This is one way I’m happy to conceive of my sweet mate and lover. I’m proud to be a huge old beast. The only question is, will wifey allow me to call her ma petite éléphante? Perhaps if I tell her how well she stirs my massive blood.
The Elephant is Slow to Mate
by D. H. Lawrence
The elephant, the huge old beast,
is slow to mate;
he finds a female, they show no haste
for the sympathy in their vast shy hearts
slowly, slowly to rouse
as they loiter along the river-beds
and drink and browse
and dash in panic through the brake
of forest with the herd,
and sleep in massive silence, and wake
together, without a word.
So slowly the great hot elephant hearts
grow full of desire,
and the great beasts mate in secret at last,
hiding their fire.
Oldest they are and the wisest of beasts
so they know at last
how to wait for the loneliest of feasts
for the full repast.
They do not snatch, they do not tear;
their massive blood
moves as the moon-tides, near, more near
till they touch in flood.
My reaction to Bill Nye’s recent bit of controversy.
“And I say to the grownups, if you want to deny evolution and live in your world, in your world that’s completely inconsistent with everything we observe in the universe, that’s fine, but don’t make your kids do it because we need them. We need scientifically literate voters and taxpayers for the future. We need people that can—we need engineers that can build stuff, solve problems.”
When I read your poetry, I shake my head at your unfortunate phrasing. I was glad when you recognized that to speak on universals, you needed to find strange and new ways of expression. But I winced when you went over the top. Your Vortex on a String poem was particularly difficult to stomach.
You have to be really careful about using such brutal and aggressive words. “A cavalcade of anger and fear”? “Five years in Sweden dying for you”? “My days are like a burning fuselage”? Too much; too heavy-handed.
Alas, I cannot help that I am cynical and overly critical. I am too weak to be better than that.
Boys and girls, be beautiful. And be unashamed. Be better than me; be like John Darnielle of Mountain Goats. If I had found a lyric like “a cavalcade of anger and fear” in my old journals, I would have cringed, and perhaps even scratched it out. But that is because I am too weak and impure, too lacking in beautiful sincerity to pull it off. When Darnielle sings lines like that, you can see and hear how invested he is in them; he makes you believe that it truly was a cavalcade of anger and fear. What does it matter if haters don’t like the expression? He’s telling you how it was.
Earnestness is a beautiful quality. Mean what you say. Sell out to it. Live to what you’ve attained.
It is common for children to be beaten by their fathers. It is common for men to be left utterly alone. It is common for men to despair. Speak to those common things in a way that acknowledges how huge and terrible they are. They might happen to every man, but that makes them no less immense. And the salvation that comes to men is no less immense. Offer it sincerely, and earnestly. Find and express the beauty in it, caring nothing for the fact that millions before you have voiced the same thing.
Don’t be cool. Be beautiful. Be true. Be good.
“The greatest disaster of the nineteenth century was this: that men began to use the word ‘spiritual’ as the same as the word ‘good.’ They thought that to grow in refinement and uncorporeality was to grow in virtue. When scientific evolution was announced, some feared that it would encourage mere animality. It did worse: it encouraged mere spirituality. It taught men to think that so long as they were passing from the ape they were going to the angel. But you can pass from the ape and go to the devil.”
G. K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy
“We live at a time when man believes himself fabulously capable of creation, but does not know what to create. Lord of all things, he is not lord of himself.”
José Ortega y Gasset (May 1883 – October 1955)
(excerpt from The Revolt of the Masses, 1930)
This post cribbed straight from The Rooted Man.
Eighth Air Force by Randall Jarrell
If, in an odd angle of the hutment,
A puppy laps the water from a can
Of flowers, and the drunk sergeant shaving
Whistles O Paradiso!–shall I say that man
Is not as men have said: a wolf to man?
The other murderers troop in yawning;
Three of them play Pitch, one sleeps, and one
Lies counting missions, lies there sweating
Till even his heart beats: One; One; One.
O murderers! . . . Still, this is how it’s done:
This is a war . . . But since these play, before they die,
Like puppies with their puppy; since, a man,
I did as these have done, but did not die–
I will content the people as I can
And give up these to them: Behold the man!
I have suffered, in a dream, because of him,
Many things; for this last saviour, man,
I have lied as I lie now. But what is lying?
Men wash their hands, in blood, as best they can:
I find no fault in this just man.
It was not dying: everybody died.
It was not dying: we had died before
In the routine crashes — and our fields
Called up the papers, wrote home to our folks,
And the rates rose, all because of us.
We died on the wrong page of the almanac,
Scattered on mountains fifty miles away;
Diving on haystacks, fighting with a friend,
We blazed up on the lines we never saw.
We died like ants or pets or foreigners.
(When we left high school nothing else had died
For us to figure we had died like.)
In our new planes, with our new crews, we bombed
The ranges by the desert or the shore,
Fired at towed targets, waited for our scores –
And turned into replacements and woke up
One morning, over England, operational.
It wasn’t different: but if we died
It was not an accident but a mistake
(But an easy one for anyone to make).
We read our mail and counted up our missions –
In bombers named for girls, we burned
The cities we had learned about in school –
Till our lives wore out; our bodies lay among
The people we had killed and never seen.
When we lasted long enough they gave us medals;
When we died they said, “Our casualties were low.”
They said, “Here are the maps”; we burned the cities.
It was not dying — no, not ever dying;
But the night I died I dreamed that I was dead,
And the cities said to me: “Why are you dying?
We are satisfied, if you are; but why did I die?”
A Pilot from the Carrier
Strapped at the center of the blazing wheel,
His flesh ice-white against the shattered mask,
He tears at the easy clasp, his sobbing breaths
Misting the fresh blood lightening to flame,
Darkening to smoke; trapped there in pain
And fire and breathlessness, he struggles free
Into the sunlight of the upper sky –
And falls, a quiet bundle in the sky,
The miles to warmth, to air, to waking:
To the great flowering of his life, the hemisphere
That holds his dangling years. In its long slow sway
The world steadies and is almost still. . . .
He is alone; and hangs in knowledge
Slight, separate, estranged: a lonely eye
Reading a child’s first scrawl, the carrier’s wake –
The travelling milk-like circle of a miss
Beside the plant-like genius of the smoke
That shades, on the little deck, the little blaze
Toy-like as the glitter of the wing-guns,
Shining as the fragile sun-marked plane
That grows to him, rubbed silver tipped with flame.
The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner
From my mother’s sleep I fell into the State,
And I hunched in its belly till my wet fur froze.
Six miles from earth, loosed from its dream of life,
I woke to black flak and the nightmare fighters.
When I died they washed me out of the turret with a hose.
“A ball turret was a Plexiglas sphere set into the belly of a B-17 or B-24, and inhabited by two .50 caliber machine-guns and one man, a short small man. When this gunner tracked with his machine guns a fighter attacking his bomber from below, he revolved with the turret; hunched upside-down in his little sphere, he looked like the foetus in the womb. The fighters which attacked him were armed with cannon firing explosive shells. The hose was a steam hose.” — Jarrell’s note.
“A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.”
Robert Anson Heinlein (July 1907 – May 1988)
Via Rooted Man.