Archive for April, 2008

What they don’t know
about ADD
is that you don’t have a present.

You could be a great filmmaker,
but for this affliction,
the sequence of small moments that make
an epiphany are too small
and too slow to recount,
your mind is already 15 years in the past, or counting your change from lunch
or watching
Vampire Weekend on SNL.

There are trends
and people that speak
about pink party Murakami

The Gawker stalker street New York
vibrant vibratory
lessons of too many words
too many Emily Gould
was right

I click keys at their fringes, I want
some movement
to keep my mind from reeling back
to what are now
of this long absence
of presence. Of attention.
Of a decade waiting to be
like I was before the mind took over. And was
as faithless
as a teenager.

-Nina Alvarez


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Tell all the Truth but tell it slant

Tell all the Truth but tell it slant—
Success in Cirrcuit lies
Too bright for our infirm Delight
The Truth’s superb surprise
As Lightening to the Children eased
With explanation kind
The Truth must dazzle gradually
Or every man be blind—

-Emily Dickinson

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Inferno, Canto XIV

Love of that land that was our common source
moved me to tears; I gathered up the leaves
and gave them back. He was already hoarse.

We came to the edge of the forest where one goes
from the second round to the third, and there we saw
what fearful arts the hand of Justice knows.

To make these new things wholly clear, I say
we came to a plain whose soil repels all roots.
The wood of misery rings it the same way

the wood itself is ringed by the red fosse.
We paused at its edge: the ground was burning sand,
just such a waste as Cato marched across.

O endless wrath of God: how utterly
thou shouldst become a terror to all men
who read the frightful truths revealed to me!

Enormous herds of naked souls I saw,
lamenting till their eyes were burned of tears;
they seemed condemned by an unequal law,

for some were stretched supine upon the ground,
some squatted with tbeir arms about themselves,
and others without pause roamed round and round.

Most numerous were those that roamed the plain.
Far fewer were the souls stretched on the sand,
but moved to louder cries by greater pain.

And over all that sand on which they lay
or crouched or roamed, great flakes of flame fell slowly
as snow falls in the Alps on a windless day.

Like those Alexander met in the hot regions
of India, flames raining from the sky
to fall still unextinguished on his legions:

whereat he formed his ranks, and at their head
set the example, trampling the hot ground
for fear the tongues of fire might join and spread—

just so in Hell descended the long rain
upon the damned, kindling the sand like tinder
under a flint and steel, doubling the pain.

In a never-ending fit upon those sands,
the arms of the damned twitched all about their bodies,
now here, now there, brushing away the brands.

“Poet,” I said, “master of every dread
we have encountered, other than those fiends
who sallied from the last gate of the dead—

who is that wraith who lies along the rim
and sets his face against the fire in scorn,
so that the rain seems not to mellow him?”

And he himself, hearing what I had said
to my Guide and Lord concerning him, replied:
“What I was living, the same am I now, dead.

Though Jupiter wear out his sooty smith
from whom on my last day he snatched in anger
the jagged thunderbolt he pierced me with;

though he wear out the others one by one
who labor at the forge at Mongibello
crying again ‘Help! Help! Help me, good Vulcan!’

as he did at Phlegra; and hurl down endlessly
with all the power of Heaven in his arm,
small satisfaction would he win from me,”

At this my Guide spoke with such vehemence
as I had not heard from him in all of Hell:
“O Capaneus, by your insolence

you are made to suffer as much fire inside
as falls upon you. Only your own rage
could be fit torment for your sullen pride.”

Then he turned to me more gently. “That,” he said,
“was one of the Seven who laid siege to Thebes.
Living, he scorned God, and among the dead

he scorns Him yet. He thinks he may detest
God’s power too easily, but as I told him,
his slobber is a fit badge for his breast.

Now follow me; and mind for your own good
you do not step upon the burning sand,
but keep well back along the edge of the wood.”

