not a pretty picture. not a good. not a bad. picture. but an argument.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

stitching the shore

it is so strange that we seem to live a linear journey when really our history is picked up and passed through our cores time and time again in our making.  if i step back from this i understand that every person lives the similar pattern, as though the stitching, that in the end will render us nothing, along the way makes us all the same in design, with variations in temporary material.  this poem was once specifically important to me and so remains that way to me but each time it passes through me it gains new colour, new dimension, new understanding. 

it feels to me as though the world is made of two main string lines, violence and Eros.  while one makes, the other unmakes, or they together make the unfailing pattern which adds up to both everything and zero.  and while specificity is important in our own stories, who we love, how and when, most important is that we love, that we try to make that particular fabric stronger.

"The Shore" by Sharon Olds

The water was clear, grey-green, when I dove
under, it was shimmering.  I looked up,
and saw a wave, passing over,
a gray bar, hurled flat toward the beach,
parallel to it, like a stone yardstick.
I went down inside, to see it again--
wild, shadowy rolling-pin
hurtling toward shore.  Looking up,
without breath, and seeing it,
I felt I was in a nucleus,
seeing the forms of glisten accruing
around me in a cell.  And in bed, when I,
your aqueous humor blurred a moment - not
with tears--with the blur of birth and death, and from with-
in my soul, I saw in your eye-crypt
and honeycomb meshwork, the pure sea.  And then,
when you, your pupil swelled, grew
and grew like a time-lapse flower in the dark on the
screen--bud, half-blossom, blossom, then the
full bloom, stretching as if it were
coming toward me, the one who dwells at your
core rising, and coming out
to me.  When I cried, each tear made a shining rough
mark on you, like a rip in matter
through to spirit, and, clasped as we were, I
felt each
drop hit
and its tiny waves vibrate out, then
what we had become lay, without moving
or speaking, and then eased out, into its sleep.


  1. Ah, memories of forgotten class notes: Eros (life principle) vs. Thanatos (death principle) which you accurately name violence. So right you are that our history is picked up and passed through our cores time and again (!).
    Thank you for Sharon Olds' poem and your gorgeous photograph.

  2. ds, i'm fascinated by your response to this but i feel an important disagreement with the equation of death with violence. i think they are two distinct things, although perhaps i am only fooling myself, sentimentalizing. i'll have to think on it a lot more, and by that i mean i must take the next ten years or so to determine what i mean by violence.

    but death, surely while violent to our current living stories, is not the ultimate violence for me. in fact i welcome it in our equation. i would want no other life than one that ends in death. but violence...

    let me restate so that i might understand myself:) we are born into a life comprised of the two c(h)ords, violence and love, and then our life ends, death. birth and death are on either ends. the resonance of our particular story is the binding and play between the two human directives love and violence in between.

    but i laugh a little. am i making any sense? i have a radio program in my one ear about agnosticism and yet spirituality, and in my other some too serious killing on the x-box instigated by my son. (the violent games are not my it is with parenting aside people with distinctly different ideas about the world.)

    it is good to hear from you:)))))


  3. erin, i've been thinking about this a lot & my guess is that it is we in the "West" who consider death a violence because we think of it as an ending, a literal wrenching from life, even when that passing is said by some to be "easy". Eastern cultures/religions (and there is a great distinction there, too, to be considered) believe it to be a continuation of life, another stage. (Immolated monks being the gruesome exception)These are generalizations. We here (again, i generalize) are so frightened by the thought of death--of aging, even, all that money thrown on cosmetic surgeries or Botox, etc. & for what?--that to us it is a violence as brutal as any smart bomb or IED. war absolutely being the ultimate violence with its connection to violation.
    Violence in your sense being a part of the natural world (as opposed to the artificiality of your son's x-box game. Parenting comes with its own precepts, absolutely.), which i know to be true when i think about it. Still, we lean toward death even as we embrace life--every day dying a little bit more. So I am working toward your way of thinking even though i name it differently.
    But will have to keep thinking--deeply--on this
    Thank you.

  4. Thank you for these thoughts, Erin. Of course the first paragraph reminds me of the two poems we read recently, Didion's passage, and A Gift by Czesław Miłosz. The second paragraph I will also think about. I appreciate the conversation between you and DS. I've heard statements that there are only love and fear, and certainly violence is of the latter.

