the next round

The last time my father stood next to me, he was ringing your doorbell and telling you that we loved you. The next day you scraped our child out of your womb.

Leonardo da Vinci, Feto umano nell’utero, 1511

That was nearly five years ago. Now you complain that I am harming you. You have failed at forcing the issue. You are begging me to desist. But I am not doing anything wrong. Nor am I harming you. If you want me to do your bidding, you must understand my reasons and convince me of your understanding. If you can feel remorse, we may benefit from conversation. If you stand on your rights, we have nothing to discuss.
    You offer my survival in some good memories. You offer kindness and a possible friendship. But how you remember me is your business. Your kindness last screeched at me amid 57th Street. Neither of us is good at friendship. I am sorry to hear about your father’s recent death. I offer you my condolences and appreciation of your effort to be responsible. But your responsibility is impossible without remorse. You will be responsible for people who love you; you are sorry if you have hurt me; you are deeply sorry for the baby; but you obsess about your reputation. You will say anything to forget our catastrophe. Is that what you call making peace with the past? You seem to be susceptible to shame. Think of it as your medicine meant to elicit remorse in regard to our common history.
    There are two innocent victims in our story. Neither of us is one. But my guilt is not an issue in what you want from me. Refusal is my right. You have two ways of getting past it: either persuade me that satisfying you is the right thing to do or offer me something I want in return. You want to move on. You claim that my account deters you from doing so. It does nothing of the sort. I am nowise deterred by Usenet libel claiming that I fucked a dog. You are displeased with my versiculi. But pleasure is not your right. And I am nowise obliged to concern myself with whatever pleases you.
    You need to be jarred from complacency. You have cancer of the soul. Your anguish is its symptom. I live with your disparagement. You could likewise live with my diagnosis. Your discomfort stems from recognizing its truth. You suffer from a spiritual malignancy. Seek to cure the disease, not to palliate the symptom.
    I mean to be therapeutic for both of us. I could be wrong. But you haven’t begun to persuade me of my error. As to your offers, I doubt that you have anything I want. But it doesn’t hurt to try. This is not an issue of sexual deviance. Your love of pain was entertaining. Its frustration of your own aims did not stand between us. Nor am I concerned with your failure to live up to your role models of Sex in the City, that bevy of time-worn bags traipsing around Manhattan in search of a steady regimen of penetration. You relate to women even more tenuously than you do to men. You could have friends through interest in people for their own sake, or through interests shared with other people. Neither of us is good at caring for people. But you also lack concerns that might ally you with others. You fail at concentration. Your attractions are notional. You imagine yourself in life and work without realizing any role. You have dabbled in marriage and yearned after motherhood, just as you have dabbled in design and yearned after commerce. You avoid sustained effort. You must work for a living, and you are content with the minimum of work that will keep you alive. Millions of others live like that. Unlike them, you refuse to make peace with mediocrity. You admire the drive towards betterment but fail to keep up on its path. Things get too complicated. Progress is too much to bear. It’s fun to whine about aimlessness and regret childlessness. It’s a drag to create a business or stay the course to become a mother.

Johanna Schwarzbeck, AFTER ABORTION, 1993

You might look up Johanna. She is your kindred soul, supplementing sex in the city with syringes. Even closer to your home comes a movie about a Chinese woman who seeks to reverse the effects of aging by consuming her own foetus. The only side effect of her success is a fishy body odor. George Orwell observed that “in the West we are divided from our fellows by our sense of smell”. As an exile from ideology, I prefer to divide myself from the advocates of class struggle and gender privilege. Tyranny stinks. I accept the attribution of foetal cannibalism to domination by the Chinese Communist regime. The party rules you to this day. In your doctrinary moods, you always had issues with my material comforts. But the roots of your resentment may be more ancient. Think of Euripides’ Medea, the tale of a woman who kills her own children in order to punish their father Jason for trying to start a new family. Medea addresses grieving Jason at verse 1396, which David Kovacs translates as: “Your mourning has yet to begin. Wait until old age.” The Greek original is twice as concise:

Μήδεια: οὔπω θρηνεῖς: μένε καὶ γῆρας.
Medea: [not yet adv] [sing a dirge, wail verb 2nd sg pres ind act]: [await, expect verb 2nd sg pres imperat act] [and conj] [old age noun sg neut acc]

