 children with her young husband, and helped him to run their own school together. The children, like the father, never suspected who their wife and mother had been – indeed, the story didn’t come out publicly until 50 years later.

    There’s a wonderful film about Ellen Ternan called “The Invisible Woman” – it’s based on the book by Claire Tomalin, and is directed by Ralph Fiennes who also plays the part of Dickens.

    And don’t worry, Ellen Tiernan as portrayed in the film understood all the darker things you’re thinking — Claire Tomalin is a Feminist, after all, much concerned with the ‘invisibility’ of women in general. I’m not using this story in anybody’s defense – just saying that the lovers in both stories weren’t the only ones.

    The young girl in L’Amant becomes Marguerite Duras, after all – and Marguerite Duras wrote that story over and over again for the rest of her life, and became a great writer in the process. Indeed, it’s a story that has been written in every age in every colored ink, and never grows old even as the details so often remain secret, from Abelard, Dante and Goethe to Alain-Fournier.

    What’s unique about Marguerite Duras’ version is that it is written from the perspective of the young girl – it’s usually the men who do the talking, but in L’Amant it’s the worn-out older woman. Jeanne Moreau’s smokey voice narrating the film is so alive and haunting, the survivor who went down but never gave up. Or Jean Rhys, the invisible, burnt-out heroine who never stops burning, who never got read until it was much too late, a fact that makes her burn even brighter.

    My own feeling is that it’s important to keep such stories secret, and nobody knows I’m posting this but you, of course — and nobody ever will, at least from me they won’t. But I visit the story still in my own mind — because difficult as it is, it makes me who I am, wonders, wounds and all.

    What so enrages the few readers I have, I think, is that I never give up, or as it seems to them, I just never know my place. Indeed, I’ve kept my faith with no encouragement from anyone, as I did even on that last evening in the restaurant (do you remember?). I don’t think I’ve ever in my life come closer to doing something really, really violent – to the restaurant, I mean, not to you. And I don’t even know if you were telling the truth.

    I hope you’ll let me say that.

    Christopher

  16. November 30, 2015 at 11:45 am

    Going through my old Ektachrome slides I found that many of my fondest memories had been eaten away by some chemical blight or fungus. I felt such a sense of loss, anquish even, as if time were jealous and had thrown acid in the face of my bride. And it was my own fault, I felt, as if I had been unfaithful to a lover, as if my own memories had had acid thrown in their perfect faces. And then I realized the images weren’t defaced at all but actually more beautiful and if anything even more true. Because they lasted, and did not compromise themselves.

    Here’s one: I call it The Navigator..

    The Navigator

    ………………

  17. December 2, 2015 at 11:01 am

    ………………

  18. December 3, 2015 at 10:24 am

    L’Amant / The Lover de Jean-Jacques Annaud 1992, adapté du roman de Marguerite Duras. L’Amant. Ed. Minuit. Paris 1984 ( prix Goncourt 1984)

    “Years after the war, after marriages, children, divorces, books, he came to Paris with his wife. He phoned her. It’s me. She recognized him at once from the voice. He said, I just wanted to hear your voice. She said, it’s me, hello. He was nervous, afraid, as before. His voice suddenly trembled. And with the trembling, suddenly, she heard again the voice of China. He knew she’d begun writing books, he’d heard about it through her mother whom he’d met again in Saigon. And about her younger brother, and he’d been grieved for her. Then he didn’t know what to say. And then he told her. Told her that it was as before, that he still loved her, he could never stop loving her, that he’d love her until death.”

    ……………………………………….. Marguerite Duras, The Lover

  19. December 7, 2015 at 10:24 am

    ……………………………………………………………..Chiang Mai
    ……………………………………………………………..December 7th, 1939
    Dear Paddy,
    What I’m absolutely sure is that everything we do as well as everything we express or say, every image, every feeling, every gesture, is made-up. Like everybody else who ponders, I know from experience that the better something is made-up the better it actually is, just as the better a painting is painted or a poem penned the more it has to say — the more presence it has and the more dependable its message. But it’s still just made-up — indeed, there’s nothing in this world that is which, at the same time, isn’t.

    Galileo’s realization, I feel sure, was that everything he was making up with his calculations and instruments was true, and that the earth really did go around the sun and not the other way around as even he believed at the time. Indeed, I feel sure Galileo knew that the truths he was championing were just another way of making it up, and that in the light of eternity the Truth would in the end be no more affected by his new instruments and views than it had been by the those of Ptolemy which were, after all, equally based on technical wisdom and skillful means — and, of course, equally relevant to the needs and assumptions of his time.

    Copernicus like Galileo made it all up too, but without a single empirical observation. Yes, and the shaman’s knife is just as sharp as the surgeon’s even when one can’t cut paper and the other not more than three measly dimensions.

    For those that know, everything both is and isn’t at the same time. Like you say, dear Paddy, you don’t believe in God but you know there’s an Intelligence that permeates everything all the same.

    Just like that, exactly like that.

    C.

    …………………………………………………………………………Hua Hin
    …………………………………………………………………………Yesterday

    I must read it a few more times, Christopher, but I can assure you no hurt.

    ~

    Travelling has got to be – a bit disgusting really.

    It is the luggage more than anything else. All that luggage!

    A kind of a metaphor for – a statement of – the excesses of the way we live. And really one gets the feeling – or rather has to suspect the motives for travelling.
    And the satisfaction in it.
    If there can be any the way it is done.

    I really am allergic to the luggage … boxed statements of MINE! NO TOUCH!
    People seem to have placed their identity into their possessions … and wheel them around …a kind of effort to carry my share of the World with me.

    Could it be I am turning into a grouchy old man?

    Glad to be back – lying on the floor and feeling the earth under me …
    now that is real!

    Love
    Paddy

  20. December 8, 2015 at 11:54 am

    Dear Omino23,
    I feel badly I didn’t thank you properly for your very special gift a few days ago, but my mother ruined every Christmas for me by making me sit down and write bread and butter letters all the next day. Most of the time I had nothing to say because I wasn’t interested in the presents I got from the aunts. On top of that, I was very aware that like my father my uncles had had nothing to do with the gifts they were supposed to be sending me — and of course I knew that my cousins were being put through the same wringer in relation to the presents my mother had and my father hadn’t been sending them. But most important of all, like Calvin I was desperately disappointed that nobody thought to send me the things I really wanted like a stack of comic books, a pair of cowboy boots, and a kiss from my girl friend. Calvin would never have admitted he wanted that last one, of course, any more than I would have at the time, but I was already ready to die for it. Of course I was a bit older, seven perhaps, maybe eight.

    If I dare now, then, dear Matthew, I’d like to give you back as a gift something you gave me last year that still resonates for me, and which also saved me from despair at the time. Indeed, you made so much sense out of what I was trying to say I’d like to use it to bind up this thread as well with your ribbon. So click on the braid of the girl below and start reading right to the end. And perhaps your words can even help me to make peace with the whole wonderful Kammann family!

    Andrej Remnjov

    The painting is by the modern Russian icon painter, Andrej Remnovj. If I ever manage to get Galileo’s Secret published, I’d love to ask him if I could use this or one of his other paintings for the cover. That’s been a dream of mine for years.

    So thanks again, dear friend and collaborator, who was indeed here in this house in Chiang Mai when the Twin Towers came down — what you have written over the years has meant such a lot to me.

    Christopher

    ………………

  21. December 9, 2015 at 12:14 pm

    Andrj Remnjov Cover

    ………………

  22. wfkammann said,

    December 10, 2015 at 9:10 pm

    Looking out at Lake Patzcuaro this morning. Thankful for the gift of family and friends.


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