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Sunday, 27 November 2011

Out of Christendom (Blue house, Morocco)


House in the medina of Chefchaouen, Morocco
: photo by Okrasitna, August 2007

Things learned from travels
southward across the mountains
and the deserts
into those mysterious lands
you'd have thought
were you a thinker
would never be forgot --

but, as with the years
memory unravels,
the old fool
who imagines
he remembers
a blue house
only proves random

sequencing's the last memory
function to go. Finally
you know
only the things you didn't think
you knew, and would
as soon
forget those things also as not.


Legzira Beach near Sidi Ifni, Morocco: photo by Ifni95, 2 June 2009


ACravan said...

you know
only the things you didn't think
you knew, and would
as soon
forget those things also as not.

This reminds me of the way I felt last week reading Mouse Ears Redux, which jarred a number of those seemingly forgotten (not without reason) memories free.

Our one trip to Morocco, while not as adventurous as yours (we had a guide from Marrakech; we didn’t hitchhike; I did, however, transact a surreptitious purchase behind a wall in town, which in retrospect seems crazy to me), provoked similar feelings then and brings back memories now of having some felt presence and significance in the world. I’ll never forget the sight of the approaching Atlas Mountains and then being inside them. We never visited Essaioura or Sidi Ifni and, based on the photograph, I would like to a lot, but I try to remember that the people who live there have their own problems and concerns; that it’s not just a backdrop for my thoughts. I think this is a very special, beautifully integrated blue and gold piece. The Sidi Ifni picture –- the large stone spur and the ocean -- really cements the out-of-Christendom and across-the-universe aspect of it for me.

Issa's Untidy Hut said...


I too found myself focusing on the final six lines of this fine rumination.

As things will, there is a very interesting article on the "science" of the brain (by the Nobel Prize winning economic scientist, Daniel Kahneman) in today's NYTBR which my tiny humanities addled brain wrestled with, particularly from a Buddhist point of view. The idea of happiness, the moment, and memory.

Very interesting, though, ultimately I much prefer your lyrical approach.

It seems to me that this blue is the blue of all memory and dream ...


Conrad DiDiodato said...

"It seems to me that this blue is the blue of all memory and dream ..."

Yes, and now I see where the blue in Stevens' "The Man with the Blue Guitar" originates.

TC said...


In fact the blue house of my random-sequence memory was located in Khenifra, a village on the road south toward Marrakech.

It was a darker shade of blue, but still. I spent the night in it. And became acquainted therein with a spider the size of Schenectady. Live and let live, no bother.

The women of the village washed their laundry on rocks in a stream. That's a beautiful memory, spending part of an afternoon watching them.

That was a time when all a person wanted out of life was to see Dakar before it was over!


I'm always not surprised when "science" informs us of revelations which prove that human reasoning is flawed. But that's human reasoning in the NYTBR piece, is it not?

"What makes the 'experiencing self' happy is not the same as what makes the 'remembering self' happy. In particular, the remembering self does not care about duration — how long a pleasant or unpleasant experience lasts. Rather, it retrospectively rates an experience by the peak level of pain or pleasure in the course of the experience, and by the way the experience ends."

My own experience forgets and anyway doesn't much care about pain and pleasure. Colours, sounds, tones, though, and also indeed durations, brevities, stretching-outs -- those do have a way of suddenly coming alive again, often unexpectedly (i.e. when not called up, deliberately summoned), after, well, Lord knows how many years.

I think you're right on in suggesting that the language animal that most truthfully brings this area of truth home to us (newspaper & slippers) is that lost dog of poetry, lyric.

Conrad's allusion perhaps connects here:

Wallace Stevens: The Man with the Blue Guitar

So that's life, then: things as they are?
It picks its way on the blue guitar.


Morning is not sun,
It is this posture of the nerves,

As if a blunted player clutched
The nuances of the blue guitar.

It must be this rhapsody or none,
The rhapsody of things as they are.

Issa's Untidy Hut said...

Ah, Tom, if ever there was a description of the poet "perceiving":

"My own experience forgets and anyway doesn't much care about pain and pleasure. Colours, sounds, tones, though, and also indeed durations, brevities, stretching-outs -- those do have a way of suddenly coming alive again ..."

