The city sculpts a screenplay out of us, sidewalk promising summers we might not survive to drink. –Maya Salameh, “How to Braid an Artery”

There are some things you can’t understand yet. Your life will be a great and continuous unfolding. It’s good you’ve worked hard to resolve childhood issues while in your twenties, but understand that what you resolve will need to be resolved again. And again. You will come to know things that can only be known with the wisdom of age and the grace of years. Most of those things will have to do with forgiveness. –Cheryl Strayed, Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar

The healing power of even the most microscopic exchange with someone who knows in a flash precisely what you’re talking about because she experienced that thing too cannot be overestimated. –ditto

Most things will be okay eventually, but not everything will be. Sometimes you’ll put up a good fight and lose. Sometimes you’ll hold on really hard and realize there is no choice but to let go. Acceptance is a small, quiet room. –ditto

September 11 may be one of the most-documented calamities in history, but for all the spools of disaster footage we’ve watched, we still know practically nothing about the last moments of the individual dead. It’s strange, when you think about it, that an event so public could still be such a punishing mystery. Yet it is, and it is awful—the living are left to perseverate, to let their imaginations run amok in their midnight corrals. –Jennifer Senior, “What Bobby McIlvane Left Behind,” The Atlantic, September 2021

There was no escaping the latent violence at the heart of things. Even the stones were mortal. –Kim Stanley Robinson, The Years of Rice and Salt

What a miracle it is to have people to come home to everyday. To be loved. To be expected. I thought I appreciated every moment, but sitting here in the cold, I know I took it all for granted. And how could I not? Until everything topples, we have no idea what we actually have, how precariously and perfectly it all hangs together. –Blake Crouch, Dark Matter

He sensed suppressed, sharp-toothed knowledge swimming like a shark in the lightless sea of his subconscious, but he couldn’t entice it to surface. It would soar out of the murky depths and come for him when he was least expecting. –Dean Koontz, Strange Highways

What is to give light must endure burning. –Viktor Frankl, A Man’s Search for Meaning

Don’t aim at success. The more you aim at it and make it a target, the more you will miss it. For success, like happiness, can not be pursued; and it only does so as the unintended side-effect of one’s dedication to a cause greater than oneself or as the by-product of one’s surrender to a person other than oneself. Happiness must happen and the same holds for success: you have to let it happen by not caring about it. I want you to listen to what your conscience commands you to do and go on to carry it out to the best of your knowledge. Then you will live to see—in the long run, I say!—success will follow you precisely because you had forgotten to think of it. –ditto

Some trees love an ax, a drunk old-timer mumbled one night ... and something in what he said rang true, but when she later remembered what he’d said, she disagreed and thought instead that the tree gets used to the ax, which has nothing to do with love. It settles into being chipped away at, bit by bit, blade by blade, until it doesn’t feel anything anymore, and then, because nothing else can happen, what’s left crumbles to dust. –Bill Clegg, Did You Ever Have a Family

We act as if we can read enough articles and enough little Pinterest quotes and suddenly the little switch in our brain will put us into action. But, honestly, here’s the thing that nobody really talks about when it comes to success and motivation and willpower and goals and productivity and all those little buzzwords that have come into popularity: you are as you are until you’re not. You change when you want to change. You put your ideas into action in the timing that is best. That’s just how it happens.
      And what I think we all need more than anything is this: permission to be wherever the fuck we are when we’re there.
      You’re not a robot. You can’t just conjure up motivation when you don’t have it. Sometimes you’re going through something. Sometimes life has happened. Life! Remember life? Yeah, it teaches you things and sometimes makes you go the long way around for your biggest lessons.
      You don’t get to control everything. You can wake up at 5 a.m. every day until you’re tired and broken, but if the words or the painting or the ideas don’t want to come to fruition, they won’t. You can show up every day to your best intentions, but if it’s not the time, it’s just not the fucking time. You need to give yourself permission to be a human being.
      Sometimes the novel is not ready to be written because you haven’t met the inspiration for your main character yet. Sometimes you need two more years of life experience before you can make your masterpiece into something that will feel real and true and raw to other people. Sometimes you’re not falling in love because whatever you need to know about yourself is only knowable through solitude. Sometimes you haven’t met your next collaborator. Sometimes your sadness encircles you because, one day, it will be the opus upon which you build your life.
–Jamie Varon, “To Anyone Who Thinks They’re Falling Behind In Life” (available at

Things are dark until they’re not. Most of our unhappiness stems from the belief that our lives should be different than they are. We believe we have control—and our self-loathing and self-hatred comes from this idea that we should be able to change our circumstances, that we should be richer or hotter or better or happier. While self-responsibility is empowering, it can often lead to this resentment and bitterness that none of us need to be holding within us. –ditto

When you’re my kind of mess, men can smell it on you. They hunt you down. –Roxane Gay, “Strange Gods”

The universe is desperately trying to move you into the only spot that truly belongs to you, in the whole entire thing, a space that only you can stand in. I believe it is up to you to decide every single day whether you are moving towards or away from that spot. I am trying to draw a map. –Iain S. Thomas, in the introduction to I Wrote This for You: 2007-2017

And all around, people fall like leaves in the snow. But those who cut you down do not know they are planting a forest. –Iain S. Thomas, “The Protesters in the Park”

It doesn’t hurt because if you keep hurting the same part of you again and again and again, the nerve endings all die. And when that happens, that part of you goes numb. That’s why it doesn’t hurt.
Don’t be proud of it.
–Iain S. Thomas, “The Nerve Endings Shatter Like Glass”

Avoid people who tell you that you must live apart from your heart.
Art is found in the heart.
–Iain S. Thomas, “The Apart

And yet, when you get here, you are not given instructions. No one tells you that heart A is meant to slot into heart B. There are no diagrams about how you are meant to live each day or directions on how to assemble some semblance of happiness. You are not even told what colours to paint your feelings or given a purpose and a reason for your life.
You have to make all of it up. You have to make all of it, yourself.
–Iain S. Thomas, “The Words Are All in Languages I Do Not Speak”

There’s a map beneath your skin and all your veins are rivers, there’s directions and instructions written in secret on your bones, there’s a star you can’t see that shines in a North you’ll never know.
And a secret current, beneath the waves, that carries you to the end of you.
–Iain S. Thomas, “The Silver Astrolabe”

You will be wondering why no one picked up the paper next to the bin, when the missile breaks through the atmosphere, and whines through the air on its way down.
You will be swimming with friends when the Earth rips itself open to show the stars its beating heart.
You will be returning something at the store when the men in lab coats make a terrible mistake with a deadly virus.
You will be looking into the eyes of someone you love and you will marvel at how the simple act of looking at them makes you happy and so maybe when the world ends, you will be ok with it ending.
–Iain S. Thomas, “The World Will End on a Pleasant Day”

Just so you know, there are certain people who were put here to break you.
So you could learn how to pull yourself back together again.
–Iain S. Thomas, “The Importance of Breaking Things and People”

And so, I wait because you have already left and my work here is done. I wait and wonder how my skin feels like it’s made of love letters written a hundred years too soon (too late). I wonder at the mystery of life and how much of it can possibly remain. I wonder at pain and hurt and love and time and how much of each I held. I wonder at how I cannot remember anything in my life before I met you. I wonder at the tiniest of touches and try, desperately, to keep their memories alive. I wonder at loneliness. I wonder at how long it’ll be before I see you again. I wait. And I wonder. –Iain S. Thomas, “The Day Time Waited for Me”

The stars that guide you might be too
far away to ever see.
Maybe there’s some bright, secret
sunlight somewhere in the universe
that understands you, and knows
what’s going on.
–Iain S. Thomas, “The Secret Zodiac”

Hold the peace inside yourself. Do not let
it depend on other people, the day you’re
having, the work you have to do or any of
the other flotsam and jetsam of life.
Let it depend on you and the choice you
make to feel it.
–Iain S. Thomas, “The Anchor”

Those who walk away from you in the dark
should be forgotten in the light.
–Iain S. Thomas, “The Things I Have Felt Torn Me Apart”

The further inside you hide the hurt,
the more it hurts inside.
All wounds need air to heal.
–Iain S. Thomas, “The Heart Outgrows the Chest”


I think there are two things everyone has, the one is The Great Sadness and the other is How Weird I Really Am. I think everyone has them but only some of us are brave enough to talk about them.

I don’t know if I’m brave but I do know that sometimes I’m sad and sometimes, I worry about how weird I really am and if you do too, that’s ok.

We’ll both be ok. We’ll both be weird and sad and ok together.
–Iain S. Thomas, “The Impossibility of a Normal Day”


Perhaps someone, somewhere, will create something so
beautiful and moving, it will change the world.

Perhaps that somewhere is here.

Perhaps that someone is you.
–Iain S. Thomas, “The Trees That Decided Not to Die”


We help people when big things happen to them, when you see them getting
hit by a car, when a brother or a sister or a father or a mother dies, we’re there
for them because we can see that death kills more than the person it takes. And
yet, the people around us who die a little all the time, moment by moment, who
require the least help, the smallest sacrifice, are the ones we ignore completely.
–Iain S. Thomas, “The End Bit Is Animated”

I’m considered abnormal because I don’t walk about with a cellphone, I’m suspicious because I don’t walk about with a cellphone, I’m antisocial because I don’t walk about with a cellphone, I’m guilty because I don’t walk about with a cellphone, arrogant, boring, putting on airs, old-fashioned because I choose not to walk about with a cellphone, but that’s jealousy and envy. I miss everything and have no friends but I do not complain because my nervous system doesn’t suffer me to walk about with a cellphone, I don’t travel that way for the sake of my health, for quality of life reasons, I cannot imagine having a cellphone with me, I wouldn’t be able to write, I can’t think and write when something is constantly looming, the thought that someone is going to poke me in the back, there’s no peace, the phone companies are tyrants, they choke and kill and bury all the studies that demonstrate the harmfulness of the mobile phone, both mentally and phsycially, going around with a cellphone is like walking in shackles, I prefer to roam free and wild and be hated rather than to be constrained and subservient and loved, I’m despised because it isn’t possible to reach me in an instant, at times that suit others rather than me, having a cellphone is being operated by remote control, remotely controlled by network operators, remotely controlled by the whole of society, I don’t want to walk in shackles, a remote-controlled slave to the cell companies ... –Ófeigur Sigurðsson, Öræfi: The Wasteland

This magical film has a soft, tenuous incandescence. It’s like fog lit by the glow of fireflies. –review of The Last Black Man in San Francisco, in People magazine (quoting a movie review in People seems weird, but I just loved the language used!)

But unlike her character, she is not married and has no children. These are facts for which she is held to account almost daily. “It’s sort of fascinating to be 45 and single and childless,” she says. “Happily single, I should add. Not at home crying about it”—which she pantomimes with an outsize pout and the blotting of imaginary tears. “These are very big and very personal questions that aren’t anyone’s business but that somehow, like the right to choose, become fodder for public conversation. Some of the ability to reflect on what I really want comes from pushing up against a society that shames me for not having the expected trappings. I’m very pleased with my existence these days. Have I had to learn to make friends with loneliness? Yes. I think if I were in a relationship, it would be the same.”
      In fact, “choiceful solitude,” as she calls it, is one of Ross’s favorite things. She reads. She tends to her lemon trees. When she feels antsy, she plays dress-up in her closet, sometimes inventing characters along the way. Though she has many friends, she travels mainly by herself. Ross talks for a living, and silence feels like a warm bath. Her wit and gregariousness—inherited from her father, Robert Ellis Silberstein, a Los Angeles music executive—belie the fact that she has never been a party girl. “To get me out of the house is not so easy,” she says. “I lose my social ability after 9 o’clock. My friends joke about it: You could be on a dance floor with me and we are going—here she throws her hands in the air, swivels her head, and offers a high-pitched whoop—“and you turn around and I’m gone.”
–Rob Haskell , “At 45, Tracee Ellis Ross Is Living Her Best Life,” in the November 2018 issue of InStyle magazine (Apparently Tracee Ellis Ross is my spirit animal! It’s extra fitting that I read this article two weeks after turning 45, as I, too, am never married, child-free, and a lover of solitude.)

Imagination was a cancer of the heart. All those lives you carried around in your head that you wouldn’t ever get to live—they filled you up until you couldn’t breathe. –Joe Hill, “Aloft”

The beauty of the world and the horror of the world were twined together, like wind and flame. –Joe Hill, “Loaded”

I never stop being amazed by how simultaneously cruel and beautiful this world can be. –Nina Riggs, The Bright Hour

Don’t set yourself on fire to keep someone else warm. Your needs are important, take care of them. You shouldn’t have to come second. –Katie Fay (in a comment on Facebook)

Us morbid girls? We’re going to save the world because we’ll be fearless. If we aren’t afraid of death, what is there left for us to be afraid of? –Sarah Chavez, quoted in Christine Colby's “Life After Life,” in the August/September 2017 issue of Bust

And like this, slowly
Gently as music
My bones will turn blue and black.
–Sigitas Geda (Note: A friend saw this inscribed on a statue in Lithuania. I can’t figure out from which Geda poem the words come.)

