Category Archives: Parallels

Parallels 14 – Piss, like Love

I loved you
like a man loves a woman he never touches, only
writes to, keeps little photographs of. I would have
loved you more if I had sat in a small room rolling a
cigarette and listened to you piss in the bathroom,
but that didn’ happen. your letters got sadder.
your lovers betrayed you. kid, I wrote back, all
lovers betray. it didn’ help.

– excerpt from Charles Bukowski’s An Almost Made Up Poem, USA, sometime between 1960 and 1990

Karen, take me to the nearest famous city middle
Where they hang the lights
Where it’s random, and it’s common versus common
La di la

I have weird memories of you
Wearing long red socks and red shoes
I have weird memories
I have weird memories of you
Pissing in a sink, I think

I have weird memories of you
The National (lyrics Matt Berninger), City Middle, USA, 2005


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Parallels 13 – (Ac)counting (for) the un(ac)countable

Yes, the awful pun (is it even a pun?) is on purpose.

Beowulf was obviously willing to die in vengeance for his fallen lord, but his revenge succeeded: he crushed Daeghrefn and killed “thirty” other men, the figure used in Beowulf for a very great number
– S. Gwara, ‘King Beowulf and Ealdormonn Byrhtnoð’, in his Heroic Identity in the World of Beowulf (Leiden, 2008)

(for reference, Beowulf was written in Anglo-Saxon England, sometime between the 8th and the 11th century

And the queen gave birth to a child who was called Asterion.

Apollodorus Bibliotecha III, I

I know they accuse me of arrogance, and perhaps misanthropy, and perhaps of madness. Such accusations (for which I shall exact punishment in due time) are derisory. It is true that I never leave my house, but it is also true that its doors (whose numbers are infinite) (footnote: The original says fourteen, but there is ample reason to infer that, as used by Asterion, this numeral stands for infinite.) are open day and night to men and to animals as well.
Not only have I imagined these games, I have also meditated on the house. All parts of the house are repeated many times, any place is another place. There is no one pool, courtyard, drinking trough, manger; the mangers, drinking troughs, courtyards pools are fourteen (infinite) in number. The house is the same size as the world; or rather it is the world. However, by dint of exhausting the courtyards with pools and dusty gray stone galleries I have reached the street and seen the temple of the Axes and the sea. I did not understand this until a night vision revealed to me that the seas and temples are also fourteen (infinite) in number. Everything is repeated many times, fourteen times, but two things in the world seem to be repeated only once: above, the intricate sun; below Asterion. Perhaps I have created the stars and the sun and this enormous house, but I no longer remember.

– Jorge Luis Borges, The House of Asterion (La Casa de Asterion), Argentina, 1947

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Parallels 12 – Wolves (1)

i.e., a mini collection of wolf references in Shakespeare, more to follow. I’m thinking of doing a series of Wolves posts, just like the one on Love, but I’ll see…


No, he’s in Tartar limbo, worse than hell.
A devil in an everlasting garment hath him;
One whose hard heart is button’d up with steel;
A fiend, a fury, pitiless and rough;
A wolf, nay, worse, a fellow all in buff;

Comedy of Errors


Now the hungry lion roars,
And the wolf behowls the moon;
Whilst the heavy ploughman snores,
All with weary task fordone.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream


Thou best know’st
What torment I did find thee in; thy groans
Did make wolves howl and penetrate the breasts
Of ever angry bears: it was a torment
To lay upon the damn’d, which Sycorax
Could not again undo: it was mine art,
When I arrived and heard thee, that made gape
The pine and let thee out.

The Tempest


Ay, in the catalogue ye go for men;
As hounds and greyhounds, mongrels, spaniels, curs,
Shoughs, water-rugs and demi-wolves, are clept
All by the name of dogs

Now o’er the one halfworld
Nature seems dead, and wicked dreams abuse
The curtain’d sleep; witchcraft celebrates
Pale Hecate’s offerings, and wither’d murder,
Alarum’d by his sentinel, the wolf,
Whose howl’s his watch, thus with his stealthy pace.
With Tarquin’s ravishing strides, towards his design
Moves like a ghost.

Third Witch

Scale of dragon, tooth of wolf,
Witches’ mummy, maw and gulf
Of the ravin’d salt-sea shark,
Root of hemlock digg’d i’ the dark,
Liver of blaspheming Jew,
Gall of goat, and slips of yew
Silver’d in the moon’s eclipse,
Nose of Turk and Tartar’s lips,
Finger of birth-strangled babe
Ditch-deliver’d by a drab,
Make the gruel thick and slab:
Add thereto a tiger’s chaudron,
For the ingredients of our cauldron.

Macbeth (who would’ve thought)

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Parallels 11 – Wine as body

Zechariah 9:17 – For how great [is] his goodness, and how great [is] his beauty! corn shall make the young men cheerful, and new wine the maids.

John 6:53-56 – Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you.

The King James Bible

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Parallels 10 – A world of shadows and ghosts


The Seventh Seal, Ingmar Bergman, Sweden, 1957


Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, Peter Jackson, the USA, 2001


The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Peter Jackson, the USA, 2012

Antonius Block, The Seventh Seal: I want to confess as best I can, but my heart is void. The void is a mirror. I see my face and feel loathing and horror. My indifference to men has shut me out. I live now in a world of ghosts, a prisoner in my dreams.

Jonas Skat, The Seventh Seal: I’ll find a tree and climb it. So no bears, wolves, or ghosts can get hold of me.

Gandalf, The Fellowship of the Ring: [reading] They have taken the bridge and the second hall. We have barred the gates but cannot hold them for long. The ground shakes, drums… drums in the deep. We cannot get out. A shadow lurks in the dark. We can not get out…

Radagast, The Hobbit: No, Gandalf, ’tis not. A dark power dwells in there. Such as I have never felt before. It is the shadow of an ancient horror. One that can summon the spirits of the dead. I saw him, Gandalf, from out of the darkness.


