"Remember (when time comes) how chaos died
To shape the shining leaf. Then turn, have courage,
Wrap arms and roots together, be convulsed
With grief, and bring back chaos out of shape.
I will be watching then as I watch now.
I will praise darkness now, but then the leaf."

– Conrad Aiken, from "The Room"

"Earth laughs in flowers, to see her boastful boys
Earth-proud, proud of the earth which is not theirs;
Who steer the plough, but cannot steer their feet
Clear of the grave."

– Ralph Waldo Emerson, from "Hamatreya"

Robert Doisneau, Promenade sur la plage, 1960 (via)


"Could gods like those be real, in something like the sense that you and I are real? But then, what sense is that?"

– John Koethe, from "Like Gods"

"'The Sailor cannot see the North—but knows the Needle can—'

The books were all torn apart, sliced along the spines
Light filled all the openings that she in her silence renounced

Still: her handwriting on the papers remembered us to her
The careful matching of the papers’ edges was a road back

One night Muhummad was borne aloft by a winged horse
Taken from the Near Mosque to the Far Mosque

Each book likens itself to lichen,
stitching softly to tree trunks, to rocks

what was given into the Prophet’s ears that night:
A changing of directions—now all the scattered tribes must pray:

Wonder well foundry, well sunborn, sundered and sound here
Well you be found here, foundered and found"

– Kazim Ali, "Renunciation"

"Thanks to art, instead of seeing one world only, our own, we see that world multiply itself and we have at our disposal as many worlds as there are original artists, worlds more different one from the other than those which revolve in infinite space, worlds which, centuries after the extinction of the fire from which their light first emanated, whether it is called Rembrandt or Vermeer, send us still each one its special radiance."

– Marcel Proust, Swann's Way, trans. Moncrieff and Kilmartin

"Soon the trees that make

these heavy stirring shapes, that sigh
as they gather up and soften
and transpose the dark will strip
themselves (like those old men
who leave their wives and families
to wander naked on the roads)
and then their brittle cast off
leaves will scratch and crawl
along the roads to give the only
sound of winter nights
and then the wind
and the other moon will have
come into their own."

– Robert Gregory, from "The Wind and the Other Moon"

Nedko Solakov, Fear #999, 2008, 2009


"'Just don't be afraid anymore if a real ghost shows up.'

'Yes, but that's the lesser fear, after all. The real fear is fear of the cause of the apparition...'"

– Franz Kafka, "Unhappiness" in Collected Stories

"Which are the magic
moments in ordinary
time? All of them,
for those who can see."

– Tim Dlugos, from "Ordinary Time"


"We pressed our hands side by side into the soft clay. We called that immortalizing our memory, and laughed. ... We were fragile. Our time was limited and so we could not waste it on matters of minor importance. So we concentrated on what mattered most: ourselves—playfully, as if we had all the time in the world. Two summers and two winters."

– Christa Wolf, Cassandra, trans. Jan van Heurck

Man Ray, Dead Leaf, 1942


"In everything, the deepest point of the leaf
is everything. Asleep, the body is most like a leaf."

– William Stobb, from "Poem Asleep"

"not of silver nor of coral,
but of weatherbeaten laurel.

Here, he introduced a sea
uniform like tapestry;

here, a fig-tree; there, a face;
there, a dragon circling space—

designating here, a bower;
there, a pointed passion-flower."

– Marianne Moore, "He Made This Screen" in Poems

"The lover's solitude is not a solitude of person (love confides, speaks, tells itself), it is a solitude of system: I am alone in making a system out of it (perhaps because I am ceaselessly flung back on the solipsism of my discourse). A difficult paradox: I can be understood by everyone (love comes from books, its dialect is a common one), but I can be heard (received 'prophetically') only by subjects who have exactly and right now the same language I have."

– Roland Barthes, A Lover's Discourse: Fragments, trans. Richard Howard

"In the yellow time of pollen when the fields were ablaze
we were very near bewildered by beauty.
The sky was a god-bee that hummed. All the air boomed
with that thunder. It was both for the prick
and the nectar we drank that we gave ourselves over."

– Luke Davies, from "[In the yellow time of pollen]"

"I took seven roads to get here
& almost died three times.
How many near misses before
new days slouched into the left corner
pocket, before the hanging fruit
made me kneel? I crossed
five times in the blood to see

the plots against the future—
descendent of a house that knows
all my strong & weak points.
No bounty of love apple glistened
with sweat, a pear-shaped lute
plucked in the valley of the tuber rose
& Madonna lily. Your name untied

every knot in my body, a honey-eating
animal reflected in shop windows
& twinned against this underworld."

