Ode to Friday: Roethke


I have known the inexorable sadness of pencils,
Neat in their boxes, dolour of pad and paper weight,
All the misery of manilla folders and mucilage,
Desolation in immaculate public places,
Lonely reception room, lavatory, switchboard,
The unalterable pathos of basin and pitcher,
Ritual of multigraph, paper clip, comma,
Endless duplication of lives and objects.
And I have seen dust from the walls of institutions,
Finer than flour, alive, more dangerous than silica,
Sift, almost invisible, through long afternoons of tedium,
Dropping a fine film on nails and delicate eyebrows,
Glazing the pale hair, the duplicate grey standard faces.

~ Dolour by Theodore Roethke (American, 1908-1963)


Image: Sim Chi Yin from the Rat Tribe series


6 thoughts on “Ode to Friday: Roethke

    • Kayti, your comment excites me. I’ve just been thinking about this matter of being a thing. Human beings are doing it all the time, thinking of themselves as things: their job, bank balance, number of houses, family role, “attributes” like smart, pretty, shrewd, go-getter, worthless, burden, etc.

      Also, one of the ways the photographer sees this young man, as a member of the tribe of Beijingers who live in underground basement cells like rats.

      And then I look at this young man and something is shining out at me. Like his being, in its clearness and constancy and purity, and also from his walls with the heart-shaped balloons arranged in heart shapes. I think both are present: his thingness which is not real anyway, and also his no-thingness.


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