“Gonzalo,” by W. H. Auden (recited by Eric Robert Nolan)

“Gonzalo”

— from W. H. Auden’s “The Sea and the Mirror”

Evening, grave, immense, and clear,
Overlooks our ship whose wake
Lingers undistorted on
Sea and silence; I look back
For the last time as the sun
Sets behind that island where
All our loves were altered: yes,
My prediction came to pass,
Yet I am not justified,
And I weep but not with pride.
Not in me the credit for
Words I uttered long ago
Whose glad meaning I betrayed;
Truths to-day admitted, owe
Nothing to the councilor
In whose booming eloquence
Honesty became untrue.
Am I not Gonzalo who
By his self-reflection made
Consolation an offence?

There was nothing to explain:
Had I trusted the Absurd
And straightforward note by note
Sung exactly what I heard,
Such immediate delight
Would have taken there and then
Our common welkin by surprise,
All would have begun to dance
Jigs of self-deliverance.
It was I prevented this,
Jealous of my native ear,
Mine the art which made the song
Sound ridiculous and wrong,
I whose interference broke
The gallop into jog-trot prose
And by speculation froze
Vision into an idea,
Irony into a joke,
Till I stood convicted of
Doubt and insufficient love.

Farewell, dear island of our wreck:
All have been restored to health,
All have seen the Commonwealth,
There is nothing to forgive.
Since a storm’s decision gave
His subjective passion back
To a meditative man,
Even reminiscence can
Comfort ambient troubles like
Some ruined tower by the sea
Whence boyhoods growing and afraid
Learn a formula they need
In solving their mortality,
Even rusting flesh can be
A simple locus now, a bell
The Already There can lay
Hands on if at any time
It should feel inclined to say
To the lonely – “Here I am,”
To the anxious – “All is well.”

 

 

“school shooter,” by Eric Robert Nolan

Grendel’s mother wanted murder; but we all knew that,
you knew that just by looking at her:
the green and odorous skin like dark olive parchment over her cheeks’ low bones,
the blackening teeth where the stale blood caked
and dried in her receding gumlines
like burgundy ink on her molars and incisors,
and a blackening-scarlet
stain on her canines.

Remember when we first saw her —
her flaccid breasts like flour-sacks,
her womanhood a stagnant moss,
the cadaverous, driving
lime of her hips,
her labia in livid lines
of bitter water lilies?

Remember the rising, putrid moon of her —
her green, sour form arching over ours in her ascent,
burning up from the green lake, a gangrene flame from the brackish water,
her profane grin adorning her,
and algae tracing her lips?

Remember the wet weeds
trailing the viridian strait of her throat
like silt-laden necklaces,
and all the mud and water rolling off her knuckles?
The spoiled laurel of her sinewed shoulders,
her outspread arms and their
parody of embrace?
Remember her mocking our own mothers?
Her derisive voice was like
the crack of splitting emeralds, asking,
“Am I so strange to young eyes?”

Remember the boiling fat on her tongue and
her victims’ burning skin there?
The scalps she held in her upturned palms
were like watery garments.
Her talons were as black
as snapping-turtle shells.
We all knew at once that we were quarry.

Remember her
sorrel-colored cataracts?
Her eyes were as green seas
boiling under Ragnarok.
Remember their ruptured capillaries
like collapsing red galaxies?
Remember her very irises bleeding?

But what if evil appeared
not as the face of Grendel’s mother,
but, rather, the ordinary boy in her maw —
as unexotic and as common
as we are?
If we were boys and girls again
and bored in English class —
maybe at Beowulf’s strangeness,
or maybe the strangeness of Jung —
and he were next to us,
with neither green skin
nor blood along his molars,
if he wanted murder, could we tell?
His face was as a clock’s face — prosaic and round.
Neither silt nor sinew lined his frame.
His gaze did not depict a grisly cosmos;
no galaxies had hemorrhaged in his eyes.
Would the difference be perceptible there
between wanting to kill time
and wanting to kill ten?
Would we know that we were quarry?

Tonight we’d like to believe
that the young are strange to old eyes
for any resemblance would kill us,
as Medusa’s own face was fatal
to her upon the shield.
As adults, we understand
that Beowulf is only fable —
but that Jung’s reservoir
is a fatal green lake.
Better an Idis than likeness —
if a monster looks like us, it stands to reason
that maybe he could BE us,
we’d nag in our primordial minds.
It might make us envision
a kind of reverse baptism:
our own plain faces
cresting the flat, green waters
to glide across the lake,
but bearing the eyes of strangers,
emerald and seething,
irises bleeding,
crushed green reeds in our jaws, like captive verses …

And we could not suffer the thought.
Better to be quarry, or be drowned.
We’d know that, and so
we would run mad, we would run weeping, we would run forward and ravening to the green, forgiving lake,

where we could sink like Beowulf,
and our silenced lungs would fill with water.

