And we have countries without borders, like our idea of the unknown, narrow and wide - countries whose maps narrow to a gray tunnel as we walk in them and cry out in their labyrinths: ‘And still we love you.’ Our love is an inherited disease. Countries that grow by tossing us into the unknown. Their willows and portrayals grow, their grasses and blue mountains. A lake widens north of the soul. Wheat spikes spring up south of the soul. The lemon shines like a lamp in an emigrant’s night. Geography emits sacred texts. And the ascending chain of hills reaches higher and higher. The exile tells himself: ‘If I were a bird I would burn my wings.’ The smells of autumn become the image of one I love, soft rain seeps into the dry heart and imagination opens to its source and becomes reality’s terrain, the only true place. Everything distant becomes rural and primitive, as if the earth were still gathering itself to meet Adam descending from his paradise. I say: These are the countries that bear us…so when were we born? Did Adam take two wives? Or will we be born again to forget sin?
This is what life does. It lets you walk up to
the store to buy breakfast and the paper, on a
stiff knee. It lets you choose the way you have
your eggs, your coffee. Then it sits a fisherman
down beside you at the counter who say, Last night, the channel was full of starfish. And you wonder,
is this a message, finally, or just another day?
Life lets you take the dog for a walk down to the
pond, where whole generations of biological
processes are boiling beneath the mud. Reeds
speak to you of the natural world: they whisper,
they sing. And herons pass by. Are you old
enough to appreciate the moment? Too old?
There is movement beneath the water, but it
may be nothing. There may be nothing going on.
And then life suggests that you remember the
years you ran around, the years you developed
a shocking lifestyle, advocated careless abandon,
owned a chilly heart. Upon reflection, you are
genuinely surprised to find how quiet you have
become. And then life lets you go home to think
about all this. Which you do, for quite a long time.
Later, you wake up beside your old love, the one
who never had any conditions, the one who waited
you out. This is life’s way of letting you know that
you are lucky. (It won’t give you smart or brave,
so you’ll have to settle for lucky.) Because you
were born at a good time. Because you were able
to listen when people spoke to you. Because you
stopped when you should have and started again.
So life lets you have a sandwich, and pie for your
late night dessert. (Pie for the dog, as well.) And
then life sends you back to bed, to dreamland,
while outside, the starfish drift through the channel,
with smiles on their starry faces as they head
out to deep water, to the far and boundless sea.
Slow sail’d the weary mariners and saw Betwixt the green brink and the run— Sweet faces, rounded arms, and bossoms prest [they mused, To little harps of gold: and while Whispering to each other half in fear, Shrill music reach’d them on the middle sea.
Wither away, whither away, whither away? Fly no more Wither away from the high green field, and the happy blossoming shore? Day and night to the billow the fountain calls; Down shower the gamboiling waterfalls From wandering over the lea: Out of the livgreen heart of the dells, They freshen the silver-crim shells, And thick with white bells the clover-hill swells High over the full toned sea:
O, hither come hither and furl your sails, Come hither to me and to me, Here is only the mew that wails; We will sing to you all the day; Mariners mariners, furl your sails, For here are the blessed downs and dales, and merrily, merrily carol the gales, And the rainbow forms and flies on the land Over the islands free; And the rainbow lives in the curve of the sand; Hither come hither and see; And the rainbow hangs on the posing wave, And sweet is the color of cove and cave, And sweet shall your welcome be; O, hither come hither and be our lords For merry brides are we. We will kiss sweet kisses and speak sweet words O listen, listen, your eyes shall glisten With the sharp clear twang of the golden chords Runs up the ridged sea. Who can light on as happy shore all the world o’er, all the worldo’er? Wither away? Listen and stay: Mariner, mariner, fly no more.
How shall I hold my soul that it may not Be touching yours? How shall I lift it then Above you to where other things are waiting? Ah, gladly would I lodge it, all forgot, With some lost thing the dark is isolating On some remote and silent spot that, when Your depths vibrate, is not itself vibrating. You and me – all that lights upon us though, Brings us together like a fiddle bow Drawing one voice from two strings, it glides along. Across what instrument have we been spanned? And what violinist holds us in his hand? O sweetest song.
Secrecy flows through you, a different kind of blood. It’s as if you’ve eaten it like a bad candy, taken it into your mouth, let it melt sweetly on your tongue, then allowed it to slide down your throat like the reverse of uttering, a word dissolved into its glottals and sibilants, a slow intake of breath —
And now it’s in you, secrecy. Ancient and vicious, luscious as dark velvet.
On my American plains I feel the struggling afflictions Endur’d by roots that writhe their arms into the nether deep: I see a serpent in Canada, who courts me to his love; In Mexico an Eagle, and a Lion in Peru; I see a Whale in the South-sea, drinking my soul away. O what limb rendering pains I feel. thy fire & my frost Mingle in howling pains, in furrows by the ligtnings rent; This is eternal death; and this the torment long foretold.
Hope is the result of confusing the desire that something should take place with the probability that it will. Perhaps no man is free from this folly of the heart, which deranges the intellect’s correct appreciation of probability to such an extent that, if the chances are a thousand to one against it, yet the event is thought a likely one. Still in spite of this, a sudden misfortune is like a death stroke, whilst a hope that is always disappointed and still never dies, is like death by prolonged torture.
He who has lost all hope has also lost all fear; this is the meaning of the expression “desperate.” It is natural to a man to believe what he wishes to be true, and to believe it because he wishes it, If this characteristic of our nature, at once beneficial and assuaging, is rooted out by many hard blows of fate, and a man comes, conversely, to a condition in which he believes a thing must happen because he does not wish it, and what he wishes to happen can never be, just because he wishes it, this is in reality the state described as “desperation.”