Gaia no Antropoceno – Bruno Latour em “Uma Antropologia dos Modernos”

Alex-Grey-Psychedelic-Painting-Art-Gallery-Gaia-1024x640

GAIA IN THE ANTHROPOCENE By Bruno Latour

“Geologists are beginning to use the term ANTHROPOCENE to designate the era of Earth’s history that extends from the scientific and industrial revolutions to the present day. These geologists see humanity as a force of the same amplitude as volcanoes or even plate tectonics. It is now before GAIA that we are summoned to appear: Gaia, the odd, doubly composite figure made up of science and mythology, used by certain specialists to designate the Earth that surrounds us and that we surround, the truly global Globe that threatens us even as we threaten it.

If I wanted to dramatize – perhaps overdramatize – the ambiance of my investigative project, I would say that it seeks to register the aftershocks of the MODERNIZATION FRONT just as the confrontation with Gaia appears imminent.

At all events, we shall not cure the Moderns of their attachment to their cherished theme, the modernization front, if we do not offer them an alternate narrative… After all, the Moderns have cities who are often quite beautiful; they are city-dwellers, citizens, they call themselves (and are sometimes called) “civilized”.

Why would we not have the right to propose to them a form of habitation that is more comfortable and convenient and that takes into account both their past and their future – a more sustainable habitat, in a way? Why would they not be at ease there? Why would they wander in the permanent utopia that has for so long made them beings without hearth or home – and has driven them for that very reason to inflict fire and bloodshed on the planet?

After all these years of wandering in the desert, do they have hope of reaching not the Promised Land but Earth itself, quite simply, the only one they have, at once underfoot and all around them, the aptly named Gaia?”

BRUNO LATOUR.
“An Inquiry into Modes of Existence: An Anthropology of the Moderns”
Harvard University Press, 2013. Translated by Catherine Porter.
Download e-book at Library Genesis.
Join: http://www.modesofexistence.org

 

Adam and Eve (Art by Alex Grey)

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You might also enjoy:

The Affects of Capitalism (full lecture)
(If you wanna skip the intro, Latour actually starts speaking at 12 min and 45 seconds.)

O Redemoinho da Existência: Palavras de Jean-Marie Guyau, Pintura de K. Hokusai, Música de Claude Debussy…

Katsushika Hokusai (1760 – 1849)

“The Great Wave”, by Katsushika Hokusai (1760 – 1849)

“Perhaps there is nothing which offers to the eye and the mind a more complete and more sorrowful representation of the world than the sea. In the first place, it is a picture of force in its wildest and most unconquerable form; it is a display, a luxury of power, of which nothing else can give an idea; and it lives, moves, tosses, everlastingly without aim. Sometimes we might say that the sea is animated, that it palpitates and breathes, that it is an immense heart, whose powerful and tumultuous heaving we see; but what makes us despair here is that all this effort, this ardent life, is spent to no purpose. This heart of the world beats without hope; from all this rocking, all this collision of the waves, there results only a little foam stripped off by the wind.

I remember that, sitting on the beach once, I watched the serried waves rolling towards me. They came without interruption from the expanse of the sea, roaring and white. Behind the one dying at my feet I noticed another; and further behind that one, another; and further still, another and another – a multitude. At last, as far as I could see, the whole horizon seemed to rise and roll on towards me. There was a reservoir of infinite, inexhaustible forces there. How deeply I felt the impotency of man to arrest the effort of that whole ocean in movement! A dike might break one of these waves; it could break hundreds and thousands of them; but would not the immense and indefatigable ocean gain the victory?

The ocean neither works nor produces; it moves. It does not give life; it contains it, or rather it gives and takes it with the same indifference. It is the grand, eternal cradle rocking its creatures. If we look down into its fathoms, we see its swarming life. There is not one of its drops of water which does not hold living creatures, and all fight one another, persecute one another, avoid and devour one another… The ocean itself gives us the spectacle of a war, a struggle without truce… And yet this tempest of the water is but the continuation, the consequence, of the tempest of the air; is it not the shudder of the winds which communicates itself to the sea?

