bonhomie and brutality !

Fortunatus, that versatile, gentle, genial, boot-licking gourmet, who somehow managed to write two of the most magnificent hymns of the Christian church, came from Italy on a visit to Gaul in 565 and never left it again. He traveled all over the Frankish lands, in what had been Germania as well as in what had been Gaul. From Trier to Toulouse he made his way with ease by river and by road, and it might be Ausonius again. Fortunatus too writes a poem on the Moselle; and there is the same smiling countryside with terraced vineyards sloping down to the quiet stream and the smoke of villas rising from the woods. Fortunatus too made the round of the country houses, especially of the sumptuous villages belonging to Leontius bishop of Bordeaux, a great Gallo-Roman aristocrat, whose grandfather had been a friend of Sidonius. The hot baths, the pillared porticos, the lawns sloping to the river, are all there; the feasts are even more magnificent (they upset Fortunatus’s digestion badly) and the talk is still of literature…

But when you look again you realize that it is not the same. It is not merely because we know that even these remnants of the social and material civilization of Rome would soon themselves die away that the tragedy of the sixth century looms so dark. It is because when we look below the surface we see that the life has gone out of it all, the soul that inflamed it is dead, nothing is now left but the empty shell. These men welcome Fortunatus just because he comes from Italy, where the rot has gone less far, where there still survives some reputation for learning and for culture. They slake their nostalgia a little in the presence of that enfant perdue of a lost civilization…

Why did they not realize the magnitude of the disaster that was befalling them?…

In the first place the process of disintegration was a slow one, for the whole tempo of life was slow and what might take decades in our own time took centuries then. It is only because we can look back from the vantage point of a much later age that we can see the inexorable pattern which events are forming, so that we long to cry to these dead people down the corridor of the ages, warning them to make a stand before it is too late, hearing no answering echo, ‘Physician, heal thyself!’ They suffered from the fatal myopia of contemporaries. It was the affairs of the moment that occupied them; for them it was the danger of the moment that must be averted and they did not recognize that each compromise and each defeat was a link in the chain dragging them over the abyss…

The fact is that the Romans were blinded to what was happening to them by the very perfection of the material culture which they had created. All around them was solidity and comfort, a material existence which was the very antithesis of barbarism. How could they foresee the day when the Norman chronicler would marvel over the broken hypocausts of Caerleon? How could they imagine that anything so solid might conceivably disappear? Their roads grew better as their statesmanship grew worse and central heating triumphed as civilization fell.

But still more responsible for their unawareness was the education system in which they were reared… and it would be difficult to imagine an education more entirely out of touch with contemporary life, or less suited to inculcate the qualities which might have enabled men to deal with it. The fatal study of rhetoric, its links with reality long since severed, concentrated the whole attention of men of intellect on form rather than on matter. The things they learned in their schools had no relation to the things that were going on in the world outside and bred in them the fatal illusion that tomorrow would be as yesterday, that everything was the same, whereas everything was so different.”

-Eileen Power
Medieval People
1924

either way

You’re about this sweet spot stretch… Even though the rest are walking higher up on the beach, just above the slight plateau that marks where the highest tide reaches. Doing your loner, off-on-your-own-thing, but whatever. You’ve always been on that. Only with her were you not. But then it became about her having to be on that with you, in order to be with you. Till she wanted to be off with others and not on that off-on-your-own alone shit with you. She told you read Hannah Arendt that Hannah Arendt was the antidote to your Heidegger off-on-your-own alone shit. You tried. You did try.

You keep following this water’s edge and you’ll be OK. Too far either way and you’re fucked. You want to record this somehow. To not forget it. You’d write it down but you’re too stoned and anyway you’re walking. You double tap outta Notes. Switch to Camera. Start taking photos, one after another, even though each is a Live Photo so is already a series. You’ve gotta catch every angle of every wave. Every new iteration. Every photo isn’t quite it, but maybe the next will be. You stop after about twelve. Nine months later, you delete all of them to free up space on your phone.”

-Sean Thor Conroe
Fuccboi

. . .

In town, everything was chaotic and contradictory. News from abroad was censored, but travel was left unrestricted. Confused was increased by a spate of new and conflicting regulations, and by the arbitrary way controls were imposed or lifted. The one thing that would have clarified the position was an overall picture of world events; but this was prohibited by the determination of the politicians to ban all foreign news. My impression was that they had lost their heads, did not know how to deal with the approaching danger, and hoped to keep the public in ignorance of its exact nature until a plan had been evolved.”