You may have fancied yourself unwittingly, Medea to my Jason. Perhaps you deserve to address me as ψευδόρκου καὶ ξειναπάτου, breaker of [my] own oath and deceiver of a stranger. For my part, I broke nothing and deceived no one. Perhaps you fear running out of chances upon reaching your fifth decade. For my part, every day brings new beginnings. Your dirge is unripe. Oupô thrêneis: mene kai gêras.
    Perhaps Latin will suit you better than Greek. In his speech for Aulus Cluentius in 66 B.C., Cicero recalls a certain Milesian woman convicted of a capital crime for an abortion that she brought on by medicines, having been bribed to do so by those who stood to inherit the father’s estate in the absence of his unborn child. And rightly so, says he, inasmuch as she had abolished the hope of the father, the memory of his name, the supply of his race, the heir of his family, a prospective citizen of the republic. But as the great orator wrote to Atticus seventeen years later, in the midst of a civil war that doomed his republican cause, ut aegroto, dum anima est, spes esse dicitur. It is said that for a sick man, there is hope as long as there is life. Set aside the rest of the story, from Pompey’s flight from Italy to the ensuing display of Cicero’s hands and head on the Rostra in the Forum. You may yet redeem your errors. If you could save three lives, you would restore the balance. Let me know how it goes. If you can take my help, I will give it.

in memoriam

John Singer Sargent, Gassed, 1919, Imperial War Museum, London

            Dulce et Decorum Est

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs,
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame, all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of tired, outstripped Five-Nines that dropped behind.

Gas! GAS! Quick, boys!—An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
And flound’ring like a man in fire or lime . . .
Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.

In all my dreams, before my helpless sight
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin,
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,—
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.

—Wilfred Owen
(18 March 1893 – 4 November 1918)
The Collected Poems of Wilfred Owen
edited by Edmund Blunden
New Directions, 1965, p. 55

Henri de Groux, Masques à gaz, etching,
Royal Army and Military History Museum, Brussels

                                   LA NUIT D’AVRIL 1915

                                                                      À L. de C.-C.

                    Le ciel est étoilé par les obus des Boches
                    La forêt merveilleuse où je vis donne un bal
                    La mitrailleuse joue un air à triples-croches
                    Mais avez-vous le mot
                                                         Eh ! oui le mot fatal
                    Aux créneaux Aux créneaux Laissez là les pioches

                    Comme un astre éperdu qui cherche ses saisons
                    Cœur obus éclaté tu sifflais ta romance
                    Et tes mille soleils ont vidé les caissons
                    Que les dieux de mes yeux remplissent en silence

                    Nous vous aimons ô vie et nous vous agaçons

                    Les obus miaulaient un amour à mourir
                    Un amour qui se meurt est plus doux que les autres
                    Ton souffle nage au fleuve où le sang va tarir
                    Les obus miaulaient
                                                     Entends chanter les nôtres
                    Pourpre amour salué par ceux qui vont périr

                    Le printemps tout mouillé la veilleuse l’attaque
                    Il pleut mon âme il pleut mais il pleut des yeux morts

                    Ulysse que de jours pour rentrer dans Ithaque
                    Couche-toi sur la paille et songe un beau remords
                    Qui pur effet de l’art soit aphrodisiaque

                                         aux fétus de la paille où tu dors
                    L’hymne de l’avenir est paradisiaque

—Guillaume Apollinaire
(26 août 1880 – 9 novembre 1918)
Œuvres poétiques
édition établie et annotée par Marcel Adéma
Gallimard, 1965, pp. 243-244

Guillaume Apollinaire, 1916

кавалерист Моисей Исаакович Зелёный (1889-1934)
пехотинец Иосиф Моисеевич Зелёный (1920-2000)
артиллерист Исаак Моисеевич Зелёный (1923-2004)

in memoriam joseph brodsky

Памяти отца: Австралия In Memory of My Father: Australia
Ты ожил, снилось мне и уехал
В Австралию. Голос с трехкратным эхом
Окликал и жаловался на климат
И обои: квартиру никак не снимут,
Жалко, не в центре, а около океана,
Третий этаж без лифта, зато есть ванна,
Пухнут ноги. “А тапочки я оставил”,―
Прозвучавшее внятно и деловито.
И внезапно в трубке завыло “Аделаида! Аделаида”,
Загремело, захлопало, точно ставень
Бился о стенку, готовый сорваться с петель.

