Bill Bly's old weblog

23 Apr 2005
7:35 AM

Many of the poems in Andrew Kaufman's Earth's Ends dwell on the squalor if not the suffering of the poor in Southeast Asia and South America. But in this one he presents, hauntingly, a different end of earth:

The Observatory on the Altiplano, Hours from La Paz

Just as it is summer there when winter here,
to study the stars they did not look up, but down,
into a cistern
built to reflect the heavens --
the sky was too vast
in the thin air

for those who would study the future
in the permafrost of the Milky Way
to crane upward for hours against the terrible
night winds. The emperor's statue stands
nearby, head hunched forward as if he had no neck,
shoulders squared in the posture
of a tyrannical American mayor. His eyes are rectangles,
mouth a straight line, nose gone. His hair

is bird shit and lichen, his legs covered with wind-
smoothed hieroglyphe, the language
undeciphered. At this altitude a pinprick
of blackness opened in my head,
threatening to spill, like ink. Across the high plain
scrubgrass glowed and flared

in the late sun. The driver
who brought me to this wind-
blasted ruin, hours from La Paz,
nothing between but altiplano,
stepped from his taxi again.
He measured what daylight was left
against the dangers of night roads.
Their names lost, I stared for the last time
into the faces of gods
eroding on what palace walls still stood,
their features open to the prophecies of the stars
and the judgments of the winds.

22 Apr 2005
9:22 AM

After years of coaxing, my wife Deborah has finally been persuaded to blog. Rejoicing all round! It's called Blytherings: The blatherings of a Bly.

Latest entry is a lovely rant on the coverage of the oft-postponed nuptials of poor Charles and Camilla got in the media. One gets a lesson in the history of the antient Praier of Confessioun, which Leno and other know-nothings stinking up the noosphere with blue fume seemed to think was written especially for the occasion, haw haw.

Well, ourDeb takes them to task, and highlights (in case we needed it) the utter craven pusillanimity (say that ten times fast!) of the fourth estate (or whichever one it is).

I say: you go gril!

21 Apr 2005
7:48 AM

Andrew Kaufman's Earth's Ends won the 2003 Pearl Poetry Prize, and I'm just reading the complimentary copy sent to the rest of us who entered. Here's an exemplary poem:


"Write about yourself," the white-haired poet said,
bored with my toddler-beggars and drunk shamans,
with gods of orphans and bargain child brides,
tired of stupas piled with human bones.

"The naked girls in your temple vines are stone.
Why should I care about the shyness of whores
in leather skirts who kneel with flowers
for Buddha? Yourself -- not children in the foam

your wake leaves, greeting and cursing your boat."
But even in my home I wander half lost,
having outwalked the farthest city light,
to return pre-dawn across soot-flecked frost

my lusts bright domes of gold in the sun,
my terrors beggars with stumps for hands.

-- Andrew Kaufman, Earth's Ends, 35.

16 Apr 2005
12:07 PM

The geese are leaving us -- the ones that leave -- headed north in a ragged chevron above and against traffic on St Pauls Ave, bound for Atlantic Canada (they *are* Canada geese) at least, if not the thawing shores of Hudson Bay or Baffin Island.

This migration started at least a month back, when whole swarms of snow geese swirled and settled in fair-weather drifts across the stubble fields just off the highway as I charged past, mighty Haakon hemmed in by a pack of rampaging tandems on US 22 just east of the Nazareth Pike.

The light at this time of year -- it's still winter-white and it angles in instead of beating down as it will when it yellows and mellows in May -- somehow makes me think of my childhood in the proto-burbs of western Pennsylvania, and after some cogitation I think I know why.

My folks had built their dream house on the western border of what was once a cow pasture, and a handful of other families were doing the same over the next few years. What trees there were within the neighborhood were brand new -- the only old ones left fringed the housing plan and screened it from the road; the rest had all been cleared. All year long the light was bright like it is today, with nothing to break it up but telephone poles and power lines.

Back from the road, behind the raw new houses, were the real woods. More on them later.

