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Friday, 24 July 2009

Paradiso Terrestre


We have always been here

it was always ours

words not as signs but powers

of suggestion

this is paradise

in the present tense

no seconds no

minutes no hours

no distance between

object and expression

what is seen or heard

felt in the same moment

by the one who sees and the one

who is seen

the one who speaks

and the hearer of the word

all creatures bound

by a kinship persisting

until appeared

the middle managers

and thus began


the vision thickened

the speech grew slurred

and awkward

and everything stopped

promise by maxivida.

Playa paraíso: photo by Michela Chemello, 2009

Paradiso terrestre: photo by Maxivida, 2006


Pinkerbell said...

Oo it seems this history theme is doing the rounds, provoking much thought. I like the pensive quality in this piece, TC. It's also got echoes of an idea in my own head about seeing "heaven" in everyday life, which I may or may not ever get round to (can you echo something not yet written?)

TC said...


Excellent--shall I say heavenly?--to have a night visitor, and you'll note we observe all due decorum here, my dear, no slagging off of the lovely guests. (Especially not empresses.)

These echoes of the not yet written, ah, how they do haunt us. Ninety-nine point nine percent of one's greatest works have got stuck between the tip of the tongue and the actual writing of something down. I won't speak for you, but at this end the old brain is a Swiss cheese through which the ideas for writings scuttle all night like mice, elusive, almost never captured. I do love a rodent however.

Those who study such things confirm the relative commonness of the phenomenon of presque vu ("almost seen"--and I suppose this could include "almost written"), the curious sensation of being on the brink of an epiphany. Presque vu, we are told by those expert in such matters, may well distract and/or disorient one, yet rarely leads to an actual breakthrough. But do research observers really possess the power to predict what may come of this eerie sensation? What, finally, do they know? That almost-got-it experience could signal temporal lobe lability, or then again, let us be a bit hopeful, it could herald a great work about to emerge.

In the case of your heavenly visions we shall confidently anticipate the latter.

u.v.ray. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
u.v.ray. said...

I'll try again! (accidentally deleted my comment.

One dreams a poem. We know we are dreaming, but you think 'I'll write that down when I wake up'

But of course, it is forgotten. Lost somewhere between the tip of the tongue and air.

I liked this poem. Especially thode definitive last 8 lines.

TC said...


Yes, that's frustrating... and familiar.

(Now and then, though, that lucky capture--like your red dahlias.)

Phanero Noemikon said...

There is a video on the TED website
of a lady neuroscientist who tells
the story of her own stroke, and the subsequent wordless ecstasy of total physical union she experienced when the words stopped. it is a pretty good approximation in a sense of the poem.

Mariana Soffer said...

Very nice poem, and the image I find it amazing.
It reminds me ot things that are going on and we are not making them happen, we are mostly not even aware of them, that is what makes us being in paradise.
Constructing artificial things, as you mention later on your
verses is what makes paradise disapear.
take care my friend

TC said...

Lanny, Mariana,

A curious conjunction, or I should say triangulation: my two dear cognitive neuroscience experts converging in the moment to deliver this message. I have nowhere to hide from

a stroke of insight

because Jill Bolte Taylor's experience is in some (scary) respects similar to experiences I've had.

Jill tells us the shutdown of her left hemisphere was briefly an ecstasy. All that remained functional, she says, was the right hemisphere, with its right here/right now in-the-moment flow of energy and sensory information, pictures, sounds, smells, an exploding collage of the present. No before, no after, perfect, whole, beautiful, connected to the universe.

It sounds so good, you know her right hemisphere never wanted its bad sibling to come back.

It took eight years of "recovery" to restore her left hemisphere: linear, methodical, concerned with past and future, picking out details, categorizing, organizing, associating with before, projecting into later, thinking in language, analysis, endless brain chatter=="I am". A single individual separated off from the energy flow.

By the end of the 18 minute talk she's wrung out by the emotion of the recollection.

