Monday, April 28, 2014


“It’s still a gradation of night, but night with tomorrow already luminous behind it”
-Stuart Dybek

Because “the snow melts slowly, the ice drips
into these cautious days, undressing under the bridge,
glass stalactites under the turnpike
refracting sunlight over the train tracks…”

Because the sound, lighter
than rain but multiple, musical, is unheard and
the words are drenched in mild purples where
the cars park, littered and seedy.

Soon we will feel differently
about these winter days with spring already
startled into answer – broken music unlocking
a question the snow banks have been

unwittingly asking for what seems
a very long time. Above, highway traffic
passes unseen – wet tire tracks perhaps,
sunblind drivers on their way somewhere.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

The Reason the Darkness Grows

A passage I really like, from Chapman: Odysseus, after some brutally bad luck (his crew keeps landing on islands, exploring them, and getting eaten by the inhabitants) lands on yet another unknown island. He makes a coach's Big Game Day speech to his dudes about the necessity of doing the very thing that's brought them nothing but misfortune and death:

... Now, friends,
Afford unpassionate ear; though ill fate lends
So good cause to your passion, no man knows
The reason whence and how the darkness grows;
The reason how the morn is thus begun;
The reason how the man-enlight'ning sun
Dives under earth; the reason how again
He rears his golden head. Those counsels, then,
That pass our comprehension, we must leave
To him that knows their causes, and receive
Direction from him in our acts, as far
As he shall please to make them regular,
And stoop them to our reason. In our state
What then behooves us? Can we estimate,
With all our counsels, where we are? Or know
(Without instruction, past our own skills) how,
Put off from hence, to steer our course the more?
I think we cannot. We must then explore..."

Translation: There's a lot we don't and can't know. And much we can't control. The way forward is risky. So what are we going to do, nothing? Guess? No. We have to explore.

Many moments for us are like this one on Circe's mad island: brought by forces we can't fully understand to where guesswork simply won't suffice. The only way forward is to experiment, try to figure stuff out.

We have to drive into the dangerous heart of it and see what happens, hope for the best.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014


Reading the Iliad took most of my cancer days. I was at war.

The Iliad is a big book, and I dabbled with multiple translations. I was after more than the story. I wanted to triangulate the whole mess, chart it from different angles to know it better, understand the distance between Homer and me.

What I really needed was a project. I took ill just before getting my second Masters in the Humanities, and basically for as long as I can remember I'd been at work on literary projects. At any one time I was grappling with philosophy, theory and literature, structuring an argument and turning it into prose, while also crafting verse, developing an art that seemed to tap into what was at the very center of who I was.

It's a sense-making act of incredible power to write. Even -- no, especially -- to write a paper. I think that's why most people hate it. By "power" I don't mean power over the world. More like power to keep the world at bay. Not that it's escapism, pure and simple. Art is too connected to life. But for me, papers and poems were both places to bring chaos into order. Playfully, at times ironically, because the order you make always puts you in touch with the chaos outside. You always see chaos winking through.