We walked in silence then till we reached a rill
that gushes from the wood; it ran so red
the memory sends a shudder through me still.

As from the Bulicame springs the stream
the sinful women keep to their own use;
so down the sand the rill flowed out in steam.

The bed and both its banks were petrified,
as were its margins; thus I knew at once
our passage through the sand lay by its side.

“Among all other wonders I have shown you
since we came through the gate denied to none,
nothing your eyes have seen is equal to

the marvel of the rill by which we stand,
for it stifles all the flames above its course
as it flows out across the burning sand.”

So spoke my Guide across the flickering light,
and I begged him to bestow on me the food
for which he had given me the appetite.

“In the middle of the sea, and gone to waste,
there lies a country known as Crete,” he said,
“under whose king the ancient world was chaste.

Once Rhea chose it as the secret crypt
and cradle of her son; and better to hide him,
her Corybantes raised a din when he wept.

An ancient giant stands in the mountain’s core.
He keeps his shoulder turned toward Damietta,
and looks toward Rome as if it were his mirror.

His head is made of gold; of silverwork
his breast and both his arms, of polished brass
the rest of his great torso to the fork.

He is of chosen iron from there down,
except that his right foot is terra cotta;
it is this foot he rests more weight upon.

Every part except the gold is split
by a great fissure from which endless tears
drip down and hollow out the mountain’s pit.

Their course sinks to this pit from stone to stone,
becoming Acheron, Phlegethon, and Styx.
Then by this narrow sluice they hurtle down

to the end of all descent, and disappear
into Cocytus. You shall see what sink that is
with your own eyes. I pass it in silence here.”

And I to him: “But if these waters flow
from the world above, why is this rill met only
along this shelf?” And he to me: “You know

the place is round, and though you have come deep
into the valley through the many circles,
always bearing left along the steep,

you have not traveled any circle through
its total round; hence when new things appear
from time to time, that hardly should surprise you.”

And I: “Where shall we find Phlegethon’s course?
And Lethe’s? One you omit, and of the other
you only say the tear-flood is its source.”

“In all you ask of me you please me truly,”
he answered, “but the red and boiling water
should answer the first question you put to me,

and you shall stand by Lethe, but far hence:
there, where the spirits go to wash themselves
when their guilt has been removed by penitence.”

And then he said: “Now it is time to quit
this edge of shade: follow close after me
along the rill, and do not stray from it;

for the unburning margins form a lane,
and by them we may cross the burning plain.”

-Dante Alighieri (Translated by John Ciardi)

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A Valediction Forbidding Mourning

My swirling wants. Your frozen lips.
The grammar turned and attacked me.
Themes, written under duress.
Emptiness of the notations.

They gave me a drug that slowed the healing of wounds.

I want you to see this before I leave:
the experience of repetition as death
the failure of criticism to locate the pain
the poster in the bus that said:
my bleeding is under control

A red plant in a cemetery of plastic wreaths.

A last attempt: the language is a dialect called metaphor.
These images go unglossed: hair, glacier, flashlight.
When I think of a landscape I am thinking of a time.
When I talk of taking a trip I mean forever.
I could say: those mountains have a meaning
but further than that I could not say.

To do something very common, in my own way.

-Adrienne Rich

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In the effort to find one’s way among the contents of memory
(Aristotle emphasizes)
a principal of association is helpful—
“passing rapidly from one step to the next.
For instance from milk to white,
from white to air,
from air to damp,
after which one recollectes autumn supposing one is trying to
recollect that season.”
Or supposing,
fair reader,
you are trying to recollect not autumn but freedom,
a principal of freedom
the existed between two people, small and savage
as principals go—but what are the rules for this?
As he says,
folly may come into fashion.
Pass then rapidly
from one step to the next,
for instance from nipple to hard,
from hard to hotel room,
from hotel room

to a phrase found in a letter he wrote in a taxi one day he passed
his wife
on the other side of the street and she did not see him, she was—
so ingenious are the arrangements of the state of flux we call
our moral history are they not almost as neat as mathematical
propositions except written on water—
on her way to the courthouse
to file papers for divorce, a phrase like
how you tasted between your legs.
After which by means of this wholly divine faculty, the “memory
of words and things,”
one recollects
Is it I? cries the soul rushing up.
Little soul, poor vague animal:
beware this invention “always useful for learning and life”
as Aristotle say, Aristotle who
had no husband,
rarely mentions beauty
and was likely to pass rapidly from wrist to slave when trying to
recollect wife.

