Friday, December 28, 2012

From the long overdue (re)readings (XV)

On the terrace of the Café des Deux Palais, Gabriel, knocking back his fifth grenadine, was holding forth to an assembly whose attention seemed all the greater in that its francophony was more diffuse.
    'Why,' he was saying, 'why should one not tolerate this life, since so little suffices to deprive one of it? So little brings it into being, so little brightens it, so little blights it, so little bears it away. Otherwise, who would tolerate the blows of fate and the humiliations of a successful career, the swindling of grocers, the prices of butchers, the water of milkmen, the irritation of parents, the fury of teachers, the bawling of sergeant-majors, the turpitude of the beats, the lamentations of the dead-beats, the silence of infinite space, the smell of cauliflower or the passivity of the wooden horses on a merry-go-round, were it not for his knowledge that the bad and proliferative behaviour of certain minute cells (gesture) or the trajectory of a bullet traced by an involuntary, irresponsible, anonymous individual might unexpectedly come and cause all these cares to evaporate into the blue of the heavens. I, who now address you, have many times orientated my thoughts toward these problems while, dressed in a tutu, I expose to cretins like you my naturally fairly hirsute it must be admitted but professionally epilated thighs. I should add that if you so desire you can be present at this spectacle this very evening.'
   'Hurrah!' cried the travellers confidently.
   'Well Ida know Unkoo, trade's getting better and better.'

Raymond Queneau, Zazie in the Metro (1959), trans. Barbara Wright (1960). Penguin, 2001. p. 95.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Family Portrait by Skyler Clark

It may surprise you to know that six out of the seven people in this photograph are immediate family.  Only two people are blood relatives, three are adopted, one is a half-blood relative, and another isn’t related at all. Nevertheless, five out seven are, in fact, my relatives.   Because of our obvious age differences, you might guess that the older ones are my uncles and aunts but it is true that most of them are really my brothers and sister. The only one not in the immediate family is my brother Ryan’s former girlfriend, Debbie. She is the third from the left.  Ryan has his arm around her.  If you haven’t guessed already, yes, the little kid in the photo is me. This may come as a shock to you, but my family isn’t the simplest family there ever was. We, as a family, are like a very complicated mineral that can be separated into the many different elements that form it. Upon separation there isn’t much to link us together: most of look very different, the age gaps are incredibly apparent, and as you can see by looking at our hair or our clothes, we each have a different style. However, when we are combined we each become a part of an incredibly unusual rock, otherwise known as our family. 

Adam was and always has been a free spirit. He never really conformed to society’s rules and for the most part did what he wanted when he wanted. You can tell a lot about his personality from the photograph itself. All the way up to adulthood he always had that long wavy hair and wore the loose fitting clothes. He looked a lot like what one would might consider to be a hippy and his personality wasn’t too far from that either. He is the oldest in the family by far and was looked up to by Ryan the most. Ryan and Adam look the most like actual blood-related brothers even though they had no blood-relation whatsoever. They both had very long hair and similar personalities. Ryan was never as outgoing as Adam, but not many people that I know of, at least, are. Adam has always been a risk taker, looking constantly at the positive outcomes first and the negative ones last, if at all. Joel, the one in the middle holding me, is the opposite. He was, and still is, a lot more hesitant about making decisions. As you can see in the photo he kind of stands a little apart from everyone else, which matches up well with his personality. He is a very different person than Ryan and Adam. Although he isn’t the most outgoing person in the world, he is never afraid to voice his opinion, an attribute that Ryan never had. Those three: Ryan, Adam and Joel make up the brothers from my dad’s side, which leads me to my mom’s side of the family.   

Nolan, the one at the far left, has always played a key role in my life. He was a very rambunctious kid, to say the least, and took pleasure in giving me constant beatings. If you look at the photograph you can tell by the way he is holding his arm that he is very anxious to get on with things. Our sister, Bevin has probably had the most difficulties fitting into the family. In The photograph, itself, you can tell that she doesn’t appear to be too comfortable and stands with her arms crossed to the side of my brother Adam. This is, in part, due to the fact that she is the only girl, making her physically different but also mentally and emotionally separate as well.  You might think that because we are all so different we didn’t treat each other like brothers and sister but that was never the case. I have never once seen my brothers and sister as separate from my immediate family. To me there was no “mom’s side” or “dad’s side” we were all just one big family. We may have all been fundamentally different people, but we still cared for each other the same way anyone would love their brothers and sisters.