I am the outskirts of a nonexistent town, a prolix commentary on an unwritten book. I am no one, no one. I don’t know how to feel, how to think, how to love. I am a character in an unwritten novel, passing by, airy and unmade, without having existed, amid the dreams of whoever it is who didn’t know how to complete me. –Fernando Pessoa, The Book of Disquiet

During the first days of a suddenly begun autumn, when nightfall shows signs of something premature and we seem to take a long time to do the things we work at during the day, I enjoy, even during my daily work, the anticipation of not working that the shadows bring with them—because it’s night, and night is sleep, home, freedom. –ditto

My heart is also going to a church whose location it doesn’t know, and it goes dressed in a child’s velveteen outfit, with its face red from the first impressions of smiling without sad eyes over its oversized collar. –ditto

If only we could wrap the world around our fingers, like the thread or ribbon a woman plays with as she dreams by the window. Everything is summed up in trying to feel the tedium in such a way that it doesn’t hurt. –ditto

And when I leaned out of the high window over the street toward which I looked without seeing it, I suddenly felt I was one of those damp rags used to wipe off filthy things that are then hung at the window to dry and which are forgotten there in a clump that slowly stains the sill. –ditto

This is what I want: I want to lie on the razory brain-shaped rocks of Baja. I want to lie on these rocks with no plants around me, traces of brine on my fingers and a chemical sun burning up in the heaven. There will be no sound, perfect silence, just me and oxygen, not a thought in my mind, with pelicans diving into the ocean beside me for glimmering mercury bullets of fish.
      Small cuts from the rocks will extract blood that will dry as quickly as it flows, and my brain will turn into a thin white cord stretched skyward up into the ozone layer and humming like a guitar string. And like Dag on the day of his death, I will hear wings, too, except the wings I hear will be from a pelican, flying in from the ocean—a great big dopey, happy-looking pelican that will land at my side and then, with smooth leathery feet, waddle over to my face, without fear and with an elegant flourish—showing the grace of a thousand wine stewards—offer before me the gift of a small silvery fish.
      I would sacrifice anything to be given this offering.
–Douglas Coupland, Generation X

... you can’t help but be helplessly reminded of the sort of bleached Kodak snapshots taken decades ago and found in shoe boxes in attics everywhere. You know the type: all yellowed and filmy, always with a big faded car in the background and fashions that look surprisingly hip. When you see such photos, you can’t help but wonder at just how sweet and sad and innocent all moments of life are rendered by the tripping of a camera’s shutter, for at that point the future is still unknown and has yet to hurt us, and also for that brief moment, our poses are accepted as honest. –ditto

When somone tells you they’ve just bought a house, they might as well tell you they no longer have a personality. You can immediately assume so many things: that they’re locked into jobs they hate; that they’re broke; that they spend every night watching videos; that they’re fifteen pounds overweight; that they no longer listen to new ideas. It’s profoundly depressing. And the worst part of it is that people in their houeses don’t even like where they’re living. What few happy moments they possess are those gleaned from dreams of upgrading. –ditto

It’s the noise and eyes of other people here that make me feel stilted and caged, like I’m onstage and everyone is watching for signs that I don’t belong in everything I do. I’d like to think I’m self-aware enough to know that thought is both narcissistic and ridiculous, but at the same time, I can’t make myself stop acting like it’s true. Being around people is exhausting. –Emily Henry, The Love That Split the World

Arthur lives in a permanent state of disorientation like a low-grade fever, the question hanging over everything being How did I get from there to here? –Emily St. John Mandel, Station Eleven

She was thinking about the way she’d always taken for granted that the world had certain people in it, either central to her days or unseen and infrequently thought of. How without any one of these people the world is a subtly but unmistakably altered place, the dial turned just one or two degrees. –ditto

[re: freaks] There’s a quality of legend about them. They’ve passed their test in life. Most people go through life dreading they’ll have a traumatic experience. Freaks were born with their trauma. They’ve already passed it. They’re aristocrats. –Diane Arbus, in an 1967 interview for Newsweek

No matter that patriotism is too often the refuge of scoundrels. Dissent, rebellion, and all-around hell-raising remain the true duty of patriots. –Barbara Ehrenreich, The Worst Years of Our Lives: Irreverent Notes from a Decade of Greed

The democratic world has lost its honor. The term honor has been redefined. Once upon a time, people fought wars and died for honor. Once upon a time, people walked with their heads held high. Once upon a time, generals committed suicide for honor, and captains went down with their ships.
      Once, a long time ago.
      Today, spineless politicians become presidents. Spineless officers become generals and receive medals. Spineless countries get spineless presidents. People with a spine get broken, because they stand out. In a mass of crooked people, the straight ones stand out and have to be broken.
–Ahmet M. Rahmanovic, Black Soul

It should have worked out for him; he should have made it. But something happened that just deflected him a single degree or so from the trajectory or flight that nature had intended. His was a talent that had burned in the darkness and had gone out in the darkness. –Graham Joyce, Some Kind of Fairy Tale

He felt if things were meant to be they were meant to be and there was precious little he could do to change that. He’d started feeling this way recently. There was a massive magnet out there in the future that dragged us along, up against whose pull there was very little each of us could do. His take on life was that the more you resisted the magnet, the more trouble you’d get in. He felt this to be fairly self-evident. For if you had a huge magnet pulling you along, and this magnet was set on a course you didn’t know, then why try to resist it? No. That was stupid. ...
      But thinking about freedom from the magnet was a plain wrong way to think about it anyway. Accept your magnet, he thought. Don’t fight it. Grasp your life for what it is and embrace that life without too much doubt. And how did you know where the magnet was? It was easy with a bit of practice. Everybody instinctively knew where his or her magnet was. The magnet was where you felt the least pulled apart. It made sense. When you were hugging the magnet you and it were one. The magnet was your spiritual home, where the stars aligned when you were born, the only place that felt like home to your spirit, to your soul. ... everyone knew where their magnet was if they only took two minutes to think about it. –Lars Guthorm Kavli, The Way the Hen Kicks

In a situation when things seemed hopeless you just had to listen, that was the way. Just listen. Where the body felt a pull you should go. There was always a pull somewhere. –ditto

If you can keep your head when all around you are losing theirs, chances are you don’t understand what the fuck is going on. –Harry Turtledove, Supervolcano: Eruption

Being single is like being an artist, not because creating a functional single life is an art form, but because it requires the same close attention to one’s singular needs, as well as the will and focus to fulfill them. Just as the artist arranges her life around her creativity, sacrificing conventional comforts and even social acceptance, sleeping and eating according to her own rhythms, so that her talent thrives above all else, nutured the way a child might be, so a single person has to think hard to decipher what makes her happiest and most fulfilled. –Kate Bolick, Spinster: Making a Life of One’s Own

And then he utters the words. The words that are responsible for nothing less than emotional, spiritual and psychological violence:
      Everything happens for a reason. That this was something that had to happen in order for her to grow.
      That’s the kind of bullshit that destroys lives. And it is categorically untrue.
–Tim Lawrence, “Everything Doesn’t Happen for a Reason” (

I hate to break it to you, but although devastation can lead to growth, it often doesn’t. The reality is that it often destroys lives. And the real calamity is that this happens precisely because we’ve replaced grieving with advice. With platitudes. With our absence. –ditto

I told myself that I was used to impermanence, that attachments would get me exactly nowhere, but then some people stay with you in ways you don’t expect and you try to shake them out, shake them away, but your memory won’t let you. –Laura Van Den Berg, Find Me

... The turtle never lost more time
Than when it stopped to learn speed from the eagle.
–Nicanor Parra, “Letters from the Poet Who Sleeps in a Chair”

I never found the order
I searched for
but always a sinister
and well-planned disorder
a prescribed disorder
that increases in the hands
of those who hold power
while the others
who clamor for
A more kindly world
a world with less hunger
and more hope
die tortured
in the prisons.
Don’t come any closer
there’s a stench of carrion
surrounding me.
–Angel Cuadra, “From the Bridge”

To sing you
one song,
bright with angry love—
but dark, bitter with
grieving, like wet meadow—
herbs, like the bare pines
on the cliff, groaning
beneath the pale dawn-wind,
burning before evening—
–Johannes Bobrowski, “Pruzzian Elegy”

… my heart on a swing touched the sky …
–Nazim Hikmet, “Things I Didn’t Know I Loved”

Our hands are unconscious, tough, ascendant, conscious,
plainsong, delighted suffering,
nailed to rainbows.
Together, together, joined,
they have here seized
the unexpected.
And we didn’t know that together we held this dazzling thing. –Victor Serge, “Hands”

... with the singing map of a hidden sea ...
–Nelly Sachs, “You”

… My longing leads me about the city which seems to me as miraculous as a fountain playing over a cemetery
As a dragonfly over a sleeping woman as eyes in a lake
As a fire in a goldsmith’s shop as a peacock on a belvedere
As a rainbow over a window where someone is playing the piano
As a comb from which sparks crackle on a bunch of carnations
As an umbrellas with a hole burnt through by a meteor …
–Vitezslav Nezval, “Walker in Prague”

Saviours, there are
enough of them to save the world
three times a day and still nobody knows
how to light a match. I’ll have to give up
on them.
–Atilla József, “Attila József”

Everywhere I look about
are there outlines of truth and art
breeding in the dark of this
moment at the edge of the abyss.
–Paul Goodman, “Little Prayers”

The feeling I have inside is of having been exploded—like all of the things that for so long have defined me, all of my habits and memories and idiosyncracies, everything that I have built up around whatever core there is of me, all of it has turned out to be plaster, and now it has been blown up and I am watching the powder drift in the atmosphere and settle slowly on the ground. The question now is whether there is or ever was anything underneath all of that, or was I always papier-mâché, a dragon head in a parade, all exterior adornment and nothing inside. I think there is something that remains, a hard warm stone like you find glowing on the ground after a fire. But I’m not sure. I don’t know. –Ben H. Winters, World of Trouble

Almost always, things are exactly as they appear. People are continually looking at the painful or boring parts of life with the half-hidden expectation that there is more going on beneath the surface, some deeper meaning that will eventually be unveiled; we’re waiting for the saving grace, the shocking reveal. But almost always things just are what they are, almost always there’s no glittering ore hidden under the dirt. –ditto

... all the badness that happened inside is going to irritate itself into a pearl. It will just take a bit of time. –Alissa Nutting, “Teenager”

And that heart which was a wild garden was given to him who loved only trim lawns. And the imbecile carried away the princess into slavery. –Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Airman’s Odyssey

I want to stay as close on the edge as I can without going over. Out on the edge you see all kinds of things you can’t see from the center. Big, undreamed-of-things—the people on the edge see them first. –Kurt Vonnegut, Player Piano

... when I feel on the verge of a breakdown, there is beauty there. People tend to view the edge as a bad thing, or a dangerous thing, but it can truly be a wonderful thing. –

I don’t think anybody should ever be judged by whether they’re male or female, black, white, blue, or green. I think people should be allowed to be themselves and to show the gifts they have, and be able to be acknowledged for that and to be paid accordingly. –Dolly Parton, in the June/July 2014 issue of Bust magazine

This is how you will survive, she told herself. You will turn the holes in your life into storage space. –Anthony Marra, A Constellation of Vital Phenomena

The weight of all he hadn’t said hung like a dead organ in his chest. He could barely breathe. He, too, knew what it was to have waste you cannot dislodge. –ditto

We wear clothes, and speak, and create civilizations, and believe we are more than wolves. But inside us there is a word we cannot pronounce and that is who we are. –ditto

As someone whose days were defined by the ten thousand ways a human can hurt, she needed, now and then, to remember that the nervous system didn’t exist exclusively to feel pain. –ditto

I am determined to close myself to the world, to tighten my heart and hold what has not yet been stolen from me. I cannot let myself slip away. I will hold what I am inside, and keep my hands tight around all the things I have seen and heard and felt. The poems composed as I washed and scythed and cooked until my hands were raw. The sagas I know by heart. I am sinking all I have left and going underwater. If I speak, it will be in bubbles of air. They will not be able to keep my words for themselves. They will see the whore, the madwoman, the murderess, the female dripping blood into the grass and laughing with her mouth choked with dirt. They will say “Agnes” and see the spider, the witch caught in the webbing of her own fateful weaving. They might see the lamb circled by ravens, bleating for a lost mother. But they will not see me. I will not be there. –Hannah Kent, Burial Rites

I have a meanness inside me, real as an organ. Slit me at my belly and it might slide out, meaty and dark, drop on the floor so you could stomp on it. –Gillian Flynn, Dark Places

I want to be with those who know secret things
or else alone.
–Rainer Maria Rilke, “I Am too Alone”

And now we welcome the new year, full of things that have never been. –Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

... every choice forecloses on other choices; each step forward leaves a thousand dead possible universes behind you. –Ben H. Winters, Countdown City

You had to know when it made sense to try to untangle something and when to just cut the motherfucker loose. –Joe Hill, NOS4A2

Was there any human urge more pitiful—or more intense—than wanting another chance at something? –ditto

... this was the only fight that mattered: the struggle to take the world’s chaos and make it mean something, to put it to words. –ditto

