Hun 10, 2016

Notes on Lima’s “Bright Blue Self-Portrait”

I thank the spiders’ webs and the circus dancers who stain our eyes with
Rapid movements and authorize our handcuffs to make no distinction
Between night and day or love and hate.
No one will know the sum of our arduous daily separations from bed to
Work. These pillars actually belong to you since I have not counted them
Or know any more than you do where they are or in what country they
Still exist. We can put all our concerns into a loaf of bread and French
Kisses, go to movies and watch the splashing milk on the screen imitate
The forest in the moonlight. Why all the fuss about the patrons becoming
Feathers, discharging their ideas of nobility on the evening news? There
Are no lights in the theater just soft snow from the balcony that is the
Little red schoolhouse where all this began.
Actually it was because of you I did not attend as often as I should have.
I was too embarrassed to face you across the clay modeling tables since I
Always felt like the clay in your hands was a cartoon version of my teen
Years, dear slippery-fish ladies of the sleepy west.
Don’t forget, my early life will be yours, too,
With its self-descriptions of poetic justice,
The tiny creatures we write about can describe themselves in the moss
We leave behind.

*

[ Poetry Foundation ]

*




D— Curious that the pillars are marked “these” and thus would have been close at hand, within view and maybe touch, but then the tail of the sentence denies knowledge of location. Maybe “these” because it’s in the mind, or on the table in a conversation. Or is it because they are still there somehow, his supports or foundations, but he also has no access or continued awareness of them?



D— Inability to cope would indeed explain the discontinuities. Maybe some of these pieces belong together though. Could the theater (or schoolhouse) be housing the pillars? But if so, why would “these” be uncountable? The darkness? And since it’s the theater, might that (slightly) account for the shifting country/ies?



D— And your word “faded”... could it be a set of photographs? That would multiply a single set of pillars. In which case, what is he handing over? The pillars, the pictures, or the memories (which could also be unreliable)?



D— Another take on the pillars. One of the theories about the origin of the $ sign is that it was derived from the Pillars of Hercules. That might account for “counted” and for the insane mobility of these pillars.






D— Also, the possibility that Lima might be addressing his child-self. But these lines—

Don’t forget, my early life will be yours, too,
With its self-descriptions of poetic justice,


These may point us to him in the act addressing his future self. Another thread-inspired possibility: he might be addressing his ideal self.








D— I thought this self-portrait had some parallels with Rilke’s (I pasted Lowell’s translation below). Blue is here too, inside the eyes, as if a portrait within a portrait. Perhaps Lima is figuring himself as that scared blue child? The “opening animal” here is a beast of burden, but in Lima we have the spider, and tiny creatures toward the end. In both there is a sense of being controlled by external (but internalized) forces (in Rilke, the figure of the mule, the idea of servitude, of speech kept in; in Lima the handcuffs and “No one will know the sum of our arduous daily separations from bed to / Work.”)
Self-Portrait 
The bone-build of the eyebrows has a mule’s
or Pole’s noble and narrow steadfastness.
A scared blue child is peering through the eyes.
and there’s a kind of weakness, not a fool’s,
yet womanish––the gaze of one who serves.
The mouth is just a mouth . . . untidy curves,
quite unpersuasive, yet it says its yes,
when forced to act.  The forehead cannot frown
and likes the shade of dumbly looking down. 
A still life, nature morte––hardly a whole!
It has done nothing worked through or alive,
in spite of pain, in spite of comforting . . .
Out of this distant and disordered thing
something in earnest labors to unroll.











D— There’s a theater, so maybe the “I thank” is like an acceptance speech (gone awry, berserk, or... interesting). Now if the “I thank” came from the schoolhouse, then maybe this a valedictory.



D—  I thank the spiders’ webs and the circus dancers who stain our eyes with

And “stain” here would have been an easy substitute for “strain” and it did cause quite a strain whenever I come to read it, wondering if it’s a typo. Could there be others? If so, I’m thinking of “fathers” here:

Feathers, discharging their ideas of nobility on the evening news? There




D— Maybe there’s a hint of clay tablets in “clay modeling tables”? And if we’re entertaining Moses, other ancient expressions of law and order, then, those really are for modelling.



D— The West usually locate their exotica in the East. Edward Said built his discourse on Orientalism on that ground. The East is also known to have been characterized as “sleepy” say, “Sleeping Giant” as opposed to what might be a Western self-image of we have less resources, bitter weather, but we are untiring and industrious. There seems to be a reversal of these things here. The sirens, Odysseus, are at home, not far off in some uncharted land that have yet to taste your brand of clever.

Or, overreading in the morning. Have a nice day everyone.






D— Food is Lima’s specialty, so that’s perfect context for his majors and minors in the fourth stanza of “Felonies and Arias of the Heart”. Remembering Corman now, and marking this movement toward “you” that begins at the third stanza.

I very much like the last stanza, would like to hug it, make a pillow out of his pieces of paper, the candor of a poet saying yes, you know, I’m doing this to make an impression on you, I’m throwing in some flashy history too, dear reader, forever desirous of your love and attention, signed.