Degas: Something Artificial

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“I’m talking about a long time ago because, apart from my heart, it seems to me that everything in me is aging in proportion. And even this heart has something artificial about it. The ballerinas have stitched it up in a little pouch of pink silk, a rather faded pink silk, like their ballet pumps.”

 

Edgar Degas, Naples, 1886

Baudelaire On Women And Love

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On Woman’s Airs:

The airs that have charm, and that constitute beauty, are:
The air of sophisticated weariness,
The air of boredom,
The swooning air,
The impudent air,
The chilly air,
The air of looking down from a height,
The air of domination,
The air of wilfulness,
The air of malignity,
The air of sickness,
The air of a pussycat – a mixture of childishness, nonchalance and malice.

 

-Charles Baudelaire, Intimate Journals

 

 

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A Carcass

My love, do you recall the object which we saw,
That fair, sweet, summer morn!
At a turn in the path a foul carcass
On a gravel strewn bed,

Its legs raised in the air, like a lustful woman,
Burning and dripping with poisons,
Displayed in a shameless, nonchalant way
Its belly, swollen with gases.

The sun shone down upon that putrescence,
As if to roast it to a turn,
And to give back a hundredfold to great Nature
The elements she had combined;

And the sky was watching that superb cadaver
Blossom like a flower.
So frightful was the stench that you believed
You’d faint away upon the grass.

The blow-flies were buzzing round that putrid belly,
From which came forth black battalions
Of maggots, which oozed out like a heavy liquid
All along those living tatters.

All this was descending and rising like a wave,
Or poured out with a crackling sound;
One would have said the body, swollen with a vague breath,
Lived by multiplication.

And this world gave forth singular music,
Like running water or the wind,
Or the grain that winnowers with a rhythmic motion
Shake in their winnowing baskets.

The forms disappeared and were no more than a dream,
A sketch that slowly falls
Upon the forgotten canvas, that the artist
Completes from memory alone.

Crouched behind the boulders, an anxious dog
Watched us with angry eye,
Waiting for the moment to take back from the carcass
The morsel he had left.

— And yet you will be like this corruption,
Like this horrible infection,
Star of my eyes, sunlight of my being,
You, my angel and my passion!

Yes! thus will you be, queen of the Graces,
After the last sacraments,
When you go beneath grass and luxuriant flowers,
To molder among the bones of the dead.

Then, O my beauty! say to the worms who will
Devour you with kisses,
That I have kept the form and the divine essence
Of my decomposed love!

 

-Charles Baudelaire, Flowers of Evil

 

 

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Images by Chris Marker

Why Should I Miss Her?

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Figure in a Landscape by Francis Bacon, 1952

Why should I miss her?

The sun comes up alone
And goes down alone.
It still burns brightly all day.

The moon comes up
And disappears by dawn,
Most days; that cold, white stone
Reflecting the light
Of a distant star,
Around which it orbits
By way of structural attraction
To a planet it once
Was a part of.

Why should I miss her?

When I held her hand,
The skin was not that
Of a foreigner, a stranger,
An acquaintance, a friend.
No. As if her skin
Came from mine, as natural
As my own skin, as if
Her flesh were my flesh,
Not as a possession,
No, as if nature,
In its infinite processes
Had produced two
Separate bodies that
Were not separate
And should not be separate
But seem to be separate now.

Why should I miss her?

Fingers entwined, we sat
Gazing into forever
And we felt that if
Somewhere in forever
It would be something like
Right now, then life might
Actually be worth living…

Why should I miss her?

It seemed as though
She lived in eternal Winter,
And she needed me only to
Fill the need she had
For the Second Law of Thermodynamics,
Which states that heat
Naturally flows from a
Hotter body to a colder body.

(Not that I did not have a similar need,
But hers was a much more severe case.)

Why should I miss her?

Now that our love
Is here among the ruins.

You see,
I didn’t want to believe
That she couldn’t get past herself,
Her destructive, frozen eternal present.

But the Second Law of Thermodynamics
Can only heal so much
When it is one human body to another
With all the trauma that comes from
Being born into this madhouse
We call the world.

Sometimes there is no help for that.

Here on the craggy coast
In the fog and wind,
As the salt-licked air
Edges my iron heart with creeping rust,

…I move on in this nowhere without even a trace of a somewhere in sight…

…I guess it is a good day… except that I miss her…. and there is a scar across my life…

Heathcote Williams 1941 – 2017

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In the nineteenth century the Rebecca rioters
Objected to tollgates “confining the rabble”.
They distracted the constables standing guard with a play
While they turned the tollgates into rubble.

Likewise the Luddites sneaked under the radar,
Disguising themselves in female dress,
They then took hammers to the mechanical looms
That were sacrificing them to ‘progress.’

***

In 1871 the Paris Commune declared Paris
To be the site of a “permanent festival”.
With their autonomous liberated city still haunted by the guillotine
This was considered more preferable.

In 1968 the revolutionary festival spirit broke out once more,
Enhanced by the Situationists’ declaration
That it was the revolution’s job to serve poetry
Not the job of poetry to serve the revolution.

 

                      -Heathcote Williams fromRevolution’