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Sunday, June 26, 2011


I'm stealing (or steeling--either works here, I think) a minute or two away from my inlaws to post up some poetry.  Unfortunately, all my typical resources are packed in an ABF truck waiting to be picked up tomorrow.  That considered, I thought I'd try online what I've been doing recently with textbooks--that is choose a basic categorization of poetry and select to share a few that I'm not familiar with.  My category?  "Poem."  I typed it into Google.

Here's the website that pops up first:  http://www.poemhunter.com/poems/

I'm familiar enough with Poemhunter, as they often provide texts that I can copy and paste rather than me having to plink out the whole poem by hand (though, I've found, the latter is sometimes more reliable for accuracy).  What I didn't know about them, as I've never casually surfed its content, is that it also publishes user-submitted poetry.  Here's the first one available--top of the list:

An Ode to Dr Hitesh Sheth
Sidi J. Mahtrow
Once came into view
A man of tallents, not a few
For he wrote as others might
That human experiece is a given right
A right to see the world in a different way
Not as one would like it to be or to endless stay
For Dr Hitesh Sheth (no period after the Dr) as he chooses
So as not to be confused with those blue noses
That study the lint in their navel
Before exclaming, it’s a dark hole of which I alone can marvel.
For Dr Sheth has been there before
And knows Medical facts (and more) 
Which he places into rhyme in an easy way
As if to say, 
“Diogenes and I strive to teach
On the tree of life, the low hanging fruit is in easy reach.”


May I just say in brief comment: "sic".

From there and on to their list--top 25/500--of "top" poems (which I guess means these are the poems most searched from their extensive database), here are two poems with which I'm unfamiliar:

On the Ning Nang Nong
Spike Milligan
On the Ning Nang Nong 
Where the Cows go Bong! 
and the monkeys all say BOO! 
There's a Nong Nang Ning 
Where the trees go Ping! 
And the tea pots jibber jabber joo. 
On the Nong Ning Nang 
All the mice go Clang 
And you just can't catch 'em when they do! 
So its Ning Nang Nong 
Cows go Bong! 
Nong Nang Ning 
Trees go ping 
Nong Ning Nang 
The mice go Clang 
What a noisy place to belong 
is the Ning Nang Ning Nang Nong!! 

Jenny Joseph
When I am an old woman I shall wear purple
With a red hat which doesn't go, and doesn't suit me.
And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves
And satin sandals, and say we've no money for butter.
I shall sit down on the pavement when I'm tired
And gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells
And run my stick along the public railings
And make up for the sobriety of my youth.
I shall go out in my slippers in the rain
And pick flowers in other people's gardens
And learn to spit.

You can wear terrible shirts and grow more fat
And eat three pounds of sausages at a go
Or only bread and pickle for a week
And hoard pens and pencils and beermats and things in boxes.

But now we must have clothes that keep us dry
And pay our rent and not swear in the street
And set a good example for the children.
We must have friends to dinner and read the papers.

But maybe I ought to practice a little now?
So people who know me are not too shocked and surprised
When suddenly I am old, and start to wear purple.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Wednesday's for Kids [30] -- ORIGAMI

Watching the new POTTERMORE announcement this morning on Facebook, not because of it's similarity to pop-up books, which are plenty cool, too, but because, well ... uhm.  I don't know.  Whatever.  It reminded me of origami this time.  Must be the owl at the end of the ad.  Anyway, origami is cool for kids, and for grownups--even, and perhaps especially, for the lazy ones who just want to look, rather than do.

For kids:

I had this book when I
was a kid; I have no idea
where it is now.

For grownups:

I REALLY want this book.  Discover this
on your own.  Really.  Do it.  Amazing.

Here is Robert Lang (click his name for his website and surf around the spectacular compositions), one of the two foremost experts in origami--not, originally anyway, because of his artist proclivities, but because of his work's scientific/mathematic necessities--talks about it below.