The boat and the ocean had not cast some churning and unnatural spell. They had merely revealed how the world really was. Gravity and orientation weren’t reliable, except in the narrow instance of life on land. The worlds that sprang from the laws of nature were wavering and irregular. And so were our bodies—provisional, inconstant, flesh on a frame. And our lives and plans, too, oscillations in a medium, ripples passing up the swell. –Andrew Blackwell, Visit Sunny Chernobyl

I love the ruined places for all the ways they aren’t ruined. Does somebody live there? Does somebody work there? Does somebody miss it when they leave? Those places are still just places. But when we read horror stories about them at home in our cozy green armchairs, we turn them into something else, into stages on which our worst fears can play out. –ditto

Being the lone voice of dissent is hard and almost always inconvenient and there isn’t usually instant gratification. However, if you don’t speak up, you will most likely regret it and will have to live with the results. –Jenna Miscavige Hill, Beyond Belief: My Secret Life Inside Scientology and My Harrowing Escape

No bird ever looked at a plane in envy. –Iain S. Thomas, “#24,” from “25 Love Poems for the NSA”

… hail is just water that’s forgotten to breathe. –Iain S. Thomas, “#18,” from “25 Love Poems for the NSA”

It was over, but it didn’t feel over. There was no over, not anymore. –Justin Cronin, The Twelve

His heart was full of a feeling of events set in motion, circles closing, a destiny unveiled. All his life, it seemed, he had been anticipating this moment. –ditto

My story includes a continuous heartache that transcends everything else. There’s no sense of time; it’s just the same and the same. I forget how old I am, because I can’t measure it in these ways. –Amy Wolf, quoted in Andrew Soloman’s Far from the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity

And I will keep looking for saviors and looking for saviors, but the truth is, there is no Daddy Warbucks. Nobody’s gonna pull up in a limousine and say they’re going to save you. That’s not how it happens. You save yourself from drowning, that’s how you do it. –Courtney Love, in the June/July 2013 issue of Bust

If you bring forth what is within you, what is within you will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, what is within you will destroy you. –saying 70 in Elaine H. Pagels’s Beyond Belief: The Secret Gospel of Thomas

If Beethoven were sent to nursery school today, they would medicate him, and he would be a postal clerk. –Leon Botstein, quoted in Andrew Solomon’s Far From the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity

Vaguely, I was aware of a small pop inside of me, a pinch, as all the remaining strings binding me together were severed. And then I was unraveling, spinning faster and faster. –Kristen Simmons, Breaking Point

Even hardened, there were still moments like this. Soft spaces in time. Moments that made everything else matter. –ditto

I imagine we’ve all felt that guilty rush before the morbid. The exploitation of a suicidal starlet, the assassination of a world leader; the hypnotic crush of a hurricane, the lion exploding into the antelope; the wreckage and the rapture, the profane and the sacred: whatever our attraction, we are drawn to doom.
      Everyone loves a good train wreck. We are enamored of ruin. The deeper the darkness is, the more dazzling. Our secret and ecstatic wish: Let it all fall down. –Eric G. Wilson, Everyone Loves a Good Train Wreck: Why We Can’t Look Away

… the morbid offers illuminations brighter than the sun. –ditto

Darker emotional states—doubt, confusion, alienation, despair—inspire a deeper and more durable experience of the sacred than contentment does. When we are bereft of secure beliefs or psychological clarity, tormented by guilt or nostalgia, we often give up hope. But in relinquishing this hope, and in teetering near nihilism, we also give up our expectations, those frequently egocentric desires that we project upon the world in our attempt to control it, to make it familiar and safe. –ditto

As long as we continue to demonize our morbid tendencies, we are only half a person, unnatural, out of whack, like day with no night, up without down. We become whole, healthy, harmonized, only when we acknowledge our innate addiction to the macabre. We must welcome it into our consciousness and embrace it. –ditto

When the world ends, you’re going to be oxygen and carbon and calcium, just like you are now. That’s what you’ve always been and always will be. You were a bunch of elements. The world was a bunch of elements, hydrogen and helium and some other things, it was Pangaea, it was single-celled organisms, it was volcanoes and erosion and pollination. And from that: Light bulbs. Pyramids. Jury duty. Castles. Bombs. Libraries. Macbeth. Farms. Cemeteries. The Bible. The Internet. Sewage systems. Cigarettes. Surgery. We built this, and all we are is oxygen and carbon and calcium. We’re just ingredients, and we built this. –Elyse Pitock, “When the World Ends”

The sun will get too hot and oceans will rise. The earth will go away and everything we built will go away too. Everything will be gone. In the meantime, it’s a sad, amazing little place you inhabit, and the world hasn’t ended yet. We’re here, you’re here, and tomorrow might be good, tomorrow can be good, tomorrow has to be good, because otherwise, what are you doing here? –ditto

You think you have hit the bottom many times then always find something else to lose, till after a while what once seemed like the bottom is an altitude that you are trying to scrabble back to. –Anthony Loyd, My War Gone By, I Miss It So

We think we have freedom of choice, but really most of our actions are puny meanderings in the prison yard built by history and early experience. –ditto

When it’s gone, you can’t bring it back. What’s lost has a way of staying lost. –Stephen King, in the introduction to Everything’s Eventual

I base most of my fashion taste on what doesn’t itch. –Gilda Radner

You know, one man’s risk taking is another man’s comfort zone. You wear what you feel comfortable in. –Tilda Swinton, at the 2012 InStyle/Warner Bros.Golden Globes afterparty

You constantly look for a sign and when it’s given to you and you don’t like the answer, you call it a coincidence. There are no coincidences. –Iain S. Thomas, “The Wood in Trees”

There is magic even here, in gridlock, in loneliness, in too much work, in late nights gone on too long, in shopping trolleys with broken wheels, in boredom, in tax returns, the same magic that made a man write about a princess that slept until she was kissed, long golden hair draped over a balcony and fingers pricked with needles. There is magic even here, in potholes along back-country roads, in not having the right change (you pat your pockets), arriving late and missing the last train home, the same magic that caused a woman in France to think that God spoke to her, that made another sit down at the front of a bus and refuse to move, that led a man to think that maybe the world wasn’t flat and the moon could be walked upon by human feet. There is magic. Even here. In office cubicles. –Iain S. Thomas, “The Layers Unseen”

We can answer any question we have, like how do actors make themselves cry, so we never sit in wonder and wonder at the wonder of the world, anymore.
      And anything we watch can be paused, so we never argue about what just happened while we were talking, anymore.
      We cannot hope that we might have just missed their call, because our phones are always with us and if they didn’t call, they didn’t call.
      No protests in the streets, just a button marked “like.”
      No one reads stories aloud, unless you are a child.
      No letters. Just bills.
–Iain S. Thomas, “The List of Changes”

When the tide goes out for the last time, all the shipwrecks will be waiting for us and the bones of the earth will shine bright white in the sun.
      When the tide goes out for the last time, I’ll meet you by the planes that never made it past Bermuda.
      When the tide goes out for the last time, I swear, we will have nothing left to lose.
–Iain S. Thomas, “The Fire at Sea”

Don’t you dare tell me nothing matters. Everything matters. Every fucking drop of rain, every ray of sunlight, every wisp of cloud matters and they matter because I can see them and if I can see them then they can see me and I know that there’s an entire world that cares out there, hiding behind a world that doesn’t, afraid to show who it really is and with or without you, I will drag that world out of the dirt and the blood and the muck until we live in it. Until we all live in it. –Iain S. Thomas, “The Way You Lie Here”

… Perhaps someone, somewhere will create something so beautiful and moving it will change the world.
      Perhaps that somewhere is here.
      Perhaps that someone is you.
–Iain S. Thomas, “The Trees That Decided Not to Die”

I accepted it’s okay to not be totally sure about where you live. It’s okay to be somewhere with most of your heart when a piece of it is somewhere else. It’s okay to love and appreciate where you are while still knowing that one day you’re going to want to try to be somewhere else, and it’s okay to to not know when that will be. –Amber Fox, “I’m At Peace with Where I Live, Even Though My Heart’s in the Highlands”

Don’t do what you know on a gut level to be the wrong thing to do. Don’t stay when you know you should go or go when you know you should stay. Don’t fight when you should hold steady or hold steady when you should fight. Don’t focus on the short-term fun instead of the long-term fall out. Don’t surrender all your joy for an idea you used to have about yourself that isn’t true anymore. Don’t seek joy at all costs. I know it’s hard to know what to do when you have a conflicting set of emotions and desires, but it’s not as hard as we pretend it is. Saying it’s hard is ultimately a justification to do whatever seems like the easiest thing to do—have the affair, stay at that horrible job, end a friendship over a slight, keep loving someone who treats you terribly. I don’t think there’s a single dumbass thing I’ve done in my adult life that I didn’t know was a dumbass thing to do while I was doing it. Even when I justified it to myself—as I did every damn time—the truest part of me knew I was doing the wrong thing. Always. As the years pass, I’m learning how to better trust my gut and not do the wrong thing, but every so often I get a harsh reminder that I’ve still got work to do. –Dear Sugar, December 16, 2010

We don’t reach the mountaintop from the mountaintop. We start at the bottom and climb up. Blood is involved. –ditto

It’s our work, our *job*, the most important gig of all: to make a place that belongs to us, a structure composed of our own moral code. Not the code that only echoes imposed cultural values, but the one that tells us on a visceral level what to do. –Dear Sugar, January 14, 2011

There is a world of people out here who will love you for who you are. A whole, vibrant, fucked-up, happy, conflicted, joyous, and depressed mass of people who will say, You’re gay? So the fuck what? We want you to be among us. –Dear Sugar, November 19, 2010

I think I cry [at Pride parades] because it always strikes me as sacred, all those people going by. People who decided simply to live their truth, even when doing so wasn’t simple. Each and every one of them had the courage to say, This is who I am even if you’ll crucify me for it.–ditto

We are all entitled to our opinions and religious beliefs, but we are not entitled to make shit up and then use the shit we made up to oppress other people. –ditto

The biggest lesson I learned (and am learning – I wonder if it ever gets to truly be a past tense concept?) was/is to differentiate between remorse and guilt. Learning to recognize an error and wanting to change a behavior or not repeat a mistake is a completely different thing from the self-flagellation that is guilt. It’s a semantic trick, I suppose, but one that made a world of difference for me. –Michael, in the comments section of the March 24, 2011, Dear Sugar column

I’m not sure the stealing impulse comes so much from wanting to fill the hole inside you as it does from wanting to make someone else’s hole match yours. When you’re hurting, there’s a tendency to believe that you are alone in your hurt—that no one has ever felt what you are feeling, that no one else understands. Being lonely does, I think, hint at the root of that impulse to steal from other people, especially those you love. But I think it may have much more to do with evening the playing field. The idea that once that other person is missing something that belongs to them, they will be able to feel a tiny fraction of the loss that plagues you each and every day. –Jess, in the comments section of the March 24, 2011, Dear Sugar column

Forgiveness doesn’t just sit there like a pretty boy in a bar. Forgiveness is the old fat guy you have to haul up the hill. You have to say I am forgiven again and again until it becomes the story you believe about yourself. –Dear Sugar, March 24, 2011

The only way a story ends happily is if you stop telling it before it’s over. Everything ends, everything corrupts, everything dies. –Michael Higgs, in EastEnders

I think when you grow up in a third-world country and you don’t have a lot of money or access to a lot of interesting, beautiful things, it kind of develops your imagination, and makes you extra sensitive to beauty. When you go through a hardship and overcome it, it makes you more appreciative of what you have. –Doe Deere, interviewed in the February/March 2012 issue of Bust

Lukas turned to face her. “Yeah.Our actions, you know? They last forever. Whatever we do, it’ll always be what we did. There’s no taking them back.”
      This wasn’t the answer she was expecting. There was sadness in his voice as he said these things, that box resting against his knee, and Juliette was moved by the utter simplicity of his answer. Something resonated, but she wasn’t sure what it was. “Tell me more,”she said. She looped the strap around her other shoulder and readied to lift it again. Lukas held the rail with one hand and seemed content to rest there a moment longer.
      “I mean, the world goes around the sun, right?”
      “According to you.” She laughed.
      “Well, it does. The Legacy and the man from Silo 1 confirm it.”
      Juliette scoffed as if neither could be trusted. Lukas ignored her and continued.
      “That means we don’t exist in one place. Instead, everything we do is left in…like a trail out there, a big ring of decisions. Every action we take—”
      “And mistake.”
      He nodded and dabbed at his forehead with his sleeve. “And every mistake. But every good thing we do as well. They are immortal, every single touch we leave behind. Even if nobody sees them or remembers them, that doesn’t matter. That trail will always be what happened, what we did, every choice. The past lives on forever. There’s no changing it.”
–Hugh Howey, Dust (Silo #3)

Those who know do not speak.
Those who speak do not know.
–Lao Zi, The Way of Lao Zi

I’m convinced that stoicism is never the answer to anything, being nothing more than a cruel, callous encouragement to people to devour each other, a powerful ally of sadists and tyrants keen to get people to endure things which should be firmly refused as unendurable. Courage, indeed! Desensitization and bully-training, rather. –Les Murray, Killing the Black Dog: A Memoir of Depression

