Write About a Heroic Moment /




pepper your eggs first
then you can see 
where the salt falls

Jack Collom


What happens when an irresistible force 
meets an immovable object?

As I walk at noon, Sun above my head I am hurtling through space around our galactic center. I see myself plunging head first through my universe. At midnight I feel myself in free falling down feet first along the path being cleared by the Sun through the debris strewn galaxy. Swirling around me is every particle of my little local solar system that our physical bodies have condensed into for 5 billion or so years. We have made it a little over twice around our galactic center. Yet still I can sit still and believe that in stillness I can experience nothingness.

Larry Fallon



This Is Only A Test

Missile defense makes its mark in the Marshall Islands
By JoAnn Wypijewski - Harper's - December, 2001

It was not so long ago, perhaps three generations, that among peoples of the Pacific the Marshall Islanders were still known for the skill they had perfected at least a thousand years before Europeans first ventured into the great sea. “Navigators of the Pacific,” they set Out in boats whose hulls they had carved from breadfruit trees, with sails woven of pandanus leaves, pulling on rope made from the central rib of coconut-palm fronds, and plotting their course by curious charts, delicate and complex, made of wooden strips crisscrossed to mark the position of the land and the direction of the wind. Before there was compass or sextant, they traveled to other countries and among their own lands—some 1,200 tiny outcroppings in the Central Pacific, only four exceeding one square mile in area, all awash in 750,000 square miles of ocean— navigating by the reflected or refracted patterns of waves. The sea was their common highway; the heavens, the common source of the winds and the long waves; the land, the common sustenance of the people, who too kindly shared it with the Spanish, the Germans, the Japanese, and, finally, the Americans.

The foreigners’ relics exist beneath the waves as graveyards for warships, planes, and unlucky soldiers, and on land as moldering bunkers or scars along the throats of unlucky Marshallese. Spain called itself the islands’ discoverer in the sixteenth century but largely ignored them, casting its most covetous glances northward, to Guam, the Marianas, and the Philippines. Britain’s Captain Marshall named them for himself and, he thought, the empire in 1788, before he realized they’d already been claimed, but somehow the name stuck. Missionaries came and brought muumuus. Germany came and brought beer and the money trade, annexing the islands in 1885. Japan seized them unopposed at the start of the First World War and brought rice and roads, then arms, ultimately making them the center of its Pacific fleet in World War II. It’s arguable who brought war exactly, but when the firing stopped the United States was in charge, and it brought soda pop and nuclear tests, sixty-seven of them between 1946 and 1958, hence cancer, hence those scars. Then it brought radars and missile tests, anthropologists and the cash economy. Now on the Marshallese atoll of Kwajalein, planes from America disgorge another generation of engineers and contractors and government personnel. They are the testers for National Missile Defense, sometimes called Star Wars, sometimes Son of Star Wars. Beside the runway on which they disembark are vestiges of decontamination showers, where U.S.airmen scrubbed down after flying through mushroom clouds over Bikini and Enewetak, while in the wind’s path from ground zero native children whirled with delight as fallout fell like snow.





An appealing sequence of my day occurs in the morning. After I’ve gotten out of bed. I usually water the plants and clean the kitchen. I love cleaning the kitchen in the morning. My mind is still quiet and doing dishes feels like it puts off the day for a little longer. It feels luxurious yet useful. It is a way of stalling, of staying home bound and introverted. As I touch the dishes and clean them it is as though I am preparing ritualistically for the new day, touching my ‘power objects’. I feel nourished in the presence of moving water. Whenever I ride my bike past the creek, I have to force myself not to stop and sit by the water, to keep going. When I sit by the water, and to a lesser degree when I do dishes, I feel as if nutrients are entering my body. Especially in the mornings, the water coming out of the sink seems magical to rne. Often I wake up with some anxiety. Doing the dishes, watering the plants and showering allays my anxiety. I need that sense of purification and blessing that water imparts, and contact, however mediated, with an element from the natural world. M.M.