That was a terrific night. I was all bundled up in my warm Mickey Mouse pajamas with the matching red socks to go along with it. I still have the faint memory of my brother Adam, who is the tall one with the long hair to the right, swinging me around the room, holding me by my legs. I can’t exactly remember which holiday it was, but we were celebrating something that night. The photograph goes back at least a good fifteen years or so, and family portraits have and always will be a rare occasion in my family so we must have gathered together to celebrate something important. As a little kid, I always figured that my family would remain as close as it was then. I had always known but was never directly told that one day everyone would move out, leaving me alone with my parents. It is funny how time changes things. Adam, Nolan, and Joel all have kids of their own now. Ryan is happily married with his two pugs and Bevin is engaged to her boyfriend of ten years.  The closest one is Joel who lives in Torrington. Ryan lives in East Granby, Bevin in Chicago, Nolan in Vermont, and Adam in New Orleans. The fact that everyone lives so far away now, makes this picture even more special to me. As I said before it isn’t every day that my family takes a portrait, especially with both sides of the family included.  I do not know how long it will be before my family takes another family photo like this one. I cherish this photo and faint memories the come with it. Hopefully one day my family will have another opportunity to take a photo where we all are together like this one.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Essay by Lindsay Theobald

The Fisherman and His Babies

I was unaware of the amount of photographs that my parents took when I was younger. Looking through the old book of pictures I realized that they enjoyed capturing pictures of their children even though I looked very strange up until I was about three months old. I had huge blue eyes that did not fit my face and a tuft of hair on the top of my head that stuck up no matter what because of my double cowlick. Maisie, my sister, was the cuter child. While looking through I came upon a picture that was taken on one of my first days home after I was born. The lighting seems like it was taken just after dinner. My father had evidently just come back from fishing and is holding the catch of the night in his left hand and me in his right. The fish is hanging with my father’s finger poking through the poor fish’s gills and through its mouth. I was swaddled in a Pepto Bismol pink onesy and a white blanket with multicolored hands and feet prints all over it. I still have that red new-born tint to my skin and the pink outfit only accentuates the unnatural color. My father is wearing a green, red, and white plaid shirt, which I was later informed that he still owns. He is wearing khaki shorts, and he has his distinctive argyle socks on. He has worn them his entire life, because his mother made sure that he always wore argyle socks and his brother wore white tube socks, so they were never confused when sorting the laundry. My father refuses ever to wear socks other than the brightly colored, flashy socks that he has always worn. He is also wearing bean boot moccasins. He is convinced that his friend “borrowed” them at some point and has not seen them since. Through the open collar of his shirt you can see a necklace. It is made of pink and purple plastic beads that I am guessing my sister made for him. He is wearing his hair parted to the side like when he had more hair, and the wire frame glasses he wore throughout my childhood. When posing for pictures my father doesn’t fully smile and he has his half smile camera face on in this picture. It is quite hard to get my father ever to laugh heartily.
     In the background is part of our yard in New Hampshire. It has changed drastically since this photo was taken. My father planted as many hemlock saplings as he could find in the woods around our property near the road so we would have more privacy. An area for a garden was sectioned off right behind him in the picture where we have not planted anything cultured in years, and we let the wild flowers grow inside its borders. The foxgloves are still part of our yard. They come back every year, and they accentuate the stone wall behind. The picnic table that the fly-fishing rod is resting on was moved to the other side yard and has slowly started to decay over the years. The giant birch in the background was cut down a couple years ago when our neighbors decided to remodel and pretty much rebuild their entire house.
     When you look at the photograph you just see a man holding a small child and a fish, surrounded by tall trees; but the story behind it makes it special. My father wanted to show how small I was in comparison to the small trout. He wanted to hold me upside down and then cradle the fish, but his common sense kicked in and decided that would not be the best idea. This picture encapsulates my childhood in one moment. I remember spending summers in New Hampshire playing in that yard and running wild through the trees. We ate trout that my father had caught as often as we could. It was my favorite food for a long time. For a while it was the only food that I would eat. My father wanted and still wants for me to learn how to fly fish. He took me out one night when he went to catch some trout in the lake. The night was perfect for fishing. We caught about twenty fish altogether, but we only brought home two. The two unlucky ones flopped around in the boat until they finally suffocated in the air. I refused to touch them even when we returned home. They grossed me out. They were dead, slimy, sticky, weird looking, and had glazed over eyes. I felt guilty for taking their life which seemed as happy as a fish’s life could be, until we came along. A couple years later my father convinced me that fishing again would be fun. We went out onto the lake. The conditions were not as good as the first conditions, and we did not catch as many fish. We finally caught one and I, being naïve about fishing, did not realize that the “most humane” way of killing a fish is to bash its scull in. After experiencing how our food comes to us first hand, I learned to cherish the animals we eat more.