There is nothing which is not carried away by the whirlpool of cosmic existence. Earth itself, man, human intelligence, nothing can offer us anything fixed to which it would be possible to hold on – all these are swept away in slower, but not less irresistible, undulations…

* * * * *

Let us imagine a ship in a storm, rising and falling by a series of curves… If at one moment of the passage the descending curve bears the ship down, and she does not rise again, it would be a sign that she is sinking deeper and deeper, and beginning to founder. Even so is it with life, tossed about on waves of pleasure and of pain: if one marks these undulations with lines, and if the line of pain lengthens more than the other, it means that we are going down. Life, in order to exist, needs to be a perpetual victory of pleasure over pain.”

111

JEAN-MARIE GUYAU (1854-1888)
French philosopher and poet
Esquisse d’une morale
sans obligation ni sanction


Originally published in 1884.
Quoted from the English translation,
by Gertrude Kapteyn. London, 1898.
Chapter I. Pgs. 42 – 35.

Download e-book in French or English.

“La Mer”, by Claude Debussy (1862-1918)

Galeria de Arte na Web: Diego Rivera (1886-1957)

Zapata de RiveraAgrarian Leader Zapata (1931)

“Emiliano Zapata, a champion of agrarian reform and a key protagonist in the Mexican Revolution, here leads a band of peasant rebels armed with makeshift weapons, including farming tools. With the bridle of a majestic white horse in his hand, Zapata stands triumphantly beside the dead body of a hacienda owner. Though Mexican and U.S. newspapers regularly vilified the revolutionary leader as a treacherous bandit, Rivera immortalized Zapata as a hero and glorified the victory of the Revolution in an image of violent but just vengeance.”- MOMA

Rivera - Liberation of the Peon

Liberation of the Peon (1931)

“In Liberation of the Peon, Rivera developed a harrowing narrative of corporal punishment. A laborer, beaten and left to die, is cut down from a post by sympathetic revolutionary soldiers, who tend to his broken body. Peonage—a system of indentured servitude established by Spanish colonizers, under which natives were forced to work the land—persisted in Mexico into the 20th century. The mural offers the injustice of earlier social and economic conditions as a rationale for the Mexican Revolution.” – MOMA

Rivera - Sugar Cane

Sugarcane (1931)

“Set on a sugar plantation, this portable mural introduces the tensions over labor, race, and economic inequity that simmered in Mexico after the Revolution. In the foreground, an Indian woman, with the traditional braids and white clothes of a peasant, cuts papayas from a tree while her children collect the fruit in reed baskets. Behind them, dark-skinned men with bowed heads gather bunches of sugar cane. A foreman, with distinctly lighter skin and hair, watches over them on horseback, and in the background a pale hacendado(wealthy landowner) languishes in a hammock. In this panel, Rivera adapted Marxist ideas about class struggle—an understanding of history born in industrialized Europe—to the context of Mexico, a primarily agrarian country until after World War II.” – MOMA

Flower Festival Feast of Santa Anita by Diego Rivera OSA117

Flower Festival: Feast of Santa Anita (1931)

“Rivera spent the tumultuous years of the Mexican Revolution (1910–20) painting and traveling abroad in Europe. Upon returning to his native country in 1921, he exalted indigenous Mexican people and traditions, making them a central subject of his work. As he later recalled, “My homecoming aroused an aesthetic rejoicing in me which is impossible to describe. Everywhere I saw a potential masterpiece—in the crowds, the markets, the festivals, the marching battalions, the workers in the workshops, the fields—in every shining face, every radiant child.” This painting, depicting a flower festival held on Good Friday in a town then called Santa Anita, was included in a solo exhibition of Rivera’s work at MoMA in 1931. Only the second artist (after Henri Matisse) to receive this honor, Rivera was, at the time, an international celebrity: the New York Sun hailed him as “the most talked about artist on this side of the Atlantic.” – MOMA