    The poem is tremendous. I feel from it the memory of my own tears from our "sea" here a couple weeks ago. It is this kind of exploring I want to do. After feeling the depths of the sea's sadness and joy, its love and violence (?), what does it mean?

    1. what can it possibly mean? (truly, what are the possibilities?) and what if it doesn't mean anything at all, but rather simply is? even without meaning it surges to be seen, doesn't it? it forces itself forward to be. (and isn't this sexual? isn't the analogy of longing, our longing and the earth's longing sexual? or, isn't our body's longing a metaphor for that which moves beneath?) could the only answer ever be that life begets life? could the only answer ever be momentum itself? (i'm unsure and only explore, suspecting our consciousness and ego at every step of the way.)


  5. i love these lines

    I felt I was in a nucleus,
    seeing the forms of glisten accruing
    around me in a cell.

    (the forms of glisten!!)

    ... and the ending, very much :-)

    perhaps i'm missing something (or missing a lot!) but i don't see the violence in the poem ... eros, yes, and perhaps both are always present, even if one is submerged ....

    perhaps some of the trouble (if it is "trouble") with death and violence comes from a common assumption that they are necessarily bad things and to be avoided. it is east to see that a life without death would be no life at all ... but violence, too, is not always negative. certainly all creation involves violence of some kind, a slash or break in the already-existing to clear space for the new. didn't picasso say that every painting is "a mass of destructions," or something like that?

    but then, if we understand that violence can be creative as well as destructive, do we have to see eros or love as always positive? ... are they always aligned with birth, or sometimes with death, too? certainly much erotic literature (including the erotic vein of religious mystics) has envisioned a death of the self into union with the beloved (and i smile at this and believe in it:-)

    just as you and everyone else here says, this will require a lifetime to think about ...



    1. james, we have talked about this but perhaps it is important to bring it here, as well. i often forget the responsibility of making sense:) who would know but me that eros, especially this specific case of eros (tied specifically to this poem), is also tied to violence, in this case the violence of eros ended? years ago robert read to me this poem in one of the most superb readings ever, the poem, i believe, taking him over, in conjunction with other things, and speaking itself beautifully into the world, giving itself a body. this was at his and my meeting. these years later i take a photograph of a shore while you and i stand side by side. what else to marry it with but this poem? i agree with you, the poem does not speak of violence. it is my history that does, both violence and eros.

      but you explore something here which is utterly important, the dual nature of both violence and eros. why are we so insistent upon putting ideas into separate camps? you and i talk a great deal about polarities and the world being composed of them, but maybe it is not that one exists to the far left and the other to the far right, but rather that they exist inside one another. our three dimensional and at times, two dimensional (linear) views on the world are, i think, most likely too simplistic. being is a great entanglement, a pulse. how blessed to be so entangled in such an exquisitely painful and joyous life)))

      love beyond measure)))beyond beyond)))

    2. (the language is this poem is so absurdly ripe and right that i smell the wind to understand the deeply alchemy of language itself.)

  6. S'il est difficile de penser à une éternelle jeunesse, pour ne pas dire une jeunesse éternelle, il faut s'efforcer de penser l'amour éternel comme force positive capable de contrebalancer la finitude de l'homme et de de faire perdurer la vie sur notre planète. Tu as assez de forces spirituelles en toi( je ne parle pas de religion) pour faire ce choix et t'embraquer sur des rêves d'artiste. Ils passent par la photographie pour le moment et nous profitons de cette nourriture spirituelle. Que cela dure le p^lus longtemps possible.
    Avec ton autorisation, je t'embrasse amicalement


    1. roger, i want to say that we have to work at striking the balance between love and violence, and certainly i believe we must work toward love, but i am unsure that we have much influence on the balance at all. perhaps the balance exists despite ourselves in both directions.

      but regardless and always regardless of outcome or scale, we must nurture love. but i am not saying anything new to you. i am only holding a mirror up so that you might see your lovely self:))))


  7. flott forbindelse mellom bilde og text Erin !


"Words at the limit of hearing, attributable to no one, received in the conch of the ear like dew by a leaf." (philippe jaccottet) or even a quiet presence is appreciated))