     Looking through the photos I saw pictures of times before I was born and pictures of times that I cannot remember, but I still know most of the surroundings and people in each of the photographs. It seems like a lifetime ago that they were taken. My mother and my father both look so young, and my sister was in the phase where she refused to smile at cameras and had a doe-like expression on her face. When looking at the picture of my father and myself, I feel safe and content as I imagine I did at the time the photo was taken.


Saturday, December 8, 2012

Poem by Falon Moran


You’re like a little teepee, with a shelf.
So pointed at the top, at least
The snow or rain will never take over.

A mountain, gone haywire.
Like someone picked you up
From the bottom and stood you
Sideways, how cruel.

A comfy hanging chair,
With lots of pillows,
One I could just sink into.

I just think of that face,
The one everyone makes
Online, the big happy grin
Or the sad pout.

Elephant, E for elephant,
Sitting on your behind.
Two sets of legs, and a trunk.

Reminding me of,
Well me, yes F
Is for Falon

Like a snake curled up,
You curve and split,
Like a snake hunting.

Like a stall,
Where a Horse
Might come poking through.

A hot summer day,
All you need is
A Popsicle, just like I.

A coat should hang
Up upon you, the
Way you curve slightly
It’s like you should be on a wall.

A tree, with a ladder
Standing up into
A tall oak,
Waiting to be climbed.

Like a shelf,
Filled with junk
Holding a life in itself.

A Valley submerged
Between two mountains
A small creek running
Between the peaks.

A poor Z,
That has been tipped
Never to be upright again.

An open mouth,
Or an Owl as it
Hoots through the night.

You look as though
You might topple over,
For your head is rather
One sided and large.

A blank face,
Make pretend there
Are eyes, yet a long beard
Comes from the chin.

A hidden tree house
In a big tall pine,
Looking down over
A large field down below.

Slithering like a snake,
You curve around
Looking like a deep river
Flowing in its path.

A tall pole
With a nest built
On top to save
Something from the ground.

A deep pocket
Dug into the earth,
A perfect spot to
Grow a garden.

The bottom of
An ice cream cone,
Memories of summer
And warm weather.

A double set
Of ice cream cones,
Perhaps a first date
Or maybe just for one.

A no trespassing
Sign in the dark
Do not pass go
Do not come back again.

A glass of some sort
Filled to the brim
With liquid,
Ready to drink.

Z, you puzzle me.
You’re curvy, but with
Sharp corners,
Ready to poke out an eye.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Poem by Falon Moran

The day began with rime,
A coating of ice all over
Dark sidewalks.
I wanted to fainaigue,
Stay in bed all day,
Forget about everything
Until I walked out to
A risible situation:
A small pup outside,
Howling and begging
For bacon, or anything
He could get, being a
Bit mendacious, continuing
To beg after the fact.
As I left the house, the pup
Gamboled across the lawn,
Excited for his new treats.
A repast to him, but a small
Gift of giving to me:
Ritz crackers, bacon, and
Even some cheese, all
The favorites of a dog.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

From the long overdue (re)readings (XIV)

Every journey is an inner journey. That is to say, the traveller goes off in search of himself. Not as if there were actually someone to search for. The traveller is under obligation not to be an individual; that is, he must stagger between being somebody and nobody. He is to be the infinite, or with more false-modesty, to be being itself, to be pure form, a carrel, a creel, a cell, full of books, full of fish, full of chains.