"The Arsenal" (1928)

The Arsenal (1928)

“Almost all of Rivera’s art told a story, many of which depicted Mexican society, the Mexican Revolution, or reflected his own personal social and political beliefs, and in The Arsenal is no different. The woman on the right side of this painting in Tina Modotti, an Italian photographer and revolutionary political activist, who is holding ammunition for Julio Antonio Mella, a founder of the internationalized Cuban communist party. Vittorio Vidale, an Italian-born Stalinist sympathizer, stands behind them in a black hat. The figures in this painting are an illustration of Rivera’s transferring his political beliefs onto canvas. He was an active member of the Mexican communist party, and was friends with Leon Trotsky, who lived with him for seven months. ”  – Wikipaintings

Frozen Assets (1931-32)

“In Frozen Assets, Rivera coupled his appreciation for New York’s distinctive vertical architecture with a potent critique of the city’s economic inequities. The panel’s upper register features a dramatic sequence of largely recognizable skyscrapers, most completed within a few years of Rivera’s arrival in New York. In the middle section, a steel-and-glass shed serves as a shelter for rows of sleeping men, pointing to the dispossessed labor that made such extraordinary growth possible during a period of economic turmoil. Below, a bank’s waiting room accommodates a guard, a clerk, and a trio of figures eager to inspect their mounting assets in the vault beyond. Rivera’s jarring vision of the city—in which the masses trudge to work, the homeless are warehoused, and the wealthy squirrel away their money—struck a chord in 1932, in the midst of the Great Depression.” – Wikipaintings

man-at-the-crossroads-rivera3

Man at the Crossroads (1933-34)

“Rivera stirred up controversy yet again when he was commissioned to create Man at the Crossroads for the Rockefeller Center in 1933. He was chosen to complete a mural on the first floor of the Rockefeller Center, with the theme of man at the crossroads, looking to the hope of a new and better future. The original work included pictures of women drinking alcohol, cells depicting sexually transmitted diseases, Leon Trotsky and a portrait of Lenin, which upset Rockefeller, who commissioned the work. He demanded that the face of Lenin be changed, but Rivera refused. Rockefeller immediately paid for the work, dismissed Rivera, and covered the mural. Rivera, who was determined to have his mural shown, re-created it at the Palacio de Bellas Artes in Mexico City and renamed the piece Man, Controller of the Universe. The original Man at the Crossroad in the Rockefeller Center was smashed and hauled away in 1934.” – Wikipaintings


Diego Rivera's The Uprising (1931)
The Uprising (1931)

“In The Uprising, a woman with a baby at her hip and a working man fend off an attack by a uniformed soldier. Behind them, a riotous crowd clashes with more soldiers, who force demonstrators to the ground. The location is unclear, though the figures’ skin tone implies that the scene is set in Mexico or another Latin American country. In the early 1930s, an era of widespread labor unrest, images of the violent repression of strikes would have resonated with both U.S. and Latin American audiences. The battle here stands as a potent symbol of universal class struggle.” – MOMA

Rivera - Aztec Warrior

Indian Warrior (1931)

“Of all the panels Rivera made for The Museum of Modern Art, Indian Warrior reaches back farthest into Mexican history, to the Spanish Conquest of the early 16th century. An Aztec warrior wearing the costume of a jaguar stabs an armored conquistador in the throat with a stone knife. The Spaniard’s steel blade—an emblem of European claims to superiority—lies broken nearby. Jaguar knights, members of an elite Aztec military order, were known for their fighting prowess; according to legend, their terrifying costumes enabled them to possess the power of the animal in battle. The panel’s jarring vision of righteous violence offered a Mesoamerican precedent for Mexico’s recent revolution, as well as its continuing struggles.” – MOMA

Web Gallery – #001 – Diego Rivera, Oskar Kokotchka, Paul Klee, Matisse, Vermeer, dentre outros…

Diego Rivera - Pre Hispanic America

Diego Rivera – Pre Hispanic America

Edward Burra, El Paseo, c. 1938, Watercolour on paper

Edward Burra, El Paseo, c. 1938, Watercolour on paper

The Family (Self Portrait), 1918. Egon Schiele (1890 ˗ 1918) .

