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Notebook (Scapoli 2017, Orange)

The mountain reddens; chickens call acorns down from a tree.

If the world is an illusion, what matter if one more caged beast escapes?

Scapoli, 2017. Haunted by the thought that I have pulled my children across an ocean, running away from a toxic culture that seems to be an allergy peculiar to me. That perhaps my ceaseless pulling is not heroic at all: not an act of saving them but of holding them back from happiness. That I am a tether, holding their brightness close to me because I do not have my own.

I feel mostly solitary here, no different than ever. Except that each moment is buoyed by an undercurrent - centuries of human attention pored over the radiating stone streets, the arches vaulting each sequent courtyard’s haven. And beyond, the mountains. Eons-old, the dizzy escarpments and chlorophyll-clotted ridges.

At home among the aged accumulations, as among the distilled richness of poems or oil paintings.

You have to be alive to give your life.

To slowly scrape away one’s humanity until it is a trinket, easy to part with, is not the thick-blooded love of the martyrs.

On the contrary, it would almost be a relief to part with this trinket self, to relinquish its choices to corporations and its ideas to machines.

It has been hardest to remember the blood in our veins.

We return to the plainest facts as though they were visions.

The miracle of mere fact tugs against delusion.

Vast, ingenious machinery of self-deception.

The bark of beeches, broken from inside. Grown large from fear of want.

(There is always enough, though enough may exclude me.)

All scars are an encounter with our limits. Skinned knees, surgeries. The House of God.

I fear that I will fail, or I fear that the works of my hands will fail, or I fear that my works are my worth, or I fear that my children are my works, and I do not let them loose to the wind to create and be created, or I fear that my children will see my failure and judge themselves the fruit of failure and close themselves away from open hope, or I fear that I will fail and no one will know, and I will not change.

Furious black flies, my eyes scribble over the landscape. Clicking windows. Seeking distraction from gravity.

“Blessed is the man, whose hope is in the Name of the Lord, & who hath not looked upon vanities and false frenzies.” - Ps. 39, For the end

How can hope rest in a name?
How is that name an antidote to frenetic madness?

Town facing the, made of the mountains

Travertine citadel. Angles and convolutions.

Rain flows through stone rooms.

Grass grasps whichever interstice.

The tight dance, turn & counterturn, blind

bends beneath clotheslines dried by a sun’s echoes.

Alleys open upon infinite hills

gathering upon hills, over groves shimmer & grooves

All we have made rides this slow tumult, turn & counterturn

Vastness hunts us. This view peering through halls into our daily round

O Cell, whose nucleus is Hell

A seed seems a stone.

What has left, when life is gone?

Metabolism, a translation

“We are all lost in translation…” - J. Merrill “…we will all be changed” - St. Paul

Unlike an elephant, a root will grow forever given adequate nutrition

10.17.17 Monte Marrone

Moss clasps rock facets. Persistent tufts.

Miniature coral stilled.

branching calligraphy of ache and fulfillment


Valleys of sound between rippling rock.

Catch in the throat, upturned stone.

With what language can I tell you the mountain?

Montecassino. 10.18.17

S. Benedict is buried here. Strange to come to a place where the rule, and the marking of hours, the keeping of time, were implemented.

People move from the flail of civilization to a remote place on a mountain. They press numbers into their days, discipline into their flesh. Their spines curl above pages of glyphs, a terrarium of symbols.

These people went to stick their hands into something true – and likely did.

Now strangely their tools have descended the mountain, and just as those monks felt lost in the tumult of their dying flesh and removed themselves, now I am lost in an infinite (though not eternal) grid of time and information. And I feel remote from the ground of my life, here on a mountain of logic, of sequence without consequence.

How do tools of spirit twist and become viral?

By using them to control others? In the monastery, one ’took on’ the clock (or bell) just as one ’took on’ the task of copying. Like a mantle.

Now, however, it would seem almost absurd to speak about having a choice of whether to abide by the clock.

[Except in small towns, perhaps, where people are known and have a grace for the unevenness of time.]

Today the impulse toward the sacred is often an impulse away from rules, abstractions, bureaucracies. It pulses toward the physical ground of our being. To touch the dirt of ones death and stay there with it.

