Saturday, February 28, 2009

The coolest one

She keeps money in the refrigerator. Not a lot, you understand, just a few twenty dollar bills tucked away in the egg rack.

She says she got the idea from watching The Seven Year Itch.

Sometimes, on summer nights, she'll order herself a pizza, then use the money from the fridge to pay for it. She loves the look on the delivery man's face when she slips a crisp, freshly chilled note into his sweaty, human palm.

Believing is not seeing

The problem with faith is that it makes a lack of self-doubt a virtue. Certainty is cruel because it is blind.

Hesitation makes us vulnerable, yes, but being vulnerable is not the same as being weak.

Friday, February 27, 2009

A reply

If you really loved me you would not have written this letter, could not have sent it.

There are so many things I could say in reply. I have written each one down and sent it to a different person, none of them you.

To you I send only the silence, so you can read between its lines.

Resistance is madness

...they told him.

So he chose to go mad, as a way of resisting.

Thursday, February 26, 2009


So much gratitude. The house suffocating under its weight.

I lie awake at night and hear how thankful the silence is, and there is nothing I can say, no words to deny my responsibility, to say it is nothing, nothing, which is true, but a betrayal.

I keep trying to give it away but no one will help.

I fear it may outlive me. I fear I may have to let it.

Weddings & Riots

It's got so I can no longer tell weddings from riots.

To be on the safe side I avoid both, watching from my window as the crowd runs shouting through the street.

Death and the bridegroom both ride a white horse.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Something more comfortable

Now that we are home, there is no need to be formal, no need to pretend.

We can slip into masks, give our faces a rest.

Silent in the middle of the world's music

The inimitable Jack Gilbert over at the New Yorker.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

War and Love

War is a machine for converting a single lie into a million truths. Love is a machine for converting a single truth into a million lies. All is fair in both because both make proportion impossible.

Afterwards, the names of the dead circle the city like vultures, searching for scraps of themselves.

We do not invent pain, we are invented by it. Identity is a kind of resignation. The inability to imagine oneself in another's place.

Purple and silent, the bruises blossom in every house.

Sunday, February 22, 2009


This is how love dies. Faithful and easily forgotten, a frail creature, slain by its own hand.

Make no mistake - the stranger is Death, and fair Cruelty his bride. Together they are beautiful and terrifying, heartless because sublime.

And what of Justice, blind and in rags? It is no accident that he is not here, in this coldest of dawns; no accident that he walks alone in the darkness, hand in hand with Love, his true child, for whom all is unfair.


I am told that at the premier of Turandot at La Scala in 1926 (hard to believe the opera is less than a hundred years old - it certainly feels far more dated) Toscanini stopped the opera at the point where Liu dies, leaving the final scene unperformed. Which just goes to show how brilliant Toscanini really was.

The problem with that last scene isn't that it's no good; on the contrary, it is, in my opinion, some of the greatest music Puccini ever wrote (I should say that I'm not, in general, a big Puccini fan - give me Verdi any day). The problem is that what comes before it - Nessun Dorma, Liu's death scene - is sheer genius, so that the final duet, heard so soon after the pathos of Liu's death, feels like a betrayal. The composer is upstaged by his own music.


As you've probably guessed, I just got back from a performance of Turandot by the Opera Company of Philadelphia. A good performance all in all, with fine work by Francesco Hong as Calaf and Ermonela Jaho as Liu, both of whom more than made up for the fact that Francesca Patane as Turandot was decidedly mediocre.

And am I the only one who finds these stereotypical depictions of the Mysterious Orient annoying and borderline offensive?

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Best news I've heard all year

It's finally here - Shahid's collected poems. All 512 pages of it.

Now all I have to do is decide whether I want to be all snobbish and stick with the individual volumes (of which I have ALL), or fork out the dough to buy the collected works.

In other news, it turns out that the best book of 2008 was not Marilynne Robinson's Home or Bolano's 2666. I'm only 50 pages through it, but I suspect it's going to turn out to be the collected Jack Spicer.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

59 Library Books

Fifty nine library books
on the floor by my bed;

books I keep planning to read but
end up renewing instead,

thinking I'll get to them next
semester (I never do).

Sometimes I think it's a good thing
we're mortal, don't you?

[based on a true story]