The Family (Self Portrait), 1918. Egon Schiele (1890 ˗ 1918) .

Oskar Kokotchka - Bride of the Wind, 1914

Oskar Kokotchka – Bride of the Wind, 1914

Paul Klee (1879-1940), COmedy

Paul Klee (1879-1940), Comedy

Ruby Loftus Screwing a Breech Ring, by Dame Laura Knight, 1944

Ruby Loftus Screwing a Breech Ring, by Dame Laura Knight, 1944

The Nuremberg Trial, by Dame Laura Knight, 1946, Imperial War Museum, London

The Nuremberg Trial, by Dame Laura Knight, 1946, Imperial War Museum, London

The Joy of Life Matisse. 1906.

“The Joy of Life”, by Henri Matisse. 1906.

Vermeer's Guitar Player

Vermeer’s Guitar Player

Encarando a Esfinge: uma jornada pelo labirinto da “Trilogia de Nova York” (Paul Auster)

Auster

Facing the Sphinx: a journey through the maze of Paul Auster’s New York Trilogy

(Eduardo Carli de Moraes)

“There is a theory which states that if ever anybody discovers exactly what the Universe is for and why it is here, it will instantly disappear and be replaced by something even more bizarre and inexplicable. There is another theory which states that this has already happened.” – Douglas Adams, English humorist & science fiction novelist (1952 – 2001)

It’s plausible that the universe is a riddle that human reason won’t ever be able to completely decipher. Our curiosity and awe in witnessing the hugeness of this “monster of force”, to use Nietzsche’s expression, leads us to formulate questions and to be confronted enigmas that our intelectual powers may be unable to answer. Forever young, the Cosmos Sphinx keeps on throwing mysteries on our awestruck laps, and we toil to uncover solutions or answers, while we’re devoured by the hungry mouth of Time! As Baudelaire wrote in an awesome poem, “The Enemy”:

“Oh misery!—Time devours our lives,
And the enemy black, which consumeth our hearts
On the blood of our bodies, increases and thrives!”

BAUDELAIRE. Les Fleurs Du Mal.

One of these days, wandering through the bookstores of Toronto, I was astonished at the quantity of shelves dedicated to Mystery books and Detective Novels – these genres seems to be editorial booms, many of them surely making into the best-sellers charts. Since I haven’t read much of the new stuff that’s been pouring out, I’ll abstain from judging its quality, and just point out that it got me thinking: what’s the secret of this strong seduction of Mystery? Why do people get so hooked up in crime-solving narratives and tales of suposedly supernatural phenomena? Why did celebrity-writers such as Conan Doyle and Agatha Christie sold millions of copies of the written adventures of Mr. Sherlock Holmes and Monsieur Hercule Poirot? Maybe we simply enjoy the amusement of following an investigation, the guessing-game we engaje in as we follow the detective’s path, the thrill of trying to discover whodunit… Besides being great pass-time, these books are for our brains a kind of rewarding cruise: we think about the case in the safety of our killer-proof residences and knowing that’s some attribution of guilty awaits at the narrative’s end.

Maybe the satisfaction is usually great when we arrive at the end of a well-crafted mystery book because some clear answers are brought to us: the identity of the murderer is revealed, the inner motives that explain his behaviour are explained, and Mr. Holmes or Poirot get acclaimed by most readers for their witty brains, smart deductions, wise decisions, proper inferences… We clap our hands and cheer at how smart they are. We celebrate human intelligence’s capacity for solving even the most bloody riddles and for sheding rational light into even the most erratical and irrational behaviour. Most best-selling detective-novels I’ve read never end up with the detective getting stuck, incapable of finding the killer, quitting the case – and maybe that’s because what the reader hungers for, in general, are answers and solutions, and not the anguish of unsolved riddles.

