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Saturday, 27 April 2013

The Warp (I'm on an Island)


Canary Islands. The rugged landscape of the Canary Islands stood out in sharp contrast to the smooth blue waters of the Atlantic Ocean and the flat tan land of northwestern Africa on 21 December 2011, when the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) aboard the Terra satellite captured this true-color image. The Canary Islands are a group of seven large islands and several smaller islets, all volcanic in origin. The eastern edge of the chain lies only 100 kilometers from the coasts of Morocco and Western Sahara, and the chain stretches for about 500 kilometers across the Atlantic. All the islands are mountainous, and Tenerife, the central island in this image is home to Pico de Teinde, the highest peak, which rises 12,198 feet (3,718 meters) above sea level. From east to west, the islands are named Lanzarote, Fuerteventura, Gran Canaria, Tenerife, La Gomera, La Palmera and El Hierro. A bright swirl of peacock blue marks the ocean south of El Hierro, a stain on the sea from an ongoing eruption of a volcano under the waters: image by NASA/GSFC/Jeff Schmaltz/MODIS Land Rapid Response Team (NASA)

Do not try to adopt me
I am not a pigmy soothed
Boy or baby hitchhiker saint

What is wrong suddenly
Is that I swallow a cold
Blast of air, I mean fright

Spill coffee on my book
And hear the kinks
In the great universe

The warp in the coffin
Phantom men fly out of
Anywhere in this world


File:Fogo, Cape Verde Islands.jpg

Aerial view of Pico do Fogo, a volcano on Cabo Verde, showing the volcano's nine-kilometre-wide caldera, Cha Caldera.The crater wall in the west towers one kilometre above the crater floor. The eastern half of the crater wall is gone, erased in a massive collapse deep in its ancient history. Evidence of the volcano’s more recent eruptive history is written on the surface of the crater as well. In the centre of the crater, a steep cone named Pico rises about 100 meters above the crater rim (more than a kilometre from the crater floor). The young peak reaches 2,829 meters above sea level, making it the island’s highest point. Dark trails of hardened lava from the volcano's most recent eruptions stream out of the crater east into the Atlantic Ocean. The volcano last erupted in 1995. The sepia stream of lava from that eruption is pooled near the crater rim west of Pico. Remarkably, the crater is inhabited. A straight road cuts between the crater wall and Pico, ending near the vent that erupted in 1995. Bright white dots on the north side of the crater are villages. Residents of the Cha Caldera evacuated during the eruption: image by Jesse Allen for NASA Earth Observatory, 10 June 2009 (NASA) 

File:Coral reef in Ras Muhammad nature park (Iolanda reef).jpg

Iolanda Reef, Ras Muhammad Nature Park: photo by Mikhail Rogov, 7 February 2006

Water islands: image by @Doug88888, 4 September 2011


TC said...

A song went with this one.

TC said...

The island in the poem, as I recall, was England.

The last line plays upon a famous line of Baudelaire (from Le Spleen de Paris).

In those days I played and moved about quite a lot.

All that playing and moving about perhaps tended to clarify some things while obscuring others, as the evidence of the poem seems to indicate.

From this a lesson ought have been drawn.

As Gertrude Stein put it in the only work of hers that ever made much sense to me ("What Is English Literature?, 1935), "It is awfully important to know what is and what is not your business".

Wooden Boy said...

"cold/ blast of air" and "phantom men". This is us, haunted (haunting) and froze.

I'm very glad of "the kinks/ in the great universe" (and not just Davies et al).

Wonderful poem.

Wooden Boy said...

I always like the thought that you were here, TC, though I don't wish the cold on anyone.

Stein's right: good manners matter.

Marie W said...

Good manners matter a great deal, yes. Even more so when living on a very crowded island. Volcanic as well, come to think of it. What makes "mentality" (i can't find the proper word) on an island perceptively (can't find the word again, and am without spell check on this flat and rectangular device) different?
Gasps of cold air, fright down your lungs. The kind of fright that cristalises. Wonderful poem again....

vazambam (Vassilis Zambaras) said...