Addiction ... is a cage we lust to climb repeatedly into, because it’s dramatic and poignant and fills us with hideous importance in our own eyes. It feels like significance, and is better than emptiness. –ditto

Enduring tedium over real time in a confined space is what real courage is. There is no audience. No one to applaud, to admire. No one to see you. Do you understand? Here is the truth—actual heroism receives no ovation, entertains no one. No one queues up to see it. No one is interested. –David Foster Wallace, The Pale King

... on the internet, we’re in the middle of this endless din of snark, vitriol, and cat pictures. Which is to say, we’re nowhere. –Wendy McClure, “Have You Heard? What Happens on Earth When Pop Stars Go to Heaven”

Her heart was like a drum hanging from piano wire in her chest, slowly, slowly beaten. –Richard Matheson, “Dance of the Dead”

I learned through my body and soul that it was necessary for me to sin, that I needed lust, that I had to strive for poverty and experience nausea and the depths of despair in order to learn not to resist them, in order to learn to love the world, and no longer compare it with some kind of desired imaginary world, some imaginary vision of perfection, but to leave it as it is, to love it and be glad to belong to it. –Herman Hesse, Siddhartha

Let yourself be gutted. Let it open you. Start there. –Dear Sugar, May 27, 2010

No is golden. No is the kind of power the good witch wields. –Dear Sugar, July 1, 2010

Evolve. It’s one of my favorite words. It comes from the Latin evolvere, which means to unroll. ... Of all the obligations we have to ourselves, I believe that evolving is the most vital. Unrolling is at the very heart of the most important work we have to do. And though that unrolling means something different for each one of us, it essentially means releasing whatever it is we’ve kept bundled into the cocoon. –Dear Sugar, July 8, 2010

There is so much work to do that has to do with forgiveness and anger, with acceptance and letting go, with sorrow and even perhaps a complicated joy. Those things do not move in a direct trajectory. They weave in and out of each other and wind back to smack you in the ass. They will punch you in the face and make you cry and laugh. –Dear Sugar, November 4, 2010

I had that feeling you get—there is no word for this feeling—when you are simultaneously happy and sad and angry and grateful and accepting and appalled and every other possible emotion, all smashed together and amplified.
      Why is there no word for this feeling?
      Perhaps because the word is healing and we don’t want to believe that. We want to believe healing is purer and more perfect, like a baby on its birthday. Like we’re holding it in our hands. Like we’ll be better people than we’d been before. Like we have to be.
      It is on that feeling that I have survived. And it will be your salvation too, my dear. When you reach the place that you recognize entirely that you will thrive not in spite of your losses and sorrows, but because of them. That you would not have chosen the things that happened in your life, but you are grateful for them. –ditto

I told her it was not okay, that it was unacceptable, that it was illegal and that I would call and report this latest, horrible thing. But I did not tell her it would stop. I did not promise that anyone would intervene. I told her it would likely go on and she’d have to survive it. That she’d have to find a way within herself to not only escape the shit, but to transcend it, and if she wasn’t able to do that, then her whole life would be shit, forever and ever and ever. I told her that escaping the shit would be hard, but that if she wanted to not make her mother’s life her destiny, she had to be the one to make it happen. She had to do more than hold on. She had to reach. She had to want it more than she’d ever wanted anything. She had to grab like a drowning girl for every good thing that came her way and she had to swim like fuck away from every bad thing. She had to count the years and let them roll by, to grow up and then run as far as she could in the direction of her best and happiest dreams across the bridge that was built by her own desire to heal. –Dear Sugar, July 15, 2010

Not blaming our own bad choices on others is a basic principle of functional mental health and emotional maturity. –Dear Sugar, August 25, 2011

Don’t cower behind the defeated security of “there is no room for someone like me.” There isn’t room for any one of us. It’s up to you to make a place for yourself in the world. So get to work.  –Dear Sugar, August 18, 2011

... it is only in the acceptance of imperfection that perfection is to be glimpsed. –Zoe Marriott, in the comments section of the August 12, 2011, Dear Sugar column

When people allow dark crazy thoughts to rule their actions and emotions they like to drag other people into that dark crazy space too. –Dear Sugar, July 7, 2011

Our bodies are truly our diaries and unlike our thinking selves, our physical selves cannot lie or deceive. –Lisa, in the comments section of the June 16, 2011, Dear Sugar column

You might, for example, be interested to know that the word prestigious is derived from the Latin praestigiae, which means conjuror’s tricks. Isn’t that interesting? This word that we use to mean honorable and esteemed has its beginnings in a word that has everything to do with illusion and deception and trickery. –Dear Sugar, March 31, 2011

Healing is about breaking threads and making new ones. It’s about redrawing the line between our powerlessness and our power. –Dear Sugar, June 2, 2011

You don’t have to get a job that makes others feel comfortable about what they perceive as your success. You don’t have to explain what you plan to do with your life. You don’t have to justify your education by demonstrating its financial rewards. You don’t have to maintain an impeccable credit score. ... You have to pay your own electric bill. You have to be kind. You have to give it all you got. You have to find people who love you truly and love them back with the same truth. But that’s all. ... When I say you don’;t have to explain what you’re going to do with your life I’m not suggesting you lounge around whining about how difficult it is. I’m suggesting you apply yourself with some serious motherfuck-i-tude in directions for which we have no accurate measurement. I’m talking about work. And love. –Dear Sugar, May 5, 2011

Why are people so troubled about fantasies? I have whole worlds in my head, sometimes pretty gruesome. I enjoy them greatly. –Shiny, on

Somewhere people were listening to music and buying products online and taking naps and talking on phones, but in here a woman was being raped and she was that woman. –Stephen King, “Big Driver”

Inside my empty bottle
I was constructing a lighthouse
While all the others
Were making ships.
–Charles Simic, “Solving the Riddle”

By now the dark could be touched, grasped like a clot of coagulated blood, smeared over my face and body. I drank it in, gulped it, smothered in it. –Jerzy Kosinski, The Painted Bird

He was foolish and vacuous. She despaired of ever seeing a haunted look in his dull eyes; and what worth was a man who could not be haunted? –Clive Barker, “The Forbidden”

Nobody ever just passed through; experience always left its mark. Sometimes it merely scratched; on occasion it took off limbs. She did not know the extent of her present wounding, but she knew it more profound than she yet understood, and it made her afraid. –ditto

It seemed that we had fallen through a crack in the sky into some frozen hell from which no return to the ordinary world was even possible. Like other boys, I knew myths and legends in which heroes had fallen into an evil underworld, or had been lured into enchanted forests from which there was no escape. In their struggles to return to their homes, they had to suffer through many ordeals—they battled dragons and demons, matched wits with sorcerers, sailed across treacherous seas. But even those great heroes needed magical help to succeed—a wizard’s guidance, a flying carpet, a secret charm, a magic sword. We were a group of untested boys who had never in our lives truly suffered. Few of us had ever seen snow. None of us had ever set foot in the mountains. Where would we find our hero? What magic would carry us home? –Nando Parrado, Miracle in the Andes: 72 Days on the Mountain and My Long Trek Home

From now on, I will try not to feel sorry for what was taken from me, but to be happy for what was given back. –ditto

If you practiced you could have the power to say things, even if nobody else heard them. A bound, dumb part of you began to move and speak, awkward and amazed. –Philip Ó Ceallaigh, “My Life as an Artist”

If you want to see how a city is doing, he thought, you have to see the edge of it. The centre will tell you everything is fine. The periphery tells the rest. –Philip Ó Ceallaigh, “In the Neighbourhood”

Definitely time to get out. To live somewhere a little less marginal, somewhere that did not have the whiff of the asylum about it, and the odour of slow decay. –ditto

Having the windows open and the air moving through made everything feel different. On such an evening you couldn’t help but feel the future was something good waiting for you. –ditto

Try to figure out what you’re doing here. Once you figure out what you’re doing here, you will know how long it will take to do it, and then you’ll know when you can leave. –Sinclair Sexsmith, “How to Survive Your First Year in New York City”

I have woven a parachute out of everything broken. –William Stafford, quoted in Sark’s Succulent Wild Woman

Does telling your story mean you are free of it? Or that you go, fettered, into your future? –Anna Funder, Stasiland

The one thing I have come to know is that if I give my body to someone else, it’s possible only because my body is mine to give. And it’s mine to take back. But it is, in marrow and heart and heft, undeniably mine. –Amy Maclin, “Big Love”

No matter how hard I squeezed them, I couldn’t feel the weight of his palms against mine—it was like holding the hands of a disappearing soul. My heart felt like it was exploding. –Immaculée Ilibagiza, Left to Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust

Blessed be they who are not Patriots and Idealists, and who do not feel they must dash right in and Do Something About It, something so immediately important that all doubters must be liquidated—tortured—slaughtered! Good old murder, that since the slaying of Abel by Cain has always been the new device by which all oligarchies and dictators have, for all future ages to come, removed opposition! –Sinclair Lewis, It Can’t Happen Here

So much of a revolution for so many people is nothing but waiting. That is one reason why tourists rarely see anything but contentment in a crushed population. Waiting, and its brother death, seem so contented. –ditto

He was reasonably convinced that he would be arrested before dawn. The night was overcast and electric and uneasy. The crickets sounded as though they were piping under compulsion, in a rhythm of terror. He lay throbbing to their sound. –ditto

Maybe in difficult times like now, when the proper news is bad and serious and a lot to take in, we gravitate towards these stupid gossip stories. We’d rather laugh at someone falling over and showing a nipple than reflect on how many soldiers are dying in Afghanistan. –Jamie Hince, in Man About Town, Spring-Summer 2009

Outside the air had a liquid texture. Black water, jet-black, that made one want to reach out and stroke its back. –Roberto Bolaño, 2666

“ ... What if?” Through the alchemy of those two words, something new comes into the world. –David Morrell, quoted in Lewis Burke Frumkes’s The Logophile’s Orgy: Favorite Words of Famous People

We all live in a house on fire, no fire department to call; no way out, just the upstairs window to look out of while the fire burns the house down with us trapped, locked in it. –Tennessee Williams, The Milk Train Doesn’t Stop Here Anymore

I’m not living with you. We occupy the same cage. –Tennessee Williams, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

The only people I would care to be with now are artists and people who have suffered: those who know what beauty is, and those who know what sorrow is: nobody else interests me. –Oscar Wilde, De Profundis

How should we be able to forget those ancient myths that are at the beginning of all peoples, the myths about dragons that at the last moment turn into princesses; perhaps all the dragons in our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us once beautiful and brave. –Rainer Maria Rilke, “The Dragon-Princess”

There is a crack in everything; that’s how the light gets in. –Leonard Cohen, “Anthem”

... those who have been betrayed
come back like pilgrims to this moment
when we did not yield
when we steadfastly refused
to call the darkness poetry
–Leonard Cohen, “Welcome to These Lines”

Because your sorrow will not return to its birthplace. You cannot breathe. Because you believe you were not meant to be so far away. You cannot breathe. Because this is the valley of the shadow of death. You cannot breathe. Because you cannot be here.
      Because you do not know what is coming. You cannot breathe. Because this world is yours and it is not yours. You cannot breathe.
–Leonard Cohen, “The Asthmatic”

Seize the round world and stop it from struggling and plant your mouth in the burnt skin. I am your dead voice. –Leonard Cohen, “Hurry to Your Dinner”

You live like a god
somewhere behind the names
I have for you,
your body made of nets
my shadow’s tangled in …
–Leonard Cohen, “You Live Like a God”

written letters, yes
not colored leaves raked up
burned after reading
–Basho, The Complete Haiku

a hangover
is nothing as long as
there are cherry blossoms

unable to settle down
the traveling heart remains
a portable heater

a flash of lightning
your hand takes in darkness
a paper candle

... our personalities are inextricably linked to the places that surround us. Every time we hang a poster on a wall or toss a coffee cup in the trash or download another album from iTunes, we leave clues about who we are. We broadcast our traits and values, our goals and identities for people to see and perhaps to judge. And although we may attempt to arrange our stuff to outfox others, our true personalities inevitably leak out, especially under the scrutiny of sharp-eyed sleuths. –Sam Gosling, Snoop: What Your Stuff Says about You

More obscene than anything is inertia. More blasphemous than the bloodiest oath is paralysis. –Henry Miller, Tropic of Cancer

For a hundred years or more the world, our world, has been dying. And not one man, in these last hundred years or so, has been crazy enough to put a bomb up the asshole of creation and set it off. The world is rotting away, dying piecemeal. But it needs the coup de grâce, it needs to be blown to smithereens. Not one of us is intact, and yet we have in us all the continents and the seas between the continents and the birds of the air. We are going to put it down—the evolution of this world which has died but which has not been buried. –ditto

To be honest, I had this image of myself: I was the tree that a drunk driver slides off the road into. The tree doesn’t move. It doesn’t do anything except stand there. It kills the person just by standing there. That would be me. I’ve got my attitude: lethal neutrality and immobility. –Charles Baxter, The Feast of Love