Some of Paul Auster’s characters know a lot about unsolved riddles. They seem to bepaul auster devoured by their un-answered questions. In Ghosts, the second part of The New York Trilogy, Auster creates a character, Gold, that is obsessed by a murder that happened 25 years before, in Philadelphia: the death of a child, whose killer was never discovered (which means: a crime umpunished). Gold is a police coroner that can’t stop thinking about the case, even when’s retired from his public service: as an old man, Gold invests all his time and money to the effort of solving the riddle of the murder, even tough the corpse is already rotten and the skeleton of the victim has been buried for decades. “Gold refuses to accept a world in which the murderer of a child can go unpunished, even if the murderer himself is now dead, and he is willing to sacrifice his own life and happiness to right the wrong.” (p. 140) The mystery lives on, and almost surely Gold dies with his effort to decipher the riddle unrewarded.

That’s one of the traits that make Paul Auster’s New York Trilogy such an original and amazing work-of-art: the author is not interested in handing us all the answers, but rather aims at enhancing our sense of mystery. The detectives, in Auster’s Trilogy, are never role-models or heroes, but people on the verge of insanity. Auster also expands the concept of “detective”: he strains the similarities, for example, between a biographer (someone researching about the life of someone he’s writing about) and a private detective. A biographer of Tchaikovsky, for example, looks a lot like a detective hunting for leads, checking out conspiracy theories, listening to different hypotheses, when they face the tricky riddle posed by the mysterious death of the Russian composer.

Both biographer and detective need, as a part of their job, to understand the Other, to comprehend the life of another person as it’s experienced from the inside. The biographer in The Locked Room has done much more than merely writing about Fanshawne from outside his life, with an outsider point-of-view: he’s a childhood friend of Fanshawne, and after his desapearance from the human-world, he takes Fanshawe place: marries his wife, publishes his books, becomes father to his child. Fanshawe, the great writer, exchanges places with the man who’s to become his biographer. But that’s not enough: there’s still a huge abyss between them. The project of writing a biography on Fanshawe seems like a leaky boat that slowly sinks because of Fanshawe’s mystery remains undeciphered.

But let’s rewind and go back to the beggining: The Trilogy begins invoking the image of the Tower of Babel. Soon, while we trip through New York in the wings of Auster’s prose, we’ll find out that The City That Never Sleeps is considered by the character Peter Stillmann as a “New Babel”. I couldn’t stop my mind from evoking Pieter Bruegel’s painting while I read through Auster’s pages about The Tower Of Babel: a huge construction, inspired by mankind’s megalomania, which never quite works out. Its intended aim – to reach God in the skies, to climb up and break right into Heaven… – is a complete failure. The ideal end and the factual reality tragically split: this attempt to reach celestial harmony ends up revealing only our earthly confusion and miscompreension. When building Babels, mankind seems to discover the frustating truth that up there, no matter how high we rise, we find only indifferent clouds. And nothing to redeem us from our clashing differences. We discover that we speak different languages, and create all sorts of ways to try to make sense out of life, and yet the unsolved riddles of the cosmos remain legion.

* * * * *

In City of Glass, we get acquainted with Quinn after he has lost his wife and child. He’s lonesome, isolated, still struggling with mourning, when the Stillman Case begins. Quinn is a writer of detective novels, who hides behind the name of Willliam Wilson, and has published lots of books filled the adventures of a Sherlock-like character, Max Work. When City of Glass begins, in a sort of kafkian mood, Quinn is about to embark in a real journey as a detective, after years writing his novels mainly resorting to the aid of his imagination.

