Questions for Granite

graniteOn the rock, grains glued in silica, I stick close to myself. A dried oak wanders outward from the mountain’s negative. Roots snake through cracks. Two stuck stones, starting & staying, have fallen into each other: locked ready to shake off. It was the glacier, Wisconsin, that did it, carving thick braids of sentiment out of quartz. Now it’s another’s move. My arms are ticking. Full of adrenaline and blood, it’s too much for skin to hold, the forearms tendons fingers cable out to grimace the wall and I pendulum over the sheer apex of New York, crossing a crux, splitting I or some part making it out to that face. The bent joint of rock. Exposed and hung out to dry. Sun pools on my back. Bullets of sweat vanish from my head’s crown. There’s nothing to the south of me. All those untouched oaks, sycamore, euphorbia—& underneath huckleberries drop from the bush into lily ponds full of machine-voiced frogs. There’s the dipping lush of earth that begs me to spill into. But nothing holds here. Don’t let me lie. If I could I’d be weatherbeat or in Athens, at the foot of the Parthenon praying. Here’s not enough to stay. Even balance ends, end. I can’t keep my back to it. Face what you see.

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Those Beautiful Delhi Boys

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The devotees sit crosslegged in the tomb not eating the food laid before them, plates glossy pink and turmeric yellow with papaya and daal. The tile is khichri-slippery, and I have forgotten it is Ramadan. The Dargah of Sufi saint Nizaamuddin Auliya, a labrynthine complex open to the sky, shivers with a crowd: disciplined worshippers at a feast uneaten, as though laid out for ghosts. But they are vibrantly fleshy, minding babies and gesticulating as they wait for the siren signalling iftar to tumble down. I snake into a bulging queue with a combination of elbows and sweet talk, half propelled by the crowd and half propelling, until I am spat out, salty and sweating, at the tomb of Amir Khusrau.

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Catch a Fire

slaverevenge“Slave driver, the table is turned; Catch a fire, so you can get burned.” – Bob Marley

I am crouched on the edge of Port-au-Prince rooftop, a hooded figure with a blunderbuss and a rusty machete strapped to my back. A throng of white men in frock coats and silk stockings bustles by below, some on their way to a nearby slave auction. There, a line of shackled men stands on a platform, under posters reading “Nègres À Vendre”—“Blacks For Sale.” It’s broad daylight, and my rooftop ledge stands only a few feet off the ground. Yet the men below don’t seem frightened. It’s possible they can’t believe their eyes: Black assassins aren’t quite commonplace in colonial Saint-Domingue. Whatever the reason, their loss is our gain. Continue reading

Introduction: Marginalia

Le Philosophe lisant, Jean-Baptiste Chardin, 1734. Image courtesy doudou.gheerbrant.com

Notes from 21 South Street is happy to present its winter theme: Marginalia. Krithika Varagur ’15 introduces the theme; visit the blog to read more on marginalia in the coming weeks.

What compares to the shame of rereading? Returning a year, month, or week, to a book you rather liked the first time around, you feel a twinge of shame that the first pages’ metaphors are so freshly wonderful. You blush to realize that the comic subplot had entirely evaporated from your memory. Rereading the seminal (you thought) novel of that discontented summer, you seriously question where your atrophied memory places you within the populace; when every page seems so resolutely new, just what from this text had affected you so? Nabokov said that “one cannot read a book, one can only reread it,” but that’s cold comfort for the prospect that your remembrance of Portrait of the Artist may be as detailed as, and less accurate than, its Cliffnotes.

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Teeth

Painting, Smoking, Eating, Philip Guston, 1973, oil on canvas. Image courtesy of artcritical

“It’s just going to be pressure. It might scare you a little. Every time I do this, I get an eyebrow raise, right when it cracks.”

“What do I do after?”

“We’ll give you directions written down. People tend not to remember what I’m saying right now, because they’re nervous.”

“Okay. Yeah, that makes sense. Can we just, like, do it now?”

“Yes, absolutely. Let me go wash my hands.”

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Moonshine: Shining

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The Shining. Dir. Stanley Kubrick. Warner Bros, 1980. Film Still: 00:58:00.

Stargazing on a summer night, a friend once told me to identify planets as I would the moon. They are the ones that don’t twinkle. Rather than producing their own light, they shine flat light reflected from the sun. And by the time that light reaches us, it is minutes to hours old. These celestial bodies, as we perceive them, are not self-defining, nor are they ever our precise contemporaries. But we just see isolated, presently glowing dots.

What happens when humans are put into this position, made into reflective surfaces that claim foreign light as their own, masking its historical origin? In an extreme case, we get the events of The Shining, Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 psychological-horror movie based on a Steven King novel by the same name.

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