-Anne Carson

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There is a kind of love called maintenance
Which stores the WD40 and knows when to use it

Which checks the insurance, and doesn’t forget
The milkman; which remembers to plant bulbs;

Which answers letters; which knows the way
The money goes; which deals with dentists

And Road Fund Tax and meeting trains,
And postcards to the lonely; which upholds

The permanently rickety elaborate
Structures of living, which is Atlas.

And maintenance is the sensible side of love,
Which knows what time and weather are doing
To my brickwork; insulates my faulty wiring;
Laughs at my dryrotten jokes; remembers
My need for gloss and grouting; which keeps
My suspect edifice upright in air,
As Atlas did the sky.

-U.A. Fanthorpe

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philthy-art-logo-schmoo-size.jpgOh dear friends, thank you for continuing to come to NinaAlvarez.net even though after 9 months of posting every day, I took about 3 months off. I am ready to jump back in and happy to be back.

For those of you who are artists, check out Philthy Art, my other blog about art in Philadelphia, but also about my work doing internet marketing and writing for artspan.com and my new art community in St. Petersburg, FL. 

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The Galloping Cat

Oh I am a cat that likes to
Gallop about doing good
One day when I was
Galloping about doing good, I saw
A figure in the path; I said
Get off! (Be-
I am a cat that likes to
Gallop about doing good)
But he did not move, instead
He raised his hand as if
To land me a cuff
So I made to dodge so as to
Prevent him bringing it orf,
Un-for-tune-ately I slid
On a banana skin
Some Ass had left instead
Of putting in the bin. So
His hand caught me on the cheek
I tried
To lay his arm open from wrist to elbow
With my sharp teeth
Because I am
A cat that likes to gallop about doing good.
Would you believe it?
He wasn’t there
My teeth met nothing but air,
But a Voice said: Poor Cat,
(Meaning me) and a soft stroke
Came on me head
Since when
I have been bald.
I regard myself as
A martyr to doing good
Also I heard a swoosh
As of wings, and saw
A halo shining at the height of
Mrs Gubbins’s backyard fence,
So I thought: What’s the good
Of galloping about doing good
When angels stand in the path
And do not do as they should
Such as having an arm to be bitten off
All the same I
Intend to go on being
A cat that likes to
Gallop about doing good
Now with my bald head I go,
Chopping the untidy flowers down, to
and fro,
An’ scooping up the grass to show
The cinder path of wrath
Ha ha ha ha, ho,
Angels aren’t the only ones who do
not know
What’s what and that
Galloping about doing good
Is a full time job
That needs
An experienced eye of earthly
Sharpness, worth I dare say
(if you’ll forgive a personal note)
A good deal more
Than all that skyey stuff
Of angels that make so bold as
To pity a cat like me that
Gallops about doing good.

-Stevie Smith

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A Spirit Passed Before Me

From Job

A spirit passed before me: I beheld
The face of immortality unveiled—
Deep sleep came down on every eye save mine—
And there it stood,—all formless—but divine:
Along my bones the creeping flesh did quake;
And as my damp hair stiffened, thus it spake:

“Is man more just than God? Is man more pure
Than He who deems even Seraphs insecure?
Creatures of clay—vain dwellers in the dust!
The moth survives you, and are ye more just?
Things of a day! you wither ere the night,
Heedless and blind to Wisdom’s wasted light!”

-George Gordon Byron, Lord Byron

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