All with a single sheet, un-cut sheet of paper:

Sunday, June 19, 2011


An Approach to Literature
Brooks, Purser, Warren

Ode on Melancholy
John Keats
No, no! go not to Lethe, neither twist
      Wolf's-bane, tight-rooted, for its poisonous wine;
Nor suffer thy pale forehead to be kiss'd
      By nightshade, ruby grape of Proserpine;
Make not your rosary of yew-berries,
      Nor let the beetle, nor the death-moth be
            Your mournful Psyche, nor the downy owl
A partner in your sorrow's mysteries;
      For shade to shade will come too drowsily,
            And drown the wakeful anguish of the soul.

But when the melancholy fit shall fall
      Sudden from heaven like a weeping cloud,
That fosters the droop-headed flowers all,
      And hides the green hill in an April shroud;
Then glut thy sorrow on a morning rose.
      Or on the rainbow of the salt sand-wave,
            Or on the wealth of globèd peonies;
Or if thy mistress some rich anger shows,
      Emprison her soft hand, and let her rave.
            And feed deep, deep upon her peerless eyes.

She dwells with Beauty—Beauty that must die;
      And Joy, whose hand is ever at his lips
Bidding adieu; and aching Pleasure nigh,
      Turning to poison while the bee-mouth sips:
Ay, in the very temple of Delight
      Veil'd Melancholy has her sovran shrine,
            Though seen of none save him whose strenuous tongue
Can burst Joy's grape against his palate fine;
      His soul shall taste the sadness of her might,
            And be among her cloudy trophies hung.

Very Like a Whale
Ogden Nash
One thing that literature would be greatly the better for
Would be a more restricted employment by the authors of simile and metaphor.
Authors of all races, be they Greeks, Romans, Teutons or Celts,
Can't seem just to say that anything is the thing it is but have to go out of their way to say that it is like something else.
What does it mean when we are told
That that Assyrian came down like a wolf on the fold?
In the first place, George Gordon Byron had enough experience
To know that it probably wasn't just one Assyrian, it was a lot of Assyrians.
However, as too many arguments are apt to induce apoplexy and thus hinder longevity.
We'll let it pass as one Assyrian for the sake of brevity.
Now then, this particular Assyrian, the one whose cohorts were gleaming in purple and gold,
Just what does the poet mean when he says he came down like a wolf on the fold?
In heaven and earth more than is dreamed of in our philosophy there are great many things.
But I don't imagine that among them there is a wolf with purple and gold cohorts or purple and gold anythings.
No, no, Lord Byron, before I'll believe that this Assyrian was actually like a wolf I must have some kind of proof;
Did he run on all fours and did he have a hairy tail and a big red mouth and big white teeth and did he say Woof Woof?
Frankly I think it is very unlikely, and all you were entitled to say, at the very most,
Was that the Assyrian cohorts came down like a lot of Assyrian cohorts about to destroy the Hebrew host.
But that wasn't fancy enough for Lord Byron, oh dear me no, he had to invent a lot of figures of speech and then interpolate them,
With the result that whenever you mention Old Testament soldiers to people they say Oh yes, they're the ones that a lot of wolves dressed up in gold and purple ate them.
That's the kind of thing that's being done all the time by poets, from Homer to Tennyson;
They're always comparing ladies to lilies and veal to venison.
How about the man who wrote,
Her little feet stole in and out like mice beneath her petticoat?
Wouldn’t anybody but a poet think twice
Before stating that his girl’s feet were mice?
Then they always say things like that after a winter storm
The snow is a white blanket.  Oh it is, is it, all right then, you sleep under a six-inch blanket of snow and I'll sleep under a half-inch blanket of unpoetical blanket material and we'll see which one keeps warm,
And after that maybe you'll begin to comprehend dimly
What I mean by too much metaphor and simile.

Peter Viereck
Also Ulysses once--that other war.
      (Is it because we find his scrawl 
      Today on every privy door
      That we forget his ancient role?)
Also was there--he did it for the wages--
When a Cathay-drunk Genoese set sail.
Whenever "longen folk to goon on pilgrimages,"
Kilroy is there;
      he tells The Miller's Tale.

