The Relativity of Age

The Day
by Donald Hall

Last night at suppertime I outlived my father, enduring
the year, month, day, hour, and moment
when he lay back on a hospital bed in the guest room
among cylinders of oxygen — mouth open, nostrils and pale
blue lips fixed unquivering. Father of my name,
father of long fingers, I remember your dark hair 
and your face almost unwrinkled. Now I have waked
more mornings to frost whitening the grass,
read the newspaper more times, and stood more times,
my hand on a doorknob without opening the door.

The relativity of age and how it shifts based on perspective has always interested me. It bends, it stays the same. Your parents always seem older than you—it’s hard to imagine them as kids. When you’re in grade school the high schoolers seem massive but when you’re in college they’re practically infants. When I look at yearbook photos the kids that were a few years older than me  then still somehow look older than I am now. Hall's imagery is so lucid that I’m simultaneously gripped by his account of outliving his father and thrown back into my own thoughts as well. 

- 7/25/14


Ceci n’est pas une Pipe

(Self-Portrait by Frederic Bazille)

ceci n’est pas une pipe,
but this Is
and this is

the paint is a Self-Portrait of itself
and yet it is also


a material,
an image,

but least of all
a name

and most of all

two Reflections
of one Idea,



each other.

This is not a Pipe.

This is a Painting 
of paint


a painting of 

- 7/22/14


Painting Paint

Frédéric Bazille, Self-Portrait, 1866. Oil on canvas, 108.9 x 71.1cm.

This painting hangs in the Art Institute of Chicago. Each time I see it I have the same thought--It must have felt peculiar for Bazille to paint paint on canvas. It reminds me of the famous painting by René Magritte: 

René Magritte, La Trahison des Images, 1929. Oil on canvas, 63.5 x 94cm.

- 7/18/14


A Slow Reading of Ulysses

by Alfred, Lord Tennyson

It little profits that an idle king,
By this still hearth, among these barren crags,
Match'd with an aged wife, I mete and dole
Unequal laws unto a savage race,
That hoard, and sleep, and feed, and know not me.
I cannot rest from travel: I will drink
Life to the lees: All times I have enjoy'd
Greatly, have suffer'd greatly, both with those
That loved me, and alone, on shore, and when
Thro' scudding drifts the rainy Hyades
Vext the dim sea: I am become a name;
For always roaming with a hungry heart
Much have I seen and known; cities of men
And manners, climates, councils, governments,
Myself not least, but honour'd of them all;
And drunk delight of battle with my peers,
Far on the ringing plains of windy Troy.
I am a part of all that I have met;
Yet all experience is an arch wherethro'
Gleams that untravell'd world whose margin fades
For ever and forever when I move.
How dull it is to pause, to make an end,
To rust unburnish'd, not to shine in use!
As tho' to breathe were life! Life piled on life
Were all too little, and of one to me
Little remains: but every hour is saved
From that eternal silence, something more,
A bringer of new things; and vile it were
For some three suns to store and hoard myself,
And this gray spirit yearning in desire
To follow knowledge like a sinking star,
Beyond the utmost bound of human thought.

         This is my son, mine own Telemachus,
To whom I leave the sceptre and the isle,—
Well-loved of me, discerning to fulfil
This labour, by slow prudence to make mild
A rugged people, and thro' soft degrees
Subdue them to the useful and the good.
Most blameless is he, centred in the sphere
Of common duties, decent not to fail
In offices of tenderness, and pay
Meet adoration to my household gods,
When I am gone. He works his work, I mine.

         There lies the port; the vessel puffs her sail:
There gloom the dark, broad seas. My mariners,
Souls that have toil'd, and wrought, and thought with me—
That ever with a frolic welcome took
The thunder and the sunshine, and opposed
Free hearts, free foreheads—you and I are old;
Old age hath yet his honour and his toil;
Death closes all: but something ere the end,
Some work of noble note, may yet be done,
Not unbecoming men that strove with Gods.
The lights begin to twinkle from the rocks:
The long day wanes: the slow moon climbs: the deep
Moans round with many voices. Come, my friends,
‘Tis not too late to seek a newer world.
Push off, and sitting well in order smite
The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds
To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
Of all the western stars, until I die.
It may be that the gulfs will wash us down:
It may be we shall touch the Happy Isles,
And see the great Achilles, whom we knew.
Tho' much is taken, much abides; and tho'
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

Rhyme Done Right

The Pennycandystore Beyond the El
by Lawrence Ferlinghetti

The pennycandystore beyond the El
is where I first
                fell in love
                            with unreality
Jellybeans glowed in the semi-gloom
of that september afternoon
A cat upon the counter moved among
                          the licorice sticks
               and tootsie rolls
       and Oh Boy Gum

Outside the leaves were falling as they died

A wind had blown away the sun

A girl ran in
Her hair was rainy
Her breasts were breathless in the little room

Outside the leaves were falling
                     and they cried
                                  Too soon!  too soon!

I wrote in a post on rhyme in Stanley Kunitz's poetry that I’m not a huge fan of assonance, consonance, rhyme, etc in contemporary poetry. But when I read this poem for the first time I was stumped—it’s childish in a lot of ways, the most obvious way being that the subject literally is adolescence and a candy store. But in this context heavy rhyme works perfectly. Granted the second half of the poem is less fun and airy, all of the wordplay contributes to the feeling I get that youth blows by too quickly. My favorite line is “Jellybeans glowed in the semi-gloom of that september afternoon” exactly because of how overwrought it is. The poet takes a risk, and in my opinion he gets away with it.

- 7/12/14



like a log
long dead,
cloaked in a
pale green gray
mess of cold-blooded scales,
it lies there,
black-beaded eyes opened and
always watching,
always waiting,
always waiting.
But never sleeping, no —
those sharp, closed
jaws rest on a
calm river of 
liquid quietus that 
has just one name: 
Senseless little 
lukewarm lives
loll across the 
steadily drifting
or flit down 
from the faceless
blue above
to touch
the silver water, 
to be crushed,
to be consumed,
to be digested,
and all by the cool,
careless disinterest of 
what might well have been
an old uprooted tree.