• I hate how this unsummoned sigh-sound, sob-sound,
    not sound really, feeling, sigh-feeling, sob-feeling,
    keeps rising in me, rasping in me, not in its old disguise
    as nostalgia, sweet crazed call of the blackbird;

    not as remembrance, grief for so many gone,
    nor either that other tangle of recall, regret
    for unredeemed wrongs, errors, omissions,
    petrified roots too deep to ever excise;

    a mingling rather, a melding, inextricable mesh
    of delight in astonishing being, of being in being,
    with a fear of and fear for I can barely think what,
    not non-existence, of self, loved ones, love;

    not even war, fuck war, sighing for war,
    sobbing for war, for no war, peace, surcease;
    more than all that, some ground-sound, ground-note,
    sown in us now, that swells in us, all of us,

    echo of love we had, have, for world, for our world,
    on which we seem finally mere swarm, mere deluge,
    mere matter self-altered to tumult, to noise,
    cacophonous blitz of destruction, despoilment,

    din from which every emotion henceforth emerges,
    and into which falters, slides, sinks, and subsides:
    sigh-sound of lament, of remorse; sob-sound of rue,
    of, still, always, ever sadder and sadder sad joy.
    C.K. Williams, “I Hate
  • I, lying on grass, lie
    in the thunderclapping moment,
    eradicate voice
    in the green limit.

    Stone in the fruitwomb,
    world under grass,
    alone under alone.

    Suggested lines my body
    consume, in the day’s graph.
    Note the brown ant
    in his blade jungle.

    I am my pupil’s blank, rule
    out of magnitude the ant,
    decrease the seed’s activity
    this blunt minute.

    Below the transparent fly
    insect equation quite strides
    the slim glass of word,
    instructs the void.

    Exterior tricks: the click
    of bush; the oblong trade
    of noise; the posture of these
    high boughs.
    Harold Pinter, “Hampstead Heath
  • And is it not strange most strange that one says of a thing that it is full, when it is not full at all, but not of a thing that it is empty, if it is not empty? And perhaps the reason for that is this, that when one fills, one seldom fills quite full, for that would not be convenient, whereas when one empties one empties completely, holding the vessel upside down, and rinsing it out with boiling water if necessary, with a kind of fury.
    Samuel Beckett, Watt
  • The mask was gone now, burned away
    (from inside)
    by God’s gaze

    There was no
    I, there

    was no he—

    there was no text, only
    what the words stood for;
    and then

    what all things stand for.
    Franz Wright, “The Reader
  • The chemist turned back page after page. Sandy shrivelled smell he seems to have. Shrunken skull. And old. Quest for the philosopher’s stone. The alchemists. Drugs age you after mental excitement. Lethargy then. Why? Reaction. A lifetime in a night. Gradually changes your character. Living all the day among herbs, ointments, disinfectants.
    James Joyce, Ulysses
  • But, in certain cases, carrying on, merely continuing, is superhuman.
    Albert CamusThe Fall
  • Gloomy grammarians in golden gowns,
    Meekly you keep the mortal rendezvous,
    Eliciting the still sustaining pomps
    Of speech which are like music so profound
    They seem an exaltation without sound.
    Funest philosophers and ponderers,
    Their evocations are the speech of clouds.
    So speech of your processionals returns
    In the casual evocations of your tread
    Across the stale, mysterious seasons. These
    Are the music of meet resignation; these
    The responsive, still sustaining pomps for you
    To magnify, if in that drifting waste
    You are to be accompanied by more
    Than mute bare splendors of the sun and moon.
    Wallace Stevens, “On the Manner of Addressing Clouds
  • Bah, the latest news, the latest news is not the last.
    Samuel Beckett, The Unnamable
  • The riders rode on. They crossed a vast dry lake with rows of dead volcanoes ranged beyond it like the works of enormous insects. To the south lay broken shapes of scoria in a lava bed as far as the eye could see. Under the hooves of the horses the alabaster sand shaped itself in whorls strangely symmetric like iron filings in a field and these shapes flared and drew back again, resonating upon that harmonic ground and then turning the swirl away over the playa. As if the very sediment of things contained yet some residue of sentience. As if in the transit of those riders were a thing so profoundly terrible as to register even to the uttermost granulation of reality.
    Cormac McCarthy, Blood Meridian
  • I looked for tears but could see none. Your pupils weren’t in your eyes. Your bones were breaking through your face. But all was serene. There was no suffering. It had all happened elsewhere.
    Harold Pinter, Old Times
  • The art of losing isn’t hard to master;
    so many things seem filled with the intent
    to be lost that their loss is no disaster.
    Elizabeth Bishop, from “One Art
  • To see is this other torture, atoned for
    In the pain of being seen: the spoken,
    The seen, contained in the refusal
    To speak, and the seed of a single voice,
    Buried in a random stone.
    My lies have never belonged to me.
    Paul Auster, from “Spokes
  • The top
    grain on the peak
    weighs next
    to nothing and,
    by a mountain,
    has no burden,
    but nearly
    ready to float,
    to summit wind,
    it endures
    the rigors of having
    no further
    figure to complete
    and a
    blank sky
    to guide its dreaming
    A.R. Ammons, “Uppermost
  • … dusk… sitting staring at her hand… there in her lap… palm upward… suddenly saw it wet… the palm… tears presumably… hers presumably… no one else for miles… no sound… just the tears… sat and watched them dry…
    Samuel Beckett, Not I
  • Black on flat water past the jonquil lawns
              Riding, the black swan draws
    A private chaos warbling in its wake,
    Assuming, like a fourth dimension, splendor
    That calls the child with white ideas of swans
              Nearer to that green lake
         Where every paradox means wonder.

