Roving thoughts and provocations

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Shards of Summer

Dennis Stock/Magnum Photos
Dried head of sunflower with seeds, 1980

“Part of the mottled mood of summer’s whole…”
                                                 —Wallace Stevens

Fortune favors those who notice patterns. Hence, the belief in four-leaf clovers.

I used to find four-leaf clovers everywhere. Then I read somewhere that one in 10,000 clovers has four leaves. Now I never find them. Fortune favors the uninformed.

“Everything in the world exists to end up in a book.” How quaint of Mallarmé! Everything in the world exists to end.

That endless, insoluble question: What do you want to be when you grow up?

Growing up. We also grow down.

How dependent poetry in English is on a few rhymes: fire and desire, light and night (and bright). Think of Robert Frost without word and bird.

Easy to see why birders were skeptical of Darwin. Natural selection might, in a pinch, produce an array of finches. But a hummingbird?

The dog sees me putting on my shoes and reaching for the leash. “Great,” she thinks. “We’re going for a walk.” Is this too anthropomorphic? Well, what’s the alternative? “I’m going hunting with the biped, tethered to him, as usual.” Is this more likely?

Alone with your thoughts? The nightmare from which only dreams can release you.

I dreamed I met Cézanne. One of his eyes was wide open, the other firmly shut. I told my son about the dream. “That’s why his paintings look so flat,” he said.

Taking a nap. A second chance to wake up.

Dawn breaks. Night falls.

Music slows things down. Sports speeds things up.

But who will clean the vacuum-cleaner?

Nothing like a scapegoat to draw people together. Nothing like charisma to divide them.

She told me that Celan and Bachmann had two affairs, years apart, and that different poems were inspired by different affairs. But is it possible to have two affairs with the same person?

To write as Guston painted. First, stop writing. Then, learn how to write again. Examples of this? Kafka, maybe, Guston’s favorite writer.

All those hours as a teenager sitting in churches in Mexico. What was I thinking? I mean, really, what was I thinking?

God tells Isaac to kill Abraham. It’s the woodcutter’s own wife who tells him to get rid of Hansel and Gretel. “Okay, okay, I’ll kill them if that will make you happy.”

Moses, Oedipus, Hansel. Abandoning the child on the river, or on an exposed hillside, or in the woods. Giving him a fighting chance. Like a bullfight.

Imagine the witch’s version: “Strangers came to my forest to cut down my trees and steal my food. I had to put them in a cage like wild animals.”

Folding chairs. Next, folding people.

Of course I don’t believe in astrology. But I consider myself a typical Scorpio.

“I have to clear the desk first.” Always a mistake. The work will never get done. Work first. Then clear the desk.

The first sign of Alzheimer’s: duly noted. You won’t be around to notice the last sign.

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