Kaysen: In the parallel universe


In the parallel universe the laws of physics are suspended. What goes up does not necessarily come down….Time, too, is different. It may run in circles, flow backward, skip about from now to then….

Another odd feature of the parallel universe is that although it is invisible from this side, once you are in it you can easily see the world you came from….

Every window on Alcatraz has a view of San Francisco.

Susanna Kaysen (1948–), Girl, Interrupted


Photo by Gianni Crestani at Pixabay

Xin Qiji: I somehow cannot mention it


To the tune "The Ugly Slave-girl"

When I was young and had never tasted grief, I loved to climb towers.
I loved to climb towers to write elegant poems about my grief.
But now that I have tasted the utmost dregs of grief, I somehow cannot mention it.
I somehow cannot mention it. Instead I say, "What nice brisk autumn weather."

      --Chinese poet Xin Qiji 辛棄疾 (1140-1207)



Su Shi: Who knows where the swan flies?


Remembering the past with Ziyou at Mianchi Temple

When it comes down to it, what is human life like?
It must be like a flying swan that alights on snow or mud.
Sometimes it leaves footprints on the mud.
Then the swan flies off-- where? to the east? to the west?...

       --Su Shi (蘇軾) (1037-1101), also known as Su Dongpo (蘇東坡). Ziyou was his younger brother, Su Che (蘇轍).







Borges: There is a mirror that has seen me the last time


There is a line of Verlaine that I will not be able to remember.
There is a street nearby that is widowed of my footsteps,
there is a mirror that has seen me for the last time,
there is a door that I have closed until the end of the world.
Among the books of my library (I am looking at them)
there is one that I will never open now.
This summer I will be fifty years old;
Death is wearing me away, relentless.

  --Jorge Luis Borges (1899-1986) wrote another version of this poem, but I prefer this one.

Hay una línea de Verlaine que no volveré a recordar.
Hay una calle próxima que está vedada a mis pasos,
hay un espejo que me ha visto por última vez,
hay una puerta que he cerrado hasta el fin del mundo.
Entre los libros de mi biblioteca (estoy viéndolos)
hay alguno que ya nunca abriré.
Este verano cumpliré cincuenta años;
La muerte me desgasta, incesante.

Georges Moustaki: Grandfathers


It's for you that I play Grandfather-- it's for you.
All the others hear me but you, you listen.
We're made of the same wood, we have the same blood,
and I carry your name and you are a little bit me.

Exiled from Corfu and Constantinople,
Ulysses who never retraced his steps,
I am from your country, a métèque like you,
a child of the child that Penelope bore you.

You were already old when I was just born,
arriving just in time to take up the relay.
And I will end up one day resembling
the photo where you posed as an ancestor.


It's for you that I play Grandfather, it's for you
that I slide my fingers along my six strings
to awaken a tranquil single-chord tune
that's all that I know to do with my ten fingers.

Master of laziness, expert at poaching,
like you I have lived in the shadow of boats
and to make a feast I would steal birds
that the sea wind brought me from the deep

Like you I ran after girls and dreams
drinking at each stream I crossed
and without ever really quenching my thirst
without ever tiring of sowing my seed.

It's for you that I play Grandfather, it's for you.
To put back in the present all that has passed
since I began to speak only French
and I write songs you don't understand

It's for you I play Grandfather, it's for you.
All the others surround me but you wait for me
even though you are far off in space and in time
when it's time to die we'll find each other again.

      --Georges Moustaki (1934- ), written in 1969. He was born to Greek Jews in Alexandria, Egypt, and became a famous singer in French.


C'est pour toi que je joue Grandpère c'est pour toi
Tous les autres m'écoutent mais toi tu m'entends
On est du même bois on est du même sang
Et je porte ton nom et tu es un peu moi

Exilé de Corfou et de Constantinople
Ulysse qui jamais ne revint sur ses pas
Je suis de ton pays, métèque comme toi
Un enfant de l'enfant que te fit Pénélope

Tu étais déjà vieux quand je venais de naître
Arrivé juste à temps pour prendre le relais
Et je finirai bien un jour par ressembler
A la photo où tu as posé à l'ancêtre

C'est pour toi que je joue Grand-père c'est pour toi
Que je glisse mes doigts le long de mes six cordes
Pour réveiller un air tranquille et monocorde
C'est tout ce que je sais faire de mes dix doigts

Maître en oisiveté expert en braconnage
Comme toi j'ai vécu à l'ombre des bateaux
Et pour faire un festin je volais les oiseaux
Que le vent de la mer me ramenait du large

Comme toi j'ai couru les filles et les rêves
Buvant à chaque source que je rencontrais
Et sans être jamais vraiment désaltéré
Sans jamais être las de répandre ma sève

C'est pour toi que je joue Grand-père c'est pour toi
Pour remettre au présent tout ce qui est passé
Depuis que je ne parle plus que le français
Et j'écris des chansons que tu ne comprends pas

C'est pour toi que je joue Grand-père c'est pour toi
Tous les autres m'entourent mais toi tu m'attends
Même si tu es loin dans l'espace et le temps
Quand il faudra mourir on se retrouvera.

To everything there is a season

Angel_harvesting To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:

A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;

A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;

A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;

A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;

A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;

A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;

A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.

What profit hath he that worketh in that wherein he laboureth? I have seen the travail, which God hath given to the sons of men to be exercised in it.

He hath made every thing beautiful in his time: also he hath set the world in their heart, so that no man can find out the work that God maketh from the beginning to the end.


I know that there is no good in them, but for a man to rejoice, and to do good in his life....That which hath been is now; and that which is to be hath already been; and God requireth that which is past....

       --Ecclesiastes 3, The Bible

Willa Cather: We possessed together the precious, the incommunicable past


For Ántonia and me, this had been the road of destiny; had taken us to those early accidents of fortune which predetermined for us all that we can ever be. Now I understood that the same road was to bring us together again. Whatever we had missed, we possessed together the precious, the incommunicable past.

     --Willa Cather (1873-1947), My Ántonia