-Anna Kavan
Ice
1967

snakes

Thoughts were snakes shooting through high grasses. Now you see them, now you don’t. As you walk in the high grasses, you must take a stick and beat the ground. Scare up the snakes, pursue them to the edge of the field into the open and see them, exorcise them. You must perform this ritual now. In the middle of the night, alone with pen and paper, you sound out the snakey thoughts. You write one of those letters that’s never meant to be sent, isn’t addressed to anyone. No one’s eyes are meant to see this. This is a private ritual. The writer, the reader are trying to get as close together as possible. They are coming together, sealed in a word on a page where you’re trying to make the shooting thoughts come out in the pen. Shoot them down your arm, through your fingers, and out the end of your pen. Make them visible. You know it’s primitive: filling up a page so you can empty your mind. But you’re doing what you must: trying to let go. You’re starting by addressing yourself:”

-Constance DeJong
Modern Love

Maybe 5 minutes?

Re-taping the nearly flying away A4 page on the green street light base. A voice from behind. What are you advertising? I thought I was in trouble. Uhhhh, it’s a call for poetry submissions… Are you a poet? You’re too young. You don’t have the fire in your eyes! I stared. He stared. Studying me, he seemed to question himself as the words left his mouth. HA! I almost thought. No, no—I publish. Ahhh. Here it comes. At first hesitant, too inquisitive. Who’s your favorite poet? Alejandra Pizarnik. Alejandro? Alejandra. Pizarnik. From Argentina. Hmmm. But what about: names names names names. I barely kept up. But could complete a couple titles on the tip of his tongue. We began to like each other. Animation increased. Comfort rose. He caught his dad reading in secret the Henry Miller he scolded him for reading. I just read Big Sur and the Oranges of Hieronymus Bosch. Ah, yeah, but the one—Tropic of Cancer—he hated. Jane Janette! Jane Janette? From France. Existentialist. Janette? Janette. Genet. Jean Genet. Never heard of him. He was born a criminal, but man! He didn’t study, you don’t want to study, under these people in English departments who got turned down by publishers. That one guy at USF. I went to USF. You know that one guy? No, I wasn’t in Creative Writing. Took poetry with Zapruder though, and music history with Thiam. You see, I went to the MoMa recently, a friend gave me a ticket, very expensive, and this woman was trying to guide me and interpret the art for me, are you kidding me?! What could she tell me?! Yeah… you gotta get it straight. Genet read two pages of Proust and scoffed: I can do better than that! Ha! He was an antisemite, but the writing, it’s different. I brought up Knut Hamsun, Growth of the Soil, his eyes lit up: NATURE! Yes! Yes! You know di Parma? Diane? Yeah. Yes! Incredible! She just died. Yeah, recently, huh? Yes. Thomas Gunn? Uh, no. You don’t know Thom Gunn!? No, no… sounds somewhat familiar, but… not ringing a bell. Ahhhhh—you must read him. I saw him on Haight and Cole, at that cafe, back when it used to be something. Now, it’s nothing, just runaways, after that one girl—the mayor of Chicago’s daughter—came here and made street life cool. Once, back in the day, I saw the Hells Angels and Hare Krishnas on Haight get in a fight. Guess who won? The whites of his eyes, laughing in interrogation. My face grimaced back, I knew it wasn’t: Er, the Hells Angels…? Nope! The Hare Krishnas scared ’em outta there. Those massive bald guys! You know that woman who writes the stuff they sell even in the supermarkets? At Safeway and what not? She lives right here. She asked the city for 12 parking permits! 12 cars! Her books are trash. Ah, pop stuff? Yeah, pop. She lives in Paris half the year—you don’t want to hear about her. Charlie pawing at my calf to go. Names names name name. It became harder and harder to keep up. The accent stirring away. Trying, nodding, ah yeah… I’m from Ethiopia. Ahh, super cool. He looked at me like I hadn’t a clue about Ethiopia—I don’t. Where do you live? Right around the corner… Okay! Come find me at Cafe Oasis, I’m there most nights, I live here above the laundromat. Okay, I’ll find you. I need a notepad next time I see you… Yes yes yes. I’ll give you some books. I began to walk up the block as he turned to my puny sign and held out his pointer finger: SUBMIT YOUR POEMS: spectrapoets.org ❤ I shouted from behind, I’ll give you a copy! He smiled.

Torino dreams

Just then the alarm went off; she was awake already, thinking of so many things in the warm coziness of her bed. As dawn broke she regretted that it was now winter and you could not see the lovely colors that accompanied the sun. She wondered if Guido, who said that all colors were really one, was thinking the same thought. ‘How lovely,’ said Ginia to herself and got up.”

-Cesare Pavese
The Beautiful Summer