Essence

Before I was born, Mama saw me in Raggedy Ann.
Except my hair would feel like silk, rather than yarn.
And my skin would shine, not as white.
My body would feel warm, and I’d grow taller than two feet high.
Before I was born, Raggedy Ann was all Mama had
to cuddle –
in the silent night.

Finished Proust At Last

At approximately 7:45 pm, Friday, August 20th, I have finished Proust’s In Search of Lost Time:

“So if I were given long enough to accomplish my work, I should not fail, even if the effect were to make them [men] resemble monsters, to describe men as occupying so considerable a place, compared with the restricted place which is reserved for them in space, a place on the contrary prolonged past measure, for simultaneously, like giants plunged into the years, they touch the distant epochs through which they have lived, between which so many days have come to range themselves – in Time.”

I know these words can’t have the same meaning for someone who hasn’t read all 7 volumes as I have, yet I imagine anyone can relate to the image of men as Proust here paints us – far exceeding the extent of our physical bodies.
It has taken me 7 months (since January of this year) to read the entire novel and when I look back at some of my work that I’ve posted here, the effect of his epoch work on my moods and musings is inevitable. The next step for me is to read analysis of his work (which Proust would probably gag at considering his jabs at literary criticism) that has been suggested to me: Nabokov’s Lectures on Literature, Beckett’s “Proust,” or Gabriel Josipouici’s “On Trust.” Any other possible suggestions?

Nearing the end of “Time Regained”

“for neither our greatest fears nor our greatest hopes are beyond the limits of our strength – we are able in the end both to dominate the first and to achieve the second.” – Time Regained

This quote is just pages away from the end of In Search of Lost Time. I want to believe these words, but for some reason today, it’s hard to believe. Sometimes fears, pain, anguish, seem to run so deep within that you feel you can’t escape…

Impression

The difference between you and me
is that you cut off a chicken’s head
without blinking.
No – the difference is that you blink
once when the axe meets wood,
while my mouth opens in awe.
Or is it that you sit with one
strong arm raised,
heel resting on a stool,
while both my feet are planted hard
on the hardwood floor.

The stroke of this knife,
the smell of onions,
the tap of that faucet
bring me back to then
and now – gazing at this stool
without a foot…

Expressive Eyes

The other night I went to a local art event. Of course, I followed the crowd of people pausing at one art piece after the other, finding myself standing and staring for seconds, but not really seeing, as a thousand different thoughts ran through my head, so that what I saw were inked lines or pencil sketches devoid of any meaning or reality for me. And once I would leave the painting or drawing, I would instantly forget just what it was I actually saw. I’m certain this must be the experience of the majority of onlookers. We want to look interested, raising our eyebrows, widening our eyes, rubbing the undersides of our chins, asking questions of the artists. What it takes to really see a piece of art is for some aspect of the piece – a blend of colors, a shape – to cause a sensation or impression within us in the present that mirrors at one and the same time the past. Only then can our imagination take pleasure in the beauty. Such an incident I imagine to be rare. And maybe this is what inspires one to stand longer than usual in front of a painting. I saw no piece of art that night that stirred my imagination, not for lack of talent on the part of the artists, but due to the lack of evocation of involuntary memory. The one thing that left an impression was not any art piece, but a comment made to me by an older gentleman as I backed away from staring blankly at a work of art: “If only I had a frame right now…you have the most expressive eyes I’ve ever seen.” His words transported me to place I thought impossible – that of an observer outside of myself, seeing my own eyes. And I saw and felt my own large, expressive eyes, which reflected bewilderment, and maybe a bit of sadness too.

“the true paradises are the paradises that we have lost.” – Time Regained

In Proust’s final volume, “Time Regained,” the narrator, Marcel, finally discovers the meaning of the taste of the little madeleine with which the novel began and which evoked memories of where he grew up – Combray. For so long he failed at beginning his art of writing, and now he discovers “the being within” that had enjoyed impressions such as of the madeleine, an “extra-temporal being” who no longer fears his own death: “This being had only come to me, only manifested itself outside of activity and immediate enjoyment, on those rare occasions when the miracle of an analogy had made me escape from the present. And only this being had the power to perform that task which had always defeated the efforts of my memory and my intellect, the power to make me rediscover days that were long past, the Time that was Lost.” It isn’t memory in the form of snapshots or even intellect that give power to the artist/writer – it is those impressions outside of time (for Marcel the taste of the little madeleine, the uneven paving-stones, the stiffness of the napkin), which link the past and the present and that generate our creative powers.

The Smell of Wet Pavement (Revised)

The smell of wet pavement.

Reminds me of the fact
that rain wets pavement,
among other things –
a trivial detail.
Like all the theories
and codes,
studied and read,
dead in my head.

Until a moment of recognition.

Like the color red,
from apples under a tree,
one smudged by a kiss
of lipsticked lips
which kissed the skin
and a blood-stained bed.

I won’t remember
when the blood bled,
or what was kissed first,
the apple or the bed.

Red lingers –
like the smell of wet pavement
long after the rain.

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