At times he seems a paranoic king
Who stamps his crest on walls and says "My Own!"
But in the end he fades like a lost tune,
Tossed here and there, whom all the breezes sing.
"Kilroy was here"; these words sound wanly gay,
      Haughty yet tired with long marching.
He is Orestes--guilty of what crime?--
      For whom the Furies still are searching;
      When they arrive, the find their prey
(Leaving his name to mock them) went away.
Sometimes he does not flee from them in time:
"Kilroy was--"
          with his blood a dying man
      Wrote half the phrase out in Bataan.

Kilroy, beware. "HOME" is the final trap
That lurks for you in many a wily shape:
In pipe-and-slippers plus a Loyal Hound
      Or fooling around, just fooling around.
Kind to the old (their warm Penelope)
But fierce to boys
      thus "home" becomes that sea,
Horribly disguised, where you were always drowned--
      (How could suburban Crete condone
The yarns you would have V-mailed from the sun?)--
And folksy fishes sip Icarian tea.

One stab of hopeless wings imprinted your
      Exultant Kilroy-signature
Upon sheer sky for all the world to stare:
      "I was there! I was there! I was there!"

God is like Kilroy. He, too, sees it all;
That's how He knows of every sparrow's fall;
That's why we prayed each time the tightropes cracked
On which our loveliest clowns contrived their act.
The G.I. Faustus who was
Strolled home again. "What was it like outside?"
Asked Can't, with his good neighbors Ought and But
And pale Perhaps and grave-eyed Better Not;
For "Kilroy" means: the world is very wide.
      He was there, he was there, he was there!

The Leg in the Subway
Oscar Williams
Then I saw the woman's leg on the floor of the subway train,
Protrude beyond the panel (while her body overflowed my mind's eye),
When I saw the pink stocking, black shoe, curve bulging with warmth,
The delicate etching of the hair behind the flesh-colored gauze,
When I saw the ankle of Mrs. Nobody going nowhere for a nickel,
When I saw this foot motionless on the moving motionless floor,
My mind caught on a nail of a distant star, I was wrenched out
Of the reality of the subway ride, I hung in a socket of distance:
And this is what I saw:

The long tongue of the earth's speed was licking the leg,
Upward and under and around went the long tongue of speed:
It was made of a flesh invisible, it dripped the saliva of miles:
It drank moment, lit shivers of insecurity in niches between bones:
It was full of eyes, it stopped licking to look at the passengers:
It was as alive as a worm, and busier than anybody in the train:

It spoke saying: To whom does this leg belong? Is it a bonus leg
For the rush hour? Is it a forgotten leg? Among the many
Myriads of legs did an extra leg fall in from the Out There?
O Woman, sliced off bodily by the line of the panel, shall I roll
Your leg into the abdominal nothing, among the digestive teeth?
Or shall I fit it in with the pillars that hold up the headlines?
But nobody spoke, though all the faces were talking silently,
As the train zoomed, a zipper closing up swiftly the seam of time.

Alas, said the long tongue of the speed of the earth quite faintly,
What is one to do with an incorrigible leg that will not melt
But everybody stopped to listen to the train vomiting cauldrons
Of silence, while somebody's jolted-out afterthought trickled down
The blazing shirt-front solid with light bulbs, and just then
The planetary approach of the next station exploded atoms of light,
And when the train stopped, the leg had grown a surprising mate,
And the long tongue had slipped hurriedly out through the window:

I perceived through the hole left by the nail of the star in my mind
How civilization was as dark as a wood and dimensional with things
And how birds dipped in chromium sang in the crevices of our deeds.

The Grasshopper
Richard Lovelace
O thou that swing’st upon the waving hair
   Of some well-fillèd oaten beard,
Drunk every night with a delicious tear
   Dropped thee from heaven, where now th’ art reared;

The joys of earth and air are thine entire,
   That with thy feet and wings dost hop and fly;
And, when thy poppy works, thou dost retire
   To thy carved acorn-bed to lie.

Up with the day, the sun thou welcom’st then,
   Sport’st in the gilt-plats of his beams,
And all these merry days mak’st merry men,
   Thyself, and melancholy streams.