– Yusef Komunyakaa, from "Providence" in Pleasure Dome

"In barlight alchemized: gold pate, the bellmouth
tenor, liquor trapped in a glass. The e-flat
clarinet chases time, strings shudder,
remembering the hundred tongues. Here comes old
snakeshine, scrolls stored in the well, here comes
the sobbing chazzan. O my lucky uncle,
you've escaped the Czar's army. Thunder
is sweet. Here comes the boink, boink bossa
nova slant of light. Snow-dollars
dissolve on a satin tongue. The river
swells green, concrete trembles, and we
sweat, leaning toward mikes and wires
as the last tune burns down to embers. Ash-
whispers. We were born before we were born."

– Joan Larkin, "The Combo"

"This I know at great cost:
all life is not outward,
nor is all death from within:
time writes in the ciphers
of water and rock for no one at all,
so that none may envision the sender
and no one be any the wiser."

– Pablo Neruda, from "The Traveler" in Five Decades: Poems, trans. Ben Belitt

Ansel Adams, Winter Sunrise from Lone Pine, Sierra Nevada, 1944


"And I love to see the sun rise blood-crimson.
And I watch his spears through the dark clash
And it fills all my heart with rejoicing
And prys wide my mouth with fast music
When I see him so scorn and defy peace,
His lone might ’gainst all darkness opposing."

– Ezra Pound, from "Sestina: Altaforte"

"This word is true on all the paths you tread,
As true as truth need be, when all is said:
That if you find no truth among the living
You will not find much truth among the dead."

– T. S. Eliot, from "Miscellaneous Leaves" in Inventions of the March Hare

Umberto Boccioni, Io Noi Boccioni, Photomontage, c. 1907-10


"What does it matter if the words
I choose, in the order I choose them in,
Go out into a silence I know
Nothing about, there to be let
In and entertained and charmed
Out of their master’s orders? And yet
I would like to see where they go
And how without me they behave."

— W. S. Graham, from "Approaches to How They Behave"

"That day. The last. Paul Celan at my house. Sitting in this chair that I have right now been staring at for a long time.

Exchange of words, closeness. His voice? Soft, most of the time. And yet it is not his voice I hear today, but his silence. It is not him I see, but emptiness, perhaps because, on that day, each of us had unawares and cruelly revolved around himself."

— Edmond Jabès, "Memory of Paul Celan" in The Book of Margins, trans. Rosmarie Waldrop

Jack Spencer, Chavo, 2001


"Together then; now I must stop short on the brink of that same abyss; she was dead. It was not enough now to draw the curtains, I tried to stop the eyes and ears of my memory so as not to see that band of orange in the western sky, so as not to hear those invisible birds responding from one tree to the next on either side of me who was then so tenderly embraced by her that now was dead. I tried to avoid those sensations that are given us by the dampness of leaves in the evening air, the steep rise and fall of mule-tracks. But already those sensations had gripped me afresh, carried far enough back from the present moment so that it should have gathered all the recoil, all the resilience necessary to strike me afresh, this idea that Albertine was dead."

– Marcel Proust, Albertine disparue, 1925, trans. Moncrieff and Kilmartin

"Ringing the imperfect moon, and you wish you could tell him what it means.
This is what silence looks like, you think later,
                                                                            and a possum lands like ordnance
on the roof, and down in the paddock
a dozen souls are reborn in the bawling cattle and the fox plays the geese
like oboes with broken reeds. Night is the world in its other life."

– Mark Tredinnick, from "Eclogues"

J. M. W. Turner, Storm Clouds: Sunset with a Pink Sky, 1833


"It draws towards evening as we wander about the ravine, and the cathedral towers fade in the tender light. We prepare to cross the bridge and ascend to the higher town. Very beautiful; almost unique, in this series of sketches, for quietness of colour; its bank of purple and plumy trees, against the golden light, is drawn with great care and completion."

— John Ruskin, from The Turner Bequest, on Turner's Lausanne, in Rosy Sunset, c. 1830

"The man born of the milestone is read in what will be written tomorrow and what the words express already, as if everything had been said once and had taken possession of the vast world, englobing past and future, as if our time to live only existed in abolished time, in the very abolishing which gives it a dimension beyond measure."

— Edmond Jabès, The Book of Questions II, trans. Rosmarie Waldrop

Albrecht Dürer, Adam and Eve (detail), c. 1504


"Suddenly I saw the cold and rook-delighting heaven
That seemed as though ice burned and was but the more ice,
And thereupon imagination and heart were driven
So wild that every casual thought of that and this
Vanished, and left but memories, that should be out of season
With the hot blood of youth, of love crossed long ago;
And I took all the blame out of all sense and reason,
Until I cried and trembled and rocked to and fro,
Riddled with light. Ah! when the ghost begins to quicken,
Confusion of the death-bed over, is it sent
Out naked on the roads, as the books say, and stricken
By the injustice of the skies for punishment?"

— W. B. Yeats, "The Cold Heaven"