                                                            (May 19th, 2018)

(c) 2018 Eric Robert Nolan

 

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Camping at Iron Gate, Virginia, July 2016 (2)

Here are a few more pictures of our campsite on the Cowpasture River in Iron Gate, in Virginia’s Alleghany County.  The river snakes and winds throughout its 84 miles until it combines with the Jackson River to make the James River.  The Native Americans called it the “Walatoola,” or “Winding River.”  The arriving British renamed it, Wikipedia informs me — there are “Bullpasture” and “Calfpasture” rivers too, and they are all apparently named according to some confusing early American folklore involving stolen cattle.

The water was perfectly clear, and as warm as a mild bath after the late July sun hit it for a little while in the morning.  I remember thinking that my friends and I had an endlessly stretching hot-tub beside the place where we slept.

The riverbed and the hills through which it cuts are composed of jagged, gigantic jigsaw pieces of sedimentary rock — shale, sandstone and limestone — tilted askew.  They’re slippery.  But above those, in most places, are scattered wide beds of perfectly smooth, smaller stones that are comfortable to walk on.

There are often scores of small fish that hug the bank or quietly dart about the ankles of visitors wading in.  These are a staple for the eagles.  Flycasters, too, pursue larger quarry on the western bank, while people swimming and tubing stay to the right — I suppose this is river etiquette?

Upriver from our campsite, there are also “riffles” — miniaturized rapids that offer a bumpy but easy ride to anyone “tubing.”

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House Stark’s invading army bivouacs on its way south to King’s Landing.  NOBODY GET MARRIED.

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I found the ancient Native American Magic Machete of Legend beneath the river’s clear waters. Because I am strong and pure of heart. (I also found the ancient Native American stone cell phone.)

Wielding the legendary blade allowed me to walk on water, as you can see.  Having thus conquered it, I then claimed the river for New York.

 

I tried unsuccessfully to prank a friend by placing a Blair Witch stickamajig outside his tent.  Unfortunately, it kinda unraveled.  I even managed to position it outside the wrong tent, actually leaving it for a nice girl who had never seen “The Blair Witch Project.”  I was really off my game.

 

The quick, shy skink. After nearly two years in Virginia, I finally snapped a pic.  I indeed mean “skink,” and not “skunk.” It’s a lizard. It’s got a glittery blue tail, though you can hardly tell in these pictures.

 

 

“As Silver as the Stars You Tried to Rival,” by Eric Robert Nolan

“As Silver as the Stars You Tried to Rival”

The
world grows
darker in increments,
earlier every evening,
as Autumn’s arcing swallow bends to curve
at long last, rounding down, to the hardening ground, where only brown
leaves outlast November’s burning rug of reds and flaming footprints,
cast-off scarlets,

now giving way
to the gunmetal gray
of winter’s coarse eagle, its ash-gray and annual, slow,
feathered rule of sky ascends hemispheres, its lead belly
groaning for hare or softer birds, its slate eyes searching, yet ridden with hints of silver —

— thin silver threads in the breast of the lead predator,

ascending
screaming “December,”
slow, as slow as frost, as cold as loss,
frigid, frigid like a still photo and its forever frozen face there,
black and white, its timeless smile a lie, exposed by common calendars and your indifference.

If those blacks and whites were shaken up in a glass bottle, the jumbled shades under glass might make
silver:

— thin silver threads out of memory:

— as silver as the slimming minnows that you kicked
out of shallow water onto sand at 9
with the other boys
birthing, then returning swimming platinum
to the warm-womb mine of that black lake, you knew
that summer would never end —

— as silver as your father’s hair, when you were 13, the last time that you thought
your father would never end —

— as silver as the cross you gave to your first love,
kissing you at 16, there in the stairwell at school.
She laughed at your
accidental piety.
You thought it was a curving swallow;
it was a tiny crucifix.
And you told her
love would never end —

–as silver as the stars you tried to rival, drunk at 21, drunk at Cape Hatteras during the storm, drunk at the face of the Universe.
At “Kill Devil Hills” you balked at God.
The stars shouted with light, the violet-sable sky reeled and vaulted purple-black, interminable, drunk in its excess of self, the rhythmic, clutching sea its unforgiving son.

Your friends
warned you away from the sea.
The curving waves would swallow you.
They warned you, “You get dark when you are drunk.”
“And, besides, you’ll die.”
You laughed and stormed the waves against their wishes.
And you were dark. Your violet-sable heart
reeled and vaulted purple-black. You laughed
and shouted back at the stars,
young-mad and piss-drunk,
the freezing forward ramparts stung you but
you stormed in headfirst, headstrong, and interminable:

this night would never end,
and if it never ended, how could you?

(c)  Eric Robert Nolan 2015

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Photo credit:  bigwavephoto / Wikimedia Commons, via Wikimedia Commons.

When I was in college, I couldn’t afford a haircut!!

Or even a proper razor.

Hey!  Comic books and Milwaukee’s Best cost a lot of money, people!!

Thanks to Mary Washington College Alumnus Rick Slagle for sending this along.  (The nice young lady beside me was my girlfriend at the time.  She’s a lovely person, so I’ll spare her the ignominy of naming her here.)

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This isn’t me.

I’m a writer, my name is Eric Nolan, and I’m a comic book nerd who’s reviewed both comics and superhero movies.  And, at first, I had some reservations about Ben Affleck’s casting in the upcoming “Batman vs. Superman.”

But this is some other dude.  Weird.

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