Saturday night, hearing the Durrells could not come to Paris, I boarded a train and went to Nîmes. I’m so glad I did. Not only are Durrell and his wife wonderful, he so deep and she so gay, but to see the Arlesienne countryside, the Nîmes Arena, to find again the beauty I had missed so much, the river, the house, the Roman town, the bridges, the castles. The Durrells have a small peasant house, but a lovely garden. They grow all their own vegetables. No hot water, no bathroom, no W.C.! It is like Mexico.

You cool bottles by lowering them down the well. He is very poor as they have two sets of children whom other parents take half the time. Both were married before. Claude is more international than I am—Irish, French, brought up in Alexandria, in New Zealand, in France — a saucy girl. They took me to an arena where bulls wear tassels on their horns and the men have to remove them for a prize. They try, and they run for their lives and jump the barrier, and some bulls jump too. The whole thing is very gay as there is no death. The men do get hurt now and then, but not as seriously as during bullfights. They drink red wine from morning till night, which keeps everyone glowing but never really drunk. Durrell has known so much poverty that he is obsessed with succeeding. He has already been compared to Proust in France.

We explored Nîmes, sat at the cafés, talked non-stop for two days, and I returned this morning tired out, but with my spiritual batteries recharged for years to come. I had to see Durrell to complete the carnet de bal. No one could be homelier and so humorous. He has an Irish prizefighter face, a thick potato nose, a large head on a small body, shorter than I, and as fat as [my brother] Joaquín…So there is nothing to threaten any husband! But you and he would hit it off — he hates cities, loves the sea, used to have a boat; they paddle a canoe down the river and swim. As soon as you get out of Paris you can live on nothing.

Anaïs Nin
13th May 1958 letter to her lover Rupert Pole

CIRCE

November 7, 2019

Before Odysseus ever got to Calypso’s island, he stayed a year with another beautiful goddess, Circe, and how different she was from Calypso. When his black ship first encountered her island of Aeaea, he had no idea where he was and we don’t either, but he still had his crew with him when he arrived.

Odysseus sent an advance party inland to scout out the island and they soon found Circe, the sea witch, who entertained the bullies hospitably. She fed them, sang to them, flirted with them, all the while encouraging these distant travellers to forget their homes and their wives. That’s one of the paradoxes of travel; it always reminds you of the home you left behind. But it can be assuaged with alcohol and sex and drugs, and Circe knew her drugs. When she waved her long magic wand, presto, she turned them all into grunting swine, the archetypical image of men in the thrall of sexual heat. If this isn’t the origin of the term “sexist pig,” then it ought to be.

Could Circe ever find a real man? Eventually Odysseus came looking for his crew and he seemed to know how to overpower her sexually. This was only because Hermes, sneakiest of the gods, gave him an antidote to her drugs and no doubt some precise instructions on a seduction sequence that would appeal to her. The antidote turned out to be moly, a small herb black at the root but with a milky flower (garlic, speculate the scholars). Circe liked a natural man, an earthy man, a man who was a match for a fertility goddess. She lived in an open plan house of well-polished stone and shiny doors surrounded by forest and she could charm wild animals — the wolves, the lions who lived on her island — and so too she charmed Odysseus. Into her arms came this rugged handsome fellow, his hairy chest guarded by those piercing eyes. He was wiry and weather-beaten, like a hunter, hard, tangible, scented. Her erotica must have a touch of the perverse and she made love that way. In her terrific bed he learned of the future frights he would encounter with similarly dangerous feminine figures: the Sirens, Scylla and Charybdis. She taught him to understand that these are all projections of masculine fear and disgust with women’s sexuality. Men must learn to hate themselves before they can love women….

Sexual Fables:
Homer’s Women
Why Did It take Odysseus 19 Years to Get Home from Troy?

mirages of repose

November 6, 2019

Out of the mists of morning charred by the smoke from ruins each day rose to a height of unmisty glitter; between the last of sunset and first note of the siren the darkening glassy tenseness of evening was drawn fine. . . . The diversion of traffic out of blocked main thoroughfares into byways, the unstopping phantasmagoric streaming of lorries, buses, vans, drays, taxis past modest windows and quiet doorways set up an overpowering sense of London’s organic power–somewhere here was a source from which heavy motion boiled, surged and, not to be damned up, forced itself new channels.