As Byron is my witness, there are, of course, other isles than England.

TC said...

Byron did have a point there. The first winter I spent in England ('63-'64) was said to have been "the worst since the War" -- and of course, that was saying something. So once it was finally done, I couldn't wait to race away to those islands Lord B had in mind. Not that they weren't crawling with more of those damned English.

England was nowhere close to as crowded as Japan, and the nearest it came to the volcanic was in the bits of fresco torn off the walls of Pompeii and abducted back to be stacked up with the friezes of the Parthenon and all those other stolen Treasures of the Empire.

But the curious mixture of delicacy and crudity in the culture, mystifying at first, latterly came to take on recognizable characteristics. Marie, I'm presuming it's both the same, and different, in Japan (where I have never been and of which therefore I would do better not to attempt to speak).

I suppose when space is limited, certain forms of correctness become necessary, and when certain forms of correctness prevail in the routine conduct of society, certain forms of repression can be expected to come to prevail concurrently, as a sort of compensating mechanism -- for, despite the many good people and high aims virtually everywhere, the human animal remains, for better or worse, deeply and ineradicably incorrect, almost as if, indeed, as one is sometimes tempted to think, the incorrectness and the nature of the beast were practically inextricable.

That is, inextricable, in the practise of life.

The manners (at least in the notorious "U" classes, whose members comprised a large percentage of the population of the colleges) seemed to me, at the time, high and fine and indeed so rarefied that a dog might have been better able to make them out than a blundering Yank. Much of this had to do with speech, naturally. But soon enough the embarrassing Yank accent began to blend in a bit, perforce (if you cant beat 'em join 'em), so that, when attempting to sustain conversation with the generous people who stopped to pick me up by the side of the road (these were the unsorted folk of the country, not quite the same special lot who populated the colleges), I began to get the question, after a few tentative conversational exchanges: "So you're Canadian then?" That sort of thing I took to be a small triumph, but it proved merely a temporary plateau of success in the campaign of accent-modifying-acclimatization. Nothing at all, really, compared with the later sense of accomplishment when the query began to be, "...Welsh?"

As the poem implies, my principal form of transport in those years, in addition to above- and under- ground train, bus and boat, was hitchhiking (or "auto-stop" as it was called with such charming literal-ness on "the Continent").

In any case, there was no masking one's foreignness in certain circumstances, as at dining hall, when responding to a simple "Pass the sprouts" could cause the most carefully camouflaged manners to dissolve in a moment.

In a somewhat larger, perhaps even "cosmic" (!) sense, all during those years there grew to be a continual consciousness that the great universe might be full of problematic kinks and wrinkles and dimensional warps of the sort that filled much phantasy literature of the period -- I think of "The Langoliers", those microwave-sensitive flying meatballs from another dimension who could without batting a meatball-eyeball gobble up entire planes, nay even runways and airports without being impeded by so much as a moment of light eructation (perhaps they came from a Dimension of Absolutely Impeccable Manners?).

As to this bit though --

What is wrong suddenly
Is that I swallow a cold
Blast of air, I mean fright

-- that seems free of the limitations of the local and the historical, and applicable almost everywhere, and almost all the time; for example here, and now.

Marie W said...

Delicacy and crudity. I couldn't sum it up better. It seems like islands have a lot in common.
Welsh? :-)) how nice.... I understand the feeling of 'triumph', I had a similar experience in Italy when someone (Italian) asked me if I was from Rome. I almost wanted to say well yes I am!

TC said...

St Ambrose, an early (4th c.), Doctor of the Church, prescribed to Augustine of Hippo a liturgical flexibility, a sensible relativism if you will, by which rubric the general rule was to follow local custom. "When I am at Rome, I fast on a Saturday; when I am at Milan, I do not."

Thus, Marie, I believe he would have urged you to answer yes; and, in the event you were in Rome and Saturday was coming up, to leave for Milan immediately.