Category Archives: Bagatelle

Erich Maria Remarque

Editorial: When the winds of war start to rise (North Korea, Afghanistan) I reread All Quiet on the Western Front to help me think about war. This is a grim bit, but telling too. Life is at an end

(p. 117) We see men living with their skulls blown open; we see soldiers run with their two feet cut off, they stagger on their splintered stumps into the next shell-hole; a lance-corporal crawls a mile and a half on his hands dragging his smashed knee after him; another goes to the dressing station and over his clasped hands bulge his intestines; we see mean without mouths, without jaws, without faces; we find one man who has held the artery of his arm in his teeth for two hours in order not to bleed to death. The sun goes down, night comes, the shells whine, life is at an end.

Still the little piece of convulsed earth in which we lie is held. We have yielded no more than a few hundred yards of it as a prize to the enemy. But on every yard there lies a dead man.

Also after this reading I watched for the first time the 1930 film adaptation. Who knew old movies were so goofy, even ones about the horrors of WWI that won two Oscars? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/All_Quiet_on_the_Western_Front_(1930_film)

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Louise Erdrich

Editorial: Here below are three passages from Louise Erdrich’s latest, LaRose (2016). She remains one of my favorites.  I read her books slowly because it’s no fun when they run out.

(p. 198) What She Learned. Before the first LaRose died, she had taught her daughter how to find guardian spirits in each place they walked, how to heal people with songs, with plants, what lichens to eat in an extremity of hunger, how to set snares, jig fish, tie nets, net fish, create fire out of sticks and curls of birchbark. How to sew, how to boil food with hot stones, how to weave reed mats and make birchbark pots. She taught her how to poison fish with plants, how to make arrows, a bow, shoot a rifle, how to use the wind when hunting, make a digging stick, dig certain roots, carve a flute, play it, bead a bandolier bag. She taught her how to tell from the calls of birds what animal had entered the woods, how to tell from the calls of birds which direction and what type of weather was approaching, how to tell from the calls of birds if you were going to die or if an enemy was on your trail. She learned how to keep a newborn from crying, how to amuse an older child, what to feed a child of each age, how to catch an eagle to take a feather, knock a partridge from a tree. How to carve a pipe bowl, burn the center of a sumac branch for the stem, how to make tobacco, make pemmican, how to harvest wild rice, dance, winnow, parch, and store it, and make tobacco for your pipe. How to carve tree taps, tap maples, collect sap, how to make syrup, sugar, how to soak a hide, scrape down a hide, how to grease it and cure it with the animal’s brains, how to make it soft and silky, how to smoke it, what to use it for. She taught her to make mittens, leggings, makazinan, a dress, a drum, a coat, a carry sack from the stomach of an elk, a caribou, a woods buffalo. She taught her how to leave behind her body when half awake or in sleep and fly around to investigate what was happening on the earth. She taught her how to dream, how to return from a dream, change the dream, or stay in the dream in order to save her life.

(p.227) He said this firmly, although he still didn’t know exactly what to do besides watch Nola. Sam Eagleboy had told him to sit still and open his mind if he had a problem. LaRose would come back to the grass nest that evening, after Maggie was gone. He would concentrate on the problem. Even if he couldn’t see them, he would ask those people he met in the woods. He would find out what the situation called for.

(p. 290) There are five LaRoses. First the LaRose who poisoned Mackinnon, went to mission school, married Wolfred, taught her children the shape of the world, and traveled that world as a set of stolen bones. Second, her daughter LaRose, who went to Carlisle. This LaRose got tuberculosis like her own mother, and like the first LaRose fought it off again and again. Lived long enough to become the mother of the third LaRose, who went to Fort Totten and bore the fourth LaRose, who eventually became the mother of Emmaline, the teacher of Romeo and Landreaux. The fourth LaRose also became the grandmother of the last LaRose, who was given to the Ravich family by his parents in exchange for a son accidentally killed.

In all of these LaRoses there was a tendency to fly above the earth. They could fly for hours when the right songs were drummed and sung to support them. Those songs are now waiting in the leaves, half lost, but the drumming of the water drum will never be lost. This ability to fly went back to the first LaRose, whose mother taught her to do it when her name was still Mirage, and who had learned this from her father, a jiisikid conjurer, who’d flung his spirit all the way around the world in 1798 and come back to tell his astonished drummers that it was no use, white people covered the earth like lice.

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Hyperkulturemia

unnamedSites seen Summer, 2016.  Listed in order visited.  Monuments, abbeys, friaries, mounds, caves, castles, towers, forts, churches, lighthouses, etc.  Thank you, Avis Car Rental.  