Been listening to melodic Coltrane for 6 hours, while working, a fine cool mist in Pittsburgh all day today ...

The notes have all been variations of blue ...

"If to serenade almost to man
Is to miss, by that, things as they are,

Say it is the serenade
Of a man that plays a blue guitar."
-- Stevens

One of the things that intrigued me most about the article is the idea of happiness in the now as opposed to happiness in memory and the difference. Thinking how difficult it is for most of us to truly live in the now and how this somehow illustrates the illusionary nature of happiness or, perhaps, what we think happiness should be.

Not a solvable problem for most, but I do like it when I get still another approach, another angle, that is intriguing.


Nin Andrews said...

Beautiful poem--and I am always fascinated by memory . . . the brain, how it works.

And the spider the size of . . .
Suzanne and I continue to argue about a cockroach on the wall above my bed when I visited her in El Salvador. I say it was the size of a dinner plate. She says it was only a dessert plate. Now that is a memory I will not lose.
All night i wondered if I would feel it if walked over me and how heavy it would be and . . .

vazambam (Vassilis Zambaras) said...


This memorable piece sends me back to one less memorable—my own


Memory lives the moment

That moment’s left it.



I have to agree with Don here, "this blue is the blue of all memory and dream ..." -- and that rock, or maybe it's a giant foot? A memory of the blue one remembers but never knew ("as with the years/ memory unravels") -- "The pale intrusions into blue" ---


sunlight coming into clouds above still
shadowed ridge, birds chirping in field
in foreground, wave sounding in channel

field in the narrower sense,
consider part of this

both, with respect to index,
said to be from other

orange circle of sun rising above ridge,
white cloud in pale blue sky on horizon

TC said...


For personal reasons having to do with my private worries over the health of my true love, I have been spending a lot of time lately working on memory and happiness and trying to figure out how and why it is that in our happiest moments we never seem able to experience fully the gratitude for those moments which we experience only much later, when loss, or the threat of loss, colours everything with that melodic mist of blue.

Which leads the thoughts on, then to:


Memory loves the moment and the moment lives the memory and...


I think you have poetically intuited your way into the heart of this post, which was originally to be titled "One foot out of Christendom..."

(Sometimes visual "languages" are able to say what words can't...)


One thing I have learned about spiders is that when it comes to the possible dangers of hanging out with them, Size Doesn't Really Matter.

I once (long ago) used to ride a bike high up into the Santa Ynez Mountains every morning before dawn, and in winter the night temps up there got down close to freezing, so that just before sun-up, the humongous Wolf Spiders that populated those slopes would very slowly clamber out onto the road, waiting for the sun to hit it and warm things up -- especially their blood, which required that dose of solar anti-freeze to get things up and running (motility, I believe this function is called).

They were about the size of a soup-pan lid, hairy and black.

Must admit they scared me a bit, until one early February morning I had a bad bike crash up there, and while lying dazed in the road, checking the various broken body parts, I noticed a Wolf Spider parked there beside me, no more than three feet away.

It looked at me.

I looked at it.

It said,"Pull yourself together, the good fairy isn't going to come along to rescue you, so stop staring at me, get back on the damned bike and steer it down this mountain with the one arm you have left, before we both freeze to death."

The sun was just starting to creep over the top of the mountain from the east as I followed that sensible admonition... and looking back, I saw that my wise teacher had vanished away into the now sun-touched roadside rocks and trees.

gamefaced said...

from my prozac years, i still have rampant deja vu. i find myself in a compromised spot often, having no idea if something has happened, if i dreamed it happened, or if my brain is misfiring yet again. the more years pass, the more confused i get.

and i really like this.

TC said...


and very pleased that you do.

Know what you mean about the compromised spots. A few "little" strokes can really waste a person's ability to recall whole swatches of the past. Possible to fake one's way through many of those disoriented moments, maybe, at least as to how it may look from the "outside" (in the mercifully rare event anyone's actually looking), but... fooling oneself, always a lot harder.

I am forever trying to remember to forget... and then catch myself forgetting to remember.

Maybe the best way to look at all this would be to figure that every time a sizzled or fizzled neuron drifts out of the thought orbit, there's room for a new baby neuron to drop its cardboard pallet in the vacant doorway, curl up and be happy to be in out of the cold... until the next short-circuit.