Some mistakes are both simple and huge. The worst mistakes I’ve made have been the ones directed by sweet-natured hopefulness. –ditto

My inner life lacks dignity. There’s nothing I can do about that. –ditto

To different minds the same world is a hell, and a heaven. –Ralph Waldo Emerson, journal, December 20, 1822

I feel hollow and sick. I feel as if someone has ripped me open and turned everything inside out, so that instead of my brown uniform, shiny at the elbows, what everyone sees is a bloody porridge of vessels and nerves crushed around a dark, bruised heart. –Elena Gorokhova, A Mountain of Crumbs

All sins are attempts to fill voids. –Simone Weil, La Pesanteur et la Grâce

There is more real pleasure to be gotten out of a malicious act, where your heart is in it, than out of thirty acts of a nobler sort. –Mark Twain, Mark Twain in Eruption

I suppose watching one’s mother and brother being swept to oblivion by a freak wave adds a sobering note to any nine-year-old’s life. But I am certain that even before that memorable incident I could never really suppress bleak thoughts, especially the most inopportune ones, a habit that has persisted. For instance: called upon to view a friend’s newborn baby, the precious bundle from which protrude adorable bits of infant anatomy, I always find myself wondering (even as my voice supplies the requisite pleasantries) whether it will grow up to be force-fed human excrement and drowned in a barracks latrine, as uncounted Russian Jews were in the Second World War. Or else is it destined to die of a drug overdose at seventeen, choke to death in a restaurant in its thirties, or fall victim to a hit-and-run driver while walking the dog? In short, there is nothing like the sight of a new life to make me wonder how it will end. This must be one of those yardsticks of a person’s basic character, like the one that supposedly distinguishes optimists from pessimists (is the glass half full or half empty?). Is this baby alive or merely laggard in its dying? It does add a dimension of pity to what is otherwise a flat and goofy spectacle of inapprehensive love. And I am powerless to stop it. –James Hamilton-Paterson, Amazing Disgrace

Being in labor all by herself—no husband around, no friend to hold her hand—was about the worst thing she could imagine. Well, that and having her midriff appear on one of those “Obesity: A National Epidemic” news reports. –Jennifer Weiner, Little Earthquakes

How do people, like, not curse? How is it possible? There are all these gaps in speech where you just have to put a “fuck.” I’ll tell you who the most admirable people in the world are: newscasters. If that was me, I’d be like, “And the motherfuckers flew the fucking plane right into the Twin Towers.” How could you not, if you’re a human being? Maybe they’re not so admirable. Maybe they’re robot zombies. –Nick Hornby, A Long Way Down

In certain trying circumstances, desperate circumstances, profanity furnishes a relief denied even to prayer. –Mark Twain, quoted in Albert B. Paine’s Mark Twain: A Biography

Why do we call bodies temples? They’re a mess. My body was just a disaster. Everything was wrong, and new wrongs sprung up all the time: stray hairs, warts, broken veins, all signs, surely, that something was very screwed up, that I was sick, and worse than that, too short to model. –Jennifer Traig, Devil in the Details: Scenes from an Obsessive Girlhood

Like many girls who don’t get asked out in high school, I spent my teenage years believing I was a displaced European. It was so obvious I’d been born in the wrong country, what with my having such sophisticated Continental sensibilities and all. As soon as I was old enough, I told myself and anyone who would listen, I was moving to a country where my unconventional looks, difficult charms, and erratic hygiene would be appreciated. –ditto

If I don’t get AIDS I’ll turn into a serial killer. The first in Iceland. A sure way to get on the front pages of the evening paper. Except I’d insist on not having my face scrambled in the picture. But then of course I’d have to move out of home. Our garden isn’t big enough for a mass grave. –Hallgrímur Helgason, 101 Reykjavík

The first plane is just to get our attention. Then, once we are transfixed, the second plane comes and repeats the theme until the blinding coda of smoke and debris crumbles on top of the rescue workers who have gone in to try to save anyone who survived the opening movements. And we watch, speechless, as the sirens, like some awful choir, hour after hour let you know that it is not over yet, wait, there’s more. –Nancy Gibbs, “If You Want to Humble an Empire...” (an article on 9/11 in Time, September 2001)

Find that flame, that existence,
That Wonderful Man
Who can burn beneath the water.
No other kind of light
Will cook the food you
–Hafiz, “No Other Kind of Light”

A ship in a harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for. –John A. Shedd, Salt from My Attic

How I loathe things Western, this petty patriarchal mendacity, this vapid sex-sentimentality, this whole driveling Christian shit. –Christer Kihlman, The Blue Mother

The future is written with a pitchfork on the water. –Debra Dean, The Madonnas of Leningrad

Each day, the world is made fresh again, holy, and she takes it in, in all its raw intensity, like a young child. She feels something bloom in her chest—joy or grief, eventually they are inseparable. The world is so acutely beautiful, for all its horrors, that she will be sorry to leave it. –ditto

It’s true: Everyone needs a reason to stay alive—someone who justifies your existence. Someone who loves you. Not beyond all reason. Just loves you. Even just shows an interest. Even someone who doesn’t exist, or isn’t yours. No, no! They don’t even have to love you! They just have to be there to love! Target for your arrows. Magnetic Pole to drag on your compass needle and stop it spinning and spinning and tell you where you’re heading and ... Someone to soak up all the yearning. That’s what I think. –Geraldine McCaughrean, The White Darkness

The trees with most leaves will not necessarily produce juicy fruit. –Brazilian proverb

Pray that you will never have to bear all that you are able to endure. –Jewish proverb

I thought I understood his kind: the petty bureaucrats of tyranny, men who relish the carefully measured meed of power permitted to them, who need to walk in the aura of manufactured fear, to know that the fear precedes them as they enter a room and will linger like a smell after they have left, but who have neither the sadism nor the courage for the ultimate cruelty. But they need their part of the action. It isn’t sufficient for them, as it is for most of us, to stand a little way off to watch the crosses on the hill. –PD James, The Children of Men

… everything is covered with a mortal taste
of retreat and dampness and injury.
–Pablo Neruda, “The Destroyed Street”

Today you’ll emerge from the coal and the dew.
Today you’ll come to shake the doors
with bruised hands, with bits
of surviving soul, with clusters
of expressions that death did not extinguish,
with intractable tools
hidden beneath your tatters.
–Pablo Neruda, “Insurgent America (1800)”

… and for me there’s no god but dark sand,
the interminable spine of stone and night,
the unsociable day
with an advent
of miserable clothes, of exterminated soul.
–Pablo Neruda, “Winter in the South, on Horseback”

My soul is an empty carousel at sunset. –Pablo Neruda, “My Soul”

Come with me to the offices, to the uncertain
smell of ministries, and tombs, and postage stamps.
Come with me to the white day that is dying
screaming like a murdered bride.
–Pablo Neruda, “Disaction”


These stones aren’t sad.
Within them lives gold,
they have the seeds of planets,
they have bells in their depths,
gloves of iron, marriages
of time with the amethysts:
on the inside laughing with rubies,
nourishing themselves from lightning.

Because of this, traveler, pay attention
to the hardships of the road,
to mysteries on the walls.

I know this at great cost,
that all life is not outward
nor all death within,
and that the age writes letters
with water and stone for no one,
so that no one knows,
so that no one understands anything.
–Pablo Neruda, “To the Traveler”

The fundamental cause of trouble in the world today is that the stupid are cocksure while the intelligent are full of doubt. –Bertrand Russell, quoted in Laird Wilcox and John George’s Be Reasonable: Selected Quotations for Inquiring Minds

Don’t be confused by surfaces; in the depths everything becomes law. –Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet, letter #4

If you don’t see the bottom, don’t wade. –Scottish proverb

... you never know what worse luck your bad luck has saved you from. –Cormac McCarthy, No Country for Old Men

Many demolitions are actually renovations. –Rumi, “Muhammad and the Huge Eater”

But listen to me: for one moment,
quit being sad. Hear blessings
dropping their blossoms
around you.
–Rumi, “Burnt Kabob”

Let the beauty we love be what we do.
There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.
–Rumi, an untitled piece in Coleman Barks’s The Essential Rumi

I feel like the ground, astonished
at what the atmosphere has brought to it. What I know
is growing inside me. Rain makes
every molecule pregnant with a mystery.
–Rumi, “The Ground Cries Out”

Every object, every being,
is a jar full of delight.
Be a connoisseur,
and taste with caution.
–Rumi, “The Many Wines”

Any advertisement in public space that gives you no choice whether you see it or not is yours. It belongs to you. It’s yours to take, re-arrange, and re-use. Asking for permission is like asking to keep a rock someone just threw at your head. –Banksy, Wall and Piece

Grotesque, bizarre, uncanny, étrange…some things just defy the tight, little categories into which we stuff our conceptual realities. And when they do, all hell breaks loose. Minds crack, institutions buckle. The power of grotesqueries and other irrational artifacts of the human world lies in their challenge to the collective moral order of what we consider to be “natural.” –MA Greenstein, in a 1996 issue of Dark’s Art Parlour

… when faced with an image that contradicts our sense of what is natural or what is morally “right,” we give into either psychic paranoia or desire. Some of us will be hijacked by our anxiety over negotiating the dark terrors prescribed by cultural consensus; others of us will enjoy the seduction of palpable uncertainty. –ditto

… maybe bad things happen because it’s the only way we can keep remembering what good is supposed to look like. –Jodi Picoult, Nineteen Minutes

To really know someone is to have loved and hated him in turn. –Marcel Jouhandeau, Défense de l’enfer

Again the night returns
and a mortal thing wails
and another suffers along with it—
trembling, under autumn stars,
the head bows lower every year.
–Georg Trakl, “In an Old Family Album”

If you destroy a bridge, be sure you can swim. –Swahili proverb

Anyone who has obeyed nature by transmitting a piece of gossip experiences the explosive relief that accompanies the satisfying of a primary need. –Primo Levi, “About Gossip”

No matter how much we scorn it, kitsch is an integral part of the human condition. –Milan Kundera, The Unbearable Lightness of Being

In violence we forget who we are. –Mary McCarthy, On the Contrary

There are some things so dear, some things so precious, some things so eternally true, that they are worth dying for. And I submit to you that if a man has not discovered something that he will die for, he isn’t fit to live. –Martin Luther King, Jr., speech in Detroit, June 23, 1963

The very idea of sending packed trains through the bowels of the earth, like turds through a vast, curving gut, appalled and frightened him ... there was something about the Tube that could turn him into a sad, screaming wreck. –Geoff Nicholson, Bleeding London

To know all is not to forgive all. It is to despise everybody. –Quentin Crisp, The Naked Civil Servant

Nothing seems expensive on credit. –Czech proverb

If things are getting easier, maybe you’re headed downhill. –Ghanaian proverb

A little axe can cut down a big tree. –Jamaican proverb

Accomplishment of purpose is better than making a profit. –Nigerois proverb

No one can make you feel inferior without your consent. –Eleanor Roosevelt, This is My Story

It’s not that I have no shame. Rather, I’m exhausted with shame, slippery all over with its sticky albumen taint. It is not an emotion that leads anywhere. –Lionel Shriver, We Need to Talk about Kevin

How lucky we are, when we’re spared what we think we want! –ditto

We are accustomed to think that fate is fickle and we never have what we want. Actually, we all get what is ours—and that’s the most terrifying thing. –Andrei Bitov, Pushkin House

... everything passes, and we do eventually get out from under the things and people that have burdened us (more precisely, we outlive our memories of them)… –ditto

The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference. –Elie Wiesel, in the US News and World Report, October 27, 1986

A gay Vietnam veteran ... they gave me a medal for killing two men—and a discharge for loving one. –description on Leonard Matlovich’s tombstone, quoted in the Washington Post, April 22, 1988, and echoing the idiocy of the US military’s later “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy”

[Upon being challenged to use the word horticulture in a sentence:] You can lead a whore to culture, but you can’t make her think. –Dorothy Parker, in Robert E. Drennan’s The Algonquin Wits

… the thing is that when you are vulnerable everyone thinks they can help you, but when you show it as a sign of strength, they get intimidated and anxious and try and squash you back to where you were. And the thing is that as you grow up you have to leave people behind and move on and let go, and people are very frightened by that. –Princess Diana, as quoted in Piers Morgan’s The Insider: The Private Diaries of a Scandalous Decade

We must be the change we wish to see in the world. –Mahatma Gandhi, quoted in the LA Times, July 30, 1989 (the Ghandi Institute for Nonviolence has verified that Gandhi was known to say this verse many times in his lifetime and believes it to be his original saying)

In spite of illness, in spite even of the arch-enemy sorrow, one can remain alive long past the usual date of disintegration if one is unafraid of change, insatiable in intellectual curiosity, interested in big things, and happy in small ways. –Edith Wharton, A Backward Glance

I’m living so far beyond my means that we may almost be said to be living apart. –Hector Hugh Munro, The Unbearable Bassington

... please don’t let me stop thinking and start blindly frightenedly accepting! I want to taste and glory in each day, and never be afraid to experience pain, and never shut myself up in a numb core of nonfeeling, or stop questioning and criticizing life and take the easy way out. –Sylvia Plath, journal, January 10, 1953