Все-таки это лучше, чем мягкий пепел
крематория в банке, её залога―
эти обрывки голоса, монолога
и попытки прикинуться нелюдимом

в первый раз с той поры, как ты обернулся дымом.

You arose―I dreamt so last night―and left for
Australia. The voice, with a triple echo,
ebbed and flowed, complaining about climate,
grime, that the deal with the flat is stymied,
pity it’s not downtown, though near the ocean,
no elevator but the bathtub’s indeed an option,
ankles keep swelling. “Looks like I’ve lost my slippers”
came through rapt yet clear via satellite.
And at once the receiver burst into howling “Adelaide! Adelaide!”
into rattling and crackling, as if a shutter,
ripped off its hinges, were pounding the wall with inhuman power.

Still, better this than the silky powder
canned by the crematorium, than the voucher―
better these snatches of voice, this patchwork
monologue of a recluse trying to play a genie

for the first time since you formed a cloud above a chimney.

Voice’s residues, cracked disquisitions,
Burnt collateral stowed in a vessel:
Faint redemption in decompositions,
Just this tug since you went evanescent.

―Иосиф Александрович Бродский, Континент, 61 (1989г) ―translated by the author, in The New Yorker, 5 March 1990 ―traduced by MZ

Crossposted to [info]larvatus and [info]about_poetry.

amours de voyage

     cum suis vivat valeatque moechis,
quos simul complexa tenet trecentos,
nullum amans vere, sed identidem omnium
ilia rumpens;

nec meum respectet, ut ante, amorem,
qui illius culpa cecidit velut prati
ultimi flos, praetereunte postquam
tactus aratro est.

     Memoria teneo Milesiam quandam mulierem, cum essem in Asia, quod ab heredibus secundis accepta pecunia partum sibi ipsa medicamentis abegisset, rei capitalis esse damnatam; nec iniuria quae spem parentis, memoriam nominis, subsidium generis, heredem familiae, designatum rei publicae civem sustulisset.
I recall that, when I was in Asia, a certain Milesian woman was convicted of a capital crime, because she had brought on abortion by medicines, having been bribed to do so by the heirs next in line; and rightly so, inasmuch as she had abolished the hope of the father, the memory of his name, the supply of his race, the heir of his family, a prospective citizen of the republic.

 — for Rachel Yumei Wang    

City bustle. Fading light.
You’ll have company tonight.
At your service, all your men.
They will make you whole again.

Rig your hopes and tell you lies.
Bust a nut between your thighs. 
Fart and snore and pay no heed
While dreams dwindle and recede.

Others not so long ago
Lit you up and made you glow,
Nights fulfilled you, but the dawn
Found you wan and woebegone.

Lest your gloom ensued in spawn
Its conclusion got withdrawn:
Scrape the foetus from within,
Glom more solace for your skin.

City bustle. Fading light.
You will sleep alone tonight.
One good woman, no good men.
Love can’t make you whole again.

Amours de voyage I have allowed myself to call them, as distinguished from the love we may have for localities wherein our everyday lot is cast.”

— Vernon Lee, Genius Loci, 1898

torkel franzén is dead

Looking back over fifteen years of Usenetting, I gratefully recall one man selflessly expending his time and effort on making it a better place. Torkel’s learned and benevolent presence single-handedly made up for a myriad ephemeral and persistent sophistical frauds striving to overwhelm our forum with self-serving nonsense. I am proud to have benefitted from his learning and character.
    Torkel Franzén earned his PhD in philosophy in 1987 for work on provability and truth, available online and in hard copy in the imprint of Acta Universitatis Stockholmiensis, deposited at university libraries worldwide. He was a world-class expert on incompleteness and inexhaustibility and an able and tireless expositor of the use and abuse of Gödel’s Incompleteness Theorems. Torkel will be remembered and celebrated for his incisive contributions to logic and his magnanimous bestowals of honesty and wisdom in public discourse. My condolences for this untimely loss go out to his friends and family.

sprint pcs is searching for service

    He lies in bed recovering from a cold.
    He is holding a watch. He gave it away as a gift twenty-four years ago. Now he has it back. Its plastic crystal is melted away. Its face is scorched.
    He shakes the watch. The self-winding rotor turns and ratchets. The watch starts ticking.
    The phone rings. The voice is instantly recognizable. It resumes a conversation long since broken off.
    — Who is this?
    The voice carries on.
    — Who is this?
    Its rhythm remains unabated.
    — Is that you?
    The connection breaks up. The line is silent.