In the wild spots where few or
no people live, the places blow
about, blurred. The desert shifts
some of its cells. Water lifts a little,
sinks. No pine needles fall, then,
a pine needle falls, four more. Here
no one knows what truth is escaping.
We’re unused to this. There are no cars moving on the street, and very few pedestrians. Into the silence, the radio announces that the Pope will tweet in Latin.
I think the brilliant character of the giant Utgard-Loki, with his wry attitude toward that little fellow Thor who “must be bigger than he looks,” is a stand-in for Snorri [Sturluson] himself. They share the same humorous tolerance of the gods. There is very little sense throughout the Edda that these were gods to be feared or worshipped, especially not the childish, naïve, blustering, weak-witted, and fallible Thor who is so easily deluded by Utgard-Loki’s wizardry of words. What god in his right mind would wrestle with a crone named “Old Age”? Or expect his servant-boy to outrun “Thought”?
It also fits with why Snorri wrote the Edda: to teach the 14-year-old king of Norway about Viking poetry. This story has a moral: See how foolish you would look, Snorri is saying to young King Hakon, if you didn’t understand that words can have more than one meaning, or that names can be taken literally? The story of Utgard-loki is, at heart, a story about why poetry matters.
we ran through the streets of Rochester
with the police hot on our heels
cops shouted our names through bullhorns
but careful hands passed us through the crowd
like children under the protection of the village
we slipped into an alleyway and were gone
Each year, the mountain loses more
of itself, its footing. Ice fall and avalanche
in place of an unmoving surface. Inside,
stretched and shifting, a piano slipping
out of tune. Mountains of today are not
the mountains of your childhood.
Compared to the colours of flags which are brash in their symbolism, the map-makers colours are indeed more delicate. They reflect the precarious and unstable nature of countries and borders as defined by the changing character of those states. In some ways these delicate colours contradict the bold and simple ones of flags, challenging those who stick their flags in a new region of the map, by that means trying to claim it.
I carry my
old year tenderly
breathing still, but
barely: I have to
bend to listen
and the whispers
are all memories
that shift across
each other like
Something you don’t see in a Christmas pageant: the slaughter of the innocents. But there it is, in the middle of Matthew’s account.
When Bethlehem’s young children were slain, Jesus was in Egypt. Joseph had been warned in a dream.
But Moses was already in Egypt. As an infant, he escaped by water, the means by which his pursuers were to perish.
Matthew’s baby Jesus is peripatetic, dodging bullets & fulfilling scripture. “Out of Egypt have I called my son.” “He shall be called a Nazarene.”
Luke: baby Jesus with the lambs. Matthew: baby Jesus on the lam.
So why water? Things present themselves most intensely right at the edge of their absence. This is the intrinsic drama of the urban waterfront — so much complexity right up against what reads to us as vast emptiness. Touching a large body of water is a contact-with-the-infinite that intensifies my sensation of the richness of the finite. So, after touching the water, I turn back — to the city or landscape that was behind me — and can how feel (not just know) that I’m seeing something that is vulnerable, contingent, even doomed sooner or later, and therefore real.
It’s almost too perfect.
The roar of the presses that ruled these rooms has been replaced, just as we all suspected, with the calculated silence of the conduit that carries our data. This data, in fact. These very photos.
100 years from now, when another one of you goes spelunking around this basement, that data, those bits, today’s moments, will likely be long, long gone.
But the women on the wall might still be waiting.