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Quotes tagged “The Slowdown”

“He is not as young as he used to be. With a groan
he chooses a sizable canvas. He broods on it.
He wastes his time haggling about his commission
with a mean Carmelite monk from the Abruzzi,
prior, or canon, or whatnot. It is winter now.
His finger joints start cracking like the brushwood
in the fireplace. With a groan he will ground
the canvas, let it dry, ground it once more,
will scrawl his figures, impatiently, ghostlike,
on small cartoons, and set them off with white lead.
He temporizes and idles away a few weeks,
rubbing down his colors. But at long last—
Ash Wednesday has gone by, and Candlemas—
early one morning he dips his brush in burnt umber
and starts painting. This will be a gloomy picture.
How do you go about painting Doom? The conflagrations,
the vanishing islands, the lightning, the walls
and towers and pinnacles crumbling ever so slowly:
nice points of technique, problems of composition.
Destroying the world is a difficult exercise.
Hardest to paint are the sounds—for example
the temple veil being rent asunder, the beasts
roaring, and the thunderclaps. Everything, you see,
is to be rent asunder and torn to pieces,
except the canvas. And there can be no doubt
about the appointed time: by All Souls’ Day
the frantic sea in the background must be coated
over and over again with a thousand layers
of transparency, with foamy green lights,
pierced by mastheads, by ships reeling, plunging down,
by wrecks, while outside, in mid-July,
not a dog will stir on the dust-covered square.
The women have left, the servants, the disciples.
In the forlorn town only the Master remains.
He looks tired. Who would have thought that he, of all people,
would look dead tired? Ochre—everything seems ochre now,
shadowless, standing still, transfixed in a kind
of evil eternity, except the picture. It grows
and darkens slowly, absorbing shadows,
steel-blue; livid, dull violet, caput mortuum,
absorbing demons and horsemen and massacres,
until Doom is happily consummated and the artist,
for a brief moment, is, like a child, unmindfully merry,
as if his life has been spared, and in his relief
on this very night he asks his friends to a feast
and treats them to truffles, to grouse and old wine,
with the season’s first rainstorm pounding away at the shutters.”
'If this were the beginning of a poem, he would have called the thing he felt inside him the silence of snow.' -Orhan Pamuk

Before the hanging cross, the girls
take turns standing at attention before
us with eyes closed or hands clasped,

headbands bright green or bangles
yellow, glints that fill the silence like
falling snow. They recite poems they

have carried in their mouths for days,
and my desire to go back, to be one
among these slender, long-haired girls

is a thistle, sharp and twisting at my
side. The words psalm, blessing, lord
rise in me like bees heavy with pollen,

and the teenager I once was unzips
herself from me, shows up, a crocus
bristling through snow. She’s back

in the old chapel where the priest
again lifts into the air the Bible,
declaims about the kingdom of God,

gifts promised only the righteous—
the girl I was, heavy and slow in her
thick glasses, knew she would never

enter heaven, never be these pretty girls
singing, arms pale and slim as the white
birch whose branches, dappled with gold,

shade the stained glass window. In Pamuk’s
novel, Snow, the headscarf girls in Eastern Turkey
hang themselves rather than go uncovered,

and still I want that certainty of conviction,
even as the self beside me pulls on her hair,
sucks long strands of it deep into her mouth—

so I gather her in my arms, shake her, tell
her to listen, that the sky will always happen,
these branches. Sometimes, it causes me

to tremble, tremble,
she sings beside these
girls who will grow into or away from their
bodies, and I know I must push the heavy

amber of her back inside me. Help me, Lord.
There are so many bodies inside this one.”
“A classmate and I chose pendulums,
what happens when a pendulum

hangs from a pendulum?
How does gravity work then?

We were studying invisible forces
and left the classroom, heading into

the world with just our two bodies,
which were to be both string and bob.

In the woods behind school, he climbed into a tree
and lowered himself down,

holding a branch.
I reached up to his thin ankles

and lifted my bare feet off the ground.
Someone must have been there to try to make us swing,

record the harmonic oscillations,
and take the polaroids,

still stapled to this yellowed lab report.
It’s haunting to discover it now, to see in the photos

how we hung there smiling, white,
safe and dumb.

How little history we knew.
If only all feet could come back

to stand on the ground,
not get buried under it,

left to hang above, left outside
in the told and untold,

in the toll of hot municipal suns.
We didn’t understand much of anything

but completed the assignment,
typed up the results, passed physics,

went to college and typed and typed
and never took another science class,

we were humanities majors.
Sometimes when I’m not typing now

I run lines with an actor friend
and can’t get them out of my head.

Another heavenly day,
says Winnie as the curtain rises.

She’s buried to her waist in earth
and for a while you think it can’t get any worse.

The humanities.
What are they, really?

Don’t let me sleep on.”
“When the bass drops on Bill Withers’
Better Off Dead, it’s like 7 a.m.
and I confess I’m looking
over my shoulder once or twice
just to make sure no one in Brooklyn
is peeking into my third-floor window
to see me in pajamas I haven’t washed
for three weeks before I slide
from sink to stove in one long groove
left foot first then back to the window side
with my chin up and both fists clenched
like two small sacks of stolen nickels
and I can almost hear the silver
hit the floor by the dozens
when I let loose and sway a little back
and just like that I’m a lizard grown
two new good legs on a breeze
-bent limb. I’m a grown-ass man
with a three-day wish and two days to live.
And just like that everyone
knows my heart’s broke and no one is home.
Just like that, I’m water.
Just like that, I’m the boat.
Just like that, I’m both things in the whole world
rocking. Sometimes sadness is just
what comes between the dancing. And bam!,
my mother’s dead and, bam!, my brother’s
children are laughing. Just like—ok, it’s true
I can’t pop up from my knees so quick these days
and no one ever said I could sing but
tell me my body ain’t good enough
for this. I’ll count the aches another time,
one in each ankle, the sharp spike in my back,
this mud-muscle throbbing in my going bones,
I’m missing the six biggest screws
to hold this blessed mess together. I’m wind—
rattled. The wood’s splitting. The hinges are
falling off. When the first bridge ends,
just like that, I’m a flung open door.”

About The Authors

This page was created by our editorial team. Each page is manually curated, researched, collected, and issued by our staff writers. Quotes contained on this page have been double checked for their citations, their accuracy and the impact it will have on our readers.

Kelly Peacock is an accomplished poet and social media expert based in Brooklyn, New York. Kelly has a Bachelor's degree in creative writing from Farieligh Dickinson University and has contributed to many literary and cultural publications. Kelly assists on a wide variety of quote inputting and social media functions for Quote Catalog. Visit her personal website here.

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