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QUINTESSENCE

So Hush A Masque

Starry Night Over the Rhone, Vincent van Gogh

How came ye muffled in so hush a masque?
- "Ode on Indolence," John Keats










Waiting coils inside her and licks and licks its paws.

I go through motions already made in another life [wrote the husband].
The room is cold. I must unpack. But not yet. Night is almost here.
Another one without I was going to say but that wold be weak.
Another one.
I stand firmly on the foundation of the love I fashioned, yes, our love.
You will disagree. But look inside yourself. there you see a world
traveling silently through space. On it two specks. We are
indissoluble. Three minutes of reality! all I ever asked.


She stands looking out at rain on the roof.

- from "The Beauty of the Husband," by Anne Carson

A good book plucks us from the concrete bunkers of the present. A good book lifts us from our circling preoccupations, puts wings on our thoughts and hands us navigation coordinates we've never flown before. A good book sits in our thoughts like the most erudite and giving of guests, discussing the world at length long after the book has closed. A good book is an all-night diner with an open bar and our favorite people alive and dead, known, unknown, stirring coffee across from us with a bent spoon, chin in hand, asking, "And after you decided to do that, then what?"

Life, as the saying goes, is to be be lived. A life, your life, is not to be postponed or sidetracked, minimized like a competing channel on a bigger screen. Anne Carson, in her incomparable book-length prose poem, "The Beauty of the Husband, a fictional essay in 29 tangos," explores Keats' idea that beauty is truth. And does so telling the story of a marriage. As you might imagine, truth thus becomes personal, subjective, illusory, intimate. All of its beauty released in the telling. Truth and beauty, we discover, are synonyms for what is real.

Beauty, it turns out, like truth can be cruel. Transcendent. As goes one of my favorite lines from the poet Masahide, Barn's burnt down. Now I can see the moon.

When you read this prose by Anne Carson, think of what you understand as the narrator speaks. What is truth, what is illusion, is it possible to experience differing threads of the same story? A good book lifts us above the landscape even as it plummets us into the heart of action. A good book inhabits our thoughts because of its beauty. Because of its truth.

Life, in all its formidable beauty.

The heaventree of stars hung with humid nightblue fruit.

This sentence, posted last night by two gentlemen on Twitter, is from the novel "Ulysses" by James Joyce. Perhaps, as one of them said, the most beautiful sentence in the English language. I gift it to you. Be overwhelmed.


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