— Peter Esterhazy, The Glance of Countess Hahn-Hahn (down the Danube). Translated from the Hungarian by Richard Azcel. Evanston, IL: Northwestern UP, 1999. 35.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Seeing Through: Photos from the 80s by Nick Benson

Big thanks to Susan Rogers, Andy Richards, and Brian Lillie for their help and encouragement in getting this exhibit of ten photos from the 80s up in the Silent Study Room of the Library at The Gunnery. It is the first of a series of photo exhibits by students, alumni, and faculty. The exhibit will be up until we can get the next show organized...!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Night and Light. Poem by Xiaojin Jin

Night and Light

Night is long as the light is alone,

night is a song as the light is a gong,

night is gone as the light is dawn.

Night is wisdom as the light is freedom,

night is nonrandom as the light is random,

night is king: light the rebel.

Night is a king as the light is a ring,

night is ending as the light is accumulating.

Night is simplifying as the light is amplifying.

What light gives us is not merely a ray,

what night gives us is not merely a break.

What night gives light is not merely coverage,

what light gives night is not merely salvage.

What light gives me is not merely a greeting in the night,

what night gives me is not merely some hope for the light.

If one cannot get used to the night,

one cannot be friends with the light.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

News Roundup. Two prose poems by Ian Riley

Rich White Kid Votes for Romney

In a shocking turn of events, self described “rich white kid” Johnny Clark voted for Mitt Romney in the election this past Tuesday. When asked why he voted for Mr. Romney, Clark was quoted as saying that “My parents like him,” and “He’s better than that Muslim socialist we have now.” When asked to elaborate, Clark refused, as there was a special about the ease of birth certificate falsification on Fox News that he had to get home to catch.

Hugo Chavez Discreetly Volunteers Election-Fixers’ Services

Calling them “the best in the business” Hugo Chavez reportedly called President Barack Obama to offer the services of his famed election fixers. “Barry looked a little soft in the debate on Tuesday night, and I want to help him in any way I can,” Chavez said while strangling his fourth Venezuelan peasant of the day. “If these guys can get me elected then they won’t have any trouble at all with him.” When reached out to for comment, Obama was unavailable, as he was feverishly looking through the Constitution to make sure Chavez’s help was not explicitly forbidden.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Cement. An essay by Jake Paron

