See here the tulip, and see there the roses,
Where in the park Love sports beneath the trees,
Sing in the long rose-red, unruffled eves
Under the bronze and marble’s massive poses.
Gaily at night have sung the flower-beds
On which the slanting moonbeams pirouette,
And gusts of wind blow heavy, desolate,
Troubling the white dream of the lonely birds.
See here the tulip, and see there the roses
And lilies dusk-empurpled, crystalline,
Gleam sadly in the sun that now declines;
And now the pain of things and creatures closes.
My shattered love is bruised and raw; but see,
The quivering nerves grow still, the hurt reposes.
And the lily now, the tulip and the roses
Watch my soul bathe in memories, and weep.
—Émile Nelligan, “Autumn Evenings”, trans. P. F. Widdows.
It was once asked, in my hearing, what was the greatest pleasure in Love? Someone, of course, answered: To receive, and someone else: To give oneself — The former said: The pleasure of pride, and the latter: The voluptuousness of humility. All those swine talked like The Imitation of Jesus Christ. Finally, there was a shameless Utopian who affirmed that the greatest pleasure in Love was to beget citizens for the State. For my part, I say: the sole and supreme pleasure in Love lies in the absolute knowledge of doing evil. And man and woman know, from birth, that in Evil is to be found all voluptuousness.
— Baudelaire, Intimate Journals, trans. Christopher Isherwood.
Experiments with Weird: Eugène Savitzkaya -
We cling to every word as if to handholds in a rock face, because at every moment we have no idea what to expect. In the absence of conventionally established expectations, anything is possible. Every word defers the promise of sense; in fact this creeping progress is Savitzkaya’s narrative drive. Story lies in smithereens. This is narrative atomized, moving forward by crumbs; we can see no further than the next word, focus yoked to this infinitesimal progress, like a tile in a vast mosaic, a scrutiny of minutiae, while all around us is a spreading sensation of alarm that the bigger picture, could we but see it, is quite terrifying.
— Edward Gauvin on Savitzkaya’s prose. Read the rest here.
Inside there were two of them, one a short specimen with heavy legs, his eyes like the horns of a bull tossing the patients up, the other extremely thin with lips like sparkling scissors, a nose like a blade—it was the same man who … I ran to him as to a dear friend, straight over close to the blade, and muttered something about insomnia, dreams, shadows, yellow sand. The scissors lips sparkled and smiled.
"Yes, it is too bad. Apparently a soul has formed in you.”
A soul? That strange, ancient word that was forgotten long ago…
"Is it … v-very dangerous?" I stuttered.
"Incurable," was the cut of the scissors.
"But more specifically, what is it? Somehow I cannot imagine—"
"You see … how shall I put it? Are you a mathematician?"
"Then you see … imagine a plane, let us say this mirror. You and I are on its surface. You see? There we are, squinting our eyes to protect ourselves from the sunlight, or here is the bluish electric spark in that tube, there the shadow of that aero that just passed. All this is on the surface, is momentary only. Now imagine this very same surface softened by a flame so that nothing can glide over it any longer, so everything will instead penetrate into that mirror world, which excites such curiosity in children. I assure you, children are not so foolish as we think they are! The surface becomes a volume, a body, a world. And inside the mirror—within you—there is the sunshine, and the whirlwind caused by the aero propeller, and your trembling lips and someone else’s trembling lips also. You see, the cold mirror reflects, throws out, while this one absorbs; it keeps forever a trace of everything that touches it. Once you saw an imperceptible wrinkle on someone’s face, and this wrinkle is forever preserved within you. You may happen to hear in the silence a drop of water falling—and you will hear it forever!"
—Yevgeny Zamyatin, from We, trans. Gregory Zilboorg.
Bright moments is like seeing something that you ain’t never seen in your life and you don’t have to see it because you know how it looks. Bright moments is like hearing some music and ain’t nobody else heard and if they heard it they wouldn’t even recognize it if they heard it because they been hearing it all they life, so when you hear it and start popping your feet and jumping up and down they get mad because you are enjoying yourself but those are bright moments they can’t share with you because they don’t know even how to go about listening to what you are listening to and when you try to tell them about it they don’t know a damn thing about what you talking about.
—Rahsaan Roland Kirk, from “Bright Moments”, used as an epigraph in the poetry collection You by Frank Stanford.
Today I wore a
warm red blood
today men love me
a woman smiled at me
a girl gave me a seashell
a boy gave me a hammer
Today I kneel on the sidewalk
and nail the naked white feet of the passers-by
to the pavement tiles
they are all in tears
but no one is frightened
all remain in the places to which I had come in time
they are all in tears
but they gaze at the celestial advertisements
and at a beggar who sells hot cross buns
in the sky
Two men whisper
what is he doing is he nailing our hearts?
yes he is nailing our hearts
well then he is a poet
—Miltos Sa(c)htouris, “The Gifts”, trans. Kimon Friar.
The cry of the stag
Is so loud in the empty
Mountains that an echo
Answers him as though
It were a doe.
—Ōtomo no Yakamochi, from Kenneth Rexroth's One Hundred Poems from the Japanese.
Life without solitude is a deafening din. Solitude punctuates our life, making it more musical, restores us to ourselves.
—Dumitru Tsepeneag, Pigeon Post, trans. Jane Kuntz.
…we all suffer from light addiction.
It is the most modern of diseases.
—Mrs. Hortense, from Paul Scheerbart’s The Light Club of Batavia: A Ladies’ Novelette, trans. Wilhelm Werthern.