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Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Dusky Semaphore


File:Curtain light.JPG

White curtain in warm light: photo by Christoph Michels, 2006

Ghosts do wear sheets but not for sleeping.

Sometimes people die while still alive
and then come back to life
only partially. You can read the signs 
around the eyes, which get  
a dusty look like burned out hundred watt bulbs.

When they pass one another on the streets  
there is a soft noise, as of muslin touching.


Untitled 1738: photo by Todd Hido, 2003 (Bruce Silverstein Gallery, New York)


Untitled 1726: photo by Todd Hido, 1996 (Bruce Silverstein Gallery, New York)




"there is a soft noise, as of muslin touching"

-- those "white curtains in warm light," that car wrapped in its sheet under the street light, maybe some kind of signal. . .

and here, some whiteness in the clouds up there above the ridge, as light continues to arrive


light coming into sky above still black
ridge, song sparrow calling from branch
in foreground, wave sounding in channel

heightened with white paper,
passages that require

picture of that in relation
to one, as object, is

grey white of fog against top of ridge,
shadowed green pine on tip of sandspit

TC said...


Thirteen minutes later a gauzy peach light breaks o'er yon hill and A. comes back in from dawn garbage detail saying, "Pff, it's cold!"

ACravan said...

The Christoph Michels photo is just amazing and I love the poem also and its title. I don't know. I'm trying hard these days (without much success I'm afraid) to go easier on the living dead; I guess I don't want to become one of them and I'm afraid my uncharitable thoughts will bounce back at me. As for the actual (some dearly, some strangers) departed, in my experience they flash by suddenly. I can't be quite sure what they're wearing, but they leave an impression like the Michels photo and a sound not unlike muslin touching. Curtis

gamefaced said...

love the words, tom.

Chris said...

The first photograph seems to be of nothing so much as human bodies. An incredible juxtaposition with the poem. Chilly dusk here too -- hoping for a signal --

Nin Andrews said...

I love this--all of it. Love the last line:
When they pass one another on the streets, there is a soft sound, as of muslin touching.

Anonymous said...
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TC said...

Thanks for the provocation to reflection everyone.

Chris, it seems you read that photo in something like the way I do. Though perhaps it goes to the duck/rabbit quick of things to admit that there is someone here who denies the possibility of that reading altogether.

Gamefaced, that means a lot.

Curtis, know what you mean.

These past 28 days I have felt entirely in the dark about practically everything, as if wakewalking through a sort of nimbus. This is perhaps post-concussion syndrome talking.

Have begun to venture out timorously and haltingly in mid o'night, when the atmospherics are not dissimilar to those in the two TH shots.

But it would always be and indeed now is good to feel other ghosts are/were out there in the oblique muslin night -- to hear passing, be in touch & c.

As we plunge on like it or not toward Dal's titanic morning light.

Robb said...

This is going to stay with me, especially this:

When they pass one another on the streets
there is a soft noise, as of muslin touching.

gamefaced said...

indeedy. this is my favorite thus far.

Anonymous said...

I am glad that you are recovering if slowly(?) Tom I wish you all strength and vigour restored C

TC said...

Robb, Gamefaced, Colin, thank you for the company, particularly welcome on a night when the vaunted recovery seems to have slipped a cog and lapsed back to Go, or perhaps somewhere prior even to that.

I don't know what it is causes humans to think that merely making the earnest struggle to continue is going to persuade the fates to let that happen. Sheer denseness probably. There are no rose gardens in the desert of the fates.

Traffic speeding to and from the freeway (speaking of fates) whooshes past out front nonstop at this moment, as it does forever; and the discharging head wound from my brilliant disaster is telling me to go look for a nice soft muslin winding-sheet, wrap up in it, and lie down among the warm cats.

The streets ought to be reserved for ghosts, and kept off limits to machines, in my humble if doubtless tiresomely-reiterated view.

J-P Voillequé said...

A search for "Ed Dorn chickens" led me here, thanks to a wonderful story that you (or possibly David, or maybe both) used to tell about Ed saying that you need to get to the bottom of one thing and then you can get to the bottom of everything.

So glad you're blogging, Tom. Hope all is well.

TC said...

J-P, you beauty you, it's lovely to hear from you.

I think fondly of you, every night of this benighted life, as I confer mutely with the small red clay man you fashioned for me, lo these many dcades past.

His head and arms have fallen off, every now and then, due surely to the sheer weight of gravity and time passing.

Those are things one can without much difficulty understand.

But I super-glue the amputated bits back on, and the cheerful little fellow remains none the wiser, if a wee bit the worse for wear.

And of which of us cannot this be said.

(Though not to bear down too hard on that equation, as I hope you were not recently run over by a speeding car. That unfortunate event required the emergency activation of all the king's left-over super-glue at the county trauma center. And what did I most wish for, in those dire straits, there on the post-surgical gurney? The little red clay man, talisman of the perdurable strength of the blissfully inanimate!)

Issa's Untidy Hut said...

Late to the gathering of souls ... Tom, this is a beautiful post, indeed, and the poem is stunning in how, what appears to be plain speech, it evokes the Other.

We humans are sometimes like our botanical cohorts in our press onward, onward ... it seems sometimes we are blessed in twilight.

I do hope you gradually feel better and better.


TC said...

To be blest in twilight would be the greatest blessing.

Always a small (at least) blessing to hear your clear calm voice, Don.