I’m reading…

~~Markar Melkonian, My Brother’s Road: An American’s Fateful Journey to Armenia

~~Գրիգոր Պըլտեան, Նշան  (Krikor Beledian, Sign/Nshan)

~~Rabih Alameddine, An Unnecessary Woman

~~Benoit Peeters, Derrida

~~Pierre Hadot, Philosophy as a Way of Life

~~Richard Ford, Canada

~~Robert Zaretsky, A Life Worth Living

~~Jose Saramago, The Double

~~Marisa Silver, Mary Coin.

~~Robert Zaretsky, Albert Camus: Elements of A Life.

“…torn as [Camus] was between art  and politics, the sensual beauty of the world and the heart-sickening misery of its inhabitants…”

“…the sacred ground of hesitation:  only there do we have the space necessary to understand the tragic complexities of life.”

Camus:  “there is no superhuman happiness, no eternity outside the curve of days.”

Camus:  “the misery and greatness of this world: If offers no truths but only objects for love.”

~~From the Ruins of Empire: The Intellectuals who Remade Asia by Pankaj Mishra.

A Request 

by Ursula Le Guin

Should my tongue be tied by stroke
listen to me as if I spoke

and said to you, “My dear, my friend,
stay here a while and take my hand;

my voice is hindered by this clot,
but silence says what I cannot,

and you can answer as you please
such undemanding words as these.

Or let our conversation be
a mute and patient amity,

sitting, all the words bygone,
like a stone beside a stone.

It takes a while to learn to talk
the long language of the rock.”

Writer’s Almanac, October 5, 2012

To Happiness

by Carl Dennis

If you’re not approaching, I hope at least
You’re off to comfort someone who needs you more,
Not lost wandering aimlessly
Or drawn to the shelter of well-lit rooms
Where people assume you’ve arrived already.

If you’re coming this way, send me the details–
The name of the ship, the port it leaves from–
So I can be down on the dock to help you
Unload your valises, your trunks and boxes
And stow them in the big van I’ll have rented.

I’d like this to be no weekend stay
Where a single change of clothes is sufficient.
Bring clothes for all seasons, enough to fill a closet;
And instead of a single book for the bedside table
Bring boxes of all your favorites.

I’ll be eager to clear half my shelves to make room,
Eager to read any titles you recommend.
If we’ve many in common, feel free to suggest
They prove my disposition isn’t to blame
For your long absence, just some problems of attitude,

A few bad habits you’ll help me set to one side.
We can start at dinner, which you’re welcome
To cook for us while I sweep and straighten
And set the table. Then light the candles
You’ve brought from afar for the occasion.

Light them and fill the room I supposed I knew
With a glow that shows me I was mistaken.
Then help me decide if I’m still the person I was
Or someone else, someone who always believed in you
And imagined no good reasons for your delay.

[From Writer’s Almanac, March 23, 2012]

~~~

Rain

Rain undoes the stone
unfastens grass.
Nothing is permanently
attached to bone.
Neither epoxy
not promises last.

But I keep those inflections
you telephoned to wear
with your frown on rainy days.
There is another you
I have invented from your name
and cemented to my bones forever.

let rain say nothing stays.

~~Diana Der Hovanessian

From How to Choose Your Past, Ararat Press, 1978.

This poem has also appeared in The Nation.

Harmony in the Boudoir

After years of marriage, he stands at the foot of the bed and
tells his wife that she will never know him, that for everything
he says there is more that he does not say, that behind each
word he utters there is another word, and hundreds more be-
hind that one. All those unsaid words, he says, contain his true
self, which has been betrayed by the superficial self before her.
“So you see,” he says, kicking off his slippers, “I am more than
what I have led you to believe I am.” “Oh, you silly man,” says
his wife, “of course you are. I find that just thinking of you
having so many selves receding into nothingness is very excit-
ing. That you barely exist as you are couldn’t please me more.”

“Harmony in the Boudoir” by Mark Strand, from Almost Invisible. (c) Alfred A. Knopf, 2012. Credit:  Writer’s Almanac, January 3, 2012

*

Tell the Armenian story

Tell the Armenian story in
black and white please.
We’ve had enough shades
of blood and red
and purple prose.
We’ve had enough amber
sunsets, hennaed tufa,
enough golden wheat.
Let’s have some rest.
Tell the Armenian story
but not the gory past.
Let it remain buried
with the roots of poppies
on our plains. Let the blue
light of morning and the bright
greens of Karabagh remain
our secret. Keep the orange
flame of Dzidzanapert
and the yellow city sunsets
ours alone. Show the pink
and beige monasteries
and the citrus-shaded birds
all in shades of gray.
Don’t show the violet mist
and blue snow of Ararat
nor the aquamarine Sevan
being gilt at sunrise.
Don’t tint the apricot trees
with pink evening inks.
No gold or bottled green
in the valleys just silver
cold and bright. We do not
want the heart to break.
We want only light.~~Diana Der Hovanessian

~~~

The Word by Tony Hoagland

Down near the bottom
of the crossed-out list
of things you have to do today,

between “green thread”
and “broccoli,” you find
that you have penciled “sunlight.”

Resting on the page, the word
is beautiful. It touches you
as if you had a friend

and sunlight were a present
he had sent from someplace distant
as this morning–to cheer you up,

and to remind you that,
among your duties, pleasure
is a thing

that also needs accomplishing.
Do you remember?
that time and light are kinds

of love, and love
is no less practical
than a coffee grinder

or a safe spare tire?
Tomorrow you may be utterly
without a clue,

but today you get a telegram
from the heart in exile,
proclaiming that the kingdom

still exists,
the king and queen alive,
still speaking to their children,

–to any one among them
who can find the time
to sit out in the sun and listen.

(Writer’s Almanac, September 10, 2011)

An Honest Description of Myself with a Glass of Whiskey at An Airport, Let Us Say, in Minneapolis

By Czesław Miłosz

My ears catch less and less of conversations, and my eyes have weakened, though they are still insatiable.

I see their legs in miniskirts, slacks, wavy fabrics.

Peep at each one separately, at their buttocks and thighs, lulled by the imaginings of porn.

Old lecher, it’s time for you to the grave, not to the games and amusements of youth.

But I do what I have always done: compose scenes of this earth under orders from the erotic imagination.

It’s not that I desire these creatures precisely; I desire everything, and they are like a sign of ecstatic union.

It’s not my fault that we are made so, half from disinterested contemplation, half from appetite.

If I should accede one day to Heaven, it must be there as it is here, except that I will be rid of my dull senses and my heavy bones.

Changed into pure seeing, I will absorb, as before, the proportions of human bodies, the color of irises, a Paris street in June at dawn, all of it incomprehensible, incomprehensible the multitude of visible things.

(translated from the Polish by Robert Hass and Czeslaw Milosz)

~~~

Love After Love
by Derek Walcott

The time will come
when, with elation,
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror,
and each will smile at the other’s welcome,
and say, sit here.  Eat.

You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine.  Give bread.  Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you
all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.

Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,
the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit.  Feast on your life.

Photograph by Cartier-Bresson

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