Somewhere in her stomach was a knot of feeling that she could not allow herself to touch. She could skirt the edges of it, chart its size and location, feel it hard and heavy in her belly. But she could not touch it. When she probed the edges, she felt the cold sensation that comes with a great injury, like the chill that follows the cut of a knife, just before the pain hits. –Pat Murphy, The City, Not Long after

They told us you’ll conquer when you submit.
We’ve submitted and found ashes.
They told us you’ll conquer when you love.
We loved and found ashes.
They told us you’ll conquer when you abandon your life.
We abandoned our life and found ashes.
      We found ashes. It remains to rediscover our life, now that we’ve nothing left. I imagine that he who’ll rediscover life, in spite of so much paper, so many emotions, so many debates, and so much teaching, will be someone like us, only with a slightly tougher memory. We ourselves can’t help still remembering what we’ve given. He’ll remember only what he’s gained from each of his offerings. What can a flame remember? If it remembers a little less than is necessary, it goes out; if it remembers a little more than is necessary, it goes out. If only it could teach us, while it burns, to remember correctly. I’ve come to an end: if only someone else could begin at the point where I’ve ended. There are times when I have the impression that I’ve reached the limit, that everything’s in its place, ready to sing together in harmony. The machine on the point of starting. I can even imagine it in motion, alive, like something unexpectedly new. But there’s still something: an infinitesimal obstacle, a grain of sand, shrinking and shrinking yet unable to disappear completely. I don’t know what I ought to say or what I ought to do. Sometimes that obstacle seems to me like a teardrop wedged into some articulation of the orchestra, keeping it silent until it’s been dissolved. And I have an unbearable feeling that all the rest of my life won’t be sufficient to dissolve this drop within my soul. And I’m haunted by the thought that, if they were to burn me alive, this obstinate moment would be the last to surrender. –George Seferis, an untitled piece in Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard’s George Seferis: Collected Poems, dated June 5, 1932

… maybe luck wasn’t the sort of thing people could be said to possess at all: maybe there were currents of luck, good and bad, that ran through the world, and sometimes we found ourselves in one current, sometimes in the other, but the water itself was never truly a part of us, we were just trying to stay afloat in it. –Kevin Brockmeier, A Brief History of the Dead

Dreaming was easier than screaming, and screaming was easier than worrying, and worrying was easier than crying, which was what she knew she would be reduced to if she didn’t keep a hard eye on herself. –ditto

Sometimes he thought there must be something about him that attracted such people from an infinite distance. You know the way that certain wild animals will scout around for miles in search of the cleanest place to empty their bowels? Well, he was the cleanest place, and they were the wild animals. It was uncanny. In every railway concourse or shopping mall, he was always the guy trailing the long line of religious cultists behind him, a bright exploding flare of bald heads, orange robes, and ponytails. The freaks and the con artists, the drug addicts and schizophrenics: inevitably, no matter where he went, they seemed to zero right in on him. Even here in the City he could not seem to avoid them, whether it was the beggar with his patchy beard and his hard-luck stories or that nutcase with the bird fixation and the Jesus signs. –ditto [this cracks me up because this is exactly how it is for my friend Melissa and me!]

It isn’t important to come out on top. What matters is to be the one who comes out alive. –Bertolt Brecht, In the Jungle of Cities

We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars. –Oscar Wilde, Lady Windermere’s Fan

If any mention was made of homicide, madness, adultery, and intolerable tortures, we would let the church-bells ring louder, the church-organ swell its peal and drown the hideous sound. The sugar they raised was excellent: nobody tasted blood in it. –Ralph Waldo Emerson, Miscellanies (in a speech given on the anniversary of the emancipation of black citizens of the British West Indies)

I’ve got a lotta heart, Dad, and this heart might appear aimless and irresponsible but it’s not. It might be a partially destructive heart, but it’s a heart with gumption. It’s a heart with moxie. There is nothing to worry about. I’m not worried. –David Dornstein, in a 1984 letter to his father, quoted in Ken Dornstein’s The Boy Who Fell from the Sky

He who has seen everything empty itself is close to knowing what everything is filled with. –Antonio Porchia

Being a somewhat dark person myself, I fell in love with the idea that what you look for your whole life will eventually eat you alive. –Laurie Anderson

You always become the thing you fight the most. –Carl Jung

One thing the last couple of years has taught me is that there’s nothing you can’t fuck up if you try hard enough. –Nick Hornby, A Long Way Down

The world breaks everyone, and afterward many are strong at the broken places. –Ernest Hemingway, A Farewell to Arms

A chief event of life is the day in which we have encountered a mind that startled us. –Ralph Waldo Emerson, Essays, “Character”

I shall be a dawn made of all the air I ever breathed. –Saint Geraud

What is to give light must endure burning. –Victor Frankel

I learned to trust my obsessions. It is surely a great calamity for a human being to have no obsessions. –Robert Bly

I refuse to give up my obsession. –Allen Ginsberg, “America”

The question is not what you look at but what you see. –Henry David Thoreau

The maxim “Nothing avails but perfection” may be spelled p-a-r-a-l-y-s-i-s.–Winston Churchill

I am ashamed of my century for being so entertaining but I have to smile. –Frank O’Hara

But humor can’t go hand in hand with revolution. Humor means multiple viewpoints, which revisionists cannot afford. –Ned Rorem

A mind all logic is like a knife all blade. It makes the hand bleed that uses it. –Rabindranath Tagore

Pure logic is the ruin of the spirit. –Antoine de Saint-Exupery

The capacity to blunder slightly is the real marvel of DNA. Without this special attribute, we would still be anaerobic bacteria and there would be no muse. –Lewis Thomas

If you take a single atom and make it as large as Yankee Stadium, it would consist almost entirely of empty space. The center of the atom, the nucleus, would be smaller than a baseball sitting out in center field. The outer parts of the atom would be tiny gnats buzzing about at an altitude higher than any pop fly Babe Ruth ever hit. And between the baseball and the gnats? Nothingness. All empty. You are more emptiness than anything else. Indeed, if all the space were taken out of you, you would be a million times smaller than the smallest grain of sand. –Brian Swimme

... lately I’m tired of how the rest of the world doesn’t live in my head and already know the inside jokes that have worked their way into my regular conversation rotation. ... So from now on, I’m just saying fuck it and using all these personal phrases without any pauses or sidenotes, and if people cannot understand what I’m talking about, they can either try to figure it out on their own like I did and keep up with the flow, or think I’m a doddering old man trapped in young woman’s body, which I probably am. –Sarah Brown

… it suddenly occurred to me that there would always be road construction—not always on this particular road, but somewhere. There will never be a point in my lifetime when all the highways are fixed. It’s theoretically plausible that my closest friend might someday abandon me for no reason whatsoever, but it’s completely impossible to envision a day where I could drive from New York to California without hitting roadwork somewhere along the way. It will always exist, and there’s nothing I can do about it. And for the first time, that reality made me sad. –Chuck Klosterman, Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs

When Carl Jung introduced the concept of the “collective unconscious,” he was trying to explain why all humans are inherently scared of things like darkness and vampires—but net porn is the collective conscious. It’s where we all see the things people would never admit to wanting. –ditto

Psychologically, the Internet is very Marxist: Everyone with a modem has access to the same information, so we all get jammed into a technological middle class. You don’t need to be Lenny Kravitz to know what Lisa Bonet looks like when she steps out of the shower. You don’t even need to wear hemp pants. All you need is a modem and a phone jack. –ditto

Console yourself with the fact that the heart of the world, its core, speaks straight to us, not via wires. –Mati Unt, Things in the Night

Every man’s armor is borrowed, and beneath it, he’s naked and shivering and hoping you won’t see. –Norah Vincent

I want to be bruised by God.
I want to be strung up in a strong light and singled out.
I want to be stretched, like music wrung from a dropped seed.
I want to be entered and picked clean.
–Charles Wright, “Clear Night”

It is dangerous to be right in matters on which the established authorities are wrong. –Voltaire

You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life. –Winston Churchill

… any embarrassment to people in authority gives me great pleasure. –Sergei Dovlatov, The Compromise

But places that seep into our hearts tend to make permanent homes there ... For chronic movers like me, and for the hectic lives that we all seem to live, there’s no balm quite like that of returning to the same physical spot again and again while the world rushes by at breakneck speed. These places become touchstones, geographic constants to repair to year after year, and sanctuaries to which to retreat when not much else makes sense. TS Eliot referred to such places as “the still point of the turning world,” the deeply meditative spots “where past and future are gathered,” and where our lives seem most clear. For me the clarity of geographic touchstones has provided joy, solace, a much needed wake-up call, hope in times of despair, lucidity in times of confusion, an overbearing need to tell my barely cognitive two-year-old about my childhood, and even a sweet form of regret. These touchstones are sentimental, sure, but in the best possible sense. They are landscapes we have soaked in memory; they are walk-through scrapbooks of our lives. –Elizabeth Weil, “Paradises Found”

What we call the beginning is often the end
And to make an end is to make a beginning.
The end is where we start from.
–T.S. Eliot, Four Quartets, “Little Gidding”

Ninety percent of everything is crap. –Theodore Sturgeon, in Robert Forward and Joel Davis’s Mirror Matter

We must change in order to survive. –Pearl Bailey, Hurry Up, America, and Spit

This world we live in is but thickened light. –Ralph Waldo Emerson, Lectures and Biographical Sketches

My experience has been good with AOL. I always meet somebody interesting that I wouldn’t normally meet in my social circle. Especially considering that my social circle consists almost entirely of faces on a television screen. –Augusten Burroughs, Magical Thinking

I never watch CNN. I hate news and information and anything that threatens to puncture the bubble of oblivion in which I live. –ditto

Nothing, in my opinion, sets the odious selfishness of mankind in such a repulsively vivid light, as the treatment, in all cases of society, which the Single people receive at the hands of the Married people. When you have once shown yourself too considerate and self-denying to add a family of your own to an already overcrowded population, you are vindictively marked out, by your married friends, who have no similar consideration and no similar self-denial, as the recipient of half their conjugal troubles, and the born friend of all their children. Husbands and wives talk of the cares of matrimony; and bachelors and spinsters bear them. –Wilkie Collins, The Woman in White

People think you’re dangerous when you’re chaotic. I feel dangerous now that I’m focused. –Angelina Jolie

When I envision a perfect summer’s day, however, I can think of no better place to spend it than in a refreshing, air-conditioned chamber, preferably with drawn shades, a frosty cocktail and/or iced espresso beverage, and a TV tuned to the Cartoon Network, in front of which I will be arranged horizontally. Place me out of doors on one of those blistering afternoons when the mercury climbs above 60 degrees, and I become foul-tempered and glum. But point me in the direction of an air conditioner, and my will to live soon returns. Air conditioning has that power for me. When I close my windows and shut my door, its hypnotic whir transforms my office into a dominion of worker productivity. –Dan Zevin, The Day I Turned Uncool: Confessions of a Reluctant Grown-Up

You get a strange feeling when you’re about to leave a place, like you’ll not only miss the people you love but you’ll miss the person you are now at this time and this place, because you’ll never be this way ever again. –Azar Nafisi, Reading Lolita in Tehran

Never be afraid to sit awhile and think. –Lorraine Hansberry, A Raisin in the Sun

starshine and clay,
my one hand holding tight
my other hand; come celebrate
with me that everyday
something has tried to kill me
and has failed.
–Lucille Clifton, “song at midnight”

Men should not care too much for good looks; neglect is becoming. –Ovid, Ars amatoria

But close your eyes and it is sunset
At the edge of the world. It is the language
Of dolphins, the growth of tree-roots,
The heart-beat slowing down.
–John Fuller, “Concerto for Double Bass”

Passion is what we are most deeply curious about, most hungry for, will most hate to lose in life. It is the most desperate wish we need to yell down the well of our lives. It is whatever we pursue merely for its own sake, what we study when there are no tests to take, what we create though no one may ever see it. It makes us forget that the sun rose and set, that we have bodily functions and personal relations that could use a little tending. It is what we’d do if we weren’t worried about consequences, about money, about making anybody happy but ourselves. It is whatever we could be tempted to sell our souls for in order to have a hundred extra years just to devote to it, whatever fills us with the feeling poet Anne Sexton was referring to when she said that “when I’m writing, I know I’m doing the thing I was born to do.” It is what matters most, whether we’re doing it or not. –(?)