[Visiting the Samnite ruins at Pietrabbondante]

Cyclopean walls, stones shaved into interlocking polygons.

Imagine what it must have have like for the first people to see stone cut into a cube.

As if an idea had been pulled clean into the raw world. A waking dream.

Imagine some of them turning back home, ransacking their own minds in fear that something might escape. A weapon too large for the earth to bear. Or, that having thought only of themselves, they might wake again and again beside statues of themselves.

Imagine some of them backing away slowly, concerned that the cube would evaporate, unthought. That without being held in the mind, such a thing could not retain its being.

But the world was large, and they did move away. And the apparitions multiplied on shelves, and in the pits beside their towns.

We stumble, again and again, upon discarded dreams. These make the walls of our homes.

In the medium of mind, a smooth line takes less work. In the medium of rock, more work.

Fiumicino 10/20

It is tempting, here in the airport, to never learn the language; not to have the mind clasped by billboards or other backlit chatter. Or to learn the sounds only, to stay embodied.

Airports are among the most disembodied experiences, perhaps as anaesthesia to help one get into a fiery, hurtling silo.

The striving toward ‘unity’ is by necessity a striving against life.

Intend harmony, not unity.

The only ONE I’m aiming for is one big mess.

Interesting that the Islamic doctrine of jihad, which means “striving”, comes to depict a political theory of a single world state: a mirror of the single Allah. Striving to hasten entropy, rather than to avoid it.

American culture sets itself so vehemently against Islam because it sees there its own mirror image: monoculture, strong centralized state, the Fed, etc. All are leanings toward the entropic maw of the One.

Curl around this tree among the decorative landscaping of the strip mall and feel for its history

Does something like mycelleum branch out and connect me with C., Isaac, Ezra, Nadia, Soren? Away from them I literally feel unrooted. My synapses flail from thing to thing to thing (binge watching, binge everything)…

as if I am excised from my own body (a state amplified by being in America, where everything feels disembodied).

I move in a realm of untethered ideas - replicable, replaceable. What difference is there from one parking lot to the other?

Ezra Pound’s dictum to “MAKE IT NEW” is not an unbridled praise of novelty, but an urging to…

MAKE: Create and build by interacting with what has come before (“let there be commerce among us”), using… IT: …the materials and living among them. NEW: The newness is the Life, as a flower in spring is new despite having a familiar form.

Any excavation shows that this is what has been perenially done: churches are buily on pagan sites, Medieval walls on Roman foundations, etc. Our received world and culture constitute what Chesterton calls the ‘democracy of the dead’.

We live at the end of this long branch.

It almost paralyzes one to take a first step, knowing that it will echo down in time, except that this is an illusion. THere is no first step, only the ceaseless layered pulse to make and remake.

(The marketing perversion of this would be simply “NEW NEW NEW”, without the act of creativity or attentiveness to what came before)

“It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of a Living GOD” - St. Paul

Our fear is most often fear of death. But here, it is fear of life: yet a Life so infinitely wild that it burgeons and jostles constantly against the borders of death (& injury & grafting & coupling)

O tangled bank, O bacteria multiplying unfathomably Alive

Life is fearful because it brims (perches on the lip of the cup) over unto death, & then, impossibly, grows in death’s dark soil

Live. = Do not fear.


making poems with the ’literal’ materials of history, with texts, in a way which simultaneously: (a) recycles their materials & (b) engages with their thought/view of the world & (c) forms something new and worth living in

Some texts:

  • “On the Construction of the Heavens” Herschel
  • The Rule of St. Benedict
  • “Foundations of Geology” Lyell
  • Upanishads
  • ‘De Rerum Naturae’ Lucretius

A language dies out approximately every 2 weeks.

Back in America 1 week and already I feel strung out. Work, obligations, &c. but also something about the phenomenology of daily sights here. There is a kind of perennial, low-level crisis that is continually presented to me: the crisis of choice.

Options for stores abound, but there are precious few public benches to sit on.

