Jan Davidsz de Heem, Still Life with Glass and Oysters, 1640


"We are instructed by the objects that come to speak with us, those material presences. Why should we have been born knowing how to love the world? We require, again and again, these demonstrations."

– Mark Doty, Still Life with Oysters and Lemon

"According to Proust, even involuntary memory occupies a very restricted zone, which art exceeds on all sides, and which has only a conductive role. The problem of art, the correlative problem to creation, is that of perception and not memory...

There is lost time, which is not a negation but a full function of time."

– Gilles Deleuze, from "Boulez, Proust and Time"

Anselm Kiefer, Painting=Burning, 1974

"Well, it must be another year, if I do not die between this and then."

– Marcel Proust, Le temps retrouvé

"With what stillness at last
you appear in the valley
your first sunlight reaching down
to touch the tips of a few
high leaves that do not stir
as though they had not noticed
and did not know you at all
then the voice of a dove calls
from far away in itself
to the hush of the morning

so this is the sound of you
here and now whether or not
anyone hears it this is
where we have come with our age
our knowledge such as it is
and our hopes such as they are
invisible before us
untouched and still possible"

– W. S. Merwin, "To the New Year"

"There are painters who transform the sun to a yellow spot, but there are others who with the help of their art and their intelligence, transform a yellow spot into sun."

– Pablo Picasso

"After the last well-saved valium
you do not remember forgiving yourself
in the vomit and urine
but trying to focus on the spreading dahlias
above the bed."

– James L. White, from "The Clay Dancer" in The Salt Ecstasies

David Maljkovic, Recalling Frames, 2010


"Infants begin to see by noticing the edges of things. How do they know an edge is an edge? By passionately wanting it not to be. The experience of eros as lack alerts a person to the boundaries of himself, of other people, of things in general. It is the edge separating my tongue from the taste for which it longs that teaches me what an edge is."

– Anne Carson, Eros the Bittersweet

"Some nothing afternoon, no one anywhere,
an early autumn stillness in the air,
the kind of empty day you fill by taking in
the full size of the valley and its layers leading
slowly to the Blue Ridge, the quality of country,
if you stand here long enough, you could stay
for, step into, the way a landscape, even on a wall,
pulls you in, one field at a time, pasture and fall
meadow, high above the harvest, perfect
to the tree line, then spirit clouds and intermittent
sunlit smoky rain riding the tops of the mountains,
though you could walk until it’s dark and not reach those rains—
you could walk the rest of the day into the picture
and not know why, at any given moment, you’re there."

– Stanley Plumly, "Off A Side Road Near Staunton"

"I have heard the key
Turn in the door once and turn once only…"

– T. S. Eliot, from The Waste Land

"Have you ever repented a little ... either by night or by day, either walking, standing, reclining, looking up, bending down, reaching forward or sideways, over or under, singing or dancing, riding or trotting, running or painting, sleeping or waking, laughing or crying?...

In reaching to fasten a cloak on a peg, a shirt on its arm, a bonnet in cupboard, a jar in the pantry, in hanging a picture, a curtain or motto, a fountain, a bird's cage, a shoe-bag or lantern, a rope or a flag, or calendar valentine, stocking, come Christmas?"

– Djuna Barnes, Ryder

Ilse Bing, Christmas Eve, Frankfurt Station, 1929


"It's late. A spongy fetish
eats the cones off the Christmas tree;

a wish frisks after them
roughened up by
aphorisms of frost;

the window flies open; we're outside;

the bump of Being
will not level out..."

– Paul Celan, from Glottal Stop, trans. Nikolai Popov and Heather McHugh

"'Hope: the following page. Do not close the book.'

'I have turned all the pages of the book without finding hope.'

'Perhaps hope is the book.'"

– Edmond Jabès, from "Drawn Curtains" in From the Book to the Book, trans. Rosmarie Waldrop

"It has been the wettest Christmas, I should say, drawing a bow at a venture, on record. Only yesterday did I manage my phantom farm walk; but pray God, with Christmas over, the rain will stop falling..."

– Virginia Woolf, from a diary entry dated 30 December 1934

"You must come to them sideways
In rooms webbed in shadow,
Sneak a view of their emptiness
Without them catching
A glimpse of you in return."

– Charles Simic, from "Mirrors at 4 a.m."