7 Apr 2005
6:09 PM

I have a special e-mail folder called Deb's pics for sites my wife likes enough to send me the links to. Today I visited CrashBonsai and spent the next half hour simply enthralled.

A few years ago a friend showed me some similarly enchanting photographs taken by his son, and when I praised them he agreed that the boy had made the most of the education that he, my friend, had provided him. But what struck me wasn't the composition or technique of the images, but *what he saw* -- and I wouldn't know who to credit to for that.

5 Apr 2005
4:25 PM

I don't know what it is about this time of year, particularly on a lucious day like today -- clear sky, balmy breeze, what they used to call shirt-sleeve weather -- but hypertext haunts me like a dream I can't quite recall after waking. It could be that I first discovered hypertext in this season a dozen years ago; or that I went to my first hypertext conferences, in Washington and then Southampton, in early April, and on both occasions the weather was super-fine like this; or that I started teaching Hypertext Theory and Practice at Fordham in the spring a couple years after that.

Or maybe it's just the ineffable feeling that spring itelf engenders on a dreamy afternoon such as is just now sauntering into evening, this first week on Daylight Savings Time, when the crokes and daffos and tulies are poking they little fingers out of the ground, and, famously,

smale fowle makyn melodye....

It was on just such a day that Samuel Beckett and a friend were walking through the Luxembourg Gardens in Paris when the friend asked, "Doesn't it just make you glad to be alive on a day such as this?" To which Beckett replied, not without a smale smyle, "I woudn't go that far..."

5 Apr 2005
12:25 PM

About 2:15 this morning a car alarm started wailing down the street, ran through 2 cycles (the maximum permitted in NYC -- or so goes the legend), and fell silent. 10 minutes later it was howling again, and kept up this pattern until I finally left the house before 7.

Nothing seemed to be setting it off -- no passing Harley or heavy truck, not even a speeding bus -- and, until just at dawn, it didn't seem to disturb any dogs or other neighbors -- even my wife was able to sleep through it (or pretend to). Before long it wasn't the noise keeping me awake so much as the rage the noise engendered: pinned my Sputt-o-Meter(R), as a friend once described what happened to him every time he heard Shrubya or one of his handlers hold forth on pretty much any subject.

It's impossible I'm the only one born into that much quieter world before the middle of the last century who simply can't handle the insult -- not just to my senses, but to my sense of minimum basic civility -- by regarding it as, say, another opportunity for spiritual development. I had the alarm ripped out of Mighty Haakon the WonderVolvo as soon as I discovered that it would go off by itself if rained on too long, or that a passing naval destroyer could disable the remote control by doing a radar sweep of the harbor.

By then I'd long made up my mind that its primary purpose was to annoy the neighbors, but after last night's performance, I feel forced to conclude that the *only* purpose of *any* car alarm *anywhere* in the world is to KILL *ME* by pissing me off so bad I bust a vascular gasket.

What a country!

3 Apr 2005
7:56 AM

My friend Paul's wife Nancy died Tuesday, after a long bout with breast cancer. The last time Deb and I last saw her was on West End Avenue back in September, looking happy and relaxed as we picked Paul up for a junket to the Catskills, where we were to sing the Jewish Holidays. Nancy was a singer as well; she'd subbed for Deb at Grace & St. Paul's a number of times, and sang in the concert choir at St. Michael's Episcopal on 99th Street.

Paul came to Grace & St. Paul's as bass soloist about 7 years ago, recommended by an old Trinity Choir buddy who was (& still is) his voice teacher. But Paul & I really became friends as roommates at Kutsher's, where we sang both the High Holy Days in the fall and Passover in the spring — a gig he helped me get. It was like being in the college dorm again, though at our age the bedtime bull sessions didn't last much past midnight.

During my first go-round with the Kutsher Symphonic Choir (a pick-up group of 10 old hands), both Deb and Nancy were ill. I could see reflected in Paul my own sick worry, and that made it a little more possible for me to keep going past the exhaustion of not knowing what was going to happen with the love of my life. And I think it helped us both to explain to each other what we thought would happen if this, what we'd try if that.