I can’t take a well-tanned person seriously. –Cleveland Amory

Look for the ridiculous in everything and you find it. –Jules Renard

We do not receive wisdom, we must discover it for ourselves, after a journey through the wilderness which no one else can make for us, which no one can spare us, for our wisdom is the point of view from which we come at last to regard the world. –Marcel Proust

When your brain howls, when your body burns and aches, when you believe you have been abandoned, or you feel someone, something, closing you in so you cannot breathe, take a day. Do nothing. Sleep when you are tired. Eat when you are hungry. Move when you must. Dream. –Mary Sojourner, Dreamweaving

... the mind is conscious, but conscious of nothing
I said to my soul, be still, and wait without hope
For hope would be hope for the wrong thing;
Wait without love
For love would be love of the wrong thing;
There is yet faith
But the faith and the love and the hope are all in the waiting.
Wait without thought, for you are not ready for thought:
So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing.
–TS Eliot, The Four Quartets, “East Coker”

To stay in places and to leave, to trust, to distrust, to no longer believe and believe again, to care about fishes, the different winds, the changes of the seasons, to see what happens, to be out in boats, to sit in a saddle, to watch the snow come, to watch it go, to hear rain on a tent, to know where I can find what I want. –Ernest Hemingway, on his favorite things

Write regularly! Don’t surrender! Even if no salvation should come, I want to be worthy of it every moment. –Franz Kafka, in his journal

How can you gather together the thousand fragments of each person? –George Seferis, “Sixteen Haiku, #11”

You’re crying. You say you’ve burned yourself.
But can you think of anyone who’s not
hazy with smoke?
–Rumi, “Saladin’s Begging Bowl”

Try and be a sheet of paper with nothing on it.
Be a spot of ground where nothing is growing,
where something might be planted,
a seed, possibly, from the Absolute.
–Rumi, “The Fragile Vial”

All night I have dreamed of destruction, annihilations—
An assembly-line of cut throats, and you and I
Inching off in the gray Chevrolet, drinking the green
Poison of stilled lawns, the little clapboard gravestones,
Noiseless, on rubber wheels, on the way to the sea resort.
–Sylvia Plath, “Waking in Winter”

The millstones grind up everything
and everything turns into stars.
–George Seferis, “Summer Solstice”

Everyone sees visions
but no one admits to it;
they continue to live thinking they’re alone.

Yet what is more remarkable than that a tiny minority of souls reach a point where they entrust their bodies to the force of gravity [committing suicide by jumping] is that so few of the rest of us will splurge an hour of a summer day gazing at the trees and sky. How many summers do we have? One sees prosperous families in the city who keep plants in their apartment windows that have grown so high they block the sunlight and appear to be doing the living for the tenants who are bolted inside. But beauty is nobody’s sure salvation: not the beauty of a swimming hole if you get a cramp, and not the beauty of a woman if she doesn’t care for you. The swimming hole looks inviting under the blue sky, with its amber bottom, green sedges sticking up in the shallows, and curls of gentle current over a waterlogged birch tree two feet beneath the surface, near the brook that feeds it. Come back at dusk, however, and the pond turns black—as dark as death—or on the contrary, a restful dark, a dark to savor. Take it as you will. –Edward Hoagland, “Heaven and Nature”

Heroes know that things must happen when it is time for them to happen. A quest may not simply be abandoned ... A happy ending cannot come in the middle of the story. –Prince Lir in The Last Unicorn

When you forget the beginner’s awe, you start decaying. –Nobuko Albery

To live content with small means; to seek elegance rather than luxury, and refinement rather than fashion; to be worthy, not respectable, and wealthy, not rich; to study hard, think quietly; talk gently; act frankly; to listen to stars and birds, to babes and sages, with open heart; to bear all cheerfully, do all bravely, await occasions, hurry never; in a word, to let the spiritual, unbidden and unconscious, grow up through the common, this is to be my symphony. –William Henry Channing

Grant me that I may be beautiful in my soul within, and that all external possessions be in harmony with my inner man. May I consider the wise man rich, and may I have such wealth as only the self-restrained man can bear or endure. –Prayer of Socrates

He has achieved success who has lived well, laughed often, and loved much; who has enjoyed the trust of pure women, the respect of intelligent men, and the love of little children; who has filled his niche and accomplished his task; who has left the world better than he found it, whether by an improved poppy, a perfect poem, or a rescued soul; who has never lacked appreciation of earth’s beauty or failed to express it; who has always looked for the best in others and given them the best he had; whose life was an inspiration; whose memory is a benediction. –Bessie A. Stanley, in a contest-winning essay sponsored by Modern Women

Share everything. Play fair. Don’t hit people. Put things back where you found them. Clean up your own mess. Don’t take things that aren’t yours. Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody. Wash your hands before you eat. Flush. Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you. Live a balanced life—learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some.Robert Fulghum, All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten

Let me not fall
And when I fall
Let there be strong hands to catch me
And when those hands are weak
Let me raise myself
And understand weakness in my strength
That can only come from weakness
Let my love be big enough
To carry you
And be carried by you
For every love is tested
And leaving one trial
There comes another
Let me see light in the darkness
And never forget the darkness in light
So be it.
–Imogen Slater, “Prayer”

What you really value is what you miss, not what you have. –Jorge Luis Borges

Nothing good can be said for errands and housework except the twinge of relief at having gotten at least some of them done before nightfall. –Barbara Holland, Endangered Pleasure

This question Lies
Which part scares me more
My love for you
Or this need
This need to be away…
–Anonymous, “Answers”

Our chief defect is that we are more given to talking about things than to doing them. –Jawaharlal Nehru

To lose the earth you know, for greater knowing; to lose the life you have, for greater life; to leave the friends you loved, for greater loving; to find a land more kind than home, more large than earth… –Thomas Wolfe, You Can’t Go Home Again

There are no happy endings because nothing ends. –Schmendrick, in The Last Unicorn

We are novices of a new life
Maybe we are living the last bad days
Maybe we shall live the first good days too
There is something bitter in this air
Between the past and the future
Between suffering and joy
Between anger and forgiveness.
–Cemal Sureya

Items from a Cirque du Soleil booklet:

A photograph is not only an image (as a painting is an image), an interpretation of the real; it is also a trace, something directly stenciled off the real, like a footprint or a death mask. –Susan Sontag, On Photography

Is there ever any particular spot where one can put one’s finger and say, “It all began that day, at such a time and such a place, with such an incident?” –Agatha Christie, Endless Night

A man worthy of praise is oftentimes despised during his lifetime. But when he is removed by death, his loss comes to be severely felt. –Fakhir Al-Din Razi

When the white man wins, it is a battle. When the Indian wins, it is a massacre. –Native American maxim (c. 1880)

There are two ways of exerting one’s strength: one is pushing down, the other is pulling up. –Booker T. Washington

The dream of reason produces monsters. –Francisco José de Goya y Lucientes, Los Caprichos

Before you can break out of prison, you must first realize you’re locked up. –(?)

Never accept the proposition that just because a solution satisfies a problem, that it must be the only solution. –Raymond E. Feist

It’s a rash man who reaches a conclusion before he gets to it. –Jacob Levin

I had reasoned this out in my mind: There was two things I had a right to, liberty and death. If I could not have one, I would have the other, for no man should take me alive. –Harriet Tubman

Handguns are available for self protection in Seattle, but not in nearby Vancouver, Canada; handgun killings are five times more common and the handgun suicide rate is ten times greater in Seattle. Guns make impulsive killing easy. –Carl Sagan, The Demon-Haunted World

All day you stare at us, we
who may not touch
your weeping or your blood.
–Heather McHugh

Have nothing…that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful. –William Morris

Her passion and her make-up are those of the tragic actress—their plaster has peeled off already. –George Seferis, “Summer Solstice”

No one knows what is in the secret heart of another. –Charles Dickens

Look around you. I have found you cannot tell by looking at the surface what is lurking there beneath it. –(?)

Be kind. Everyone you meet is fighting a battle. –(?)

What happens when our symbols are turned upside down? Will all the luck run out? What if it did? Will the food chain reverse? Dust and dirt remain constant. –from a 1996 issue of Dark’s Art Parlour

Is not the night mournful, sad, and melancholy? –Rabelais, Gargantua

Night, when words fade and things come alive. –Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Flight to Arras

After us, the flood. –Madame de Pompadour

I will have no laws. I will acknowledge none. I protest against every law which an authority calling itself necessary imposes upon my free will. –Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, Idée générale de la révolution

He bears the seed of ruin in himself. –Matthew Arnold, “Merope”

Write the bad things that are done to you in sand, but write the good things that happen to you on a piece of marble. –Arabic proverb

A loving person lives in a loving world. A hostile person lives in a hostile world. Everyone you meet is your mirror. –Ken Keys

We should feel sorrow, but not sink under its oppression; the heart of a wise man should resemble a mirror, which reflects every object without being sullied by any. –Confucius, Analects

Thoughts are the shadows of our feelings—always darker, emptier, and simpler. –Friedrich Nietzsche, The Gay Science

If we were always conscious of the fact that people precious to us are frighteningly mortal, hanging not even by a thread but by a wisp of gossamer, perhaps we would be kinder to them and more grateful for the love and friendship they give us. –Dean Koontz, Seize the Night

Blessed are the oblivious for they shall give me no trouble. –Goldberry Long, Juniper Tree Burning

A wise man adapts himself to circumstances, as water shapes itself to the vessel that contains it. –Chinese Proverb

longing to leave the body
thirst, but they can’t find water anywhere:
they stick here, stick there, haphazardly,
birds caught in lime—
in vain they struggle
until their wings fail completely.
–George Seferis, “Summer Solstice”

I should sit on a rock off Cornwall and comb my hair.
I should wear tiger pants, I should have an affair.
We should meet in another life, we should meet in air,
Me and you.
–Sylvia Plath, “Lesbos”

The black telephone’s off at the root,
The voices just can’t worm through.
–Sylvia Plath, “Daddy”

… there is no end … to the sharp objects in the heart. –Rachel Loden, “Locked Ward, Newton, Connecticut”

I have a perfect cure for a sore throat: cut it. –Alfred Hitchcock

If my film makes one more person miserable, I’ve done my job. –Woody Allen

Good breeding consists in concealing how much we think of ourselves and how little we think of the other person. –Mark Twain

It is almost impossible systematically to constitute a natural moral law. Nature has no principles. She furnishes us with no reason to believe that human life is to be respected. Nature, in her indifference, makes no distinction between good and evil. –Anatole France

The stars are not malignant. Worse: they are careless, without a shred of compassion for us, no matter what cry we send into the dark toward those pricks of light, which every night shed their death upon our mysterious lives. –Patricia Hampl, Virgin Time

Sweet is the lore that nature brings:
Our meddling intellect
Mis-shapes the beauteous forms of things:
—We murder to dissect.
–William Wordsworth, “The Tables Turned”

If you can’t say anything good about someone, sit right here with me. –Alice Roosevelt Longworth

“Oh God,” she cried,
“I never knew what
it meant to be real
I thought all this was a joke,
I never let the horror, or
the sweetness & the dignity
penetrate my brain.”
–Jim Morrison, an untitled piece in Wilderness

And I came to you
for peace
And I came to you
for gold
And I came to you
for lies
And you gave me fever
& wisdom
& cries
of sorrow
& we’ll be here
the next day
the next day

I called you to announce
sadness falling like
burned skin
I called you to wish
you well, to glory in
self like a new monster
& now I call on you
to pray:
–Jim Morrison, “& the Cool Fluttering…”

Reality is nothing but a collective hunch. –Lily Tomlin

The world ended in May. I was born in May. I died in May. We started the journey of ugliness on May 29th. We headed for Auschwitz. We arrived on May 31st. The scent of spring wasn’t delicious. The earth didn’t smile. It shrieked in pain. The air was filled with the stench of death. Unnatural death. The smoke was thick. The sun couldn’t crack through. The scent was the smell of burning flesh. The burning flesh was your mother. I am condemned to walk the earth for all my days with the stench of burning flesh in my nostrils. May is damned. May should be abolished. May hurts. There should only be eleven months in a year. May should be set aside for tears. For six million years, to cleanse the earth. –Isabella Leitner, Fragments of Isabella

This universe, which is the same for all, has not been made by any god or man, but it always has been, is, and will be an ever-living fire, kindling itself by regular measures and going out by regular measures… The phases of fire are craving and satiety. –Heraclitus of Ephesus

In the hope of reaching the moon
men fail to see the flowers
that blossom at their feet.
–Albert Schweitzer

We’re all responsible for defining who we are and getting back to our own home, whatever that home is. For growing and deciding who we want to be in that growth, touching other people along the way. –Dee Wallace, on lessons she learned when making E.T.

For a moment, here, in the calm he knows is only the eye of the storm, in the center of a turbulence that, despite everything anyone has ever written or said, might not mean a thing, he can only stare into his friend’s gentle face, and listen, with gratitude, to the sounds of the world around him. –Adam Haslett, “My Father’s Business”

Do any of us understand what we are doing? If we did, would we even do it? –George Bernard Shaw, Pygmalion

If at first you don’t succeed, try again. Then give up. There’s no point making a damn fool of yourself. –WC Fields

If at first you don’t succeed, failure may be your style. –Quentin Crisp

It is not enough to succeed; others must fail. –Gore Vidal

I am convinced that we have a degree of delight, and that no small one, in the misfortunes and pains of others. –Edmund Burke, On the Sublime and Beautiful

Nothing is more humiliating than to see idiots succeed in enterprises we have failed in. –Gustave Flaubert, Sentimental Education

There is no sin except stupidity. –Oscar Wilde, The Critic as Artist

To walk, we have to lean forward, lose our balance, and begin to fall. We let go constantly of the previous stability, falling all the time, trusting that we will find a succession of new stabilities with each step. –Robin Skynner

What an absurd amount of energy I have been wasting all my life trying to figure out how things “really are” when all the time they weren’t. –Hugh Prather, Notes to Myself

I have carried several oceans
in my head for company
so that when I found myself
within the middle earth
I’d have water,
wide and deep enough
to wash the dirt
from every chamber
of my brain.
–Rod McKuen, Alone

We eat and drink flesh
the color of garnets, rubies, wounds.
It is bitter just under the skin.

