Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Lake Bath

Lake Bath

My skin it sheens,
unsoaped, unclean.
But the clouds they block
my will to walk.

The day spins onward.
A push to wander:

“To the lake,” she cries.
“Leave the tent behind.
I’m not wild of mind or anything like;
just unwilling to spend another night,
unwashed and ripe.”

So I find my courage -
“To cleanse and to nourish!”
we shout to the skies and
into water we dive.

And we bathe and we holler
And our will doesn’t falter
Till our hides are scrubbed,
dried and rubbed.


And after, with laughter,
We recall our endeavor –
The time an ancient crater
was met by wayward bathers.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Thomas Wolfe's Look Homeward Angel - A Collection of Quotes

All words from Look Homeward, Angel by Thomas Wolfe 

"Each of us is all the sums he has not counted: subtract us into nakedness and night again, and you shall see begin in Crete four thousand years ago the love that ended yesterday in Texas.

The seed of our destruction will blossom in the desert, the alexin of our cure grows by a mountain rock, and our lives are haunted by a Georgia slattern, because a London cutpurse went unhung. Each moment is the fruit of forty thousand years. The minute-winning days, like flies, buzz home to death, and every moment is a window on all time."


(65) “His life was like that river, rich with its own deposited and onward-borne agglutinations, fecund with its sedimental accretions, filled exhaustlessly by life in order to be more richly itself…”

(40) “It was perhaps a reversal of custom that the deep-hungering spirit of quest belonged to the one with the greatest love of order, the most pious regard for ritual, who wove into a pattern even his daily tirades of abuse, and that the sprawling blot of chaos, animated by one all-mastering desire for possession, belonged to the practical, the daily person.”

 (28) A newborn baby boy

“The heir apparent had, as a matter of fact, made his debut completely equipped with all appurtenances, dependences, screws,cocks, faucets, hooks, eyes, nails, considered necessary for completeness of appearance, harmony of parts, and unity of effect in this most energetic, driving, and competitive world.  He was the
complete male in miniature, the tiny acorn from which the mighty oak must grow, the heir of all ages, the inheritor of unfulfilled renown, the child of progress, the darling of the budding Golden Age and, what's more, Fortune and her Fairies, not content with well-nigh smothering him with these blessings of time and family,
saved him up carefully until Progress was rotten-ripe with glory.”

And yet, there was surging into these chosen hills the strong thrust of the world, like a kissing tide, which swings lazily in with a slapping glut of waters, and recoils into its parent crescent strength, to be thrown farther inward again. (111)

He saw plainly by this time that their poverty, the threat of the poor-house, the lurid references to the pauper’s grave, belonged to the insensate mythology of hoarding… (112)

I am… a part of all that I have touched and that has touched me, which, having for me no existence save that which I gave to it, became other than itself by being mixed with what I then was, and is now still otherwise, having fused with what I now am, which is itself a cumulation of what I have been becoming. Why here? Why there? Why now? Why then? (160)

Dull people filled him with terror: he was never so much frightened by tedium in his own life as in the lives of others… (168)

Eugene thought of this young Jew years later with the old piercing shame, with the riving pain by which a man recalls the irrevocable moment of some cowardly or dishonest act. For not only did he join in the persecution of the boy – he was also glad at heart because of the existence of someone weaker than himself… Years later it came to him that on the narrow shoulders of the Jew lay a burden he might have otherwise have borne, that that overladen heart was swollen with a misery that might have been his. (195)

There is no place among the Boy Scouts for the androgyne – it must go to Parnassus. (196)
   Nb: Parnassus was sacred to the god Dionysus.
The Corycian Cave, located on the slopes of Parnassus, was sacred to Pan and to the Muses.

His faith was above conviction.  Disillusion had come so often that it had awakened in him a strain of bitter suspicion, an occasional mockery, virulent, coarse, cruel, and subtle, which was all the more scalding because of his own pain.  Unknowingly, he had begun
to build up in himself a vast mythology for which he cared all the more deeply because he realized its untruth.  Brokenly, obscurely,he was beginning to feel that it was not truth that men live for--the creative men--but for falsehood.  At times his devouring,
unsated brain seemed to be beyond his governance: it was a frightful bird whose beak was in his heart, whose talons tore unceasingly at his bowels.  And this unsleeping demon wheeled, plunged, revolved about an object, returning suddenly, after it had flown away, with victorious malice, leaving stripped, mean, and
common all that he had clothed with wonder.(186)

Fluescent with smooth ripe curves, the drawling virgins of the South filled summer porches. (215)

On Brother Luke :
His great commercial talent was salesmanship; he had superlatively
that quality that American actors and men of business call
"personality"--a wild energy, a Rabelaisian vulgarity, a sensory
instinct for rapid and swinging repartee, and a hypnotic power of
speech, torrential, meaningless, mad, and evangelical.  He could
sell anything because, in the jargon of salesmen, he could sell
himself; and there was a fortune in him in the fantastic elasticity
of American business, the club of all the queer trades, of wild
promotions, where, amok with zealot rage, he could have chanted the
yokels into delirium, and cut the buttons from their coats, doing
every one, everything, and finally himself.  He was not an
electrical engineer--he was electrical energy.  He had no gift for
study--he gathered his unriveted mind together and bridged with it
desperately, but crumpled under the stress and strain of calculus
and the mechanical sciences.

