“You, your joys and your sorrows, your memories and your ambitions, your sense of personal identity and free will, are in fact no more than the behavior of a vast assembly of nerve cells and their associated molecules.” [ Frances Crick, The Astonishing Hypothesis ]
For days we noticed the fullness of the moon. We had reached, I thought,
a peaceful place,
and both of us were contented. Sentences
finished themselves without interruption,
most of the time. On the way to the station one morning
C. told me how once, as a child,
he sang "Paper Moon" to a roomful of grownups (including a monsignor),
but did not understand the words. "Hanging over a cardboard sea"
was especially confusing to him,
until years later.
I was reading a book about ensoulment, not strictly.
A psychic in the book identified
a woman's brother's "hourglasses," which
he collected. For this reason the woman was convinced
of the psychic's credibility.
There was a great deal of talk about the discarnate,
and how we might—and they might—
commune with each other.
I was glad I had taken Latin
for four years.
I came across gegenschein, defined as a "faint oval patch of light
directly opposite the sun in the night sky, caused by reflection of sunlight
by dust particles—also known as
counterglow." I found this hard
to picture. It's different from zodiacal light, which is vaguely triangular,
but has colors identical to those
of that solar spectrum. (Suddenly I rememberd
how long we sat on the airport floor while waiting
for that flight. Suddenly I remembered
walking in that forest in Maine,
carrying umbrellas.) The sometimes oval gegenschein is
a much fainter spot of light.
Radiational backscattering! The apparent cause of gegenschein. The wavelengths
are reflected backwards
so much better than in all other directions. Several Italians,
in the remarkable year 2000
carried heavy astronomical equipment
to the top of Stromboli (in a continuous state of eruption
for 2000 years), and positioned themselves near the cemetery
to observe the gegenschein. It was a perfect night
with almost no wind at all, and they confirmed
that Stromboli has one of the darkest skies in Europe. I was pleased
to wake up to find
that C. had brought a stunned woodcock
up to our hotel room
on the 20th floor.
He'd found it in the street, preposterously.
The bird rested calmly
in the purple lining of C's jacket
for some time. Then it began to fly; I had to confine it
in a towel. C. freed it
in the park, although alas,
we believed it too invisibly wounded
to survive. All day I scanned
the painted window screens of Baltimore
for images of falling birds. (I remembered the silver Icarus
in the museum,
surrounded by windows. I remembered the still-life painter from Delft
and his trademark red spittoon.)
From a seismic point of view, we were in a state
of persistent volcanic tremor. I had not thought of it
myself. I did consider
something like it when reminded
of 17th century tulipomania, which is just what it sounds like:
Europe's obsession with tulips,
undoubtedly an unhealthy preoccupation.
I have no idea
what that did to the birds.
Or whether the tulips had been ensouled
to the point that they thought about haunting
in later centuries.
I felt as if I were standing in the inkwell.
(I remembered a painting called "Duel after Masquerade,"
in which a clown stood sadly gazing at a pistol
while another man in costume was carried away. I remembered
the counter man in the Roly Poly Sandwich Shoppe
telling us he was 37 and had been married 15 years
and had a daugher not from this marriage
but "from a young lady I met in college," and he
[later I hear him while I'm waiting for our rollups with artichoke hearts]
is worried that another young lady [a customer, I gather]
who is married as he is married has not only been talking to him
"too much" but has somehow appeared—twice—at the same bus stop he uses
on his way home.
He's worried about this, he tells his friend,
"so I go home a different way.")
I searched for my ectoplasm
in order to wear it home.
And finally I found it.
The trains were confusing for us, we had been through so much.
And yet in a certain way there was no strain at all.
Reading -- March 1
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