Weil

Version 2

“There is natural alliance between truth and affliction, because both of them are mute suppliants, eternally condemned to stand speechless in our presence.

Just as a vagrant accused of stealing a carrot from a field stands before a comfortably seated judge who keeps up an elegant flow of queries, comments and witticisms while the accused is unable to stammer a word, so truth stands before an intelligence which is concerned with the elegant manipulation of opinions.”

From Weil’s essay “Human Personality” quoted in John Berger’s “Understanding a Photograph” p. 180 Penguin Classics

The photograph is a detail of the artwork “Desert Quartet” by Elizabeth Frink, situated in Worthing, England. 

August

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Augustus, the Divine, the Fortunate One,

Final surviver of the civil wars,

Last body left upright, he did a lot of building,

Created a marble simulacrum of himself.

 

The squatter, cross-legged, patient,

Behind her table-cloth of amulets,

Counts change from a velvet bag into

The palm of her hand; the ambergris of potions,

 

Murex and belladonna, washed from the Tyrian

Planisphere; the occult gear-wheels, the pathways through

To the different levels of Kabbalic illumination,

Represented in the symmetries of Tarot cards, the solar signs

 

Of the hanged man with a halo upside-down,

The tie-dyed circles in the breeze like purple flags;

There is the scent of lavender sprigs, and the raw smell

From bins in alleyways that back up restaurants

 

And sticky bars. How we wake, drenched in lilac,

Reeking of petrol, turning over a pillow in the night.

 

Quotation from John Cheever

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“There are times when the lines around the human eye seem like shelves of eroded stone and when the staring eye itself strikes us with such a wilderness of animal feeling that we are at a loss.”

John Cheever, The Country Husband, Collected Short Stories p. 434, Vintage U.K.