japonisme: bear with me

17 May 2009

bear with me

what began as a medi- tation on solitude ends up here, and well it should. are not all and every religion extant for that simple struggle -- spirit v. body, buddha v. animal, love versus fear? is not every philosophy and psychology aimed at that one struggle which may bring happiness? the only road to peace?

utagawa kuniyoshi, while an astonishing master of design, also knew of this inextricable pairing. though his humanimals were particularly clever ways to 'stick it to the man,' filling in for courtesan, actor, or former ruler when these were banned from from being seen in ukiyo-e. in the brilliant kuniyoshi project, the cats, fish, and sparrows are given names, whom they represent.

but kuniyoshi also knew, clearly, was that the man and his counterpart were not actually that far apart. alternate evolutions. birds of a feather flock together.

back when i was first exploring all this, i realized i had within me two polarbears, locked in the eternal embrace of war. no one would ever win. that struggle was life, for every one of us.

delmore schwartz
seems to agree with me:


“the withness of the body”

The heavy bear who goes with me,

A manifold honey to smear his face,
Clumsy and lumbering here and there,
The central ton of every place,
The hungry beating brutish one
In love with candy, anger, and sleep,
Crazy factotum, dishevelling all,
Climbs the building, kicks the football,
Boxes his brother in the hate-ridden city.

Breathing at my side,
that heavy animal,

That heavy bear
who sleeps with me,

Howls in his sleep
for a world of sugar,

A sweetness intimate
as the water’s clasp,

Howls in his sleep
because the tight-rope

Trembles and shows
the darkness beneath.

—The strutting show-off
is terrified,

Dressed in his dress-suit,
bulging his pants,

Trembles to think that his quivering meat
Must finally wince to nothing at all.

That inescapable animal walks with me,

Has followed me since the black womb held,
Moves where I move, distorting my gesture,
A caricature, a swollen shadow,
A stupid clown of the spirit’s motive,
Perplexes and affronts with his own darkness,
The secret life of belly and bone,
Opaque, too near, my private, yet unknown,
Stretches to embrace the very dear
With whom I would walk without him near,
Touches her grossly, although a word
Would bare my heart and make me clear,
Stumbles, flounders, and strives to be fed
Dragging me with him in his mouthing care,
Amid the hundred million of his kind,
The scrimmage of appetite everywhere.

Delmore Schwartz

“The Heavy Bear Who Goes With Me”
from Selected Poems (1938-1958): Summer Knowledge.
Copyright © 1967 by Delmore Schwartz.

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Blogger PIGNOUF said...


17 May, 2009 12:52  
Blogger lotusgreen said...

merci ;^)

17 May, 2009 15:42  

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hi, and thanks so much for stopping by. i spend all too much time thinking my own thoughts about this stuff, so please tell me yours. i thrive on the exchange!

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