So was I.

I'm so happy Jill's now feeling fine.

"It reminds me ot things that are going on and we are not making them happen, we are mostly not even aware of them, that is what makes us being in paradise. Constructing artificial things, as you mention later on in your verses is what makes paradise disappear."

I think Jill and Mariana, two brain scientists, are talking about the same thing.

After beginning to have strokes I took up this blog, perhaps it's the record of a dialogue between the damaged left hemisphere, which still won't shut up (even if it now talks funny), and the right, which just wants to drink in the world through its images. Left hand/right hand. Don't know who's winning, don't know how long this hypothetical dialogue can go on. (Damon Runyon: "the odds on life are six to five against.")

But for and in the moment, my friends, thank you for helping me understand. It's all good... or isn't. It's all just the wiring and the circuitry and riding it on a wing and a prayer for one second longer... to paradise or wherever or possibly/probably nowhere at all. (Jill, like my Muslim friends, speaks of what I call The End as merely "the transition"... I'm still working on that one.)

Mariana Soffer said...

Guess what T, this is one of the coincidence that blew my mind. Of course I have seen her ted talk, but thtat is not all, when I came back from the state a week ago I had not had time to buy books and the only one I found in the airport was hers!!!!!!!!!!!! I gought it, and so far I read more than half of it. Do you happen to know her by any chance?
Crazy world

parallax said...

Oh, BTP, I'm late to the party of understanding, you are ill? I'm sorry to hear this.

Now I have to re-read your words middle managed by this history and knowledge.

And all I can think, with this new awareness, is that your coast line picture for Paradiso Terrestre holds the pattern of grafting new growth.

Annie said...

Once we become aware of ourselves, we are always trying to get out of our own way, to find our way back to that lost garden. Because there is a faint recollection of some wholeness, some universal connection made possible only by being unaware of any separation between ourselves and everything else. Yet we are also driven to define a self. So paradoxically, to recover that powerful belonging demands some degree of surrender of our fought-for construct...ecstasy, ekstasis, a being put out of its place. At least in some ways (not to completely romanticize incapacity or loss)sometimes what we most fear is where we most need to go.

While not able to believe in God or a religion, I can't really say I am an atheist. That capacity or desire for connection with something beyond our selves remains within us, and I can't hold myself above that longing...despite the damage done by the gatekeepers. Seems there's a kernel of truth tucked into the most powerful lies, the radiant particle providing that fuel.

I read Jill's book, the better to get inside my mom's experience of increasing dementia, to see how to bridge the gaps while avoiding disrespect of her experience, maybe to even find some little gift in it. Oddly, given our rocky history, or maybe because of it, the more she faded, the better she saw me, and vice versa. She was continually so surprised by this unfamiliar, positive connection, it made me laugh! Having lost her once before while estranged, I had of necessity given up on the idea of who she was supposed to be to me. She who had told me I'd abandoned the best of myself hadn't any idea of who I had become. That just left who/where/what we found ourselves right then. The ribbon around an emptying box...

TC said...


No, I don't know Jill, though watching that talk provided a door into the garden of her mind, which like yours is clearly capacious and fertile.

But I must admit that when the stagehand appeared with the key prop, an actual human brain, dangling its spinal column like a ropy pigtail, my attention (and for that matter my sympathy and my direction of enquiry) was diverted to that bulbous grey knob, with a its crack down the middle dividing up the dissimilar universes of consciousness that had once somehow dwelt therein, side-by-side, like a mismatched couple abiding each other only for the sake of the kids.


Yes, 'tis true. A family history of strokes. Bad cerebral piping. Your beautiful grafting image presented an image of repair and renewal. The physiology of the matter aside, the poetry of that image is undeniable.


