Diagnosis (I). © Chris Bronsk 2013.

Diagnosis (II). © Chris Bronsk 2013.

Diagnosis (III). © Chris Bronsk 2013.

The blue square of light
in the window across the street
never goes dark—

the cathodes, the cordage, the atoms
working the hem of dusk—
traveling past the cranes and the docks

and the soiled oyster beds,
the trees loaded with radium,
colors like guns,

red pock-pock red and yellow up,
yellow down—
the blue hour, the waiting.

Meghan O’Rourke, from “Halflife”

Too Early

Too Early. © Chris Bronsk 2013.
Too Early. © Chris Bronsk 2013.

I keep my eyes closed. Do not rush me,
You, fire, power, might, for it is too early.
I have lived through many years and, as in this half-dream,
I felt I was attaining the moving frontier
Beyond which color and sound come true
And the things of this earth are united.
Do not yet force me to open my lips.
Let me trust and believe I will attain.
—Czesław Miłosz, from “Mittelbergheim”


Regal (I). © Chris Bronsk 2013.
Regal (I). © Chris Bronsk 2013.
Regal (II). © Chris Bronsk 2013.
Regal (II). © Chris Bronsk 2013.
Regal (III). © Chris Bronsk 2013.
Regal (III). © Chris Bronsk 2013.

Staring at my picture book
She looks like Mary, Queen of Scots
She seemed very regal to me
Just goes to show how wrong you can be

I’m gonna stop wastin’ my time
Somebody else would have broken both of her arms

—Lou Reed, “Sad Song,” Berlin


Summons. © Chris Bronsk 2013.
Summons. © Chris Bronsk 2013.

ERASER by Charles Simic

A summons because the marvelous prey is fleeing
Something to rub out the woods
From the blackboard sound of wind and rain
A device to recover a state of pure expectancy

Only the rubbings only the endless patience
As the clearing appears the clearing that is there
Without my even having to look
The domain of the marvelous prey

This emptiness that gets larger and larger
As the eraser works and wears out
As my mother shakes her apron full of little erasers
For me to peck like bread crumbs

The Club

The Club, 2013
“Oh, if I were doing nothing only out of laziness. Lord, how I’d respect myself then. Respect myself precisely because I’d at least be capable of having laziness in me; there would be in me at least one, as it were, positive quality, which I myself could be sure. Question: who is he? Answer: a lazybones. Now, it would be most agreeable to hear that about myself. It means I’m positively defined; it means there’s something to say about me. “Lazybones!”—now, that’s a title and a mission, it’s a career, sirs. No joking, it really is. By rights I’m then a member of the foremost club, and my sole occupation is ceaselessly respecting myself. I knew a gentleman who prided himself all his life on being a fine judge of Lafite. He regarded it as his positive merit and never doubted himself. He died not merely with a serene but with a triumphant conscience, and he was perfectly right.” —F. Dostoevsky, Notes from Underground.

No Center

Lately, I’ve been thinking about looking as a means of reflection and understanding. In my writing blog, The Bronsk Commons, I recently posted about descriptions as a way of seeing. And I like how Thomas Struth‘s “Museum Photographs” memorably explore looking at looking on a somewhat larger scale. But I wonder what a more intimate approach, inspired a bit by street photography, would be like and what I’ll learn. Here’s the first set, then, in a new series.

“This is not to say that before the invention of the camera that men could see everything. But perspective organized the visual field as though that were indeed the ideal. Every drawing or painting that used perspective proposed to the spectator that he was the unique center of the world. The camera…demonstrated that there was no center.” —John Berger, Ways of Seeing

Fatuous (Double Portrait)

Transit Reader (I)

Your Turn

Made Arrangements

Forgotten Dreams. © Chris Bronsk 2012.
Forgotten Dreams. © Chris Bronsk 2012.

DRUGSTORE by Carl Dennis

Don’t be ashamed that your parents
Didn’t happen to meet at an art exhibit
Or at a protest against a foreign policy
Based on fear of negotiation,
But in an aisle of a discount drugstore,
Near the antihistamine section,
Seeking relief from the common cold.
You ought to be proud that even there,
Amid coughs and sneezes,
They were able to peer beneath
The veil of pointless happenstance.
Here is someone, each thought,
Able to laugh at the indignities
That flesh is heir to. Here
Is a person one might care about.
Not love at first sight, but the will
To be ready to endorse the feeling
Should it arise. Had they waited
For settings more promising,
You wouldn’t be here,
Wishing things were different.
Why not delight at how young they were
When they made the most of their chances,
How young still, a little later,
When they bought a double plot
At the cemetery. Look at you,
Twice as old now as they were
When they made arrangements,
And still you’re thinking of moving on,
Of finding a town with a climate
Friendlier to your many talents.
Don’t be ashamed of the homely thought
That whatever you might do elsewhere,
In the time remaining, you might do here
If you can resolve, at last, to pay attention.

Self Portrait: Crossed Paths

The bright light of recent days allowed me to take this self-portrait—of sorts. The idea of crossed paths comes from Polish poet Adam Zagajewski‘s brilliant poem “Self-Portrait,” which I’ve shared below. Needless to say, there are numerous other ways to evoke the sense of crossed paths, but this is the one that made sense to me when I took this—and now, too.

Between the computer, a pencil, and a typewriter
half my day passes. One day it will be half a century.
I live in strange cities and sometimes talk
with strangers about matters strange to me.
I listen to music a lot: Bach, Mahler, Chopin, Shostakovich.
I see three elements in music: weakness, power, and pain.
The fourth has no name.
I read poets, living and dead, who teach me
tenacity, faith, and pride. I try to understand
the great philosophers–but usually catch just
scraps of their precious thoughts.
I like to take long walks on Paris streets
and watch my fellow creatures, quickened by envy,
anger, desire; to trace a silver coin
passing from hand to hand as it slowly
loses its round shape (the emperor’s profile is erased).
Beside me trees expressing nothing
but a green, indifferent perfection.
Black birds pace the fields,
waiting patiently like Spanish widows.
I’m no longer young, but someone else is always older.
I like deep sleep, when I cease to exist,
and fast bike rides on country roads when poplars and houses
dissolve like cumuli on sunny days.
Sometimes in museums the paintings speak to me
and irony suddenly vanishes.
I love gazing at my wife’s face.
Every Sunday I call my father.
Every other week I meet with friends,
thus proving my fidelity.
My country freed itself from one evil. I wish
another liberation would follow.
Could I help in this? I don’t know.
I’m truly not a child of the ocean,
as Antonio Machado wrote about himself,
but a child of air, mint and cello
and not all the ways of the high world
cross paths with the life that–so far–
belongs to me.