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Parallels 9 – Waking at night

Yes, I know I’ve quoted all this before, but they’re just so good.

Is it like this
In death’s other kingdom
Waking alone
At the hour when we are
Trembling with tenderness
Lips that would kiss
Form prayers to broken stone.

– fragment from T. S. Eliot’s The Hollow Men

Love again: wanking at ten past three
(Surely he’s taken her home by now?),
The bedroom hot as a bakery,
The drink gone dead, without showing how
To meet tomorrow, and afterwards,
And the usual pain, like dysentery.

-fragment from Philip Larkin’s Love again

Half an hour – an hour, later – not long, anyway – George blinks and is awake. (…)
Little teaser, his mind says, but without the least resentment. Just as well he didn’t stay.
But, as he lies on his back in the dark, there is something that keeps him from sleep; a tickle in the blood and the nerves of the groin. The alcohol itches in him, down there.
Lying in the dark, he conjures up Kenny and Lois in their car, makes them drive into Camphor Tree Lane, park further down the street, in case a neighbour should be watching – hurry discreetly across the bridge, get the door open – it sticks, she giggles – bump against the living-room furniture – a tiny Japanese cry of alarm – tiptoe upstair without turning on the lights –
No – it won’t work. George tries several times, but he just cannot make Lois go up those stairs. Each time he starts her up them, she dematerialises, as it were. (And now he knows, with absolute certainty, that Kenny will never be able to persuade her even to enter his house.)
But the play has begun, now, and George isn’t about to stop it. Kenny must be provided with a partner. So George turns Lois into the sexy little gold cat, the Mexican tennis player. No trouble about getting him upstairs! He and Kenny are together in the front room, now. George hears a belt drop to the floor. They are stripping themselves naked.
The blood throbs deep down in George’s groin. The flesh stirs and swells up, suddenly hard hot. The pyjamas are pulled off, tossed out of bed.
George hears Kenny whisper to the Mexican, Come on, kid! Making himself invisible, he enters the front room. He finds the two of them just about to lie down together –
No. That won’t work, either. George doesn’t like Kenny’s attitude. He isn’t taking his lust seriously; in fact, he seems to be on the verge of giggles. Quick – we need a substitute! George hastily turns Kenny into the big blond boy from the tennis court. Oh, much better! Perfect! Now they can embrace. Now the fierce hot animal play can begin. George hovers above them, watching; then he begins passing in and out of their writhing, panting bodies. He is either. He is both at once. Ah – it is so good! Ah – ah -!
You old idiot, George’s mind says. Bue he is not ashamed of himself. He speaks to the now slack and sweating body with tolerant good humour, as if to an old greedy dog which has just gobbled down a chunk of meat far bigger than it really wanted. Well, maybe you’ll let us sleep, now?

– fragment from Christopher Isherwood’s A Single Man

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Parallels 8 – St Sebastian

I know I’ve written about this before, but without any proper quotations except for Rilke’s poem. All these are things that I’ve discovered after that post, anyway; enjoy.

I would come in a shirt of hair
I would come with a lamp in the night
And sit at the foot of your stair;
I would flog myself until I bled,
And after hour on hour of prayer
And torture and delight
Until my blood should ring the lamp
And glisten in the light;
I should arise your neophyte
And then put out the light
To follow where you lead,
To follow where your feet are white
In the darkness toward your bed
And where your gown is white
And against your gown your braided hair.
Then you would take me in
Because I was hideous in your sight
You would take me in without shame
Because I should be dead
And when the morning came
Between your breasts should lie my head.
I would come with a towel in my hand
And bend your head beneath my knees;
Your earls curl back in a certain way
Like no one’s else in all the world.
When all the world shall melt in the sun,
Melt or freeze,
I shall remember how your ears were curled.
I should for a moment linger
And follow the curve with my finger
And your head beneath my knees—
I think that at last you would understand.
There would be nothing more to say.
You would love me because I should have strangled you
And because of my infamy;
And I should love you the more because I mangled you
And because you were no longer beautiful
To anyone but me.

T.S. Eliot’s posthumously published The Love Song of St Sebastian

Suddenly, by the sort of violent effort with which one wrenches one’s head away from the pillow in a nightmare, Winston succeeded in transferring his hatred from the face on the screen to the dark−haired girl behind him. Vivid, beautiful hallucinations flashed through his mind. He would flog her to death with a rubber truncheon. He would tie her naked to a stake and shoot her full of arrows like Saint Sebastian. He would ravish her and cut her throat at the moment of climax. Better than before, moreover, he realized why it was that he hated her. He hated her because she was young and pretty and sexless, because he wanted to go to bed with her and would never do so, because round her sweet supple waist, which seemed to ask you to encircle it with your arm, there was only the odious scarlet sash, aggressive symbol of chastity.”

George Orwell’s 1984

How did Saint Sebastian die?
Arrows piereced his throat and thigh
which only knew, before that time,
the dolors of a concubine.
Near above him, hardly over,
hovered hid gold martyr’s crown.
Even Mary from Her tower
of heaven leaned a little down
and as She leaned, She raised a corner
of a cloud through which to spy.
Sweetly troubled Mary murmured
as She watched the arrows fly.
And as the cup that was profaned
gave up its sweet, intemperate wine,
all the golden bells of heaven
praised an emperor’s concubine.
Mary, leaning from her tower
of heaven, dropped a tiny flower
but, privately, she must have wondered
if it were indeed wise to
let this boy in Paradise?

Tennessee Williams, San Sebastiano de Sodoma

I might return to this subject sometime, seeing as it seems to be inexhaustible.

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