I feel continually impelled to move (to work, to meet obligations, to find some ’new’ vantage), and this pressure pushes me faceforward into choice, choice, choice (small choices, none of which touch the core of me).

Nothing is old. Everything has the hint of being replaceable. So we stretch to make ourselves a little taller, to stick out from the flat (and constantly remade) horizon. In Italy I know I am mortal and am at peace with the fact: a breath on the ruins.

Perhaps this is why we Americans cling to morals, because they serve as a kind of Platonic ‘idea’ we can fasten our mulching identities to. An Idol Identity, rather than living and climbing among mountains of an ancient truth we can never fully apprehend.

Outside > Inside.

Foster humility.

‘The Brain is wide than the Sky’, but we only inhabit the corners of it.

Plus, the sky is full of brains.

Is there an essential difference between the choice of (a) Products, (b) Roads?

We speak about consumerism, but do not wholly consume the things we buy; do not take them into ourselves mindfully and let them change us. If only we did…

(Instead of consumerism, we should speak of ‘decorationism’)

Choice is both a road and a drink: a path we take into ourselves. See Alice and Wonderland, the Eucharist.

A road changes… […who we are contextually] […where we are physically] A food changes… […where we are chemically] […what we are physically]

And an angel came, holding an aerial path a gravel road saying “Take, eat…” wind by wind stone by stone

Q: “Which pill?” A: “The one that is larger than you.” or, “The one that makes you smaller is the one that makes you everything.”

I smoke to mark the air, my breath

(censing, sensing)

but I must learn all breath to be remarkable.

… make me whole and undivided.

LOGOS :: Ratio in-breath and out-breath

(To glide on the rails of my breath. Stand on its promontory.)

Flame seeks the space beyond its tongue. Its energy elsewhere.

Always to be in > 1 place.

“…behind the sun/ leading us onward” - Ulysses

If we contrast Odysseus w/ Aeneas’ quest:

Odysseus -> Closed-ended (To Penelope)

Aeneas -> Open-ended

Cassandra & I -> Closer together, into the open

“Within the flames are spirits; each one here enfolds himself in what burns him.” - Inferno 26.50

In the Inferno, Ulysses tells his story via Aeneas (e.g. mentioning Circe @ Gaeta)

Odysseus’ sin is immoderate seeking after Knowledge, exceeding the limits of knowledge allowed (the Pillars of Hercules)

“You were not meant to live as brutes…” (men turned to pigs)

he thinks Knowledge = Virtue (from ‘vir’)

// Adam, who eats of the fruit

Breaking the boundary of: -> the Meditteranean -> the Fruit

Not transgress, but excess.

The state of California has ruled that: “A person’s discarded tissues are not their property and cannot be commercialized.”


  • is replaced on an hourly basis
  • tenuous, can separate to ingest or divulge objects
  • a shore, ebbed at, inconstant, yet it is all that we have as a reference to define and name
  • the walls influence everything within
  • the walls feel (with microvilli)

We recognize things by their absence, when we miss them.

Late, outside the walls.

What is the absence of age, the ancience of this place?

People consider talk of death and age to be morbid, slender, when age is really a fulness. It is the new, the ‘blank slate’ which is morbid: an anaseptic death.

When, in the accumulation of years, do we careen out of time into timelessness?

11.4.17 Roma, Santa Maria in Via Lata

In a baroque marble church, receiving Eucharist facing the icon of Maria the bearer of God (Fons Lucis)

One is pressed on all sides by the weight & clutter of effort, the piles we make aspiring (busts peeking from arches)

I am a squatter in another age’s home - as are all who have entered the pile before me, each of us with a touch, eroding, cluttering, cluttered with erosions.

(subtracting with our additions)

Roman art had a place for portraiture, for the individual, in a way that Greek art (with its emphasis of the ‘ideal’ type) did not. (e.g. Ara Pacis friezes, statues of emperors)

Wondering if we can trace in this focus the lineaments of the Christian emphasis on PERSON, and on historical event/fact; the insistence that IC+XC arrived at a specific physical location, on a specific day, with particular facial features, seems like a concern that would have had special relevance in Roman culture.

Of course, this did not mean that Roamns didn’t try their best to hoodwink accuracy, like Augustus having his youthful face minted on coins well into his 70’s.

