Monday, January 21, 2019

James on the Evolution of Writing Implements

For almost forty years I have been writing literary journalism in London, and London is probably where I will go on writing until the pen drops from my fingers.  Actually, of course, although I still write my first and second drafts in a notebook, the dropped pen no longer applies as a token of weary death.  More likely, when it comes to the last word, I will multi-punch the laptop's keyboard with my face, my fingers only halfway through the sequence that activates the most sadly beautiful of all modern rubrics, "Windows Is Shutting Down."  And English grammar are checking out.


Once, I thought that a culture could stave off the world's evil.  Now I think that a culture must take continual account of the irrationality that would like to destroy it.

                                                                       -- James

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Outside Sarajevo Mounted, In Between Two Wars

My horse Patrice he knows just where to step thank God,
Even as his nostrils flare against the heavy cordite.
The herd that reared him 30 months ago -
I wonder where the older stallions' sinews lie?
They made a deeper contribution in the runup
When the quartermaster's other rancid meat ran dry.

A metal dent pressed hard against this sorry fence -
Some day some decades hence there'll be a shrine here.
A battle flag encased in smoky glass;
It's not the same as flying from a gilded staff!
(I almost said "alas.")

I slept this morning.
Coffee even, boiled in river water pink with blood.
The grounds dispersed before the sun came up amid the stream.
What grounds?
The motive perished with our foolish lord,
The one we called the Piglet Prince
When Darko, sire to the piglet,
Wore his ruby signet ring.

A woman in a filthy bonnet drags a handcart up the crescent hill and down.
A sheepdog follows fretfully.
They'll shoot him first I fear, and then she'll recognize her fate to follow on.

I've lost my hearing now.
It may not be for good.
They say like worms that recapitulate a single severed limb
It bounces back sometimes.

It's odd - no clicking of Patrice's shoes on rocky ground.
The rocking of my saddle tells me more and more
In compensation.

Further on, two miles or so,
The sun now glints upon a broken caisson.
There I'll find a hero's remnants,
There I'll pick his pockets clean.
He won't resist
A "warrior in the aftermath."
It makes me smile somehow
To say it,
Having had no courage whatsoever
As I made my way 
Along this densely traveled path.