• To come back like autumn
    to the moss on the stones
    after many seasons
    to recur as a face
    backlit on the surface
    of a dark pool one day
    after the year has turned
    from the summer it saw
    while the first yellow leaves
    stare from their forgetting
    and the branches grow spare

    is to waken backward
    down through the still water
    knowing without touching
    all that was ever there
    and has been forgotten
    and recognize without
    name or understanding
    without believing or
    holding or direction
    in the way that we see
    at each moment the air
    W.S. Merwin, “Under the Day
  • Like countless others in the digital age, I seem
    To have written a memoir on my new computer.
    It had no memories—anyone’s would have done,
    And mine, I hoped, were as good as anyone’s.
    This playmate was programmed for my ‘personal’ needs
    (A bit too intricately, it would transpire),
    But all was advancing at the smooth pace of dream

    Until that morning when a faint mechanical shriek
    Took me aback. As I watched, the paragraph
    Then under way deconstructed itself into
    Mathematical symbols, musical notation—
    Ophelia’s mad scene in a Czech production
    Fifty years hence. The patient left on a gurney,
    Returned with a new chip, the following week.

    Another year or two, the memoir done
    And in the publishers’ hands, the pressure’s off.
    But when I next switch it on, whatever Descartes meant
    By the ghost in the machine—oh damn!—gives itself up:
    Experts declare BRAIN DEATH. (The contriver of my program
    Having lately developed a multiple personality,
    My calls for help kept reaching the wrong one.)

    Had it caught some ‘computer virus’? For months now a post-
    Partum depression holds me prisoner:
    Days spent prone, staring at the ceiling,
    Or with an arm flung over my eyes. Then sleepless nights
    In which surely not my fingertips upon the mattress
    Count out Bach, Offenbach, Sousa, trying to fit
    Into groups of five or ten their metronomanic host.

    Or was the poor thing taking upon itself a doom
    Headed my way? Having by now a self of sorts,
    Was it capable of a selfless act
    As I might just still be, for someone I loved?
    Not that a machine is capable of anything but
    A selfless act… We faced each other wordlessly,
    Two blank minds, two screens aglow with gloom.

    Or perhaps this alter ego’d been under ‘contract’—Yep,
    You know too much, wise guy
    … Feet in cement,
    A sendoff choreographed by the Mob.
    But who the Mob is, will I ever know?
    —Short of the trillionfold synaptic flow
    Surrounding, making every circumstance
    Sparkle like mica with my every step

    Into—can that be sunlight? Ah, it shines
    On women in furs, or dreadlock heads on knees
    (Hand-lettered placards: BROKE. ILL. HELP ME PLEASE),
    This prisoner expelled to the Free World,
    His dossier shredded. Now for new memories,
    New needs. And while we’re at it a novice laptop
    On which already he’s composed these lines.
    James Merrill, “Scrapping the Computer
  • Say life is the one-way trip, the one-way flight,
    say this without hysterical undertones—
    then you could say you stood in the cold light of science,
    seeing as you are seen, espoused to fact.
    Strange, life is both the fire and fuel; and we,
    the animals and objects, must be here
    without striking a spark of evidence
    that anything that ever stopped living
    ever falls back to living when life stops.
    There’s a pale romance to the watchmaker God
    of Descartes and Paley; He drafted and installed
    us in the Apparatus. He loved to tinker;
    but having perfected what He had to do,
    stood off shrouded in his loneliness.
    Robert Lowell, “Watchmaker God
  • I am doing my best, and failing again, yet again. I don’t mind failing, it’s a pleasure, but I want to go silent. Not as just now, the better to listen, but peacefully, victorious, without ulterior object. Then it would be a life worth having, a life at last. My speech-parched voice at rest would fill with spittle, I’d let it flow over and over, happy at last, dribbling with life, my pensum ended, in the silence.
    Samuel BeckettThe Unnamable
  • Don’t leave it too long. You might lose the inspiration.
    Harold Pinter, No Man’s Land
  • Vargtimmen (Ingmar Bergman, 1968)

  • Det sjunde inseglet (Ingmar Bergman, 1957)

