Alexander J. Motyl

 

 

(USA)

 

 

 

Paintings

 

The paintings

always stare back,

even the landscapes

depicting dancing gods

and prancing satyrs

(amidst crumbling ruins

adorning leafy backgrounds)

and silently saying

that gazing

observing

interpreting

understanding

are pointless ventures,

useless undertakings

doomed to failure,

because the paintings

always stare back:

even portraits

of staid burghers,

genteel ladies,

kings, queens,

and courtesans—

all sly folk

prone to evading

our penetrating

eyes by looking

elsewhere

(or pretending

to be looking

elsewhere),

while knowing

that pretending

exposes gazers

and stargazers

to the penetrating

side-glances

of vanished landscapes

and long-dead people

seeing through us

and finding

nothing.

 

 

 

The Olden Days

 

I went to my café yesterday

 

expecting to drink a coffee

 

and read a book.

 

Instead,

 

I read the coffee

 

and drank the book.

 

That was surprising,

 

and I still don’t know

 

how I did it

 

or how it was done.

 

I do know the obvious.

 

Miracles are a dime a dozen,

 

natural laws are easily broken,

 

time stops at will,

 

and universes multiply like rabbits,

 

but—there is, alas, always a but—

 

only when you’re not looking,

 

only when you’re not expecting

 

miracles to be a dime a dozen,

 

natural laws to be easily broken,

 

time to stop at will,

 

and universes to multiply like rabbits.

 

I now know this too.

 

Anomalies are not anomalies,

 

but regularities, and regularities

 

are always irregular—

 

just as repetitions

 

are never really repetitive.

 

This means this.

 

Drinking is reading

 

and reading is drinking,

 

books are coffees

 

and coffees are books.

 

This also means this.

 

It’s obviously best

 

to take your books black,

 

as sugar and cream

 

can make such a mess.

 

As Martial once said:

 

Difficilis facilis,

 

iucundus acerbus es idem.

 

The Romans got it right,

 

maybe because,

 

in the olden days,

 

universes didn’t yet multiply like rabbits.

 

 

 

The Subjunctive

 

Viewed subjectively

 

or viewed objectively,

 

the subjunctive voice

 

obviously both

 

vindicates and vitiates

 

the slow unfolding

 

of visions

 

of certainty and uncertainty,

 

of boredom and surprise,

 

of wonder and shock.

 

Shockingly,

 

though unexpectedly,

 

the subjunctive subtly

 

subjugates objects

 

without objectifying subjects.

 

How odd,

 

how exceedingly odd,

 

that something as subjective

 

as the subjunctive

 

should subvert subjectivity

 

so thoroughly,

 

so ruthlessly,

 

so objectively.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

____________________________________________

 

 BIO

 

Alexander J. Motyl (b. 1953, New York) is a writer, painter, and professor. Nominated for the Pushcart Prize in 2008 and 2013, he is the author of nine novels, Whiskey PriestWho Killed Andrei WarholFlippancyThe Jew Who Was UkrainianMy OrchidiaSweet Snow,Fall RiverVovochkaArdor, and a collection of poetry, Vanishing Points. Motyl’s artwork has been shown in solo and group shows in New York City, Philadelphia, and Toronto and is part of the permanent collection of two museums. He teaches at Rutgers University-Newark and is the author of seven academic books and numerous articles. Motyl lives in New York City.

 

Articles similaires

Tags

Partager