I wish I could say that my (mis)adventures in this area have been leading me to the gates of paradise and the shedding of the self. But no, it's been mostly pain, fear and a sense of excess gravity: I'm reminded of a quote in another context cited to me lately by Zeph, from the Duke of Devonshire, r.e. "bulky removals". The sense of being old and in the way and a problem for the movers is always with me now. Though I weigh a meagre ten stone and can count my ribs even without my glasses. So I'm sorry to say S.S. Enlightenment has not yet hoved into view, in fact it seems parked farther offshore than ever. As to gods, I'm convinced they are plants and animals. The Big Person in the Sky, in whose kingdom I was involuntarily subscribed as a child, stopped being there for me shortly after my "religious vocation", which lasted about a week c. age ten, melted away, and the goddesses appeared. Oh yes, and please don't mind my counting women among the divine tribe of plants and animals. I remember Ed Dorn's line, "My only gods are men and women". I could see how that might work for some. My Muslim friends understand a greater radiant God-light, I marvel at that and love to bathe in its sidestream emanations. But in a pinch... and lately it's a bit of pinch... maybe the best place to leave this would be with the poem I've been hearing in my head o'nights these past few months, strangely present for me though it's from another century (anyway I'm growing less and less impressed with history, for me everything is simply now or never, and it could go either way...):

Le Gouffre

Pascal avait son gouffre, avec lui se mouvant.
— Hélas! tout est abîme, — action, désir, rêve,
Parole! Et sur mon poil qui tout droit se relève
Mainte fois de la Peur je sens passer le vent.

En haut, en bas, partout, la profondeur, la grève,
Le silence, l'espace affreux et captivant...
Sur le fond de mes nuits Dieu de son doigt savant
Dessine un cauchemar multiforme et sans trêve.

J'ai peur du sommeil comme on a peur d'un grand trou,
Tout plein de vague horreur, menant on ne sait où;
Je ne vois qu'infini par toutes les fenêtres,

Et mon esprit, toujours du vertige hanté,
Jalouse du néant l'insensibilité.
— Ah! ne jamais sortir des Nombres et des Êtres!

— Charles Baudelaire

Of course CB makes much ado about Dieu, but I have the feeling that that was just an empty word to him, a sign for the Big Empiness.

Anonymous said...

While reading the poem, the film HOME came to my mind. How homo sapiens was given this world as a paradise on earth where time was not even measured and words were just sounds. And then, man invented progress and, little by little at first and much more faster in the last fifty years, our world has become what it is today.

Some of us enjoy being dazzled by the beauty of the nature left around us. Others are under the effect of a terrible spell that prevents them from appreciating the paradise we still possess. Do we still have time to change that?

TC said...

Perhaps I should back up a bit and say a word about this post. "Middle managers" may come across as meaningless to some, and indeed it is to some extent a private reference. But the phenomenon of middle managers as downsizing implements was largely responsible for the collapse of an anyway precarious institution where I was a teacher for a long time. It wasn't paradise by a longshot but things didn't finally reach breaking point until the middle managers and "consultants" started to be wheeled in, in a desperate attempt to save what was probably unsalvageable. The ending was not pretty. I see similar things happening all around in the present economic landscape. The death of capitalism will not be a voluntary thing, nor will it come from without; it will be an inadvertent suicide executed by the middle managers brought in to do a bit of "creative thinking".

It's my sense that hierarchical organizations such as corporations and government agencies have long since taken over and ruined the earth, and that this process has been accelerated by the appointment of the least competent and productive workers to middle management positions; indeed there is a theory that such positions serve the useful purpose of removing morons from the work force, but on the other hand, my experience has been that this purpose is defeated in its very inception: the idiots who occupy middle management positions nourish vindictive feelings toward those who are at the same time inferior in rank yet in all other ways superior, and they take out these feelings in veiled punitive actions which demoralize and discourage those below. The cynicism this system produces is probably the least harmful of its effects. It's my view that the overwhelming majority of the "product" of corporate activity anyway is useless junk.

