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Monday Quote

Pray for a brave heart, which does not fear death, which places a long life last among the gifts of nature, which has the power to endure any trials, rejects anger, discards desire… If we have common sense, Chance, you are not divine: it is we who make you a goddess, yes, and place you in heaven. 

~ Juvenal, (10. 357-360, 365-366), epigraph to Pray for a Brave Heart by Helen MacInnes


I love the books of spy novelist Helen MacInnes because they are wholly unmemorable, yet exciting while you're reading them. I'm rereading one now, which I only realized because I ran into a passage I had underlined. Nothing—not the characters, scenery, or situation—is familiar the second time around.


Or too familar: all the men are handsome, strong, quick-witted & educated, except for the villains who have squints or cold, cold eyes; the women are either beautiful, strong, quick-witted & educated, or plain, with cold eyes. This isn't a criticism, merely pointing out that she uses a formula, which she does very enjoyably. I've read several of her books published in 1940 or 41 & even that early in World War II she was well aware of what was going on & condemned it in no uncertain terms. We should all be so sure of the moral high ground & so willing to stay on it. 

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For Ted Berrigan

Vase by George Schneeman, collaboration by George Schneeman & Ted Berrigan, Valentine's Day 1966. 

For Ted Berrigan


We were afraid of everything except kindness. We made a cult of generosity. We slapped them silly who weren't witty or lovely. We wanted better boots, better polish, better hair. We thought about country diarists without leaving our rooms on 23rd Street. We bought one expensive handcream that someone else paid for. We knocked down screens to see a woman wash her back. We ate Krishna feast. We found soft wool undershirts on the street & said they were Patti Smith's. We called her Patti. We said Bob, & people were supposed to know we meant Dylan. We won prizes & forgot to pick them up. Our teeth broke. We checked into the hospital to rest. No one we voted for won. We were Black Jacobins. We recognized beauty & nothing else. Nothing else mattered.



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In the neighborhood.

Photo of Tom Carey & me by Joseph Carey.

It was great hanging out on the block today. Johnny ran into Uncle Father Tom Carey with Joe, so they came by & we stood on 5th street reminiscing & laughing. Then Johnny & I sat in the Village View playground & read our summer poem (Beowulf, in the Seamus Heaney translation). Coming back we ran into Sandy from Dolphin & the 6th St synagogue. When I did my laundry, I had an actual conversation with the tiny & old lady in the babushka who once walked around a tree in front of the bench where I was sitting, cursing me. I discovered she’s Hungarian but lived in Yugoslavia & her English is actually very good. The weather was late summery with a hint of hurricane. The kind of day that makes me happy without its being memorable.

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Home again II

Happy to be home, but happy to continue to sprinkle in Cuenca photos. Detail of large Illescas painting (see August 28).

I think it's that I was gone long enough that I'm entirely happy to be here. I had over 2 weeks to enjoy the beautiful city of Cuenca & it satisfied me. The weather in New York isn't the horrible heat/humidity I left & I feel strong from training at 8.200'. That's a perfect vacation, no? One you enjoy thoroughly & are happy to return from. Johnny missed me, Buster missed me, & I missed good bread. 

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Monday Quote

Everything you don't want to hear is a lie. 

~ Helen MacInnes, spy novelist of the 1940s & 50s, in Pray for a Brave Heart


How readily we wriggle out of hard truths. How easy to simply deny what's said. And believe we never heard it. 

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Home again

Clouds over Cuenca. 

Let's see. Karate in Parque de la Madre, a last stroll around the lovely city of Cuenca, an excellent $2 shoeshine & a $3.50 almuerzo (lunch) at our favorite place, & off we went in a taxi to catch a van for the 3-hour trip down the mountains to Guayaquil. Then it was a long wait in the airport, a 4-hour flight to Fort Lauderdale, a long wait in the FLL airport, & a delayed 3-hour flight to LaGuardia. Taxi & 25 hours later, I was hugging my husband & petting mi gato. (Buster's best quality is his lack of injured dignity. He was happy to see me & instantly purred, skipping the traditional feline standoffishness.) 


That was yesterday. I've unpacked, had a B&H breakfast, & plunged into the hundreds of emails that stacked up while I was gone. Manhattan was gorgeous & compelling when I flew in. Back in the life! 

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Hernan Illiscas

Dream of Life, but really of death. Complicated & endless absorbing. By Hernan Illiscas.

I’ve fallen for this Cuencan artist. He was responsible for the mural I like so much & today we went to his gallery, the first floor of his home. His wife showed us around, including some wonderful drawings on rice paper, both tender & forceful. I was too shy to ask prices. If I couldn’t afford them, my hopes would be forever dashed, & if I could, I would have to decide among so many that I liked. He also has a group of 8 murals at the Hall of Justice, right off Parque Calderon, so we trotted over there. The big picture, in each case, is striking, & the details are intricate & evocative. 

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Monday Quote

Having heard all of this you may choose to look the other way but you can never again say you did not know. 

~ William Wilberforce, early 19th-century British politician & philanthropist who worked to abolish the slave trade


Likewise, Martin Luther King Jr: 

In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies but the silence of our friends.


I’m saying this to myself & to anyone who wants to listen. It’s so easy to live in the immediate — we need milk, I have a dentist appointment, hold on the phone is ringing — or to feel overwhelmed when the need is great. No excuse. We all know that but we don’t all act on our knowledge. If crisis & danger were ever clear, it is NOW.

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More details

This is a snippet of a mural on a wall outside the governor’s palace or state building. Several walls insides are covered with portraits of provincial governors (all men, no surprise) going back at least 200 years (oddly, they don’t seem to be presented in chronological order except for some grandee types clearly from 400 years ago, all the way up at the top). There’s also an abstract ceramic mural inside, in shades of the rust & pink that make up most of the roofs of Cuenca.


If I could, I would post a picture of this whole mural, which I couldn’t stand back far enough from to take complete. In it you can see a panel of Panama hats, workers, corn and other ancestral food, doves, traditional occupations, and more, much that I don’t recognize. 


Cuenca! you’ve won my heart!

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I let the clocks run down

to stop you leaving

to stop time stealing you

         goddess of longing


you ran from animal jaws

I ran to let you shiver

here in my arms

         golden with longing


sparrows impatient to fly

branches of snow-ruined trees

clocks that lifted their faces

         late and longing


we knew & let it go

we hovered away & back

we had one design


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