When they dug the body out of the alley, it made even the hardened construction workers and emergency squad cops ill. Not one bone was left unbroken. The very flesh seemed to have been masticated as if by a nation of cannibal dogs. Even so, the three inured excavators who finally used winding sheets and shovels to bring the shapeless mess up from its eleven-foot grave agreed that it was incredible, totally past belief, that the head and face were untouched.
And they all agreed that the expression on the face was not one of happiness. There were many possible explanations for that expression, but no one would have said terror, for it was not terror. They would not have said helplessness, for it was not that, either. They might have settled on a pathetic sense of loss, had their sensibilities run that deep, but none of them would have felt that the expression said, with great finality: a man may truly live in his dreams, his noblest dreams, but only, only if he is worthy of those dreams.
It did not rain that night, anywhere in the known universe.
— Harlan Ellison, “Delusion for a Dragon Slayer”
toomuchart: Peter Vilhelm Ilsted, Girl Reading a Letter in an Interior, 1908.
The idea that history
Is more than the sum of component parts glosses pain with sentiment, yet we
do it all the time, sitting together with friends after the roof’s caved in.
Bitter words from the beloved—
A wild complaint, as in the Donal Og with its impossibilities and smooth-
stripped compass rose: It was a bad time she took for telling me that;
it was shutting the door after the house was robbed… .
There is the lament, and then the assignation; shocks of ice piling up in the
lee of the dam, and voice plucked knife-edged from a chill breeze.
In the fable those children and that livestock
Were replaced, not restored, two different things. This evening the sky leaves
wind-knots tied in your footsteps, bits of string and grass blown up
from some uncovered place.
No longer a scrawl. In which some letters may not be spoken. You write
around them as on the rim of a wheel revolving slowly to the rhythm
of sleet against a kitchen window,
Promising nothing this time: no ships, no towns, no seaside courts. Only the
tannin-dark water you came from. And the green fields in the high
passes to which you will go.
— G.C. Waldrep
There’s a wheel turning in the center of the earth
and over it, our feet are always running, running,
trying to keep pace.
Then there’s a period of quietude and rue,
when you want to crawl inside yourself,
when you prefer ugliness to hope.
Last night the sunset was so pink and swollen
the sky looked like it had gotten an infection.
[…] And the smell of lilacs and manure blew out of the fields
with such complexity and sweetness, we closed our eyes.
It had nothing to do with being good, or smart, or choosing right.
It had to do with being lucky—
something none of us had ever imagined.
from “Spring Lemonade,” Tony Hoagland
Why so long with your disbelief?
I see several ships, they are moving toward us,
their sails are tattered, but they tack & ride
At night the sea is cast, spider-silted. The flinty
underbelly of a ship. Did I imagine
that blue distemper? That crashing,
The frequency’s fixed. Array. Array.
& those who sent it
will never know
its true expense to us.