Epigraphs

Judith Nelson, Beans, 1962, 30X36

 

“Bye and bye they passed a stand of roadside cholla against which small birds had been driven by the storm and there impaled. Gray nameless birds espaliered in attitudes of stillborn flight or hanging loosely in their feathers. Some of them were still alive and they twisted on their spines as the horses passed and raised their heads and cried out but the horsemen rode on. The sun rose up in the sky and the country took on new color, green fire in the acacia and paloverde and green in the roadside run-off grass and fire in the ocotillo. As if the rain were electric, had grounded circuits that the electric might be.”      –Cormac McCarthy, All the Pretty Horses

 

 

“They spread their soogans and he pulled off his boots and stood them beside him and stretched out in his blankets. The fire had burned to coals and he lay looking up at the stars in their places and the hot belt of matter that ran the chord of the dark vault overhead and he put his hands on the ground at either side of him and pressed them against the earth and in that coldly burning canopy of black he slowly turned dead center to the world, all of it taut and trembling and moving enormous and alive under his hands.”       –Cormac McCarthy, All the Pretty Horses

 

 

“This Welsh friend was one of many whom I have crossed in life, chained by early accident or by domestic necessity to the calls of professional service, whilst all the while his whole nature, wild and refractory, ran headlong into intellectual channels that could not be trained into reconciliation with his hourly duties. His library was already large, and as select as under the ordinary chances of provincial book-collection could be reasonably expected. For generally one-half, at the least, of a young man’s library in a provincial town may be characterised as a mere dropping or deposition from local accidents, a casual windfall of fruits stripped and strewed by the rough storms of bankruptcy. In many cases, again, such a provincial library will represent simply that part of the heavy baggage which many a family, on removing to some distant quarter, has shrunk from the cost of transporting, books being amongst the heaviest of household goods. Sometimes also, though more rarely, it happens that an ancient family dying out, having unavoidably left to executors the duty of selling every chattel attached to its ancient habits of life, suddenly with meteoric glare there emerges from its hiding-place of centuries some great jewel of literature, a first folio of the 1623 Shakespeare, an uncastrated Decamerone, or other dazzling [Greek word: keimnlion]. And thus it is that a large provincial library, though naturally and peacefully accumulated, yet sometimes shows mute evidence of convulsions and household tragedies; speaks as if by records of storms, and through dim mementoes of half-forgotten shipwrecks. Real shipwrecks present often such incoherent libraries on the floors of the hungry sea. Magnificent is the library that sleeps unvexed by criticism at the bottom of the ocean, Indian or Atlantic, from the mere annual contributions and keepsakes, the never-ending forget-me-nots, of mighty English India-men. The Halsewell, with its sad parting between the captain and his daughters, the Grosvenor, the Winterton, the Abergavenny, and scores of vessels on the same scale, with populations varying by births, deaths, and marriages, populations large as cities, and rich as gold mines, capable of factions and rebellions, all and each have liberally patronised, by the gift of many Large-Paper copies, that vast submarine Bodleian, which stands in far less risk from fire than the insolent Bodleian of the upper world. This private Oswestry library wore something of the same wild tumultuary aspect, fantastic and disordinate….”      –Thomas De Quincey, Confessions of an English Opium Eater

 

 

Because the Caterpillar

Because the beautiful caterpillar
Which accordioned itself along my desk,
Set me yelling,
Sucking my fingers and dancing…

Because the harmless green grasshopper
Suddenly bit like hell
And a fist of revenge
Defeated the entomologist,
And flattened the speciman…

How can poetry here be anything else
But prickly, highly-coloured, treacherous,
Both reverential and extremely vulgar?…

I hear a kitten, but it’s a bird;
I see a bird, but it’s a bat;
I see a bat, but it’s a butterfly. Here,
Ladies and gentlemen,
Birds and frogs may sing in the self-same tree!

–William Hart-Smith, from The Jindyworobaks, edited by Brian Elliott

 

 

“Sadly, we do not know as much as we would like to know about the sex lives of trilobites.”

–Richard Fortey, from Trilobite!

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