Why this?

The occasional poem of my own and a generous helping of work by others that I find inspiring. Site is named for a beloved book by one of my favorite writers, Italo Calvino, whose fanciful work lights--and delights--my soul.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Catacombs of the past

The scholar who descends into the catacombs of the past is endangered; he may lose his way. A given period, or a millennium, may become more real than the century he inhabits in the flesh. The documents may prove extensive; thread leads on to thread, passage to passage. My card files thickened with material tangential to the purpose with which I started. Similarly the dedicated archaeologist, laboring under an enormous compulsion, may hasten to the next tumulus carrying his discoveries only in his mortal head, while disease or a viper under a stone can suddenly ease his achievement. Equivalent perils confront the delver into libraries. 

Several years of toil passed with every spare moment occupied in a way that would have astounded and troubled the brisk young editor. I was becoming insubstantial, the present with its publishing schedules a bothersome encumbrance. My laboriously scrawled cards, which only I could decipher, continued their extension through fireproof cases that still line my walls. At this point two things threaten the researcher. 


First, he may become so lost below ground, trail leading on to trail, that he may never emerge to publish. He may be stricken by a phobia of incompleteness. He may become a perfectionist who will not set pen to paper until he has consulted every document of the century in which he has come to live. The past has infiltrated his arteries and his brain; he no longer has a sense of mortality. He has lost the realization that the flesh-and-blood inhabitants of his chosen period went about their affairs as living and limited human beings.


No man could possibly assimilate every lie, half truth, and truth that bewitched the minds of a past century. With the relative clarity of aftervision we can attempt, at best, only some insights, some relative comprehension of ideas which will always be appraised anew by later generations. So great is the lure of documents, however, that it is easy to be lulled into a false sense of omnipotence. The drone of that buzzing fly, the publisher, recedes into the distances of the future we have unconsciously abandoned. The dust of the catacombs gathers upon our skins.


--Loren Eiseley

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Settling In [love this one!]

How I loved
each bare floor, each
naked wall, the shadows on

newly empty halls.
By day, my head humming
to itself of dreams, I cleaned and

scrubbed
to make life
new; dislodging from the corner,

the old
moths and cicadas
pinned to the screen, the carcasses

of grasshoppers
dangling from beams,
and each windowsill’s clutter of

dried beetles
and dead bees. But,
through each opening, each closing door,

the old life
returns on six legs, or
spins a musty web as it roosts over

a poison pot, or
descends from above
to drink blood in. This is how it

happens: the
settling in—the press
of wilderness returns to carved-out space, to skin.

--Jenny Factor