I really want to get this going....

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Sunday, May 13, 2007




I was talking to Anne Carter Pinkerton at the edge of the woods where we’d somehow arrived after walking the very long ways diagonal across the park from top to bottom from very top where the Conservatory Gardens comes down from the Lake and then over to McGowan’s (now a disreputable and ragged pile of compost and waste foliage and cuttings) and down across the center past the pool past the Ramble and the caves and the rocks and the bridges past the insanely lyrical deep center of the high park with its cavernous deep trees and respectfully silent bridges and coves and she talked just about nearly the entire way going on and on first this then that in a strangely civilized yet disheveled style of scattershot speaking which somehow almost represented a distorted mind : "Rupert Brooke expressed a wonderful concept of war and war’s dead in a short couplet he wrote about World War I truly fine words – ‘If I should die think only this of me / that there’s some corner of a foreign field / that is forever England’ – and you know that has always been to me amidst the carnage and sadness of war a quaint evocation of the peacefulness of a soldier’s soul a sort of resignation about death and living and place and worth and the lost value of life that almost saddens me each time sort of like a ‘ours is not to wonder why / ours is but to do and die’ which is another Briticism by Kipling or someone about the Boer War or death in the Indian Service or something it hardly matters it’s nearly all the same but it’s always made me think of that especially weird way the English have always had of identifying with their native land or their country – that’s really something we don’t do here or have never yet done for as fleeting as all this American living is we very seldom or never properly get a foothold on it with the powerful strength and homiletic nostalgia that these others have had but maybe that’s only for reasons of the swiftness of our time and deeds and the accelerated way we’ve accommodated and absorbed everything here – so different as I see it from the time I spent in Britain where I often watched the slow and even presentment of everyday continuity and the scheduled comity of things and I’d really hate to see that go from England or anywhere else for that matter for you know when they say things like ‘America’ is taking over the world or that the United States and all its ways and products is suddenly everywhere it makes me quite sad really to think of all that’s to be lost - much like that British sense of ‘proper’ – that I truly almost wish the failure of purpose which some say now haunts America really does succeed and stop all this nonsense and Sigfried Sassoon also said something like ‘battalions battalions scarred from Hell’ in a piece called ‘Prelude: The Troops’ which he wrote to honor those men – and we can debate the definition of that word ‘honor’ all day can’t we for what really is honor ? is it honorable just to let a country or a cause just churn you up kill you or despoil you for the rest of your days and spit you out like rubbish or isn’t honor really a higher calling to object or refuse to argue against or defy such silly means and motives as rabid men just yelling off to war ? and yes of course it is but for the many many who do not object then they will almost gleefully march off to their deaths and escaping that fate they will then instead live the remainder of their lives as if they had already died anyway for they become valueless and embroiled only in the bravado and continuation of that ‘war’ within them by a mental means of some same sort of paucity some pale vagueness they never manage to settle into and the real enemy to them becomes the world they must live in and at that point – sadly enough – I say ‘let them die’ for that is truly what they’ve wanted and the more brutal the death the better FOR THE DRAMA SUITS THEM."

"And I can go on like this as I will even as we pass these old places here long gone – you know this park wasn’t always a park – and even right here as we walk we’re passing old military installations and lookouts and battlements and bunkers for even this here was a commanding height for occupiers and soldiers of either side to use as lookouts and keep watch on the advancing enemies whether or not known and before that the marshlands and the highlands you must understand were places of paradisaical Indian natives the local people we now know as original Americans even though they weren’t and wouldn’t understand that name if we etched it on their foreheads and they’ve all moved on they’re as gone to us as their once-stable local civilization is and what replaced it all by turns was the commercial and merchant class which moved in first AND ALWAYS FIRST by guns and armaments and such are the lands we walk today – they ALL are the results of fire and brimstone fighting of death and its temerity and anguish and abandonment and beneath our feet somewhere are the bones of very very many men no matter where we walk and these same men EVERYMAN as they are are the same men who today march willingly along searching and claiming an allegiance to that something unknown and for every clerk or cashier kid you see today standing lamely behind a counter somewhere well in that same young face can be the seen the hardened arms and faces of the other thousands at siege and learning to understand evil fire death and flame but I cannot look any of this squarely in the eye AS YOU SEE I am not enamored of any of this and would just as soon walk blindly on remaining in my own small and more delicate world and WELL I MAY if I so choose for all the rest of it just disgusts me badly and the world as we have it now is run by simpletons but simpletons are always so good at convincing others of the rightness of their foul simplicity but ALAS again nothing is ever simple and we burn truth off in layers – one layer past another – until what’s left at the core is a mere montage of death and destruction and then we clean up and pick up the pieces and build it all again - look at how many times this all has been done before - let’s even think of the first war The Trojan War was the very first world war between Europe and Asia as then it was and it was marked not just by ‘heroism’ as we now say but also by catastrophic mistakes and poor leadership and something the Greeks called ‘ate’ which is really the intoxicating pride and overweening arrogance that sometimes clouds the minds of the strong and even when one has legitimate grievances war is not always the best solution – as The Trojan War teaches us – for the Greeks themselves were firmly divided about whether to attack Troy with even heroes like Agamemnon and Odysseus reluctant but the argument which won the day went like this : "if we let the Trojans get away with kidnapping Helen then they’ll steal women again and if we don’t fight them now we’ll have to fight them later – when they’re stronger" and as Achilles said ‘many lives were lost in this insane voyage fighting other soldiers to win their wives as prizes’ and in whatever way then that you wish to connect this to the modern day it’s all the same and we’ve not gained an iota of good sense in all these years only increased power and strength of arms by which to go forward and fight for the sense of whatever it is we fight for which of course no one ever really knows because it’s different for each man who fights and it’s all about memory and vision and some weirdly distanced glimmer of the past or of childhood or dream-sleep the sort of things which entrench themselves silently deep in the recesses of a mind and are never really heard from again and these same men who fight become the ones who age bending a wicked elbow somewhere atop a beery bar and having others listen to them and even today some Cassandra wailing ‘beware of Greeks bearing gifts’ would go unheard and so misunderstood and a Trojan Horse today perhaps becomes but another meager toy in a long and varied history of false fun and anguish and toil and hate - MISTAKES all.


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