The things we do for love

By Tammy Ho and Jeff Zroback

“Not To Be Reproduced (Portrait of Edward James)” (1937/) by Rene Magritte 

I will do as you ask even though I know that as the Turkish barber is shaving my sideburns with a razor, it will almost certainly slip and slit my throat. I will go even though I can already see myself staring in shock as my blood flows to the floor and mixes with the hair. Silence will envelope my world, as the other customers shield their son’s eyes or call emergency services or lay me on the ground and stuff towels and pages from the Daily Mail into my neck to quell the bleeding. But it will be too late. I will have died before the ambulance arrives. Or, if against all odds, it beats the traffic and my blood loss, the EMTs will find a mess that cannot be cleaned up. They will take me to the hospital even though they know perfectly well that once there, the hair, towels and newsprint will cause an antibiotic-resistant infection, and that the doctors will only be able to wait helplessly as my neck swells and smells until it pops into a shower of pus. It will flow everywhere: on the doctor’s face, and even in your hair, as you lean down to hug me for the last time—you having just arrived after weeks of worry, as I did not have my phone (and you don’t have a phone) and no one knew who to contact. The stench of pus will get in your hair and smell for weeks, even after 100 showers, even after you have saved your tears and used them as shampoo. That is all that will be left of me, a lingering smell of rot and some clothes you won’t know what to do with. And why? All because you said I looked like a beggar and made me get a hair cut, first thing Saturday morning.

…………..Because I was hideous in your sight …” 

                                         –from T.S. Eliot’s
                                                   The Love Song of St Sebastian

Why is it good to just stand and stare sometimes?

 Rene Magritte’s “The False Mirror”

William Henry Davies in his poem “Leisure” answers:

by W.H. Davies

WHAT is this life if, full of care
We have no time to stand and stare.
No time to stand beneath the boughs
And stare as long as sheep or cows.

No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass,
No time to see, in broad day light,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night.

No time to turn at beauty’s glance
And watch her feet, how they can dance.
No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began.
A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

from Songs Of Joy and Others (1911)

Please also see this post about squirrels.

How must one tell the truth?

“The Pleasant truth” (1966) by rene MAGRITTE

Emily Dickinson answers:

Tell all the Truth but tell it slant—
Success in Circuit lies
Too bright for our infirm Delight
The Truth’s superb surprise
As Lightening to the Children eased
With explanation kind
The Truth must dazzle gradually
Or every man be blind—
Do you agree with Dickinson?

And Wallace Stevens wrote: “In the long run the truth does not matter.”

What is true about love?

“Lovers” by Rene Magritte
In Jonathan Ames’s Bored to Death (HBO), the character George, played brilliantly by Ted Danson (have you watched Cheers?), answers (but not indisputably):

I am in your movie. You are in mine. Two different films, really. We don’t really know each other. We just make a guess at knowing each other, right? I think the same is true about love.



Thanks, JZ and JD, for this beautiful song:

"a virgin with no legs to leave me, no arms to hold me, no head to talk to me"

1934 Magritte Le Viol 72×54 cm
The following is Susan Gubar’s interpretation of Magritte’s painting (above) in her article “Representing Pornography: Feminism, Criticism, and Depictions of Female Violation” (1987). Do you have a different take on the image?
Endowed with blind nipples replacing eyes, a belly button where her nose should be, and a vulva for a mouth, the female face is erased by the female torso imposed upon it, as if Magritte were suggesting that anatomy is bound to be her destiny. That the face associated with the body is sightless, senseless, and dumb implies, too, that Magritte may be subscribing to the view of one of William Faulkner’s fictional surrogates, a man who celebrates the feminine ideal as “a virgin with no legs to leave me, no arms to hold me, no head to talk to me” and who therefore goes on to define woman generically as “merely [an] articulated genital organ.”
While an anatomical surprise turns the female into a bearded lady, the articulation of the woman as genital organ makes her inarticulate, closing down all of the openings that ordinarily let the world enter the self so that Magritte’s subject seems monstrously impenetrable or horrifyingly solipsistic. Paradoxically, even as it fetishizes female sexuality, Le Viol denies the existence of female genitalia, for the vulva-mouth here is only a hairy indentation. In this reading of the painting’s title, the represented figure-robbed of subjectivity and placed on display like a freak-deserves to be raped: this is the only consummation which will penetrate her self-enclosure and, given the humiliation of her fleshiness, it is all she is good for. When the female is simultaneously decapitated and recapitated by her sexual organs, the face that was supposed to be a window to the soul embodies a sexuality that is less related to pleasure and more to dominance over the woman who is “nothing but” a body.
(p. 722) (Please note that the discussion of the painting continues for a couple more pages.)

The following images are also mentioned:

René Magritte : Tenant L’Evidence Eternelle, 1938.
La Philosophie dans le Boudoir, c.1947

Did Emily Dickinson mean ‘need not’?

I know parallel semantic and syntactic structure is a key feature in Emily Dickinson’s poetry. But reading the poem below, I was just thinking that ‘need not’1 might make more sense than ‘cannot’ in the first stanza. What do you think? 

The Gradation of Fire (1939), Rene Magritte


You cannot put a fire out;
A thing that can ignite
Can go, itself, without a fan
Upon the slowest night.

You cannot fold a flood
And put it in a drawer,–
Because the winds would find it out,
And tell your cedar floor.

1I thought of needn’t first but contractions are seldom used by Dickinson apart from ‘t.