Caravaggio, The Entombment of Christ (detail), c. 1602-04


"The noise the body makes
when the body meets
the soul over the soul's ocean and penumbra
is the old sound of up-and-down, in-and-out,
a lump of muscle chug-chugging blood
into the ear; a lover's
heart-shaped tongue;
flesh rocking flesh until flesh comes..."

– Li-Young Lee, from "The Cleaving"

"This is not my teeming fate, my rind, my rolling ellipsis or valedictory spray of myrrh. Always it's morning, afternoon or evening — the loot of hours — a magic sack grasping vacuum but heavy in the hand, and from which, together, we pull a swarm of telepathic bees, melons beached in a green bin, a lithograph of the city from its crumbling ramparts, crackled pitchers and the mouth of a cave. Perhaps this is my open weave, my phantom rialto or plume of light. We bow to each other in the mash of flicking things. We are completely surrounded."

– Aaron Shurin, from "Plume" in Citizen

"And if every step taken is a step well-lived but a foot
towards death, every pilgrimage a circle, every flight-path
the tracing of a sphere: I will give myself over and over."

– Luke Davies, from "[And if every step taken is a step well-lived]"

"The fern in the rain breathes the silver message.
Stay, lie low. Play your dark reeds
and relearn the beauty of absorption.
There is nothing beyond the rotten log
covered with leaves and needles.
Forget the light emerging with its golden wick.
Raise your face to the water-laden frond.
A thousand blossoms will fall into your arms."

– Anne Coray, "The Art of Being"

Ted Kincaid, Installation shot of Tree series, 2009


"Since there’s no blind, the tree outside’s
a curtain on your room, the yolk-bright mornings
breaking through. Last night, its shadow seemed
the only thing between you and the leaking dark,
the rain set loose and needling the bark.
Look close. Its leaves direct the wind.
Your world’s veiled by a moving thatch —
this is the way a hunter squints through grass,
a hide-and-seek cheat peers over their hands,
a girl looks up from underneath her fringe.

This is the landscape’s hidden hinge
where all things start and peter out:
the summers you were blind to, winters when
the tree gave back the tin-roof coloured sky,
the small, white knuckle of a distant farm.
These branches force the valley’s arm,
pin down the light, headlock the air
until there’s nothing left of it at all.
Watch how the leaves balance the sky,
then let it fall."

– Helen Mort, "Grasmere Oak" (via wood s lot)

"'You' have transformed into 'my loss.'
The nettles in your vanished hair
Restore the absolute truth
Of warring animals without a haven.
I know, I'm as pathetic as a railroad
Without tracks.  In June, I eat
The lonesome berries from the branches.
What can I say, except the forecast
Never changes.  I sleep without you,
And the letters that you sent
Are now faded into failed lessons
Of an animal that's found a home.  This."

– Noelle Kocot, "The Peace That So Lovingly Descends"

David Burdeny, Hope Bay, Antarctica


"Whether or not shadows are of the substance
such is the expectation I can
wait to surprise my vision as a wind
enters the valley: sudden and silent
in its arrival, drawing to full cry
the whorled invisibilities, glassen towers
freighted with sky-chaff; that, as barnstorming
powers, rammack the small
orchard; that well-steaded oaks
ride stolidly, that rake the light-leafed ash,
that glowing yew trees, cumbrous, heave aside.
Amidst and abroad tumultuous lumina,
regents, reagents, cloud-fêted, sun-ordained,
fly tally over hedgerows, across fields."

– Gregory Hill, "On Seeing the Wind at Hope Mansell"

"Explain that you live between two great darks, the first
With an ending, the second without one, that the luckiest
Thing is having been born, that you live in a blur
Of hours and days, months and years, and believe
It has meaning, despite the occasional fear
You are slipping away with nothing completed, nothing
To prove you existed."

– Mark Strand, from "The Continuous Life"


"What I have given to sorrow,
though I have poured out
all I am again and again,
does not amount to much.

One winter’s snows.
Two loves I could not welcome.
A year of mostly silence.
Another man I might have been."

– Richard Hoffman, "Inventory" (via wood s lot)

John Coplans, Self-Portrait: Back with Arms Above, 1984


"Like a river that dives underground just there
There where the animals thirst the most
A desert fox say or say a toad or let’s speak more simply
About a plum which bursts through its own explosion
Into being and hangs there so ponderously
As if as if not concerned with innocence or
Gravity or other acute angles as they evaporate
Into this poem O no am I speaking again again about
dim lands these dim dim lands of of peace"

– Dan Beachy-Quick, from "In a Station of the Metro"