There are friendships that die when love dies
You bury them inside your throat to not speak of them
Some nights you grab your throat to remember
-V.M., from “Please Do Not Die On Me: A Love Letter”
you can love
but whose death?
"For all that let me tell thee, brother Panza," said Don Quixote, "that there is no recollection which time does not put an end to, and no pain which death does not remove."
“And what greater misfortune can there be,” replied Panza, “than the one that waits for time to put an end to it and death to remove it?”
-Miguel de Cervantes, Don Quixote (1605-15), Part I, Chapter XV.
"The poem is an argument with death.”
-Jerome Rothenberg, “PROLOGOMENA TO A POETICS for Michael McClure "
[Charles Olson wrote this poem in memorium of his second wife, Elizabeth Olson, who was tragically killed in a car accident on March 31, 1964.]
It was herself which was my joy, she was
spirit before I had any, she was my nature until
I opened the book of nature and was denied the
heaven of the intellect having had the other three.
And my soul said
you can’t go there
To this I owe my life and I pay here my memory of her
who was Elizabeth and I called Bet.
"For every gaze that turns away, something dies. We never know the sum of these infinitesimal, unnoticed, deaths because they take on the face of our own death.”
-Pierre-Albert Jourdan, from “The Approach”
Translation by John Taylor
"We are here to laugh at the odds and live our lives so well that Death will tremble to take us.
We are here to read these words from all these wise men and women who will tell us that we are here for different reasons and the same reason.”
Here are some passages I love from Pierre-Albert Jourdan’s notebook-diary,The Approach, translated by John Taylor. Taylor states: This journal records thoughts, books read, daily routines, and hospital experiences during the poet’s five-month long wrestling with terminal illness… The Approach constitutes a courageous testimonial and response to two ominous questions: Why write? And why read? More generally, Jourdan’s oeuvre comprehends writing as an examination par excellence of the predicament: “how to live.”
"The trouble is that others observe us. Our loved ones, also those who make decisions (more or less abruptly) for us. All the same, you cannot wear your decrepitude as if it were a victory."
“You cannot get out of yourself in order to grasp meaning; halfway out of your depth most of the time, you can only test the current with your fingertips; which is not at all the same thing.”
“I have been sailing my way through a constant fever. Heat flashes, shivering. My pen does not take them into account. What else can I do but obey it? I am not going to turn my blood ink-black by constant worrying. I am going to give my pen the better part. The blue part, preferably.”
“I cannot truly distinguish my own suffering, at least at this bearable stage—but I hope with all my heart that, if it worsens, the same mood will subsist deep inside me—from that of, for example, these trees assailed by the violence of a wind gone mad, from their own struggle; or from that of animals who are tortured, poisoned, stalked, and hunted down and yet who are, each of them, our mainstays. I refuse to pay the slightest bit of attention to those who, their ego bleating at the slightest alert, are surprised to discover that they have not remained at the center of the world. Suffering is so widespread, and extends so far beyond our understanding, that we should relinquish (perhaps in the form of a sacrifice, even a blind one) a part, even if infinitesimal, of our own ills. And this, as long as our mental lucidity is not covered over by the irremediable. This is a prayer that I humbly formulate for myself.”
“Watching plants grow never ages you.
Hands impregnated with rosemary.”
“What language does my body speak? What is it telling me? To think that I can’t catch the slightest scrap. Poverty, extreme poverty. May my body forgive me.”
“For every gaze that turns away, something dies. We never know the sum of these infinitesimal, unnoticed, deaths because they take on the face of our own death.”
“You cannot become attached to human beings, things, or landscapes without suffering immediately taking up a position at your side. This is probably a trite remark. Yet a much stranger fate brings you face to face with uprootedness. It is better, then, to accept the suffering at your side. And illuminate it with love.”
– Have you made any plans?
– Take an overdose, slash my wrists then hang myself.
– All those things together?
– It couldn’t possibly be misconstrued as a cry for help.
– It wouldn’t work.
– Of course it would.
– It wouldn’t work. You’d start to feel sleepy from the overdose and wouldn’t have the energy to cut your wrists.
– I’d be standing on a chair with a noose around my neck.
– If you were alone do you think you might harm yourself?
– I’m scared I might.
– Could that be protective?
– Yes. It’s fear that keeps me away from the train tracks. I just hope to God that death is the fucking end. I feel like I’m eighty years old. I’m tired of life and my mind wants to die.
– That’s a metaphor, not reality.
– It’s a simile.
– That’s not reality.
– It’s not a metaphor, it’s a simile, but even if it were, the defining feature of a metaphor is that it’s real.
(A long silence.)
— Sarah Kane, 4.48 Psychosis
Famous revision: W.H. Auden changed the last line of his poem “September 1, 1939,” from “We must love one another or die” to “We must love one another and die.”