One thing we both found was that our friends were great at first, but after awhile couldn't keep up with the tsuris, which after all was under no obligation to go away just because we didn't find it *interesting* anymore. How could we blame them for shying away after awhile? Hadn't we done the same when someone else was stricken?

Everybody goes through this, every part of it, sooner or later; doesn't make it any easier when it's your turn.

2 Apr 2005
10:23 AM

I've been consulting with a new Tinderbox buddy, Alwin Hawkins, about updating this blog. Here's what I wrote to him today:

You know how when you're setting up your stereo system you're always missing some $3.95 connector? That's where it seems I've been in this process since, oh, January. Every morning I set the objective of finishing off this configuration boogie so I can get back to just *writing* the dang thing, and next thing I know the sun's going down and I still can't get everything to work.

This morning it's Radio's themes — I downloaded a half dozen that I like better than the ones that come with the installation, dragged them into the Themes folder, but they don't show up anywhere (except the Finder) so I can see what they'll look like with my stuff. I'm running OS X 10.3.8 on an original iBook (toilet seat model); Radio version is the latest as of last week. Don't know if these data make a difference.

On the Tinderbox side, which is still in the running for publishing my blog, I can't get the little XML button to produce a readable feed. But I'll be pestering Mark about that. *Sigh!* I'm really getting too old for this.

We'll see...

29 Mar 2005
11:56 AM

I'm having a terrible time making up my mind about updating this blog. Originally, it was just a simple table format with date & location on the left and whatever I had in mind to blog on the right. I made a new page at the beginning of each year, changing the color slightly, and adding navigators at the bottom of the old ones. That was before Tinderbox.

Or rather, before I started using Tinderbox for *everything*. I began with the Simplicity Weblog template (it comes with the program), tweaking here and there until I got something that I sort of like (what you're looking at). Problem has always been my tenuous grasp of CSS and templating (*language police!*) in general, but except for a couple persistent conceptual issues, I've got the dang thing to work.

Then a good buddy asked if Tinderbox "generates an xml feed page" so he could add my blog to his track list. So began an ordeal still in progress. I'll keep yinz posted... via RSS — as soon as everthing's hooked up.

28 Mar 2005
8:32 AM

Present devotional reading is Shirley Hazzard's Transit of Venus, which appeared in 1980. Very early, we come upon this quietly astounding passage:

Charmian Thrale's own reclusive self, by now quite free of yearnings, merely cherished a few pure secrets — she had once pulled a potato from a boiling pot because it showed a living sprout; and had turned back, on her way to an imperative appointment, to look up a line of Meredith. She did not choose to have many thoughts her husband could not divine, for fear she might come to despise him. Listening had been a large measure of her life: she listened closely — and, since people are accustomed to being half-heard, her attention troubled them, they felt the inadequacy of what they said. In this way she had a quieting effect on those about her, and stemmed gently the world's flow of unconsidered speech. Although she offered few opinions, her views were known in a way that is not true of persons who, continually passing judgment, keep none in reserve. — Shirley Hazzard, Transit of Venus, 25.

Another world, ne? Any people like this left?

23 Mar 2005
5:49 PM

Ugh! after an utterly dreamy spring day yesterday, it's disgusting outside — perfect for bringing this blog up to date!

If Deb and I were still working for the Episcolopians, we might be doing a Tenebrae service this evening, but I'm grateful to be sitting at the keyboard of my trusty iToilet, watching what was just rain this morning become sleet-turning-to-snow beyond the french doors as darkness falls. It's not exactly toasty warm in this drafty old house, but two sweaters and a shawl seem to be keeping the chill off my spine.

Tomorrow is Maundy Thursday, when, at Grace & St. Paul's, our little Lutheran kirche on the Upper West Side, we'll sing some simple canticles & hymns while Pr. Hauser washes selected feet, then chant that direst cri de coeur, Psalm 22:

My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?

as the altar is stripped and the lights snap off one by one.

If the world's going to wake up, it has to be put to sleep first, I guess. Like Elijah, who takes his sweet time coming to dinner...


Home | About | Recent | Archives

©2005 Bill Bly. All rights reserved. Contact