But ah, the sickle! Golden ears are cropped;
   Ceres and Bacchus bid good night;
Sharp, frosty fingers all your flowers have topped,
   And what scythes spared, winds shave off quite.

Poor verdant fool, and now green ice! thy joys,
   Large and as lasting as thy perch of grass,
Bid us lay in ’gainst winter rain, and poise
   Their floods with an o’erflowing glass.

Thou best of men and friends! we will create
   A genuine summer in each other’s breast,
And spite of this cold time and frozen fate,
   Thaw us a warm seat to our rest.

Our sacred hearths shall burn eternally,
   As vestal flames; the North Wind, he
Shall strike his frost-stretched wings, dissolve, and fly
   This Etna in epitome.

Dropping December shall come weeping in,
   Bewail th’usurping of his reign:
But when in showers of old Greek we begin,
   Shall cry he hath his crown again!

Night, as clear Hesper, shall our tapers whip
   From the light casements where we play,
And the dark hag from her black mantle strip,
   And stick there everlasting day.

Thus richer than untempted kings are we,
   That, asking nothing, nothing need:
Though lords of all what seas embrace, yet he
   That wants himself is poor indeed.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Wednesday's [and McSwy's] for Kids XXIX -- FOR LITERATINI



Gotta love it when someone does all the work for you.  And just in time!  I can hardly believe how a graveyard shift screws up  my body clock, my creative energy, and my drive to do pretty much anything but sleep (of which there's well nigh unto zero).  Cheers!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Droodle 10

(All Droodles published at Mr. Center's Wall are available for copy and download.)

Wednesday, June 8, 2011


Fedora, as a name, comes from the Russian for Theodora/Theodore (the hat, from a cross-dresser in a 19th century play).
  1. Fedora's description is not particularly dissimilar from many of the others in its goal, but, of course, the path that  gets us there is unique.
  2. Brilliant noun of the moment: the Medusa pond.  How does the instantaneous image conjured here apply to the infinitude of once-potential-now-impossible Fedoras?  (And as yesterday's city reminded me of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, so this one reminds me of Rowling's Mirror of Erised, which, I think, could just as easily been named--or so nicknamed by those less selfless than Harry--the Medusa Pond.)
  3. The last paragraph, Polo's suggestion (and is it perhaps tongue-in-cheek; or is it sincere?) to the Khan, beggars a question: perhaps, the cities, regardless of their realness, all have a degree, even a significant degree, of unreality.  How is the "real" Fedora possibly as imaginary (considering particularly what we've read of other cities) as those in the glass orbs?
If you're not doing this already, see if you can apply the concept behind each city not only to the other cities in the book, but also to your own cities and those others of your personal experience.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011


  1. Why do the inhabitants prefer the city represented in the postcards?  What influence does the nature of the postcard have--on the city, or, generically, on anything?  Is there a difference between a postcard and, say, a regular photograph in its ability to depict a time or place?  What would happen (stay with me here) if memory worked both directions, toward the future as well as the past, and there were postcards of present Maurilia available for past Maurilians to examine?
  2. For some reason this reminds me (story and movie) of Benjamin Button.
  3. The second paragraph of the vignette discusses how two cities can exist simultaneously--two cities which are one city: one place, one name (same citizenry??), two cities.  Maybe this is going out on a limb, but if each vignette is a puzzle piece, what clue might Maurilia offer toward anticipation of the final, completed picture?  Does it have to be just two cities in one, or could the number be even potentially infinite within the confines of one geographic space and one name?
  4. By extension (and this against the end of the first sentence of paragraph two), is it possible for there to be two or more people with the same body and the same name (and no, this is not an issue of schizophrenia or multiple personalities)?  And further, families, schools, countries, teams, gods, etcetera?
  5. The final lines of the vignette tie back to the first question: is it just the nature of the postcard, that it describes a fiction rather than a reality, or is there truly a second city existing in the same plane and plot as the other Maurilia?

Monday, June 6, 2011

Newer Schedule, Fewer Posts

Just a quick note: my new swing shift (2 weeks' worth) is going to make it nearly impossible to keep up with things on the blog.  Read ahead if you'd like, send me emails about what you're reading, put together discussion points and questions, and I'd be happy to put up the good stuff.  If not, be patient.  Things will settle down a bit over here eventually (though not likely until after the cross-country move coming up), and then I can get back to a regular daily pace.