The very soil of the city at this time seemed to generate more strength: in parks the outsize dahlias, velvet and wine, and the trees on which each vein in each yellow leaf stretched out perfect against the sun blazoned out the idea of the finest hour. Parks suddenly closed because of time – bombs – drifts of leaves in the empty deck chairs, birds afloat on the dazzlingly silent lakes – presented, between the railings which girt them, mirages of repose. All this was beheld each morning more light-headedly: sleeplessness disembodied the lookers-on.

In reality there were no holidays; few were free however light-headedly to wander. The night behind and the night to come met across every noon in an arch of strain. To work or think was to ache. In offices, factories, ministries, shops, kitchens the hot yellow sands of each afternoon ran out slowly; fatigue was the one reality. You dared not envisage sleep.

Elizabeth Bowen
The Heat of the Day

Did you think when you burnt us…when you put our flesh to the torch…watched the flames lick the skin from our bodies…that the wrath of our revenge would not return…that the atavistic vengeance of our anger would not resurface and return to destroy your own Souls reincarnated in the same pallid flesh which light Souls always regenerate in…fools…pale fools with minds chained by morality and orthodox hatred…a new Dark Age is upon you, the world is becoming enveloped in uncertainty and chaos…and this is only the beginning of your torment, of our retribution…when set light to the Daughters of Satan…when you hung the Daughters of Lilith…you murdered only the flesh…Our Spirits rose like the flames of the phoenix from our ashes and cursed you stagnant Creeds to damnation…that Curse is now beginning to manifest itself…and with those who now call themselves our Brothers shall aid us in the final vanquishing of your crumbling monarchies!

Brother Salem
666 Salem

Symbols

October 24, 2019

Symbols are important. The Christians followed the pagans there, carving and painting their one God as the old ones carved and painted the many. Neither understand that the one is part of the many, the many part of the one.

Nora Roberts
Dark Witch

No Killing Whores On Sunday

October 20, 2019

With your King James Bible
And crucifix necklace,
You take perverse pleasure
In berating sinners,
Their ungodliness and tattered lives
Of dirty desires,
Relegate them to certain hell,
Brimstone beds and fiery blankets.

I, too, dig Jesus,
The Sermon on the Mount,
The breaking of bread,
The water into wine,
But I mostly appreciate
Jesus writing in the sand
While men stood around
Waiting to kill a whore,
How he refused to give his hand
To her condemnation,
That beautiful act of compassion,
The sacred acceptance of humanity.

Uriah Hamilton

Sweet Sixteen –

October 17, 2019

At sixteen you can’t purchase a knife or cigarettes. You can’t buy alcohol or fireworks. You can’t get a tattoo – without parental consent. You can’t take your driving test for a car, nor can you joint the armed forces without parental consent. If you reside in Wales you can work full-time at sixteen, but in England you must stay in some kind of education or training until the age of 18. You can’t place a bet, and under-18s cannot usually claim benefits such as Jobseeker’s Allowance and Income Support. Also, many DVDs and Video games can only be sold to persons aged 18 or over.

Oh, yes, you CAN register as a blood donor at sixteen, but you WON’T be called to give blood until you’re 17.

And yet some of our politicians want to give sixteen-year olds the VOTE?

Now, please, don’t get me wrong. I’ve no axe to grind regarding sixteen-year-olds. I was one myself once. What concerns me is the huge inconsistencies in what a sixteen-year-old can and can’t do – under UK law.

I feel certain that there are MP’s sitting today who feel ‘democracy’ is a menace – outranked in villainy only by public protest, revolution and coup d’état. A lowering of the voting age would be anathema to such people. They would prefer voting to be scrapped altogether, or at the very least the voting age raised to fifty.

I would ask: why lower the age to sixteen? Why not thirteen? Or Twelve? Eleven, even?

Politicians could then market themselves to the new electorate accordingly.

I would take great delight in seeing eleven-year-olds placing their cross against Dennis the Menace’s name on the ballot paper. Or Roger the Dodger. Or, even better, the Fix-it Twins – can you imagine a general election where Boris the Beetle ran as prime minister?

Wonderful.

There are politicians, of course, whose quest for power within the UK is equal to, if not greater than, Ming the Merciless’, the ruthless tyrant who ruled planet Mongo. This is especially true north of the border. Where Mung the Mirthless grasps continuously at straws, talking the talk but never, NEVER walking the walk!

However, that may change. If the voting age could be lowered to cover all those thousands of potential nationalists in kindergarten. Then things would be different – wouldn’t they?