  • So from time to time unheralded he would appear to read the sad tale through again and the long night away. Then disappear without a word.
    Samuel BeckettOhio Impromptu
  • This never was my town,
    I was not born or bred
    Nor schooled here and she will not
    Have me alive or dead
    But yet she holds my mind
    With her seedy elegance,
    With her gentle veils of rain
    And all her ghosts that walk
    And all that hide behind
    Her Georgian façades—
    The catcalls and the pain,
    The glamour of her squalor,
    The bravado of her talk.
    Louis MacNeice, from “Dublin
  • Earth-time, the stones
    in hollows of dust, the arable air
    wanders far from home, barbed
    wire and road
    are erased. Spat
    out by the burning
    fever in our lungs, the Ur-seed
    blooms from crystal, our vermilion breath
    refracts us
    into many. We will not
    ever know ourselves
    again. Like the light
    that moves between the bars
    of light
    we sometimes called death,
    we, too, will have flowered,
    even with such
    unquenchable flames
    as these.
    Paul Auster, “Prism
  • I’ve pressed so
    far away from
    my desire that

    if you asked
    me what I
    want I would,

    accepting the harmonious
    completion of the
    drift, say annihilation,

    A.R. Ammons, “Continuity
  • She likes taking long walks. All that. You know. Raincoat on. Off down the lane, hands deep in pockets. All that kind of thing.
    Harold PinterOld Times
  • Well, I suppose you have to try everything once, succour included, to get a complete picture of the resources of their planet. I lapsed down to the bottom of the ditch.
    Samuel Beckett, Molloy
  • There they are
    drooping over the breakfast plates,
    folding in their sad wing,
    animal sad,
    and only the night before
    there they were
    playing the banjo.
    Once more the day’s light comes
    with its immense sun,
    its mother trucks,
    its engines of amputation.
    Whereas last night
    the cock knew its way home,
    as stiff as a hammer,
    battering in with all
    its awful power.
    That theater.
    Today it is tender,
    a small bird,
    as soft as a baby’s hand.
    She is the house.
    He is the steeple.
    When they fuck they are God.
    When they break away they are God.
    When they snore they are God.
    In the morning they butter the toast.
    They don’t say much.
    They are still God.
    All the cocks of the world are God,
    blooming, blooming, blooming
    into the sweet blood of woman.
    Anne Sexton, “The Furies: The Fury of Cocks
  • A squeal of brakes.
    Or is it a birth cry?
    And here we are, hung out over the dead drop
    Uncle, pants factory Fatso, millionaire.
    And you out cold beside me in your chair.

    The wheels, two rubber grubs, bite their sweet tails.
    Is that Spain down there?
    Red and yellow, two passionate hot metals
    Writhing and sighing, what sort of a scenery is it?
    It isn’t England, it isn’t France, it isn’t Ireland.

    It’s violent. We’re here on a visit,
    With a goddam baby screaming off somewhere.
    There’s always a bloody baby in the air.
    I’d call it a sunset, but
    Whoever heard a sunset yowl like that?

    You are sunk in your seven chins, still as a ham.
    Who do you think I am,
    Uncle, uncle?
    Sad Hamlet, with a knife?
    Where do you stash your life?

    Is it a penny, a pearl—
    Your soul, your soul?
    I’ll carry it off like a rich pretty girl,
    Simply open the door and step out of the car
    And live in Gibraltar on air, on air.
    Sylvia Plath, “Stopped Dead
  • Sunsets, incipient storms, the tableaus
    of melancholy—maybe these are
    the Saturday night-events
    to take your best girl to. At least then
    there might be moments of vanishing beauty
    before the sky darkens,
    and the expectation of happiness
    would hardly exist
    and therefore might be possible.

    More and more you learn to live
    with the unacceptable.
    You sense the ever-hidden God
    retreating even farther,
    terrified or embarrassed.
    You might as well be a clown,
    big silly clothes, no evidence of desire.
    Stephen Dunn, “Before the Sky Darkens
  • Everyone is a parent, that is what keeps you from hoping.
    Samuel Beckett, The Expelled
  • Abel Korzeniowski, “Sunset

    from A Single Man (2009) soundtrack

  • Be not afeard, the isle is full of noises,
    Sounds, and sweet airs, that give delight and hurt not,
    Sometimes a thousand twangling instruments
    Will hum about mine ears, and sometimes voices,
    That if I then had waked after long sleep,
    Will make me sleep again, and then in dreaming
    The clouds methought would open, and show riches
    Ready to drop upon me, that when I waked
    I cried to dream again.
    William Shakespeare, from The Tempest [Act III, Sc. 2]
  • Looking at your face
    now you have become ready to die
    is like kneeling at an old gravestone
    on an afternoon without sun, trying to read
    the white chiselings of the poem
    in the white stone.
    Galway Kinnell, “Looking at Your Face