Enormous humor flowed from him like crude light.  Men who had never
known him seethed with strange internal laughter when they saw him,
and roared helplessly when he began to speak.  Yet, his physical
beauty was astonishing.  His head was like that of a wild angel--
coils and whorls of living golden hair flashed from his head, his
features were regular, generous, and masculine, illuminated by the
strange inner smile of idiot ecstasy.

He wanted opulent solitude.  His dark vision burned on kingdoms
under the sea, on windy castle crags, and on the deep elf kingdoms
at the earth's core.  He groped for the doorless land of faery,
that illimitable haunted country that opened somewhere below a leaf
or a stone.  And no birds sing.

More practically, he saw for himself great mansions in the ground,
grottoes buried in the deep heart of a hill, vast chambers of brown
earth, sumptuously appointed with his bee-like plunder.  Cool
hidden cisterns would bring him air; from a peephole in the
hillside he could look down on a winding road and see armed men
seeking for him, or hear their thwarted gropings overhead.  He
would pull fat fish from subterranean pools, his great earth
cellars would be stocked with old wine, he could loot the world of
its treasures, including the handsomest women, and never be caught. (229)

On old man Gant dying:

He had a disease that is very common among old men who have lived
carelessly and lustily--enlargement of the prostate gland.  It was
not often in itself a fatal disease--it was more often one of the
flags of age and death, but it was ugly and uncomfortable.  It was
generally treated successfully by surgery--the operation was not
desperate.  But Gant hated and feared the knife: he listened
eagerly to all persuasions against it.

He had no gift for philosophy.  He could not view with amusement
and detachment the death of the senses, the waning of desire, the
waxing of physical impotence.  He fed hungrily, lewdly, on all news
of seduction: his amusement had in it the eyes of eagerness, the
hot breath of desire.  He was incapable of the pleasant irony by
which the philosophic spirit mocks that folly it is no longer able
to enjoy.(230)

“His contempt for reason was Parnassian. He accused God for exposing him; he wept because he had been caught” (239)


Temperance chant:

“Swirling around the marked man in wild elves' dance, they sang with
piping empty violence:

     "We are some fond mother's treasure,
      Men and women of to-morrow,
      For a moment's empty pleasure
      Would you give us lifelong sorrow?

      Think of sisters, wives, and mothers,
      Of helpless babes in some low slum,
      Think not of yourself, but others,
      Vote against the Demon Rum." (234)

There sounded in his heart a solemn music.  It filled the earth,
the air, the universe; it was not loud, but it was omnipresent, and
it spoke to him of death and darkness, and of the focal march of
all who lived or had lived, converging on a plain.  The world was
filled with silent marching men: no word was spoken, but in the
heart of each there was a common knowledge, the word that all men
knew and had forgotten, the lost key opening the prison gates, the
lane-end into heaven, and as the music soared and filled him, he
cried:  "I will remember.  When I come to the place, I shall know." (245)


At first, the canvas strap of the paper-bag bit cruelly across his
slender shoulders.  He strained against the galling weight that
pulled him earthwards.  The first weeks were like a warring
nightmare: day after day he fought his way up to liberation.  He
knew all the sorrow of those who carry weight; he knew, morning by
morning, the aerial ecstasy of release.  As his load lightened with
the progress of his route, his leaning shoulder rose with winged
buoyancy, his straining limbs grew light: at the end of his labor
his flesh, touched sensuously by fatigue, bounded lightly from the
earth.  He was Mercury chained by fardels, Ariel bent beneath a
pack: freed, his wingshod feet trod brightness.  He sailed in air.
The rapier stars glinted upon his serfdom: dawn reddened on
release.  He was like a sailor drowned within the hold, who gropes
to life and morning through a hatch; a diver twined desperately in
octopal feelers, who cuts himself from death and mounts slowly from
the sea-floor into light.