Alas, most political visions are Unicorns, perfect imaginary creatures we will chase and never find. Yet still we walk on, face lifted toward these remote, inaccessible objectives, these Chimeras, and believe all will be so much different if only we could just touch them…

repetition celebrates a cut the song has made. likeness severed from the binding self. in a short drawn breath, we are mourning both the intake and expulsion.

I at least, for my part, indeed, for myself.

the foricalmarks the point in the ploughed land where the furrows cross. the surrogate birds collect here and hesitate.

the quick of the present, softened into the conditional, which props up those who the song has emptied. it looks accidental. maybe the listing is accidental.

[…] attacks upon urban oligarchies in the early seventeenth century were common in Kent, particularly in Faversham in the decade after 1610, and Joan Cariden’s verbal assault on Mayor Greenstreet and his jurats may well have been in that tradition. Clearly dissatisfied with the administration of justice, the troublesome woman threatened to petition the lord warden of the Cinque Ports and instructed her son to ‘goe and arest goodman Chillenden’, and her son also said that ‘he could not have noe justice of Mr Maior’. By mid-September 1635 Faversham had a new mayor, but ten years later Robert Greenstreet once again took up office, and within twelve days, intriguingly, Cariden had been thrown into gaol. Soon afterwards she was tried and executed as a witch. […]

Joan Cason, the witch hanged at Faversham in 1586, confessed not only that John Mason ‘had the use hir bodie verie dishonestlie whilest she was wife to hir husband’, but crucially that she had failed to make the bequests stipulated by her lover in his will. Guilt over this omission caused Cason herself to believe that the deceased Mason had sent the rat which paid frequent visits to her house, in order ‘that she shoolde see hys wyll fulfylled & … she dothe thincke that yt as Masons soule’.

Jonathan Barry, Marianne Hester and Gareth Roberts, Witchcraft in Early Modern Europe, pp. 268 and 280

ruddock | the winder | otherwhile | and now | we
longtails | the linger | maudring | in the forical
anyone | when spree | chitter | o | thrible
anyone | but | upon | the | rush | mouth | which | bly
still | for | lirry | the flinder | lip | and | hussle
whitter | but | into | thicket of reeds | still | the song skipjack | bring | the song
| whipsticks | melting | if | and now | that stilt

Galatea exemplifies the disembodied glimpse—the stealing glance— a gestural point in the transaction of male desire. as performance of volatile elusiveness, she is constantly already evaporated. a grieving in the weed and the wood.

labial reflection of the lily. guttural reflection of the lily. beautiful tumour of the dirge. the mouth is afraid of inexact retrieval. Galatea’s round eyes grow mildewed in the foam of the poem.

But concerning these images, it is certeine that they are much feared among the people, and much used among cousening witches, as partlie appeereth in this discourse of mine else-where, & as partlie you may see by the contents of this storie following. Not long sithence, a yoong maiden (dwelling at new Romnie heere in Kent) being the daughter of one M. L. Sttippenie (late Jurat of the same towne but dead before the execution hereof) and afterwards the wife of Thomas Eps, who is at this instant Maior oi Romjiie) was visited with sicknesse, whose mother and father in lawe being abused with credulitie concerning witches supernaturall power, repaired to a famous witch called mother Baker, dwelling not far from thence at a place called Stonstreet, who (according to witches cousening custome) asked whether they mistrusted not some bad neighbour, to whom they answered that indeed they doubted a woman neere unto them (and yet the same woman was, of the honester & wiser sort of hir…

Reginald Scot, The Discoverie of Witchcraft (London: Elliot Stock, 1584 (reprinted 1886)).

the | mouth | itch | so as not to | bring
longtails | the linger | maudring | in the ood
cluther | now | lilies | the | limb | someoneday | lurry
sit | after | the oare | the saltings
nohow | for | equal | one-eyed | cut song | truly | flee
her | ood | lilies | but | stolt | see | the saltings

little clicks the poem makes. anything can be swollen like this, outside of its quantity, into the sum of the sand. the shepherd puts aside the ox, in favour of the gift which is to die alongside, though only in the dirge, where he sits himself desolate. in the stubble that remains after the cut.

in the word dois the allusion of possession not present in the dirge itself. the poet bestows upon the dead a sense of ownership; that they may keep their own death like a small and tidy house. any action contained in the word is a form of work.

every way, on every side, all, let me tell you.

this dying is a solid thing. though we could not know it.

