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[JULY 2010.]


—I somehow can’t imagine lime trees growing in England. I guess there must have been some, though.
—Oh, but they aren’t really lime trees in that poem. It’s an archaic name for a linden tree.
—Oh! That makes sense.
—I mean, you probably could grow a small lime tree in England if you wanted to.
—No, that makes sense. I always thought, “Come on, Coleridge, it’s not so bad being stuck. Have a lime!”
—I know! Lie back and have a Corona, or a mojito—

'Within Germanic languages, English lithe, German lind ("lenient, yielding") are from the same root.'

does this go for german romantics too??


Sometimes it was the suffering itself that found expression:

Fleas, lice,
a horse pissing
by my bed.

Nomi shirami (Fleas lice)
uma no nyō suru (horse’s pissing)
makuramoto (bedside)

Here Bashō was on his best-known pilgrimage—recorded in The Narrow Way Within (Oku no Hosomichi)—at the northernmost turn of his travels. In a mountainous region, about to pass the barrier between two provinces, he was obliged by bad weather to spend three days at the home of a barrier guard. He counted himself lucky to have any accommodation at all, in such a remote place, but the comforts were meager.

Most translators of this haiku interpolate some feeling of disgust. Donald Keene, who usually can be trusted to translate dispassionately, renders the verse:

Plagued by fleas and lice
I hear a horse stalling
What a place to sleep!

This is not what Bashō said or meant at all, for he was using that suffering; he was not used by it. Not a single syllable in his original words reflects self-pity. It was just nip! Ouch! Pshhh!


The virtue itself shines forth with incisive spirit that drives through the darkness. The pain itself is just that pain.

—Robert Aitken, A Zen Wave: Bashō’s Haiku and Zen


Comala 2010

We had one gentleman who came in as bones, but around his wrist there was a bracelet from a Mexican hospital that had his picture.


Naptime is over. We ran out of money again. Even when wine is a bargain by the bottle—

I was thinking about Benjamin and his distracted spectator, because I associate distraction with the need to make money, and therefore with my enemies—well, what are Benjamin’s examples? Architecture and film. The building where you work and the show you catch after work. You don’t need to cognize a building to be affected by a building, I get that, buildings are large and they get in your way even with your mind underwater, but what a wallop to discover you’ve been walking around submerged for months. Occasionally the scales drop from my eyes and I feel I am inhabiting this proper animal form with its directions and aversions; the rest of the time I loll around with bad grace. As for the movies, they give me trouble. I can’t put them on in the background, but if I try to orient to them then I want to go somewhere else after five minutes, attention and distraction don’t balance in the right way. Or is distraction even part of it now? They don’t seem to expect that you’ll wander in during one reel and wander out during the next. They take their time.

Anyhow this week I am consulting with my ass in a chair and did all the work already and am on my second day of trying to look attentive while lolling, and it is a hindrance, kids. Bad grace.


Glücklichkeit.... könnte man die, in Palo Alto, finden—?

Finishing the move is like waking up from a nonsense dream. Now I don’t have much work but maybe don’t need much, not yet—and when I do have to go to an office, I am very proud of writing my novel on the Caltrain. Through J. I have a Stanford library card again after ten years, already getting more use than ever before. I ride my bike to campus and back, I buy fresh broccolini, the peace doesn’t even seem plausible, I thought this restful no-time was what bookish people got after they died.


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