This is where I run into problems with Home, financed by the Gucci family of companies along with a number of other large corporations. The aerial photography is stunning, those suspended-gyro helicopter cameras create amazing aerial views, but I must confess I didn't like being scolded by Glenn Close in that bossy schoolteacher tone movie stars seem to channel every time environmental issues come up. I'm reminded of a boast made some years back by Daryl Hannah that (and I don't know if I've got the numbers right) something like eleven of her fleet of eighteen touring rally cars ran on bio-diesel.

I wanted Glenn to know that we haven't owned a carbon burning vehicle since I abandoned my 1953 Chevy pickup truck by the side of a dirt road in what was then a relatively paradisal country village. But the same dirt roads are now populated by movie people and other multimillionaires and I would be surprised if any of them are carless. But of course they are all front and center when it comes to saving the planet. American rich folks are nothing if not well-meaning. (I imagine even middle managers conceive themselves as constantly meaning well.)

Lucy, my guess is that you leave the most minimal of carbon footprints and that you live in one of the few remaining places on earth where the air and water are clean and the natural world is relatively pristine and vividly present. Where we live, few are like you. The problem with large cities is that there are simply too many people in them.

But more to the point would be letting people look at the film and make their own judgment. Here it is in its entirety:


And here is the closest thing I've found so far to an intelligent impartial discussion of it:

Discussion of Home

(Perhaps it's an index of the scope of the problem of the general ugliness of the human race that the comments box appended to this intelligent discussion has been filled up with a long list of links to sites providing images of sexual torture expressly intended for the purposes of masturbation. Give the planet back to the apes!!)

Dale said...

Tom, regarding middle managers, I think it was Dorn who somewhere said that it all went downhill after the Paleolithic. Agriculture, I suppose, introduces the whole middle manager concept--someone to negotiate the terms of labor between the owner, the field hands, and slaves. And how did Nietzsche put it? Oh yeah, the whole set-up breeds, as you note, resentment, and actually rewards mediocrity. This is certainly true at least at the various state and corporate institutions where I've worked.

Alva Svoboda said...

I find the dialogue with Pound's final canto fragment beautiful and complicated here.

Pound testifies that he tried to make paradise; your response is to point to what isn't made, even words having a kind of possession not requiring making, an inherent power...

Pound loses his "center/ fighting the world", whereas this paradise appears to be always available, or it would be if it weren't for the corruption of history due to middle managers, whose influence is a lot like the corrupting influences in Pound's cosmos, the usurers and adulterers of pure materials... "the speech grew slurred" is a perfect Poundian judgment on what has grown wrong with this paradise. The slurring in this poem has been caused by history, by the middle managers, yet it alludes too to the neurological, the failure of systems...

and the end result is that everything stopped. Do we go on from that point, or admit that we can't go on?

Pinkerbell said...

Oh it's definitely how I feel so much of the time that the most beautiful words are flitting around so close to my grasp like butterflies and I just can't catch them. Or if I do manage it somehow they don't look quite so pretty.

I wonder whether my path will lead to me learning to be happy leaving them flying around free as the wind and just appreciating their beauty or whether I should continue to strive to catch them with their beauty intact. Only time will tell...

TC said...


The stationing tension of the middle manager is much as that of the middle class. Both acquire properties but keep them alienated, in this way displaying, parodying and identifying with the ownership class.

It's the parable of the Alien. The middle manager is always less a him or a her than an it. It turns and glances and in a flash the ecstasy of right-brain timelessness has been surrendered to the black centrifuge of that summoning into the cubicle for
28 seconds in the middle with you


You must be mon semblable. At least certainly mon lecteur, though never hypocritical. At any rate you've correctly sourced the Ur-idea of this poem: Canto CXX.

Do not move
Let the wind speak
that is paradise

He doesn't quite say he's tried to "make" Paradise--but that he's tried to "write" it.

The perfect correspondence between the poetic idea and its expression in the paradise of the image: the wind blows through you and does the talking you thus don't have to do. An infinite nonrepeating structure, it will go on forever... even without you. Thank heavens, what a relief. But of course these were the last lines before Pound and his poetic zephyrs fell into speechlessness. Too much fighting too many systems for too long.