Within a month a thick hummock of muscle hardened on his shoulder:
he bent jubilantly into his work.  He had now no fear of failure.
His heart lifted like a proud crested cock.  He had been dropped
among others without favor, and he surpassed them.  He was a lord
of darkness; he exulted in the lonely sufficiency of his work.  He
walked into the sprawled chaos of the settlement, the rifleman of
news for sleeping men.  His fast hands blocked the crackling sheet,
he swung his lean arm like a whip.  He saw the pale stars drown,
and ragged light break open on the hills.  Alone, the only man
alive, he began the day for men, as he walked by the shuttered
windows and heard the long denned snore of the tropics.  He walked
amid this close thick sleep, hearing again the ghostly ring of his
own feet, and the vast orchestral music of darkness.  As the gray
tide of morning surged westward he awoke. (248)

“For what care the ambassadors of Satan, for all the small fidelities of the letterand the word, if from the singing choir of earthly methodism we cansteal a single heart--lift up, flame-tipped, one great lost soul to
the high sinfulness of poetry?” (255)

“O sheltered love, nooked warmly in against this winter
night.” (266)

“To rot away into a flower, to melt into a tree with the friendless bodies of unburied men.” (275)

“(They), after initial surprise, moulded new events very quickly into the texture of their lives.  Abysmal change widened their souls out in a brooding unconsciousness.” (314)

Eugene got back his heart again.  He got it back fiercely and carelessly, with an eldritch wildness.  During the remainder of hisholiday, he plunged recklessly through the lively crowds, looking
boldly but without insolence at the women and young girls.  They grew unexpectedly out of the waste drear winter like splendid flowers.  He was eager and alone.  Fear is a dragon that lives among crowds--and in armies.  It lives hardly with men who are alone.  He felt released--beyond the last hedge of desperation. (347)

He felt suddenly the devastating impermanence of the nation.  Only the earth endured--the gigantic American  earth, bearing upon its awful breast a world of flimsy rickets.  Only the earth endured--this broad terrific earth that had no ghosts to haunt it. (352)

… the terrible and obscure hunger that haunts and hurts Americans, and that makes us exiles at home and strangers wherever we go. (352)

He came to her, like a creature who had
travelled its life through dark space, for a moment of peace and conviction on some lonely planet, where now he stood, in the vast enchanted plain of moonlight, with moonlight falling on the moonflower of her face.  For if a man should dream of heaven and,waking, find within his hand a flower as token that he had really
been there--what then, what then? (363)

In another field, a man was mowing with a scythe, moving into the grass like a god upon his enemies, with a reaping hook of light. (377)

…the nightmare cruelty of life is not in the remote and fantastic, but in the probable--the horror of love,
loss, marriage, the ninety seconds treason in the dark. (379)

He had lost; but all pilgrimage across the world was
loss: a moment of cleaving, a moment of taking away, the thousand phantom shapes that beaconed, and the high impassionate grief of stars. (394)

For, it is the union of the ordinary and the miraculous that makes wonder. (397)

He was happier than he had ever been in his life, and more careless.  His physical loneliness was more complete and more delightful.  His escape from the
bleak horror of disease and hysteria and death impending, that hung above his crouched family,
left him with a sense of aerial buoyance, drunken freedom.  He had come to the place alone, without companions.  He had no connections.  He had, even now,  not one close friend.  And this isolation was in his favor.  Every one knew him at sight: every one
called him by name, and spoke to him kindly.  He was not disliked. He was happy, full of expansive joy, he greeted every one with enthusiastic gusto.  He had a  vast tenderness, an affection for the whole marvellous and unvisited earth, that blinded his eyes.  He was closer to a feeling of brotherhood than he had ever been, and more alone.  He was filled with a divine indifference for all appearance.  Joy ran like a great wine through his young expanding limbs; he bounded down the paths with wild cries in his throat,leaping for  life like an apple, trying to focus the blind desire that swept him apart, to melt down to a bullet all of his formless passion, and so, slay death, slay love. (407)

Joy awoke in him, and exultation.  They had escaped from the prison of death; they were joined to the bright engine of life again. Life, ruddered life, that would not fail, began its myriad embarkations. (468)

The national demand for white shiny plumbing, toothpaste, tiled lunch-rooms, hair-cuts, manicured dentistry, horn spectacles,baths, and the insane fear of disease that sent the voters whispering to the druggist after their brutal fumbling lecheries--
all of this seemed nasty.  Their outer cleanliness became the token of an inner corruption: it was something that glittered and was dry, foul, and rotten at the core.  He felt that, no matter what
leper's taint he might carry upon his flesh, there was in him a health that was greater than they could ever know--something fierce and cruelly wounded, but alive, that did not shrink away from the terrible sunken river of life; something desperate and merciless that looked steadily on the hidden and unspeakable passions that unify the tragic family of this earth. (491)

“O sudden and impalpable faun, lost in the thickets of myself, I will hunt you down until you cease to haunt my eyes with hunger.  heard your foot-falls in the desert, I saw your shadow in old buried cities, I heard your laughter running down a million streets, but I did not find you there.  And no leaf hangs for me in the forest; I shall lift no stone upon the hills; I shall find no door in any city.  But in the city of myself, upon the continent of my soul, I shall find the forgotten language, the lost world, a door where I may enter, and music strange as any ever sounded; I shall haunt you, ghost, along the labyrinthine  ways until--until? O Ben, my ghost, an answer?"(521)