We want what is real, provided that it meets our desires. When something gets ’too real’ we mean that it has exceeded that shallow bounds of our imaginations.

Art as a way | to nudge the Real toward the Ideal | to lie | to impose thought upon matter | to tattoo ideology | to fool time / Death for Death | to fool us, that Death is not coming

The focus on the Person / Particular (on ’this life’ vs. ‘Life’)

is necessary for the inception of History, and of time seen as LINEAR ——–> as opposed to the Eternal Return, where what we witness is a recurrence of previous emanations.

Walking through Rome today, both seem true.

The past is lost, the past continues to arise

These two frames also seem to be reflected in the forms of painting that arise…

PORTRAITURE / PERSPECTIVE (where the moment will never be captured again, but is depicted and held together by a scaffolding of Laws)

ICONOGRAPHY (where the depicted ‘moment’ is continually present, held in existence by PERSON at the source of Law)

Walking into Pantheon, one can just see each edge. It is built to correspon to the edges of human vision, and shaped like an eye (pupil at the top)

‘Pan theon’, all gods: our sight

At the end of the alley is the mountain’s bright abyss

I can understand the scale of nature only in reference to the human-made, the towns crowning the lower mountains

I can understand the timeless only in reference to time/history.

To see the towns among the ruins, the ruins among the older hills:

a sense of scale, in which I am weighed

This context provides another way of living, besides the binary of ‘human v. nature’ where we force ourselves to choose between:

destroying earth | destroying ourselves embracing technology | fleeing technology retreating into virtual environments | demonizing human art & creations

In rural Italy, we see human civilization before it became cancerous & thus is an image of a MIDDLE WAY, which one can imitate in practice (not just theory)

When I think about leaving Italy, I am concerned about losing my purpose, but not sure what I mean by that…

PURPOSE not in the sense of being instrumental, a functional cog directed outward PURPOSE in the sense of being elemental, Human, Father, of already BEING myself

11.9.17 @ Creek in our valley

water flows and braids over stones into the next, slightly lower, pool.

throbbing pulsing strings

’lines attached to rocks’ - Soren

Water at each point leans toward the lowest point beside it

Slow smoothing of stones Rhythm of water on water Irregularities in the rhythm… do these come from the accumulated occurrences upstream? e.g. a burst of snowmelt from the sun, a rock splashing Do they come from the accumulated effects downstream? (e.g. slope of incline pulling more quickly down)

A door is a way of holding in blessings, out curses.

On the inside of the wall is STARVATION On the outside is EXPOSURE

A door modulates, a song of economy.

The ratio of the opening of the door to the closing of the door is Epicurean.

IC+XC says throw open your doors. The liturgy says “the doors, the doors”, close the doors. Let us attend.

Door :: ‘Porta’ from ‘portare’, ’to bring’ [still with us in: transport, teleport, portage, portal, portion]

‘To bring’ carries a sense of generosity, of shared worlds (though distinct, one enriching the other)

Walls with banners, announcing who we are. Walls are.

Regulate, regulate, make space for peace within, set apart

Have I fled this far to build a wall of air around me?

To rebuild the borders of my life contested & warred over

In the midst of the door is a ring.


cf. Harrison: @ Athenian weddings, a boy carried a likon (winnowing fan) full of bread, saying “Bad have I fled, better have I found.”

Marriage as a winnowing of paths.

A mountaintop is a million entrances in all directions. One must scale the wall to arrive there.

One must scale the wall to arrive at each moment, except that ‘must scale’ implies motion, toward a future

One is placed, cupped hand this verdure

steps place me in streams and chalices tilting

[breeze flickers leaves from dark to light]

sun shines me light knits this into is

this habitable timeless

launching from one plinth to the next, clarity of the moment when

your feet must leave the place you were but have not arrived where they intend

between the leap & the landing the hypothesis & the proof between the push away & the cleaving to

Live here. Nest breath in air.

Between what I think I know & what I imagine. (& do not rest in either, for knowledge is cobbled crumble & imaginings we build upon that wreck.)

from Jane Harrison, “Epilegomena to the Study of Greek Religion.” (1921):

“The religious impulse is directed…to one end…the conservation and promotion of life.”