But wait. There may be a later moment in the stream. This fragment is dated 28 Sept. 1960:

for a long pull
& a

ima vada

It appears that's Herakles, son of Zeus, in his tenth god-appointed labour, journeying west in the sun's boat in search of the cattle of Geryon, aka the middle managers.

Your analysis here is deft. There are those equivocations, splittings and grafting of the metaphor you perceive in Paradiso Terrestre. (My motor disordered fingers repeatedly attempt to turn that into "Paradisco"!)

But at "the end"...? I can't go on. No. Wait. I'll go on...


This is a beautiful statement in itself, perhaps at this point for you writing would be more a matter of simply observing the butterfly and not trying to capture it? Writing down your state of wonderment is a capture of itself, it's not easy to represent that state of inner vagary and wandering which we all know... but you've just done it. So perhaps rather than continuing to wonder about trying to say those things you feel you can almost say, you might just go on tentatively almost saying them, just like this... sometimes an openness and a vagueness can be a lovely representation of real states... not everything must always be clear, hard, sharp, witty, funny or whatever. Much of the best poetry manages somehow to simulate dreams... our inner lonely as a cloud wanderings.

Pinkerbell said...

Ah TC that is a comforting thought. It is enough to bask in awe at the world indeed. You've hit on my most favourite poet too. I know it's gender specific (and needs interpreting in a wider sense) but I remember:

"The child is the father of the man"

Which works on so many levels and can be interpreted as meaning so many things. Perhaps that childhood prepares us for adulthood or that we can always learn from children? To me it says that keeping the childish wonder and optimism will help us live our adult lives.

I'll keep living amidst the butterfly swarms then!

TC said...


I've noticed over at your blog that everybody is trying to assign you readings and appoint you teachers, but I'd be wary if I were you, all those readings you haven't read could be a bit like all those diseases you haven't caught. Your unfinished story might use a bit more cloud wandering or then again you might want to start that new one. And by the way I don't think it's necessary to have unkind things happening in your story, as it seems you are not an unkind person at heart and therefore the unkindness when it comes in in that first installment sounds perhaps a bit forced for you. Whereas for others it might flow as running water.

By the way, one bit that has never been read by not only you but just about everybody is a funny comic/parodic triolet by Gerard Manley Hopkins in response to that Wordsworth touchstone. Hopkins' little joke goes like this:

‘The child is father to the man’

‘THE CHILD is father to the man.’
How can he be? The words are wild.
Suck any sense from that who can:
‘The child is father to the man.’
No; what the poet did write ran,
‘The man is father to the child.’
‘The child is father to the man!’
How can he be? The words are wild.

Pinkerbell said...

Are you talking about the story with the domestic violence? I was just having a go but that one is too stark and it's a bit too much for me to handle well, seems a shame to lose it, but I wasn't really happy with it and it actually was quite depressing trying to think that way. I like your suggestion that it's just not suited to my character when I was thinking I was just not much good at writing. I can see that finding my best writing style is going to be like picking the perfect karaoke song!

TC said...


Agreement on all counts.

One of my favourite poets is Stevie Smith. One of the things I like best about her is that she never sounds like anyone but herself. Unmistakeable. Her own inner song.

I'm sure yours is crooning away in there somewhere, in fact as I've told you before, I can already hear it.

Pinkerbell said...

Ah thanks TC. It's all a bit fuzzy at the moment, but I'm sure it will come good in the end. The important thing is not to push it. I've lived so long with it all locked up inside, I think I can take it slowly.

I like your one-a-day approach, poems are your apples or crosswords...

I might manage one a week more like :-)

human being said...

'no distance between
object and expression'

yes this is paradise... but how could man knew it before making a distance between the two?
and then he fell and history began...

now eliminating the distance is what we seek for...
and it can be achieved in art...

beauuuutiful work!