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Sunday Poetry XXXII -- TEXTBOOK POETRY 3.4

An Approach to Literature
Brooks, Purser, Warren

Neutral Tones
Thomas Hardy
We stood by a pond that winter day,
And the sun was white, as though chidden of God,
And a few leaves lay on the starving sod;
         – They had fallen from an ash, and were gray.

Your eyes on me were as eyes that rove
Over tedious riddles of years ago;
And some words played between us to and fro
         On which lost the more by our love.

The smile on your mouth was the deadest thing
Alive enough to have strength to die;
And a grin of bitterness swept thereby
         Like an ominous bird a-wing….

Since then, keen lessons that love deceives,
And wrings with wrong, have shaped to me
Your face, and the God curst sun, and a tree,
         And a pond edged with grayish leaves.

To a Mouse
Robert Burns
Wee, sleekit, cowrin ,tim’rous beastie,
Oh, what a panic’s in thy breastie!
Thou need na start awa saw hasty
     Wi’ bickerin’ brattle!
O was be laith to rn an’ chase thee
     Wi’ murdering prattle!

I’m truly sorry man’s dominion
Has broken Nature’s social union,
An’ justifies that ill opinion
     Which makes thee startle
At me, thy poor earth-born companion,
     An’ fellow-mortal!

I doubt na, whyles, but thou may thieve:
What then? Poor beastie, thou maun live!
A daimen icker in a thrave
      ‘S a sma’ request;
I’ll get a blessin’ wi’ the lave,
     An’ never miss ‘t!

Thy wee bit housie, too, in ruin!
It’s silly wa’s the win’s are strewin!
An’ naething, now, to big a new ane,
     O’ foggage green!
An’ bleak December’s winds ensuin,
     Baith snell an’ keen!

Thou saw the fields laid bare an’ waste,
An’ weary winter comin fast,
An’ cozie here, beneath the blast,
     Thou thought to dwell,
Till crash! the cruel coulter past
     Out thro’ thy cell.

That wee bit heap o’ leaves an’ stibble,
Has cost thee monie a weary nibble!
Now thou’s turn’d out, for a’ thy trouble,
     But house or hald,
To thole the winter’s sleety dribble,
     An’ cranreuch cauld!

But Mousie, thou art no thy lane,
In proving foresight may be vain;
The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men
     Gang aft agley,
An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain,
     For promis’d joy!

Still thou art blest, compar’d wi’ me!
The present only toucheth thee:
But, och! I backward cast my e’e,
     On prospects drear!
An’ forward, tho’ I canna see,
     I guess an’ fear!

His Books
Robert Southey
My days among the Dead are past; 
     Around me I behold, 
Where'er these casual eyes are cast, 
     The mighty minds of old: 
My never-failing friends are they, 
With whom I converse day by day. 

With them I take delight in weal 
     And seek relief in woe; 
And while I understand and feel 
    How much to them I owe, 
My cheeks have often been bedew'd 
With tears of thoughtful gratitude. 

My thoughts are with the Dead; with them 
     I live in long-past years, 
Their virtues love, their faults condemn, 
     Partake their hopes and fears; 
And from their lessons seek and find 
Instruction with an humble mind. 

My hopes are with the Dead; anon 
     My place with them will be, 
And I with them shall travel on 
     Through all Futurity; 
Yet leaving here a name, I trust, 
That will not perish in the dust.

Fidele’s Dirge
William Shakespeare
Come away, come away, death, 
     And in sad cypres let me be laid; 
Fly away, fly away, breath; 
     I am slain by a fair cruel maid. 
My shroud of white, stuck all with yew, 
     O prepare it! 
My part of death, no one so true 
     Did share it. 

Not a flower, not a flower sweet, 
     On my black coffin let there be strown; 
Not a friend, not a friend greet 
     My poor corse, where my bones shall be thrown: 
A thousand thousand sighs to save, 
     Lay me, O, where 
Sad true lover never find my grave 
     To weep there!