photo by Jake Paron
Our goal was to create positive energy, or at least that was the motto of our community service program. As we mixed freshly collected sand and rock with cheap bags of concrete using primitive hoes and shovels, the mood was far from positive. The concrete was needed to create a “wedding lot,” which was used by the small Thai village to hold weddings and other ceremonies. Now I had never heard of a wedding lot, but if that is what the villagers asked for, I was determined to help create it. Before we began constructing the lot, two days were spent taking nearly one hundred buckets of rock and sand from a nearby river. Collecting this amount of rock and sand with four shovels and fifteen people took much longer than I thought. Nevertheless, we completed it after many long hours of work and complaining and could finally start mixing the cement.
            If someone had asked me how to mix cement before this experience I would have said with a cement truck. It turns out they don’t have those in Thailand, at least not in this remote village. Our process was much slower. Fifteen buckets of sand, one bag of concrete, six buckets of rocks, and water. What do you get? One batch of lumpy concrete that covers about three square feet. So we mixed a lot of concrete.
            “This work is pointless!” “Why do we have to do this?” “Why can’t we build a school?” The complaints go on. These kids really did want to help the village, but they could not see how this slab of concrete was going to make a difference in the lives of the villagers. We asked the village elders what needed to be done, and they told us. And although the final product was a lumpy slab of concrete, it was going to help by providing a space free of mud, in a very rainy climate, where important ceremonies could be held. This was probably not the heroic work many people had envisioned, but it is what the community needed.
            After the project was complete we left for the next village. That was the first of three villages we would stay in over the course of our month spent in Thailand. The group packed up in the back of two pickups and set off for the second village. Everybody hoped the next project would not involve mixing concrete and that we would be more culturally integrated with the community. Only half of that was true. We spent several hours of driving up winding, muddy roads and finally arrived. There were no cement bags or tools in sight, so we thought we were in the clear. Unfortunately we learned that we would be mixing cement this week as well to construct a tank to collect excess water. We then learned that this tank was located on top of a mountain only accessible by a steep muddy path and the bags of cement were at the bottom. The project required us to carry these bags, weighing around one hundred pounds per bag, up the path and then mix them at the top of the mountain.
            After the difficult task of carrying the bags to the work site was complete, we began mixing. The work was much harder than I had thought. We all sat down after a couple hours of work, sweaty and exhausted, and relaxed at the top. As we rested, a group of Thai men approached us. Many of them had a bottle in one hand and a chicken cradled in the other. I had met one of the men the previous night and he acknowledged my presence with a, “Hello Harry Potter!” He insisted that I was Harry Potter, and that another girl was Lady Gaga. They proceeded by us toward a small temple. As we began working again, the men began drinking. They were laughing and yelling, all the while holding these chickens. I started to piece everything together and figured out our group was about to experience something very cultural.
            BAM! BAM! Gunshots rang through the air. I quickly got behind one of the large water tanks for cover. Our group was frantically running around trying to figure out who had the guns and more importantly, who they were shooting at. We soon learned that the villagers were firing the guns to call up to the gods. Once they got their attention, they sacrificed the chickens in their honor. When I peeked out, I saw the chickens, which were previously being treated with much respect, running around headless in a crazed frenzy. Shovels were thrown down, buckets were kicked over and people began pacing around in distress. These chickens jumped and stumbled their way into our work site. Blood spurted out onto three of the girls working, all of them unfortunately vegetarians. “Don’t they have the respect to wait until we are done?” The Thai culture was clearly different than our own, but these comments, deliberate or not, showed that some of us thought we were more important than the native people. We were guests in their home. They were not required to help us, although many did. I recognized that the sacrifices were disturbing, and I would agree that I could have done without them, but this was their way of life. They should not be expected to change it for our convenience. We came to Thailand as visitors. These men lived here.
            Many community service organizations do not aid the direct needs of the people. However I believe our group was different. We asked the elders of each village what needed to be done and they told us. Simple projects, like constructing a concrete slab, may not be heroic work, but they are essential for the growth of these communities.


Thursday, September 27, 2012

Friday, September 7, 2012

From the long overdue (re)readings (XIII)

Our spread over the earth was fuelled by reducing the the higher species of vegetation to charcoal, by incessantly burning whatever would burn. From the first smoldering taper to the elegant lanterns whose light reverberated around eighteenth-century courtyards and from the mild radiance of these lanterns to the unearthly glow of the sodium lamps that line the Belgian motorways, it has all been combustion. Combustion is the hidden principle behind every artefact we create. The making of a fish-hook, manufacture of a china cup, or production of a television programme, all depend on the same process of combustion. Like our bodies and like our desires, the machines we have devised are possessed of a heart which is slowly reduced to embers. From the earliest times, human civilization has been no more than a strange luminescence growing more intense by the hour, of which no one can say when it will begin to wane and when it will fade away. For the time being, our cities still shine through the night, and the fires still spread. In Italy, France and Spain, in Hungary, Poland, and Lithuania, in Canada and California, summer fires consume whole forests, not to mention the great conflagration in the tropics that is never extinguished. A few years ago, on a Greek island that was wooded as recently as 1900, I observed the speed with which a blaze runs through dry vegetation. A short distance from the harbor town where I was staying, I stood by the roadside with a group of agitated men, the blackness behind us and before us, far below at the bottom of a gorge, the fire, whipped up by the wind, racing, leaping, and already climbing the steep slopes. And I shall never forget the junipers, dark against the glow, going up in flames one after the other as if they were tinder the moment the first tongues of fire licked at them, with a dull thudding sound like an explosion, and then promptly collapsing in a silent shower of sparks.

W.G. Sebald, The Rings of Saturn. Trans. Michael Hulse. NY: New Directions, 1998. 170-171.