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Friday, 11 April 2014

Josephine Miles: The Sympathizers


Old man, India: photo by Glenn Losack MD, 17 December 2011

To this man, to his boned shoulders
Came the descent of pain.
All kinds,
Cruel, blind, dear, horrid, hallowed,
Rained, again, again.

To this small white blind boned face,
Wherever it was,
The blows of pain, it took as it were blinded,
As it were made for this.

We were there. We uneasy
Did not know if it were.
Knew neither
The reason nor the man nor whether
To share, or to beware.

 Josephine Miles (1911-1985): The Sympathizers, from Local Measures, 1946


TC said...

Josephine Miles has been here with us before.

Wooden Boy said...

To share, or to beware

This seems to me a great summation of the ethical demand the photo presents.

TC said...

Thanks, WB. And yes certainly, about the photo. Not of course to imply that the poet, who had a hard time getting around at all, was off to India, or writing about that. More a matter of the universality of the problem, and in particular of the immediate physical prospect, of human suffering. Miles did have considerable knowledge of that. Since the age of two she had been in and out of various difficult circumstances prescribed for her crippling rheumatoid arthritis.

The sad fact that the presence of the suffering of others often causes discomfort to those nearby (upon which, WB, I think we've remarked in earlier conversations) certainly underlies that hard, but honest concluding line.

Wooden Boy said...

I guess you'd have had to taste something of suffering to come to that kind of honesty.

So much cultural production seems driven by the studied refusal of discomfort.

TC said...

Oh absolutely, a studied refusal. And in this world, it's also necessary to have a nice pair of blinders to block out the visible evidences of misery in every urban milieu. Doesn't Google manufacture those? (The special de luxe Google employee commute buses have darkened windows, naturally.)

It's after all a foundational tenet of the global conquering force of the born-this-morning "Millennials": Forget honesty, antiseptic Happyface über alles, a Lambo before I'm 22 or it's the bridge jump. (With lifejacket, of course.)

Dalriada said...

From 'Millenium Dust'

The sun disappears behind hills,
a white light still remains.
No pink or red or orange
with tight purple streaks,

through a white cloud.

I suddenly feel
we can never be destroyed,
but I know otherwise.
It's only a daydream
an overwhelming breeze
a constriction that I can't see
opening up in the heart
on a warm evening.


TC said...


Thanks for that swell Joe Ceravolo poem -- a lingering memory of yesterday's...

Nin Andrews said...

Heart-breaking. No glasses can keep you from seeing it.