Pull Push
in with Good out with Bad
impulsion of Expulsion of
fertility old
vitality impure
e.g. Hymns e.g. Satire

“Religion is social, magic is individual”


  • affirmation of shared identity
  • distinction from other groups // walls


  • cf. Girard’s idea of ‘do not covet’ as central commandment
  • involved literal marking of ‘x’ (origin of property?)
  • prohibition -> sanctity -> holiness

THIS | Not this.

And yet there is change.

Movement through and between the walls that sanctify one thing from another (young from old one from another)

We perform rituals at the door, rites of passage through the membrane

& these rituals are of initiation (into adulthood, into the tribe, into the new being, into marriage, into the realm of the dead)

IN & IN & IN & IN & IN You’d think with all the walls, there would be regret, be trepidation - & perhaps there is & this focus on IN cloaks our great fear of LEAVING

We are continuously being persuaded that what is distant is preferable to what is present

Whatever is waiting behind the next hyperlink, whatever is in the next camera shot, our plans for this afternoon, the sun behind the current cloud

This desire fuels buying, scheduling, working

If we were fully present, what would civilization look like?

  • would we have credit, without thinking of yields from interest?
  • would we have wars without coveting?

The focus away from the present is parallel to COVETING (i.e. desire of what is not mine) and is thus an internal movement which parallels mimetic desire (cf. Girard) and the violence which results

IMAGINATION is also wanting/dealing in what is not mine. In some cases it enhances/frolics with the present (as in metaphor, coloring, etc.) yet in other cases it scorns what is present (escapist fantasy).

Even readin puts me in the situation of “I want to have thought this!” which fogs me off from the present.

I cannot learn presence from books. Not even from writing.

Analogy, too, can be a kind of absent-ing, where each thing yearns to be something it is not.
Rather than being a beauteous portal for other things to become present.

Entanglement: we can try to escape into the wormhole, or we can sit patiently, lovingly, with the world and see what comes.

Analogy is not a way of sprucing up a world that is not enough, but an unfolding of what is.

(don’t stretch, let it come)

If definition composes cell walls & boundaries of objects, analogy creates nonlocal entanglement

I move from Anxiety (inhabiting the worried future, the regretted past) to Depression (shutting off any future) almost as a reflex now, so that when Anxiety peaks, Depression sets in immediately.

It almost seems that I can conjure it - grey cloak of invisibility. Of things being invisible to me, that is.

And depression is a kind of upsidedown presence - a dead kind cut off from interaction, it cuts off past and future, but also surroundings.

Depression, not - trans - scendent but - in - cendiary (to mix roots)

A monotony that tsunamis the senses and thus can be confused with the sublime, although in this case it is the Person who shrinks and not the World which grows.

God consistently forgives the past, to fill us with life.

“Thou wilt turn and give us Life, and Thy people shall be glad in Thee” - Ps. 84

Too often I live as though perched on a summit (staring away at past and future) or on a plain (past == present == future) when what I want is to live now, as in a valley

where all sediment washes where all rain washes away where it is more difficult to leave than to be

(tangled roots, sweet gravity)

“Better is one day in Thy courts than 1000s elsewhere” Better is one day in the present than 1000s worrying, absent

“Thou hast delivered my soul from the nethermost Hades”: dead past and phantom future

“You can’t have everything” is a fact, not an idea. You can’t have everything :: Every you can’t have a thing

Faced with complexity, we focus and separate.

It is painstaking to act on behalf of a family, since my heart is grafted to each other person and any collective good is only gained at the cost of some pain to each one

The mind is a meaning-making machine & one of the characteristics of meaning is ‘coherence’, which includes the ability of a thing to cling together, to be distinguished from other things

  • i.e. to have boundaries / walls

e.g. my hand, this pen, this table

But in order for coherence, we need differences (mountains, creases, billowing rucks of clouds)

Without difference, I sink into meaninglessness, so…

cf. Augustine’s Confessions, “I turned away my panting soul from incorporeal substance to lineaments, and colours, and bulky magnitudes. And not being able to see these in the mind, I thought I could not see my mind. And whereas in virtue I loved peace, and in viciousness I abhorred discord; in the first I observed a unity, but in the other, a sort of division.”