Bective Abbey, Co. Meath [link][photo][map]
Fore Abbey, Co. Westmeath [link][photo][map]
Dominican Friary of Roscommon, Co. Roscommon [link][photo][map]
Roscommon Castle, Co. Roscommon [link][photo][map]
Castlestrange Stone, Co. Roscommon [link][photo][map]
Glinsk Castle, Co. Galway [link][photo][map]
Rathcroghan Mound, Co. Roscommon [link][photo][map]
Oweynagat, Co. Roscommon [link][photo][map]
Carnfree, Co. Roscommon [link][photo][map]
Claregalway Friary, Co. Galway [link][photo][map]
Dunguaire Castle, Co. Galway [link][photo][map]
Corcomroe Abbey, Co. Clare [link][photo][map]
Shanmuckinish Castle or Muckinish West Tower House, Co. Clare [link][photo][map]
Gleninagh Castle, Co. Clare [link][photo][map]
Lighthouse at Black Head, Murrooghtoohy North, Co. Clare [link][photo][map]
Ballinalacken Castle, Co. Clare [link][photo][map]
Doonagore Castle, Co. Clare [link][photo][map]
Cliffs of Moher, Co. Clare [link][photo][map]
Ballyellery Tower, Co. Clare [link][photo][map]
The Doorty Cross, Kilfenora, Co. Clare [link][photo][map]
Leamaneh Castle, Co. Clare [link][photo][map]
Carran Church, Co. Clare [link][photo][map]
Temple Cronan (53°2’47?N 9°3’40?W)-next time! [link][photo][map]
Caherconnell Stone Fort, Co. Clare [link][photo][map]
The Burren, Carpark Overlook (53°02’33.2″N 9°01’44.5″W) [link][photo][map]
The Burren, Rustic Road  (52°59’49.0″N 9°02’43.3″W)-next time! [link][photo][map]
Cluain Dubháin Castle, Boston, Co. Clare [link][photo][map]
Kilmacduagh Monastery, Co. Galway [link][photo][map]
Meere’s Butchers, Lower Market St, Ennis (Airbnb) [link][photo][map]
Dún Chonchúir, Inis Meáin, Co. Galway [link][photo][map]
Roche Castle, Co. Louth [link][photo][map]

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Seamus Heaney

The Death of a Naturalist
by Seamus Heaney

All year the flax-dam festered in the heart
Of the townland; green and heavy headed
Flax had rotted there, weighted down by huge sods.
Daily it sweltered in the punishing sun.
Bubbles gargled delicately, bluebottles
Wove a strong gauze of sound around the smell.
There were dragonflies, spotted butterflies,
But best of all was the warm thick slobber
Of frogspawn that grew like clotted water
In the shade of the banks. Here, every spring
I would fill jampotfuls of the jellied
Specks to range on window sills at home,
On shelves at school, and wait and watch until
The fattening dots burst, into nimble
Swimming tadpoles. Miss Walls would tell us how
The daddy frog was called a bullfrog
And how he croaked and how the mammy frog
Laid hundreds of little eggs and this was
Frogspawn. You could tell the weather by frogs too
For they were yellow in the sun and brown
In rain.

Then one hot day when fields were rank
With cowdung in the grass the angry frogs
Invaded the flax-dam; I ducked through hedges
To a coarse croaking that I had not heard
Before. The air was thick with a bass chorus.
Right down the dam gross bellied frogs were cocked
On sods; their loose necks pulsed like sails. Some hopped:
The slap and plop were obscene threats. Some sat
Poised like mud grenades, their blunt heads farting.
I sickened, turned, and ran. The great slime kings
Were gathered there for vengeance and I knew
That if I dipped my hand the spawn would clutch it.

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Frank O’Hara

Having a Coke with You
by Frank O’Hara

is even more fun than going to San Sebastian, Irún, Hendaye, Biarritz, Bayonne
or being sick to my stomach on the Travesera de Gracia in Barcelona
partly because in your orange shirt you look like a better happier St. Sebastian
partly because of my love for you, partly because of your love for yoghurt
partly because of the fluorescent orange tulips around the birches
partly because of the secrecy our smiles take on before people and statuary
it is hard to believe when I’m with you that there can be anything as still
as solemn as unpleasantly definitive as statuary when right in front of it
in the warm New York 4 o’clock light we are drifting back and forth
between each other like a tree breathing through its spectacles

and the portrait show seems to have no faces in it at all, just paint
you suddenly wonder why in the world anyone ever did them

                              I look
at you and I would rather look at you than all the portraits in the world
except possibly for the Polish Rider occasionally and anyway it’s in the Frick
which thank heavens you haven’t gone to yet so we can go together the first time
and the fact that you move so beautifully more or less takes care of Futurism
just as at home I never think of the Nude Descending a Staircase or
at a rehearsal a single drawing of Leonardo or Michelangelo that used to wow me
and what good does all the research of the Impressionists do them
when they never got the right person to stand near the tree when the sun sank
or for that matter Marino Marini when he didn’t pick the rider as carefully
as the horse

       it seems they were all cheated of some marvelous experience
which is not going to go wasted on me which is why I am telling you about it

[Nicely illustrated here by Nathan Gelgud.]

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Davis McCombs

Dumpster Honey
by Davis McCombs

The bees were working the contents
of the fenced-in metal trash bin,
zigging and scribbling past the goo

of candy wrappers and the sticky rims
of dented cans, entering, as they might
a blossom, the ketchup-smeared burger

boxes and the mold-fuzzed, half-eaten
fruity snack packs, those food-grade waxes
mingling with Band-Aids and a limp

“We’re #1” foam finger while on top
of the disposable wet mop redolent of solvents
and fresheners the F.D.&C. Red No. 40

nontoxic food pigment leaked
from a bloated dip packet where the bees
were buzzing and collecting the high-fructose

corn nectars of that uncompacted jumble
and returning, smudged with the dust
of industrial pollens, to, perhaps, some

rusted tailpipe hive where their queen
grew fat on the froth of artificial sweeteners
out back of the little oily gas station

in the middle of Arkansas where we pulled off
to change the baby’s diaper and had to ask
for the key they kept on a giant ring.

August 3, 2015, The New Yorker

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Lists — Oh the Joy!

List of lists of lists
&
Lists of Note

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