    Though the black swan’s arched neck is like
              A question-mark on the lake,
    The swan outlaws all possible questioning:
    A thing in itself, like love, like submarine
    Disaster, or the first sound when we wake;
              And the swan-song it sings
         Is the huge silence of the swan.

    Illusion: the black swan knows how to break
              Through expectation, beak
    Aimed now at its own breast, now at its image,
    And move across our lives, if the lake is life,
    And by the gentlest turning of its neck
              Transform, in time, time’s damage;
         To less than a black plume, time’s grief.

    Enchanter: the black swan has learned to enter
              Sorrow’s lost secret center
    Where like a maypole separate tragedies
    Are wound about a tower of ribbons, and where
    The central hollowness is that pure winter
              That does not change but is
         Always brilliant ice and air.

    Always the black swan moves on the lake; always
              The blond child stands to gaze
    As the tall emblem pivots and rides out
    To the opposite side, always. The child upon
    The bank, hands full of difficult marvels, stays
              Forever to cry aloud
         In anguish: I love the black swan.
    James Merrill, “The Black Swan
  • Those — dying then,
    Knew where they went —
    They went to God’s Right Hand —
    That Hand is amputated now
    And God cannot be found —

    The abdication of Belief
    Makes the Behavior small —
    Better an ignis fatuus
    Than no illume at all —
    Emily Dickinson, Those dying then [1551]
  • But now he knows these hills, that is to say he knows them better, and if ever again he sees them from afar it will be I think with other eyes, and not only that but the within, all that inner space one never sees, the brain and heart and other caverns where thought and feeling dance their sabbath, all that too quite differently disposed.
    Samuel Beckett, Molloy
  • I can not invent it,
    I said it was agate,

    I said, it lived, it gave—
    fragrance—was near enough

    to explain that quality
    for which there is no name;

    I do not want to name it,
    I want to watch its faint

    heart-beat, pulse-beat
    as it quivers, I do not want

    to talk about it,
    I want to minimize thought,

    concentrate on it
    till I shrink,

    and am drawn into it.
    H.D., Tribute to the Angels [14]
  • History has to live with what was here,
    clutching and close to fumbling all we had—
    it is so dull and gruesome how we die,
    unlike writing, life never finishes.
    Abel was finished; death is not remote,
    a flash-in-the-pan electrifies the skeptic,
    his cows crowding like skulls against high-voltage wire,
    his baby crying all night like a new machine.
    As in our Bibles, white-faced, predatory,
    the beautiful, mist-drunken hunter’s moon ascends—
    a child could give it a face: two holes, two holes,
    my eyes, my mouth, between them a skull’s no-nose—
    O there’s a terrifying innocence in my face
    drenched with the silver salvage of the mornfrost.
    Robert Lowell, “History