This won’t be no smooth sailing for Quinn: the case will slowly crush him. Auster seems to be drawing the line between the reality of detective work – sometimes tedious, unrewarding, or even maddening – and the fantasy displayed in mystery novels – which, in general, features glamorous detectives that always end up out-smarting the criminals, solving the puzzle and saving the day. Auster’s Quinn is a dark figure, mournful and confused, and his involvement with the Stillmans is bound to further his hitchkockian descent into a state of vertigo.

City of Glass deals with the consequences of extreme social isolation. The old Peter Stillman, a sort of mad-theologist, seems to have freaked-out after the death of his wife: he locks his 2-year-old son, Peter Jr., from any contact with the world, for nine years, providing him with no education at all. This is how Virginia Stillman describes the whys and hows of Peter Stillman’s relations with his son:

“He began to believe in some of the far-fetched religious ideas he had written about. It made him crazy, absolutely insane. There’s no other way to describe it. He locked Peter in a room in the apartment, covered up the windows, and kept him there for nine years. (…) An entire childhood spent in darkness, isolated from the world, with no human contact except an occasional beating. I live with the results of that experiment, and I can tell you the damage was monstruous.” (p. 27)

kaspar hauser

Auster inserts some digressions into his novel about some episodes in history when similar cases ocurred, referring, for example, to Kaspar Hauser (there’s a great Werner Herzog’s film about it!). In City of Glass, the father – Peter Stillman – who isolates his child from the world, keeps him jailed like a beast in a cage for almost a decade, goes to jail for it. In the present tense of the novel’s beggining, Peter Stillman is about to be let loose again. No one nows how sane (or how insane) he is, nor what might be his intentions toward his traumatized son. Quinn gets messed up with this case merely by chance: a telephone call, due to Mr. Paul Austen, mistankingly had rang in Quinn’s apartment, which had decided to play detective for real (if only as a source of inspiration for his next mystery book, yet to be written).

The problem is: Quinn never embarks on this case with an interest merely professional. He has a wound that hasn’t stopped bleeding yet: the death of his wife and child. To protect the victim of Peter Stilman’s lunacy is for him a matter of intense emotional value. Maybe he’s seduced by the promise of some heroism, some real danger, after years filing commercial literature with imagined dangers and make-believe turmoils. There’s no thrill like living on the edge. Even the fear that Peter Stillman might still harbour in his chest a potential psycopath, maybe a dangerous one, kind of excites Quinn to keep on going, to keep diving deeper in the case. The enigma of the Other becomes an obsession that he can’t shake off. The riddle of that incomprehensible Other – Peter Stilmann – keeps demanding clearance. Peter Stillman functions like some hypnotic Sphynx that keps Quinn in a trance-like state: we’ll sleepwalk through New York’ Babel until he ends up as street-bum. He has been maddened by sorrow. He lost his mind in the maze. He didn’t solve the mystery of existence: he has had his brains fried by it.

Similarly, it can be quite infurianting to reach the last words of The Locked Room and discover that Auster did not provide us satisfactory answers to many of the questions it inevitably raises about his characters. It seems to me that’s a remarkable trait of the whole New York Trilogy. In City of Glass, Quinn dives into his investigation of Peter Stillman just to discover himself sinking into confusion: by the end of the novel, he’s crazier than ever, more isolated than at the start of this journey, less a detective than a tramp bound to end up in some loonies ward.

In Ghosts, the detective never quite gets into the skin of the mysterious writer he’s been hired to keep an eye on: Auster’s Dark Sherlock can spy Mr. Brown with his binoculars, but doesn’t see much besides a man reading Thoreau’s Walden and writing hundreds of pages in his notebook. He has no key to really enter the life experience of the other. The secret of the Other’s heart is a place hardly acessible to someone watching from far away: it demands that intimacy and long-term relationship that no detective, and nearly none biographer, is able to experience with the person he’s supposed to decipher.