Commemorative of a Naval Victory
Herman Melville
Sailors there are of the gentlest breed,
     Yet strong, like every goodly thing;
The discipline of arms refines,
     And the wave gives tempering.
     The damasked blade its beam can fling;
It lends the last grave grace:
The hawk, the hound, and sworded nobleman
     In Titian’s picture for a king,
Are of hunter or warrior race.

In social halls a favored guest
     In years that follow victory won,
How sweet to feel your festal fame
     In woman’s glance instinctive thrown:
     Repose is yours—your deed is known,
It musks the amber wine;
It lives, and sheds a light from storied days
     Rich as October sunsets brown,
Which make the barren place to shine.

But seldom the laurel wreath is seen
     Unmixed with pensive pansies dark;
There's a light and a shadow on every man
     Who at last attains his lifted mark—
     Nursing through night the ethereal spark.
Elate he never can be;
He feels that spirit which glad had hailed his worth,
     Sleep in oblivion.—The shark
Glides white through the phosphorus sea.

They Flee from Me
Sir Thomas Wyatt
They flee from me that sometime did me seek
     With naked foot, stalking in my chamber.
I have seen them gentle, tame, and meek,
     That now are wild and do not remember
     That sometime they put themself in danger
To take bread at my hand; and now they range,
Busily seeking with a continual change.

Thanked be fortune it hath been otherwise
     Twenty times better; but once in special,
In thin array after a pleasant guise,
     When her loose gown from her shoulders did fall,
     And she me caught in her arms long and small;
Therewithall sweetly did me kiss
And softly said, “Dear heart, how like you this?”

It was no dream: I lay broad waking.
     But all is turned thorough my gentleness
Into a strange fashion of forsaking;
     And I have leave to go of her goodness,
     And she also, to use newfangleness.
But since that I so kindly am served
I would fain know what she hath deserved.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

INVISIBLE CITIES XIII -- chapter 2, ..... 1

Kublai Khan
  1. Pattern would hold that the opening sequence of the chapter two holds a question to which the final lines of the chapters pose an answer.  What is/are the question/s?
  2. When I first read this, I didn't get it very well.  The possibility that Kublai Khan and Marco Polo weren't even talking, but only imagining to talk made me wonder if they were both present at all.  Was Marco Polo, alone on some journey of his, imagining what it might be like to be explorer and official reporter to someone like The Great Khan?  From your perspective, what do you think?  I believe this makes sense on my second pass, but only maybe.  Considering the issues of nostalgia and memory, and past, present, and future, what is, at the very least, affecting, and at the most heavily tinting or obscuring, all of Polo's reports?
  3. "You advance always with your head turned back?" and "Is what you see always behind you?" thus "He must go to another city, where another of his pasts awaits him": Is it possible to begin to gain access to a new culture--or a new anything--without using as initial framework/schema what you already know?  So no matter how far you travel, you ... what?  Experience the new only in context of the old?  And is this a reiteration of the same issue regarding two people of different languages and cultures talking to each other?
  4. And what does the final line mean: "The traveler recognizes the little that is his, discovering the much he has not had and will never have"?  This echoes, I think (thoughts?), the last exchange between the men from the close of chapter one.  What's the connection?
  5. Finally, back to the first paragraph here, what is the value Kublai Khan places on Polo's reports?  He doesn't want from him the information on taxes and politics and trade and treasure.