An appealing sequence in my day is the hour or so that it takes for me to wake up. I don’t often need an alarm unless I am getting up particularly early and so I revel in my wake up ritual. When I first wake up I try to extend that in—between sleep and wakefulness. What could take moments lasts about fifteen minutes. I bring the feelings, qualities and thoughts of dreams to consciousness and roll them around in my head. I might re-tell the dream to myself as a story, perhaps imagining how I will tell it to Tannis. I do not usually feel like sharing it first thing in the morning. I like to live carrying around that "secret" quality of the dream when the dream lives just in me.

After my dream has found its story, with my eyes still closed, I begin telling myself another story. It can be something that happened or a fictional story I’m making up as I go along or a fragment from a poem. (Once I was startled from my semi-awake state and, eyes suddenly wide open, said out loud, “I got a maroon spoon from Prometheus for Christmas.”) This time feels very like gestation and birth. Clock-time is meaningless. I can go on and on in this state when, should I look at the clock, only five minutes have passed.

When I am awake enough I give thanks for the night that has passed, for the healing known as sleep, for waking up that day, for everything in creation doing its work, and for my partner. Then I roll over and if Tannis is there I look at her for a moment saying “good morning” and “I love you.” If she is not I have more incentive to get up. I begin by sitting on the bed and checking in with myself. Are my feet here? Do my eyes work? What colour is my skin? Is my day really beginning or am I faking it? This time is about conscious, deliberate life. S.B.


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from THE SONGLINES, by Bruce Chatwin


THE MOST SUBLIME labour of poetry is to give sense and passion to insensate things; and it is characteristic of children to take inanimate things in their hands and talk to them in play as if they were living persons . . . This philological-philosophical axiom proves to us that in the world’s child-hood men were by nature sublime poets...

Giambattista Vico, The New Science, XXXVII


Men vent great passions by breaking into song, as we observe in the most grief-stricken and the most joyful.

Vico, The New Science, LIX



The Ancient Egyptians believed the seat of the soul was in the tongue: the tongue was a rudder or steering-oar with which a man steered his course through the world.

‘Primitive’ languages consist of very long words, full of difficult sounds and sung rather than spoken... The early words must have been to present ones what the plesiosaurus and gigantosaurus are to present-day reptiles.

O. Jespersen, Language


Poetry is the mother tongue of the human race as the garden is older than the field, painting than writing, singing than declaiming, parables than inferences, bartering, than commerce...

J. G. Hamann, Aesthetica in Nuce


All passionate language does of itself become musical — with a finer music than the mere accent; the speech of a man even in zealous anger becomes a chant, a song.

Thomas Carlyle, quoted in Jespersen, Language


Words well voluntarily from the breast without need or intent, and there has probably not been in any desert waste a migratory horde that did not possess its own songs. As an animal species, the human being is a singing creature, but he combines ideals with the musical sounds involved.

Wilhelm von Humboldt, Linguistic Variability and Intellectual Development


Poetry proper is never merely a higher mode (melos) of every-day language. It is rather the reverse: everyday language is a forgotten and therefore used-up poem, from which there hardly resounds a call any longer.

-Martin Heidegger, Language


Richard Lee calculated that a Bushman child will be carried a distance of 4,900 miles before he begins to walk on his own. Since, during this rhythmic phase, he will be forever naming the contents of his territory, it is impossible he will not become a poet.


Proust, more perspicaciously than any other writer, reminds us that the ‘walks’ of childhood form the raw material of our intelligence:


The flowers that people show me nowadays for the first time never seem to me to be true flowers. The Méséglise Way with its lilacs, its hawthorns, its cornflowers, its poppies, the Guermantes Way with its river full of tadpoles, its waterlilies, and its buttercups have constituted for me for all time the picture of the land in which I would fain pass my life. . the cornflowers, the hawthorns, the apple-trees, which I hap-pen, when I go out walking, to encounter in the fields, be-cause at the same depth, on the level of my past life, at once established contact with my heart.

As a general rule of biology, migratory species are less ‘ag-gressive’ than sedentary ones.

There is one obvious reason why this should be so. The migration itself, like the pilgrimage, is the hard journey: a ‘leveller’ on which the ‘fit’ survive and stragglers fall by the wayside.

The journey thus pre-empts the need for hierarchies and shows of dominance. The ‘dictators’ of the animal kingdom are those who live in an ambience of plenty. The anarchists, as always, are the ‘gentlemen of the road’.