The detectives, in Auster’s New York Trilogy, seem to get stuck with the mystery they’re supposed to solve: they frequently get lost in the maze of alterity. They lose certainties about their own identities while obsessing about the task of understanding the other. And then they tend to get crushed by the weight of an unsolved riddle. Auster doesn’t give the reader the satisfaction of clear and un-ambiguous answers: he rather bids us farewell while leaving with us a whole bunch of questions. It’s as if he sees his task as a writer to be the spreading of mystery consciousness, rather than providing us with the humbug comforts of believing we have all the answers.

At the end of The Locked Room, the last third of the trilogy, the reader feels that Fanshawne isn’t someone he can claim to know: he keeps on been a mysterious figure, an enigma in flesh-and-blood, like a sphinx who hasn’t found its Oedipus yet. This seems to be the fate of many of Auster’s characters tumbling through New York’s Babel in this amazingly powerful work-of-art: they seek answers and they drown trying.

In the end, it seems as if the Sphinx has devoured them.

c3a9dipo-e-a-esfingeAwestruck Wanderer.

Precious Poetry – 5th Edition – “THE DISQUIETING MUSES”, by Sylvia Plath (1932-1963)

Giorgio de Chirico - The Disquieting Muses, 1916-1918
“THE DISQUIETING MUSES”

By Sylvia Plath (1932-1963)
Painting by Giorgio de Chirico (1909-1978)

“Mother, mother, what illbred aunt
Or what disfigured and unsightly
Cousin did you so unwisely keep
Unasked to my christening, that she
Sent these ladies in her stead
With heads like darning-eggs to nod
And nod and nod at foot and head
And at the left side of my crib?

Mother, who made to order stories
Of Mixie Blackshort the heroic bear,
Mother, whose witches always, always,
Got baked into gingerbread, I wonder
Whether you saw them, whether you said
Words to rid me of those three ladies
Nodding by night around my bed,
Mouthless, eyeless, with stitched bald head.

In the hurricane, when father’s twelve
Study windows bellied in
Like bubbles about to break, you fed
My brother and me cookies and Ovaltine
And helped the two of us to choir:
“Thor is angry: boom boom boom!
Thor is angry: we don’t care!”
But those ladies broke the panes.

When on tiptoe the schoolgirls danced,
Blinking flashlights like fireflies
And singing the glowworm song, I could
Not lift a foot in the twinkle-dress
But, heavy-footed, stood aside
In the shadow cast by my dismal-headed
Godmothers, and you cried and cried:
And the shadow stretched, the lights went out.

Mother, you sent me to piano lessons
And praised my arabesques and trills
Although each teacher found my touch
Oddly wooden in spite of scales
And the hours of practicing, my ear
Tone-deaf and yes, unteachable.
I learned, I learned, I learned elsewhere,
From muses unhired by you, dear mother,

I woke one day to see you, mother,
Floating above me in bluest air
On a green balloon bright with a million
Flowers and bluebirds that never were
Never, never, found anywhere.
But the little planet bobbed away
Like a soap-bubble as you called: Come here!
And I faced my traveling companions.

Day now, night now, at head, side, feet,
They stand their vigil in gowns of stone,
Faces blank as the day I was born,
Their shadows long in the setting sun
That never brightens or goes down.
And this is the kingdom you bore me to,
Mother, mother. But no frown of mine
Will betray the company I keep.”

* * * * *

About Chirico’s painting @ Wikipaintings: “One of the most famous paintings both by De Chirico and of all metaphysical art, The Disquieting Muses was painted in the city of Ferrara, Italy, during World War I. De Chirico considered Ferrara a perfect “metaphysical city,” and used much of the cityscape of Ferrara in the painting. The large castle in the background is the Castello Estense, a medieval fortress in the center of the city. The three “muses,” in the foreground of the painting, are “disquieting” due to the fact that they were the pathway to overcome appearances and allowed the viewer to engage in a discourse with the unknown. This painting inspired a poem by Sylvia Plath, also entitled “The Disquieting Muses.”

* * * * *

Previously on the Precious Poetry series of this blog:

#01 – Emily Dickinson
#02 – Joseph Brodsky
#03 – John Donne
#04 – Robert Frost