Charles Erskine Scott Wood: from The Poet in the Desert

C. E. S. Wood_jpg
Where are you, Truth, where are you?
The Desert is pitiless.
I am frightened by its bigness and its indifference.
I am alone, an atom thrown out from Eternity,
Allotted to do my part.
I will do my part, and it shall be my own.
I refuse to be moulded in the common mould,
None different from another.
I refuse to step regularly according to custom;
To measure myself among the monotonous patterns laid out before me.
I will be myself and obey the voice within me
Which impetuously cries to be free;
To wander imperiously, destroying the paths,
The moulds and the patterns.
O Truth discover yourself unto me.

Stephen Crane: The Wayfarer

The wayfarer,
Perceiving the pathway to truth,
Was struck with astonishment.
It was thickly grown with weeds.
“Ha,” he said,
“I see that none has passed here
In a long time.”
Later he saw that each weed
Was a singular knife.
“Well,” he mumbled at last,
“Doubtless there are other roads.”

–from War is Kind

The End of a Legend: a True Story


(Image from Wikipedia. Not the real Gregory. Nor is it, evidently, the real Santa.)

Conversation with Gregory (age 6).

Him: I hear Santa’s bells at night.

Me: Really? You believe in Santa?

Him: Yeah. Don’t you?

Me: Uh . . . well, does it make any logical sense that there’s some fat bearded guy that visits every house in the world on Christmas Eve to bring presents, and that somehow he manages to bring nice presents to the rich kids and not-so-nice ones to the poor kids?

Him: Now that we talked about it, it doesn’t seem normal.

Me: So what do you think you’re hearing at night if it’s not Santa?

Him: I don’t know — crickets?

C. K. Williams: Last Things


In a tray of dried fixative in a photographer friend’s darkroom,
I found a curled-up photo of his son the instant after his death,
his glasses still on, a drop of blood caught at his mouth.

Recently, my friend put a book together to commemorate his son; 
near the end, there’s a picture taken the day before the son died;
the caption says: “This is the last photo of Alex.”

I’m sure my friend doesn’t know I’ve seen the other picture.
Is telling about it a violation of confidence?
Before I show this to anyone else, I’ll have to ask his permission.

If you’re reading it, you’ll know my friend pardoned me,
that he found whatever small truth his story might embody
was worth the anguish of remembering that reflexive moment

when after fifty years of bringing reality into himself through a lens,
his camera doubtlessly came to his eye as though by itself,
and his finger, surely also of its own accord, convulsed the shutter.

      –C. K. Williams

Margaret Atwood: True Stories

Margaret Atwood

Margaret Atwood


The true story lies
among the other stories,

a mess of colours, like jumbled clothing
thrown off or away,

like hearts on marble, like syllables, like
butchers’ discards.

The true story is vicious
and multiple and untrue

after all. Why do you 
need it? Don’t ever 

ask for the true story.

        –Margaret Atwood

Stephen Crane: Black Riders XXVIII


“Truth,” said a traveller,
“Is a rock, a mighty fortress;
“Often have I been to it,
“Even to its highest tower,
“From whence the world looks black.”

“Truth,” said a traveller,
“Is a breath, a wind,
“A shadow, a phantom;
“Long have I pursued it,
“But never have I touched
“The hem of its garment.”

And I believed the second traveller;
For truth was to me
A breath, a wind,
A shadow, a phantom,
And never had I touched
The hem of its garment.

               –Stephen Crane,
                   from Black Riders and Other Lines

Ian McEwan on Believing in Fiction

I have a couple of hours before heading back to work, so I thought I’d catch up on a little reading. Came across this article from The New Republic, wherein Ian McEwan engagingly describes his love-hate relationship with fiction.

In the past few weeks, my friend Sabio and I have discussed this very issue (here and here in the comments)–what importance can fiction have in a world of fact, the Actual? Why read a novel or poem about imagined characters and scenes, when you can read science, history, philosophy or some other supposed factual account and actually learn something true about the world? I think it’s the wrong way to look at it, since I believe fiction can work as a vehicle for truth (Sabio, maybe this is why I’m still a believer 😉 !)