Mildred Wright is hanged for being a witch on July 30 1652.
Anne Wilson is hanged for being a witch on July 30 1652.
Mary Read is hanged for being a witch on July 30 1652.
Anne Martyn is hanged for being a witch on July 30 1652.
Anne Ashby is hanged for being a witch on July 30 1652.
[…]
Anne Ashby allegedly ‘swell’d into a monstrous and vast bigness’ (like false pregnancy) in court, claiming she was possessed by her spirit Rug. This was witnessed by E. G. Gent.
[…] Mary Browne, Anne Wilson, or Mildred Wright (the author is uncertain) is tested with a pin; she neither felt the prick nor did she bleed.
[…] Mary Read of Lenham allegedly has a witch’s mark under her tongue which she shows to many, including E. G. Gent.

E. G. Gent., A Prodigious & Tragic History of the Arraignment, Trial, Confession, and Condemnation of Six Witches at Maidston Kent, (London, 1652) p. 6.

now | even now | grasp | the swell | in | salts
sit | bligh | bud | but | yet still | fatting
longtails | the linger | maudring | in the ersh
as if all went | to rights | o | doers | to die with | gifts
we | jawsy | kiss | lip, a lip | fret
and now | sartin | o’er | the body | welter | shut | love

Eleanor Perry

Wasn’t Jesus a Nazi?

October 5, 2019

“ARM THE GERMANS?” said the international munitions maker. “Arm the Germans again?” He was disgusted with the idea. He pulled at his cigar. It had gone out. There was a brief but intense little contest between several people to see who would get to light it for him. A banker from Berne won. Herr Fritz Mandel, presently of Buenos Aires, smoked in silence. Everybody watched him do this, waiting for the oracle to speak again. Finally it did. “If the Russians should march west to-day—they’d cross the Rhine tomorrow.”

In Germany you were almost blinded by the glare of that political reality. Still blinking from it, you’d journeyed down from Berlin, and, in a break in the journey, you’d come upon this real, live munitions maker. How it brought back melodramas of a pre-war pacifist past! There he was, with a flower in his button-hole, an Argentine girl at his side, a respectful ring of Swiss bankers all about him, smoking an Havana cigar on the borders of an Italian lake. The eyes in the sharply drawn, solid-looking head, are set in a questing expression. They are the eyes of a shrewd hunter, but you surprise in them a curious pallid emptiness—a dead spot. It is as though the centre of a target were painted white, or like the vacuum in the heart of a tornado. It makes him look dangerous.

“Wait and see what happens this time.” Mandel again. He took the cigar from its holder, carefully extinguished it, and sat back, staring across the Lake of Como at nothing. An Italian prince roared by in a speedboat towing an English mannequin on water-skis. Some Americans at the next table were wondering if their ‘plane reservations for home were soon enough. Shouldn’t they leave now—right now? I went down to the dock and hired a boat and put as much lake as possible between myself and Mr. Mandel.

I was still fresh from Germany. Things seen and heard there had given me a kind of indigestion. I’d brought on my trip as part of my baggage a viewpoint as out of date as Mandel’s. I had an open mind but it turned out to be open in the wrong places, at the wrong hours. I’d gone looking for answers and found I’d brought the wrong questions…

“Wasn’t Jesus a Nazi?” When somebody asked that question I noticed that it brought a little spasm of polite pain to the fairly frozen face of a Very High Official (British). This happened at a dinner table a few weeks before. We’d been talking about the Passion Play and somebody wanted to be told if it wasn’t true that many of the actors were formerly leading Nazis in Oberammergau. Clearly the VHO felt that it didn’t matter if they were or not; he regarded the question not merely unnecessary but old-fashioned.

I was beginning to realize about then just how much times have changed. The Germans themselves have changed from a problem to a hope. Most of the other people who were saying that Europe must be saved from a strong Germany were saying now that only a strong Germany can save Europe. One read that before coming there, but still one had gone to Germany expecting to learn something new about the Nazis. But all one heard about were the Communists. Nowadays in Mittel Europa, the question of resurgent Fascism is simply out of style as a topic of conversation. In Italy too.

Orson Welles
Thoughts on Germany

incite lust inside the Vatican

September 24, 2019

It was one of the most horrific tragedies in Renaissance art. In 1857, Pope Pius IX decided that the accurate representation of the male form might incite lust inside the Vatican. So he got a chisel and mallet and hacked off the genitalia of every single male statue inside the Vatican City. He defaced works by Michelangelo, Bramante, and Bernini. Plaster fig leaves were used to patch the damage. Hundreds of sculptures had been emasculated. Langdon had often wondered if there was a huge crate of stone penises someplace.

Dan Brown
Angels and Demons