It is painful to act on behalf of a family, since I am fused to each other person, and any collective good is only gained at the cost of visceral tugging and pain.

You can’t have everything. Every you can’t have a thing.

Faced with complexity, we focus and separate.


  • gestalt
  • chiaroscuro
  • definition by difference
  • Augustine and Piaget on perception, differentiation

The mind is a meaning-making machine (cf. someone)

& one of the characteristics of ‘meaning’ is coherence which is the ability of a thing to cling together, to be distinguished from others

  • i.e. to have boundaries (e.g. my hand, this pen, this table)

BUT in order for coherence, we need differences (creases of mountains and clouds, horizons) without difference, I sink into meaninglessness, so…

so what is the balance of difference to integrity/coherence… of the family/tribe to the agora/commons

cf. Eleusinian mysteries:

synonyms: die, marry the earth, mature, ripen the fruit

“Except a grain of wheat fall into the ground and die it abides alone, but if it dies, it brings forth much fruit” (ICXC, John 12:24)

“If sick men dream of marriage it is a foreboding of death… all the accompaniments of marriage are the same as those of death” - Artemidorus

Greek for ‘initiation’ == ‘fulfillment’, NOT ’entering’, the implication being that we leave a space because we have filled it, that all about our current homes are entrances we grow into

We grow into, but never leave - the children we were, the houses we lived in - we fill and are filled

hence, ghosts

When we have grace for another person, we concede that the cosmos is not as we wish it was (and that our wishes may be off-kilter)

Grace is an antidote against delusion, relinquishing the nightmare of utopia, our own control

Grace carries an implicit (and paradoxical) admission that I am not in a position to give grace - that we are both flawed actors tethered together in a sublimely complex world

the door of the mouth

(“The Hebrew word for ‘good’ meant originally good to eat… primarily applied to ripe fruits… luscious, succulent” - Harrison)


Bright bell of sight the round sky

we walk around the year, as about the edge of something,

hugging the lip –

Is it a flower or volcano whose rim we walk?

(black soil, white petals, pollen plumes)

“…da quelle cerchie etterne ci partimmo.” - Inferno 18.72

The fraudulent in Hell walk in circles, like a hamster-wheel of constant, manufactured want.

A perverse cycle, the dark side of Spring blooming.

The circle is complete. A refuge and a trap.

From the plain the circle appears to be a line: ______________

(The circle needs to be reinvented)

A tunnel is a door of walls.

Pop-music is goal-driven, teleological - it does not saunter or stroll.

It desires and moves with tunnel vision: tunnel tempo

In this, it is like ritual, before it has been frilled, elaborated.

Beauty will save the world, but it will not feed my children, or give them an education to provide them with opportunities to pay mortgages and feed their own children, &c.

I am in the business of security and familiarity until beauty comes like tree roots to clutch my ankles.

Beauty will save the world, but maybe not us.

C. says that it is too late to change the trajectory of our lives, to build new foundations, & I feel like I am living in the long anemic shadow of my past choices: the meager, fearful me that I have been trying to crawl from underneath..

I am compelled to live, full-bodied and dark-blooded in the shallowshadows he has left.

I the problem is that I slip so easily back into those shallows. Though my head and arms and chest have become flesh, my feet are still plastic - I will fall back and wait out my half-life.

And I cannot even rage against the meager, fearful me: like fighting quicksand, there is NO BODY there.

In the Inferno, I would be placed among the hoarders, who build up barns for security. A flat plain full of adequate homes in middle America, with sturdy roofs, protecting from the burning rain.

Hell is always the absence of mystery, which is to say that it is right around us but we have become acclimated to it. But I can choose.

Each mountaintop town is an offering, bringing stones from the rivers, hauling colors and doors, glass for the windows, chimneys unfurling the forest’s incense.

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

is a guard against worry is deaf to the future carries the past into now the valley spilling rain sky in the tunnel is sun-sopped flight