Questionnaire

Amanda Palmer reads “Questionnaire” by Wendell Berry (via Brainpickings)
  1. How much poison are you willing to eat for the success of the free market and global trade? Please name your preferred poisons.
  2. For the sake of goodness, how much evil are you willing to do? Fill in the following blanks with the names of your favorite evils and acts of hatred.
  3. What sacrifices are you prepared to make for culture and civilization? Please list the monuments, shrines, and works of art you would most willingly destroy.
  4. In the name of patriotism and the flag, how much of our beloved land are you willing to desecrate? List in the following spaces the mountains, rivers, towns, farms you could most readily do without.
  5. State briefly the ideas, ideals, or hopes, the energy sources, the kinds of security, for which you would kill a child. Name, please, the children whom you would be willing to kill.

Questionnaire by Wendell Berry

Walt Whitman

I call to the world to distrust the accounts of my friends, but
listen to my enemies, as I myself do,
I charge you forever reject those who would expound me, for I
cannot expound myself,
I charge that there be no theory or school founded out of me,
I charge you to leave all free, as I have left all free.”

— Walt Whitman, “Myself and Me”, On the Beach at Night Alone

The Curve of Two Bodies

You turn one-half rotation away from me to face the dark
I set my trajectory to follow you through the vacuum
The shortest distance between two bodies is also a curve
Every move we’ve made is recorded on a continuum

I set my trajectory to follow you through the vacuum
Part of every revolution is a retrograde
Every move we’ve made is recorded on a continuum
What is made of less must always orbit what is made of more

Part of every revolution is a retrograde
Around and around the sun, around and around each other
What is made of less must always orbit what is made of more
The arch of time bends wide but spirals ever inward, and

Around and around the sun, around and around each other
Trying to find a fundamental formula to reconcile
The arch of time, bending wide but spiraling inward, and
This rapid osculation building over the surface

Trying to find a fundamental formula to reconcile
I find the concave of your collar, the convex of your hips, and
This rapid osculation building over the surface
Becomes a parabola rising on a plane, but other times

I find the concave of your collar, the convex of your hips, and
You turn one-half rotation away from me to face the dark
Becoming a hyperbola lying on a plane, and other times
The longest distance between two bodies is also a curve


Brad Aaron Modlin on the Lessons We Learn Alone

“What You Missed That Day You Were Absent from Fourth Grade” from Everyone at This Party Has Two Names // Brad Aaron Modlin

Mrs. Nelson explained how to stand still and listen
on the wind, how to find meaning in pumping gas,

how peeling potatoes can be a form of prayer. She took
questions on how not to feel lost in the dark

After lunch she distributed worksheets
that covered ways to remember your grandfather’s

voice. Then the class discussed falling asleep
without feeling you had forgotten to do something else—

something important—and how to believe
the house you wake in is your home. This prompted

Mrs. Nelson to draw a chalkboard diagram detailing
how to chant the Psalms during cigarette breaks,

and how not to squirm for sound when your own thoughts
are all you hear; also, that you have enough.

The English lesson was that I am
is a complete sentence.

And just before the afternoon bell, she made the math equation
look easy. The one that proves that hundreds of questions,

and feeling cold, and all those nights spent looking
for whatever it was you lost, and one person

add up to something.

Death of the Periphery

I’ve often felt like the deeper discipline of poetry is overhearing yourself say things you didn’t want to know about the world, something that actually emancipates you from this smaller self out into this larger dispensation that you actually didn’t think you deserved. So one of the things we’re most afraid of in silence is this death of the periphery, the outside concerns, the place where you’ve been building your personality and where you think you’ve been building who you are, starts to atomize and fall apart. It’s one of the basic reasons we find it difficult even just to turn the radio off or the television or not look at our gadget — is that giving over to something that’s going to actually seem as if it’s undermining you to begin with and lead to your demise. The intuition, unfortunately, is correct. You are heading toward your demise, but it’s leading towards this richer, deeper place that doesn’t get corroborated very much in our everyday outer world.”

David Whyte

W O R D S // Manuela Zammit