Sunday, December 28, 2008

New Years wishes

from Jonas Ramoska

a flash of lightning in a serene sky

By and by I learned that, most appropriately, the International Society for the Suppression of Savage Customs had intrusted him with the making of a report, for its future guidance. And he had written it, too. I've seen it. I've read it. It was eloquent, vibrating with eloquence, but too high-strung, I think. Seventeen pages of close writing he had found time for! But this must have been before his--let us say--nerves, went wrong, and caused him to preside at certain midnight dances ending with unspeakable rites, which--as far as I reluctantly gathered from what I heard at various times--were offered up to him--do you understand?--to Mr. Kurtz himself. But it was a beautiful piece of writing. The opening paragraph, however, in the light of later information, strikes me now as ominous. He began with the argument that we whites, from the point of development we had arrived at, 'must necessarily appear to them [savages] in the nature of supernatural beings--we approach them with the might of a deity,' and so on, and so on. 'By the simple exercise of our will we can exert a power for good practically unbounded,' etc., etc. From that point he soared and took me with him. The peroration was magnificent, though difficult to remember, you know. It gave me the notion of an exotic Immensity ruled by an august Benevolence. It made me tingle with enthusiasm. This was the unbounded power of eloquence--of words--of burning noble words. There were no practical hints to interrupt the magic current of phrases, unless a kind of note at the foot of the last page, scrawled evidently much later, in an unsteady hand, may be regarded as the exposition of a method. It was very simple, and at the end of that moving appeal to every altruistic sentiment it blazed at you, luminous and terrifying, like a flash of lightning in a serene sky: 'Exterminate all the brutes!'

--Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness, 1899

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Friday, December 19, 2008

air inside the ice cube

I write out my life
hour by hour, word by word
gazing into the anger of old women on the bus
numbering the striations
of air inside the ice cube
imagining the existence
of something uncreated
this poem
our lives

--Adrienne Rich, "Incipience," 1971

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Edgar Allan Poe

"From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

"On October 7, 1849, at age 40, Poe died in Baltimore; the cause of his death is unknown and has been attributed to alcohol, brain congestion, cholera, drugs, heart disease, rabies, suicide, tuberculosis, and other agents."

Sunday, December 14, 2008

there was such a smell

"The smell of a battlefield in hot weather one cannot recall. You can remember that there was such a smell, but nothing ever happens to you to bring it back."

--Ernest Hemingway, "A Natural History of the Dead," 1933

Friday, December 12, 2008

Rorty, near death

"I now wish that I had spent somewhat more of my life with verse. This is not because I fear having missed out on truths that are incapable of statement in prose. There are no such truths; there is nothing about death that Swinburne and Landor knew but Epicurus and Heidegger failed to grasp. Rather, it is because I would have lived more fully if I had been able to rattle off more old chestnuts—just as I would have if I had made more close friends."

--Richard Rorty, "The Fire of Life," 2007

Thursday, December 11, 2008

the tomb

Kilclooney Dolmen
Ireland, Donegal County

"The Song of Amergin"
ca. 1268 BCE Goidelic
translated and arranged by Robert Graves

God speaks and says:

I am a stag of seven tines,
Over the flooded world,
I am borne by the wind,
I descend in tears like dew, I lie glittering.
I fly aloft like a griffon to my nest on the cliff,
I bloom among the loveliest flowers,
I am both the oak and the lightning that blasts it,

I embolden the spearsman,
I teach the councillors their wisdom,
I inspire the poets,
I rove the hills like a conquering boar,
I roar like the winter sea,
I return like the receding wave,
Who but I can unfold the secrets of the unhewen dolmen?

I am the womb of every holt,
I am the blaze on every hill,
I am the queen of every hive,
I am the shield to every head,
I am the tomb to every hope.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008


"Popes matter in ways that challenge our conventional thinking about the way the world works. Popes no longer claim the power to bring penitent princes to their knees in the snow, as Gregory VII did with Henry IV; the modern papacy deploys a greater power, the power to propose and persuade, religiously and morally. Popes matter by changing lives and changing history.

"Which, as it happens, was the only power Saint Peter had."

--George Weigel, "How Benedict XVI Will Make History," Newsweek, 2008 April 21