All Things Dull and Ugly. This is the line I get up with in my head this morning; Monty Python’s brilliant spoof on the hymn All Things Bright and Beautiful. I read this as a sign. I don’t believe in such – I’m a rationalist for Christ’s sake – but the idea of reading signs allures me. It makes life less dull and less ugly. So, I read it as a sign. A sign that I have to go see my sister. This is not a problem since she now lives 10 minutes away from my apartment. She is a Monty Python expert. As mentioned earlier on this blog, not only does she know everything by heart – especially The Life of Brian, which she recites with the necessary intonation in all places dull or beautiful, but she also has the stuff near hand, or ear, downloaded on all the gadgets that can be put in her bag – “in case memory fails,” she argues. She will cook lamb schnitzel – Romanian style, turned in flour and egg and fried at high temperature. We will have a good Merlot with it. And a Norwegian snaps. Then she will put a Monty Python DVD on her computer – she doesn’t have a TV (she hates the damned thing) and she will sing, whatever singing there’ll be to be sung, from the bottom of her lungs. I will be on the floor rolling myself over from too much laughter. Enhancing the digestion.

I make my own contributions to such events. You see, the thing with reading signs – and, all right, all right, I’ll grant you, as a rationalist you’re bound to believe in signs if not all the time, then some of the time; “never” has its own set of possibilities – is that it allows you to embellish your knowledge of facts. So, I make space in my own bag for the book which I picked at random to read in the bathroom this morning. Anne Carson’s The Beauty of the Husband. My sister should like this, as neither of us is married. The poem I read falls quite beautifully between Monty Python’s profane hymn and Alexander’s institutionalized religious piss. Carson’s fictional poetry is an essay in “29 tangos” on Keats’s idea that truth is beauty. Number XI has this title: “Make your cuts in accordance with the living joints of the form said Socrates to Phaedrus when they were dissecting a speech about love.” I’m thinking of numbers: there’s definitely something about nr. 11 (29 tangos, 2+9 makes 11; in her house my sister has 10 poetry bookshelves downstairs; today she’ll get another one from me, so 11. And so it goes, so it goes, indeed who needs a TV, who has time for a TV?).

My sister and I believe in much simpler things than truth and beauty. We believe in habeas corpus. Let us then join hands and read a good poem – for the meaning of life (a student of mine at an oral exam last year said to me, after a longer discussion of very interesting things: “why, the meaning of life is poetry, of course” – she scored the highest, as I approved 150 percent. And so it goes indeed).


Why did nature give me over to this creature – don’t call it my choice,
I was ventured:
by some pure gravity of existence itself,
conspiracy of being!
We were fifteen.
it was Latin class, late spring, late afternoon, the passive periphrastic,
for some reason I turned in my seat
and there he was.
You know how they say a Zen butcher makes one correct cut and the whole ox
falls apart
like a puzzle. Yes a cliché

and I do not apologize because as I say I was not to blame, I was unshielded
in the face of existence
and existence depends on beauty.
In the end.
Existence will not stop
until it gets to beauty and then there follow all the consequences that lead to the end.
Useless to interpose analysis
Or make contrafactual suggestions.
Quid enim futurum fuit si… What would have happened if, etc.
The Latin master’s voice
went up and down on quiet waves. A passive periphrastic
may take the place of the imperfect or pluperfect subjunctive
in a contrary-to-fact condition.
Adeo parata seditio fuit
ut Othonem rapturi fuerint, ni incerta noctis timuissent.

So advanced was the conspiracy
That they would have seized upon Otho, had they not feared the hazards of the night.
Why do I have
this sentence in mind
as if it happened three hours ago not thirty years!
Unshielded still, night now.
How true they were to fear its hazards.


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