Friday, June 3, 2011

INVISIBLE CITIES XII -- Chapter 1, ..... 2

Marco Polo
This is end of the first chapter.  (Duh.)  How have your thoughts/opinions of the book changed since the opening scene and the first city or sp?  For me, the timing of this exchange and its revelation was perfect.  While I was very much enjoying the city-to-city descriptions and the poetry of Calvino's assemblages up to this point, I needed either something to happen or a substance-changing revelation, and I got it.  Also, I really appreciate Calvino's use of form here, as this final bit is very much like the last sentence or two of each vignette and the framework those sentences offer for the rest of that city.  This final ..... gives context for the preceding cities, all the way back to first.  But poetry is such a personal thing.  I could easily be seeing this in a way that you don't.  Thoughts?
  1. "The emperor is he who is a foreigner to each of his subjects."
  2. All the cities have a mythic/fairytale grandeur and vagueness.  How is this explained or justified by the situation of the Khan and Polo's difficulty in language?  How does this news--the language differences--turn on its head everything we've read so far?  From whom are we getting the stories of the cities: the firsthand of Polo, or the secondhand of Kublai Khan?
  3. "Everything Marco displayed had the power of emblems, which, once seen, cannot be forgotten or confused."  Hmm.  Sounds a little bit like Zora and Zirma.
  4. "Perhaps ... the empire is nothing but a zodiac of the mind's phantasms."
  5. And what of having to know something before being able to possess it, as the Khan asks in the final enigmatic exchange?  This, too, sounds very much like some of issues we've been dealing with.
  6. So Polo eventually masters the Khan's language.  Does this mean the rest of the cities we encounter throughout the book will not be subject to the same misinterpretation?  (And about "misinterpretation": are the Khan's interpretations of Polo's descriptions wrong or inaccurate?)


underground lake in Mexico
Isaura: refers to an ancient mountain district in Asia Minor.  I can't efficiently summarize the article--or don't want to--so will leave the reading of it to you.  Application to the vignette?
  1. As it seems always to be the final line that offers the framework, we'll start there.  Isaura being the city moving ever upward, we might be inclined to think it a metaphor for deep spirituality and religiosity.  That cannot be the case, as I see it, as their gods are, whether in the wells themselves or the provenances that draw up the water, below them, in which case, are they not always moving away from their gods?  Thoughts?  Compare this to the more common religions whose gods are above and hell or the underworld (hence the name, duh) below.  In which direction is the majority of humanity heading?
  2. As it appears literally impossible to draw ourselves away from Kim, I'm not going to bother trying now.  We've spoken once before of windlasses (such a cool word; but even better: noria).  Would it be untoward to ascribe Christian symbolism to the wells/fonts of Isaura?
  3. What of the calcareous sky (seashells and coral reefs, by the way, are calcareous, as well as many of the more striking features of caves)?  It seems it's the "sky" to the underground lake.  If there are indeed gods below, their only egress is the holes--the wells--poked into their heavens, and put there, not by natural sources, but people.  T.E. Hulme described the night sky as a star-eaten blanket, indicating holes; as lace, again riddled with holes and fissures; and, unlike the previous two, as the white, wistful faces of the village children.  I don't know where I'm going with this, but the image I'm getting from the dark of the lake's surface looking up at the wells above is magnetic.
  4. I lived in a city built over an underground lake, called Treviso, in the Veneto region of North-Eastern Italy, just a half-hour outside of Venice by train.  It was nicknamed "Little Venice" for it's many canals.  In a rather drab corner of the city (which was otherwise absolutely beautiful) was a single spigot that tapped into that lake.  While we were encouraged to buy our drinking water in all other cities, we were actually recommended to bottle water directly from the spigot in Treviso--if we could wait out the line always queuing up behind it.  Again, not sure where I'm going with this, but thought you might find it interesting.
  5. Finally (and I almost forgot), why "Thin Cities"?

Thursday, June 2, 2011


"Zirma," courtesy
Zirma: I don't know.  There's nothing on it as a name.  I can find a couple sources that claim it as a city in Turkey, but Google Earth doesn't seem to know anything about; it suggest Szirma, Hungary.  Did Calvino make it up?
  1. According to the last line, a thing only exists once it exists in the mind.  I guess that might be true, but it smacks of the whole "If a tree falls in the forest" thing.  Speaking of the last line, consistently it is the final words of a city's description that brings all the pieces together.
  2. Couldn't the description of Zirma be used to describe anything, or at least any place?  I have the same problem with certain songs--can't ever get them out of my head without replacing them with something else.
  3. How does Zirma work with or against Tamara, the other signs city?
This is such a different book from the others we've read.  I spend considerably more time researching and writing than reading.  It's refreshing!
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