Picasso’s Promenade

Photograph by Chema Madoz

 
 

“On a very round plate of real porcelain
an apple poses
face to face with it
a painter of reality
vainly tries to paint
the apple as it is
but
the apple won’t allow it
the apple
it has its word to say about it
and several tricks in its bag of apples
and there it is turning
on its real plate
artfully on itself
blandly without budging
and like a Duc de Guise who disguises himself as a gas duct
because they want to draw his portrait against his will
the apple disguises itself as a beautiful fruit in disguise
and it’s then
that the painter of reality
begins to realize
that all the appearances of the apple are against him
and
like the unfortunate pauper
like the poor pauper who finds himself suddenly at the mercy
of no matter what benevolent and charitable and redoubtable
association of benevolence charity and redoubtability
the unfortunate painter of reality
then suddenly finds himself the sad prey
of a numberless crowd of associations of ideas
And the apple turning evokes the apple tree
the earthly Paradise and Eve and then Adam
a watering-can a trellis Parmentier a stairway
Canadian Hesperidian Norman apples Reinette apples and Appian apples
the serpent of the Tennis Court and the Oath of Apple Juice
and original sin
and the origins of art
and Switzerland with William Tell
and even Isaac Newton
several times prizewinner at the Exhibition of Universal Gravitation
and the dazed painter loses sight of his model
and falls asleep
It’s just then that Picasso
who’s going by there as he goes by everywhere
every day as if at home
sees the apple and the plate and the painter fallen asleep
What an idea to paint an apple
says Picasso
and Picasso eats the apple
and the apple tells him Thanks
and Picasso breaks the plate
and goes off smiling
and the painter drawn from his dreams
like a tooth
finds himself all alone again before his unfinished canvas
with right in the midst of his shattered china
the terrifying pips of reality.”

Jacques Prévert

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The Little Man Who Wasn’t There

Photo by Chema Madoz

 
 

ANTIGONISH

Yesterday, upon the stair,
I met a man who wasn’t there.
He wasn’t there again today,
I wish, I wish he’d go away…

When I came home last night at three,
The man was waiting there for me
But when I looked around the hall,
I couldn’t see him there at all!
Go away, go away, don’t you come back any more!
Go away, go away, and please don’t slam the door…

Last night I saw upon the stair,
A little man who wasn’t there,
He wasn’t there again today
Oh, how I wish he’d go away…

Hughes Mearns

 
 

Inspired by reports of a ghost of a man roaming the stairs of a haunted house in Antigonish, Nova Scotia, Canada, the poem Antigonish (also known as The Little Man Who Wasn’t There) was originally part of a play called The Psyco-ed which Mearns had written for an English class at Harvard University about 1899. In 1910, Mearns put on the play with the Plays and Players, an amateur theatrical group and, on 27 March 1922, newspaper columnist FPA printed the poem in The Conning Tower, his column in the New York World.

In 1939, Antigonish was adapted as a popular song titled The Little Man Who Wasn’t There by Harold Adamson with music by Bernie Hanighen, both of whom received the songwriting credits. A 12 July 1939 recording of the song by the Glenn Miller Orchestra with vocals by Tex Beneke became an 11-week hit on Your Hit Parade reaching #7. Other versions were recorded by Larry Clinton & His Orchestra with vocals by Ford Leary, Bob Crosby & His Orchestra with vocals by Teddy Grace, Jack Teagarden & His Orchestra with vocals by Teagarden, and Mildred Bailey. Mearns ‘ Antigonish has been used numerous times in popular culture, including Velvet Goldmine (Todd Haynes, 1998) often with slight variations in the lines.

Similar lyrics can be heard in the song The Man Who Sold the World by David Bowie:

“We passed upon the stair
We spoke of was and when
Although I wasn’t there
He said I was his friend…”

Ode to Wine

Photograph by Chema Madoz

 
 

Day-colored wine,
night-colored wine,
wine with purple feet
or wine with topaz blood,
wine,
starry child
of earth,
wine, smooth
as a golden sword,
soft
as lascivious velvet,
wine, spiral-seashelled
and full of wonder,
amorous,
marine;
never has one goblet contained you,
one song, one man,
you are choral, gregarious,
at the least, you must be shared.
At times
you feed on mortal
memories;
your wave carries us
from tomb to tomb,
stonecutter of icy sepulchers,
and we weep
transitory tears;
your
glorious
spring dress
is different,
blood rises through the shoots,
wind incites the day,
nothing is left
of your immutable soul.
Wine
stirs the spring, happiness
bursts through the earth like a plant,
walls crumble,
and rocky cliffs,
chasms close,
as song is born.
A jug of wine, and thou beside me
in the wilderness,
sang the ancient poet.
Let the wine pitcher
add to the kiss of love its own.

My darling, suddenly
the line of your hip
becomes the brimming curve
of the wine goblet,
your breast is the grape cluster,
your nipples are the grapes,
the gleam of spirits lights your hair,
and your navel is a chaste seal
stamped on the vessel of your belly,
your love an inexhaustible
cascade of wine,
light that illuminates my senses,
the earthly splendor of life.

But you are more than love,
the fiery kiss,
the heat of fire,
more than the wine of life;
you are
the community of man,
translucency,
chorus of discipline,
abundance of flowers.
I like on the table,
when we’re speaking,
the light of a bottle
of intelligent wine.
Drink it,
and remember in every
drop of gold,
in every topaz glass,
in every purple ladle,
that autumn labored
to fill the vessel with wine;
and in the ritual of his office,
let the simple man remember
to think of the soil and of his duty,
to propagate the canticle of the wine.

Pablo Neruda

The Eternal Recurrence of All Things

Photographs by Chema Madoz

 
 

“Whoever thou mayest be, beloved stranger, whom I meet here for the first time, avail thyself of this happy hour and of the stillness around us, and above us, and let me tell thee something of the thought which has suddenly risen before me like a star which would fain shed down its rays upon thee and every one, as befits the nature of light. – Fellow man! Your whole life, like a sandglass, will always be reversed and will ever run out again, – a long minute of time will elapse until all those conditions out of which you were evolved return in the wheel of the cosmic process. And then you will find every pain and every pleasure, every friend and every enemy, every hope and every error, every blade of grass and every ray of sunshine once more, and the whole fabric of things which make up your life. This ring in which you are but a grain will glitter afresh forever. And in every one of these cycles of human life there will be one hour where, for the first time one man, and then many, will perceive the mighty thought of the eternal recurrence of all things:- and for mankind this is always the hour of Noon”.

Friedrich Nietzsche

Die fröhliche Wissenschaft (The Gay Science)*

 
 

*The book’s title uses a phrase that was well-known at the time. It was derived from a Provençal expression (gai saber) for the technical skill required for poetry-writing that had already been used by Ralph Waldo Emerson and E. S. Dallas and, in inverted form, by Thomas Carlyle in “the dismal science”. The book’s title was first translated into English as The Joyous Wisdom, but The Gay Science has become the common translation since Walter Kaufmann‘s version in the 1960s. Kaufmann cites The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary (1955) that lists “The gay science (Provençal gai saber): the art of poetry”.

The Fate of Leaves

Photo: Chema Madoz

 
 

Fatality

 
 

No one, not even God, can put back a leaf on to a tree
once it has fallen off.

And no one, not God nor Christ nor any other
can put back a human life into connection with the living
cosmos
once the connection has been broken
and the person has become finally self-centred.

Death alone, through the long process of disintegration
can melt the detached life back
through the dark Hades at the roots of the tree
into the circulating sap, once more, of the tree of life.

 
 

D.H. Lawrence