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the journey of words

For a few moments they sat looking at one another in silence, holding each other’s hands. During this time his sense of dismay and catastrophe were almost physically painful; all round him he seemed to hear the shiver of broken glass which, as it fell to earth, left him sitting in the open air.

—Virginia Woolf, from The Voyage Out. Mariner Books, 2003

Lord, how time does alter us,
                                          it goes without saying.
There is an afterlight that follows us,
                                                     and fades as clockticks fade.
Eventually we stand on it puddled under our shoes.
The darkness that huddles there
Is like the dew that settles upon the flowers,
                                                               invisible, cold, and everywhere.

When the wind comes, and the snow repeats us,
                                                                     how like our warped lives it is,
Melting objects, disappearing sounds
Like lichen on gnarled rocks.
For we have lived in the wind, and loosened ourselves like ice melt.
Nothing can hold us, I’ve come to know.
                                                           Nothing, I say.

—Charles Wright, from “My Old Clinch Mountain Home” in Caribou. Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2014

And I have still other smothered memories, now unfolding themselves into limbless monsters of pain.

— Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita. Penguin Classics, 2000

(via fuckyeahexistentialism)


When is it we come to the realization
                                                      that all things are wandering away?
Is it age, is it lack of adoration, is it
Regret there’s no ladder to the clouds?
Whatever, we inhabit the quotidian, as we must,
While somewhere behind our backs,
                                                     waterfalls tumble and keep on going
Into the deep desire of distance.

Charles Wright, "Waterfalls," from Caribou (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2014)

The past is the one mirror that never releases its images. Layer and overlay, year after year, wherever you look, however you look, whenever you look, it’s always your own face you see there. All those years, and it’s still your own face.

Charles Wright, from “Bytes and Pieces” in Quarter Notes: Improvisations and Interviews (The University of Michigan Press, 1998)

(via memoryslandscape)


I should tell you from the start that this poem is about Nothing.
Even the title is stolen from a song by Wilco. It’s true
that some philosophers say that Nothing exists, except in dreams,
that our words carry meaning like the hidden roots of stars,
that ideas flake off the walls of our metaphors like old paint.

Richard Jackson, opening lines to “Misunderstood,” from Out of Place: Poems (Ashland Poetry Press, 2014)


And with the day, distance again expands
Voiceless between us, as an uncoiled shell.

—Hart Crane, from “Exile,” in The Complete Poems of Hart Crane (Liveright, 2000)

(via memoryslandscape)


The days are my consolation.
I take one home each night
and put it in the case beside
my bed and watch it fade
in the dark, no matter how shiny
it seems at first, no matter how high
it stands behind the glass. I keep
a few polished for memory’s sake,
but even they grow tarnished
and lost among the others.

Chard deNiord, opening lines to “Under the Sun,” from The Southern Review (Vol. 49, No. 1, Winter 2013)

(via memoryslandscape)

It was long before they moved, and when they moved it was with great reluctance. They stood together in front of the looking-glass, and with a brush tried to make themselves look as if they had been feeling nothing all the morning, neither pain nor happiness. But it chilled them to see themselves in the glass, for instead of being vast and indivisible they were really very small and separate, the size of the glass leaving a large space for the reflection of other things. 

—Virginia Woolf, from The Voyage Out. Mariner Books, 2003

The hopelessness of their position overcame them both. They were impotent; they could never love each  other sufficiently to overcome all these barriers, and they could never be satisfied with less.

—Virginia Woolf, from The Voyage Out. Mariner Books, 2003