Monday, March 12, 2012

A technical exercise:
The dream repeating in every night
Dreaming emptily and lightly of darkness
Deeper and deeper until the waking light
Afloat like embered paper-scraps burning
Over warm and scented gusts of wind
Ends my restless and loveless waiting

Within, the dream-walls echo, waiting
Wherein, breathing, some fragment of night
Drawing the air into lungs this wind
Exhaling heatened, the air to the darkness
Unknowing embraced by that silent burning
Unseen in those long moments without light

Oh, how long are the hours between light and light
How often do I spend those dreaming nights waiting
The candles too dear to waste in burning
Away the looming unseeing walls of night
And the heatened chambers, even in darkness
Stifling without the charity of a chilling wind

And what would I do, in those nights without wind
If in that restless sleep of slender light
Those rustling dreadful legions of darkness
slipped past my opened window and candle, waiting
Tumbled lit into the curtain to bring the night
Into a sudden furious holocaust burning?

That harsh and solitary burning
Flicked into life by some wicked wind
Flame asunder this peaceful night
Kindled blankets combusted under flame-lit light
And burn away the flannel under which lies waiting
My unknown soul hiding in darkness?

Better then to lie alone in that darkness
And forebear this tempting candle's burning
Spend rather these nights in restless waiting
And lock the casement 'gainst a vagrant wind
In timid fear of careless wax-lit light
And dream alone of endless night

Hold, darkness - birth me a passionate wind!
Spark a slumbering ember into burning light!
And fire! Consummate this waiting night!

Reading a set of annotations on Bujold's A Civil Campaign, I found myself reading about sestinas, and decided to write one to understand the form a little better. Back when I was writing bad poetry, someone accused me of being a "formalist", although my actual knowledge of the traditional forms was appallingly slight. I figured I ought to try my hand at this at least once.

Thursday, March 01, 2012

I've started reading Caro's [four? - the first volume claims three, but you know how trilogies' waistlines expand once they sit down to the dinner table] volume biography of Lyndon Johnson. These two sentences, wrote about the Texas Hill Country, have to be the saddest things you can possibly say about agricultural land:
It was rich because it was virgin. And it could only be virgin once.

But then, how often can something like that be said of the land the southern smallfarmer encountered on their slow-motion pillage across the continent? They lacked science, and prudence, and made up for it with passion. And I don't like this business about homesteads not being subject to foreclosure or bankruptcy - this chapter is entitled "the Trap", but that little detail about Texas Homestead law just screams "trap" to me. You can't own something if you can't lose it, and you can't learn from your folly if you're protected from its consequences. I guess you can lose the land you bought in the normal course of events, but then, that means in a failure, you're left with forty or a hundred and fifty acres and an operation that requires three hundred or three thousand acres to actually turn a profit - depends on the local conditions, really.

Speaking of conditions, before this, I was reading Pietrusza's book on the 1948 elections, and while talking about farming agitation about prices, and Dewey's failure to answer those concerns, he points out that corn prices had dropped suddenly in 1947-8 from $2.50 a bushel to $1.60, or thereabouts. Current corn futures as of this moment is $6.58 a bushel. Think about that - the inflation-adjusted cost of a 1948 bushel of corn was ~$22. Admittedly they were also averaging 38 bushels to the acre instead of today's 168 or so, but damn, that's an expensive baseline for feedstock.