Wednesday, August 26, 2015

What Am I

I fooled myself: I thought I knew the way.
Not a writer, not a poet, not a lover, not a man;
But what am I, now, under skies without light,
Where none of the pathways ran
To any hill that might have offered sight
Above the plain? Beyond the swarms?
I once had maps, but all the lines
Have wandered from the colours and the forms
Of every crossroad, and the pines
Are no more of a landmark than the clay.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

And You Don't Know The Way

Watching this for a second time, I had to question all the negative reviews. Yes, the often-shaky camera style seemed a poor aesthetic choice, and I would rather have had an original score that reflected the film itself, to music that already brings its own associations. But otherwise, I loved Melancholia.

Up to a point, the film reminds me of Bergman's Shame, where the two main characters also respond to the end of the world in opposite and unexpected ways. The coping mechanisms that we develop to handle depression often make ordinary life unliveable, but can be surprisingly useful when things fall apart.

Unlike Shame, which is one of the more depressing and paralyzing films I've seen (and brilliantly so), Melancholia feels like a lifted weight, like a wall kicked apart. Its final moment feels like love... and liberation.

Afterward, I kept thinking of a sad, stark line from another severely underrated film: Peckinpah's Bring Me The Head Of Alfredo Garcia. During an ugly, confrontational moment, the heroine turns to the main character, and says, "I've been down this road before, and you don't know the way." For me, that one line would sum up Melancholia.

Forgivably Beguiled

Who judges you? Who dares to call you wild,
For one most human error long ago --
A lapse that you corrected, doubly so,
In giving both a future: girl, and child?
Who calls your choice a sin, your option mild
A blot, a stain upon your girlhood snow?
You live, and as a loving mother know,
The young can be forgivably beguiled.

You say that you are dark, but what is light,
If not a pinpoint on a tapestry?
You pray for pathways, yet the paths are bright
If only for the contrast that we see.
The gods are lies, my love. Come greet the night,
Where stars outshine the sins and saints. Be free.

-- Saturday, May 24, 2014.

Monday, August 24, 2015

The Double Pulse

At first glance, Mervyn Peake and Robert Frost might seem dissimilar; but at second?

To Earthward
by Robert Frost.

Love at the lips was touch
As sweet as I could bear;
And once that seemed too much;
I lived on air

That crossed me from sweet things,
The flow of -- was it musk
From hidden grapevine springs
Down hill at dusk?

I had the swirl and ache
From sprays of honeysuckle
That when they’re gathered shake
Dew on the knuckle.

I craved strong sweets, but those
Seemed strong when I was young;
The petal of the rose
It was that stung.

Now no joy but lacks salt
That is not dashed with pain
And weariness and fault;
I crave the stain

Of tears, the aftermark
Of almost too much love,
The sweet of bitter bark
And burning clove.

When stiff and sore and scarred
I take away my hand
From leaning on it hard
In grass and sand,

The hurt is not enough:
I long for weight and strength
To feel the earth as rough
To all my length.

- - - - - -

Rather Than A Little Pain
by Mervyn Peake.

Rather than a little pain, I would be thief
To the organ-chords of grief
That toll through me
With a burial glory.

Wherefore my searching dust
If not to breathe the Gust
Of every quarter
Before I scatter,

And to divine
The lit or hooded Ghost, and take for mine
The double pulse; so come
Forth from your midnight tomb

Cold grief,
I would be thief
Of you,
Until my bones breed hemlock through and through.

(c. 1940)

- - - - - -

Complete Poems of Robert Frost. Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1964.

Peake's Progress, Edited by Maeve Gilmore. Penguin Books, 1981.

Hollow Puppet-Flailing

Consider all the anger that I bear;
Consider all the blisters in my gut
That seep when every self-encysted rut
That trips me, makes me stumble with my flair
For hollow puppet-flailing through the air,
For stumbling like a cretin with a cut
That gouged out all its brains, and like a mutt
Kicked, until the crippled cur must err

No more. Where is the truth in my offence,
In my back-directed lacerating rage,
In the face that glowers just above the sink?
Where is a counsel for my own defence?
And as I spurn the spirit of this age,
Must I also bleed my failures out in ink?