Hide until everybody goes home.
Hide until everybody forgets about you.
Hide until everybody dies.
–Yoko Ono, “Hide-and-Seek Piece”

Draw a map to get lost. –Yoko Ono, “Map Piece”

1. against the wind
2. against the wall
3. against the sky.
–Yoko Ono, “Voice Piece for Soprano”

Hit a wall with your head. –Yoko Ono, “Wall Piece for Orchestra”

Get a telephone that only echoes back your voice.
Call every day and talk about many things.
–Yoko Ono, “Echo Telephone Piece”

Make a key.
Find a lock that fits.
If you find it, burn the house
that is attached to it.
–Yoko Ono, “Travel Piece”

A shiver came quick
grabbed me up by the back of the neck
and shook me down to the floor
through my shoes, to the floor, to the core of the earth
I muttered something, swallowed some air
science, miracles, monkeys, or prayer
I’ll believe in anything when I’m there
I’m certain I’ve said that before
I’ll believe in anything when I’m there
I’m certain I’ve said that before.
–REM, from Tourfilm

Hey man, I’m making moves
and I am so much stronger than you
I am so much stronger
I’m much stronger than you
Everybody thinks the way that we thought
we thought ahead and look what we got
I did not invent this world
all my words a string of pearls
but you will find the sea
it loses all its luster.

What will remain of those days? When it all meant something to you, the kids, and me? It was more than just something, yes, but it’s changed. And what will remain of those things that used to be? Some say they’re gone, but they’ll never be gone in me. And I will remain to see those days again. Like before when to me it felt like something more. But it didn’t die, it’s just been ignored. People change, time is rearranged, lives and goals do not remain the same. What will remain? I will remain. –(?)

And that was what now she often felt the need of—to think … to be silent; to be alone. All the being and the doing, expansive, glittering, vocal, evaporated; and one shrunk, with a sense of solemnity, to being oneself, a wedge-shaped core of darkness, something invisible to others. …When life sank down for a moment, the range of experience seemed limitless … The core of darkness could go anywhere, for no one saw it. They could not stop it, she thought, exulting. There was freedom, there was peace, there was, most welcome of all, a summoning together, a resting on a platform of stability. –Virginia Woolf

There’s a part of me that loves to go out in the world looking like a total slob. I guess it’s my way of saying, “Fuck it. I don’t give a shit about what anyone thinks I look like.” And yet, another part of me knows that under the defiance, the way I look is a reflection of the way I feel, a walking advertisement of myself as a loser. – Martha Manning, Undercurrents: A Life Beneath the Surface

Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, vision cleared, ambition inspired, and success achieved. –Helen Keller, journal

I feel no hatred for anyone. Just myself. –J. Stile

I am trapped inside a part of me I hate. –Jennifer Lynch, The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer

There was one plus about profound self-loathing. Nobody could hate you worse than you hated yourself. –Francine Pascal, Fearless

I felt ugly, weak, overwhelmed. I couldn’t imagine being capable of doing anything. –Shirley Manson

I feel disgusting. I could take a knife to my throat for the way I look. Can someone just put a bin or a bag or a fucking bomb on my head? –ditto

When things seem best, it is time to worry most intensely. –Fang

Television is the first truly democratic culture—the first culture available to everybody and entirely governed by what the people want. The most terrifying thing is what the people want. –Clive Barnes

Television is democracy at its ugliest. –Paddy Chayefsky

under the non-existent self-control
the laughter-filled drinking binges
the carefully maintained distances
–Lennie St. Luce, “Why?”

You are free, and that is why you are lost. –Franz Kafka

Meanwhile it sometimes seems better to me to sleep than to be so completely without companions as we are, to be always waiting like this; and what’s to be done or said in the meanwhile I don’t know, and what is the use of poets in a mean-spirited time? –Friedrich Hölderlin, Bread and Wine

The one thing you dreaded: letting yourself fall, taking the step into uncertainty, the little step beyond all the securities that existed. And whoever had once surrendered himself, one single time, whoever had entrusted himself to fate was liberated. –Hermann Hesse

We have come and we are better than you! –Michael Sacchins, in his 1994 graduation valedictory speech at the American Community Schools in Athens, Greece

Terry is a wanker. –written on my desk in my semiotics seminar (it made me smile because my boyfriend’s name was Terry)

But he only saw dying light and a dead land. He uttered no prayer, believed in no deity, and knew that the past was devoid of meaning like the present, and a refuge for cowards. –EM Forster, Maurice

Feeling hurts like shit; well, hard shit … it tears you on the way out and makes you bleed. –from the Bodies Under Siege listserv

I want to get away from the inanities of this world, the materialism, the pointlessness…As I wrote in my journal a few weeks ago, “I feel so lost. Not because if this person or that—because of ME. I have lost myself ... help me find peace, God. Not this person or that thing, not happiness, just peace.” –from one of my listservs

Our taste has become so uncertain that often we no longer know whether a thing is art or a disease. –Carl Jung

There’s something oddly sensual about Tim Curry, dressed like a clown with fangs, repeatedly asking John Ritter if he wants it. –Matt,, discussing the movie It

I don’t like buses. To ride a bus is to wonder how you’re going to die. … Think about it. Think of the form of transportation where there’s the most mass death. Bus. –Margo Kaufman

Hopelessness filled him like cold water. There was no base of communication with these beautiful chosen ones. They existed up where the air was rare. –Stephen King, “The Running Man”

Whitsuntide has always been considered by the Irish as a very fatal and unlucky time—for the people hold that fairies and evil spirits have then great power over men and cattle, both by sea and land, and work their spells with malign and mysterious efficacy. Children born at Whitsuntide, it is said, are foredoomed; they will either have the evil eye, or commit a murder, or die a violent death. –Lady Wilde, Ancient Legends, Mystic Charms, and Superstitions of Ireland [This interests me because I was born during Whitsuntide]

To turn away ill-luck from a child born at that time (Whitsuntide), a grave must be dug and the infant laid in it for a few minutes. After this, the evil spell is broken, and the child is safe. –Lady Wilde, Ancient Cures, Charms, and Usages of Ireland

It was widely believed that any animal or human born at Whitsuntide would die a violent death or cause the death of another. However, there was a simple way to avoid this fate and that was to have the infant creature kill something. Most often, a live insect was put into a baby’s hand and the little fingers squeezed on it until the insect was dead. Having caused a death, the child was freed from the spell. A baby animal was made to perform the same ritual so that it too, would be saved from the ill-fortune of being born on this day. Counter charms such as this one were very common in old Ireland and were often used to protect against an evil influence. For example, it was believed that people, especially children, who were suffering from an illness were more likely to die at this time of year than at others. In some parts of Ireland, a green sod was laid on the head of the afflicted person in hopes that the mimicry of a burial might prevent an untimely death. –Bridget Haggerty

I am fascinated by Courtney Love, but the same way I am by someone who’s got Tourette’s syndrome walking in Central Park. –Madonna

Tragedy is when I cut my finger. Comedy is when you fall down an open manhole cover and die. –Mel Brooks

It is easier to fight for one’s principles than to live up to them. –Alfred Adler

I like persons better than principles and I like persons with no principles better than anything else in the world. –Oscar Wilde

I am not frightened of failure. I’m frightened of standing still. –Jon Bon Jovi

I want to speak with many things
and I will not leave this planet
without knowing what I came to seek …
–Pablo Neruda, “Pastoral”


But because I ask for silence,
don’t think I’m going to die.
The opposite is true;
it happens I’m going to live.

To be, and to go on being.

I will not be, however, if, inside me,
the crop does not keep sprouting,
the shoots first, breaking through the earth
to reach the light;
but the mothering earth is dark,
and, deep inside me, I am dark.
I am a well in the water of which
the night leaves stars behind
and goes on alone across fields.
–Pablo Neruda, “I Ask for Silence”

Another advantage of ugly: you don’t waste time trying to look your best; you will never look your best. –Joyce Carol Oates, “Ugly”

From nonexistence I entered existence and what did I find? Bad weather. –William Markiewicz, Extracts of Existence

Sometimes a scream is better than a thesis. –Ralph Waldo Emerson

We always want to believe there is a place better than our own … –Loreena McKennitt, in the liner notes to The Book of Secrets

For a long time, I believed the opposite of passion was death. I was wrong. Passion and death are implicit, one in the other. Past the border of a fiery life lies the netherworld. I can trace this road, which took me through places so hot the very air burned the lungs. I did not turn back. I pressed on, and eventually passed over the border, beyond which lies a place that is wordless and cold, so cold that it, like mercury, burns a freezing blue flame. –Marya Hornbacher, Wasted

To escape criticism, do nothing, say nothing, be nothing. –Elbert Hubbard

I hate the idea of causes, and if I had to choose between betraying my country and betraying my friend, I hope I have the guts to betray my country. –EM Forster, “What I Believe,” in Two Cheers for Democracy

Owing to lack of interest, tomorrow has been cancelled. –graffiti

There is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about. –Oscar Wilde

Don’t talk about yourself; it will be done when you leave. –William Mizner

I hear and I forget, I see and I remember, I do and I understand. –Chinese proverb

Trouble, they say, is like sunshine. It sours milk but sweetens apples. Trouble can diminish faith or deepen it. –Rev. Roger Collins, at Jill Dando’s funeral

Who would ever think that so much went on in the soul of a young girl? –Anne Frank, The Diary of Anne Frank

My husband and I didn’t sign a pre-nuptial agreement. We signed a mutual suicide pact. –Roseanne

All the world’s a cage. –Heanne Philips

The fellow that agrees with everything you say is either a fool or he is getting ready to skin you. –Kin Hubbard

I don’t understand anything about the ballet; all I know is that during the intervals the ballerinas stink like horses. –Anton Chekhov

Is fuel efficiency really what we need most desperately? I say what we really need is a car that can be shot when it breaks down. –Russell Baker

A celebrity is a person who works hard all his life to become well-known, then wears dark glasses to avoid being recognized. –Fred Allen

The nice thing about being a celebrity is that when you bore people, they think it’s their fault. –Henry Kissinger

If you can’t give me love and peace, then give me bitter fame. –Anna Akhmatova

He’s fun because he doesn’t make sense. –Carrie Fisher’s opinion of Jack Nicholson

Cleanliness is almost as bad as godliness. –Samuel Butler

But it seemed to me that perhaps there is something about the sounding of horns and the shouting of obscenities that’s necessary for the life and traffic flow of any city. –Geoff Nicholson, Bleeding London

Every decision you make is a mistake. –Edward Dahlberg

All the things I really like to do are either illegal, immoral, or fattening. –Alexander Woollcott

You know how on the evening news they always tell you that the stock market is up in active trading, or off in moderate trading, or trading in mixed activity, or whatever? Well, who gives a shit? –Dave Barry

There’s a fine line between fishing and just standing on the shore like an idiot. –Steven Wright

If I had a hammer—I’d use it on Peter, Paul, and Mary. –Howard Rosenberg

Never kick a fresh turd on a hot day. –attributed to Harry S Truman

Guilt is a wicked thing. Once it gets into you it’s harder to get rid of than a cancer. –Christopher Pike, Last Act

You have to love what is lovable, and hate what is hateable. It takes a real man to know the difference. –Oscar Wilde

There are no mistakes. The events we bring upon ourselves, no matter how unpleasant, are necessary in order to learn what we need to learn; whatever steps we take, they’re necessary to reach the places we’ve chosen to go. –Richard Bach, The Bridge across Forever

A diamond is only forever. Give that someone special something that dies. –sign on the front of a San Fernando valley floral shop

I never thought it would end like this.
To tell the truth, I never thought it would end at all.
There are forces acting on us, with or without our consent.
Forces sure of themselves as gravity.
I thought knowing myself with the same certainty would keep me safe.
But ... surprise ...
As they say, “What a long, strange trip this has been.”
–Alex Glaser

Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning. –Sir Winston Churchill, in a speech at Mansion House, London, on November 10, 1942

A synonym is a word you use in place of one you can’t spell. –seen on the internet

Don’t think there are no crocodiles because the water is calm. –ditto

Don’t think you’re on the right road just because it’s a well-beaten path. –ditto

It is within the experience of everyone that when pleasure and pain reach a certain intensity they are indistinguishable. –Arnold Bennell

In the early days all I hoped was to make a living out of what I did best. But since there’s no real market for masturbation I had to fall back on my bass-playing abilities. –Les Claypool

And then there are all those euphemisms for disabilities: physically challenged, different abled—of which a friend of mine who is disabled says, “How am I ‘differently abled’? Like, my unique ability is that without a wheelchair I have to drag myself across the floor?” –Cathy Crimmins

Privacy—you can’t find it anywhere, not even if you want to hang yourself. –Menander

To err is dysfunctional, to forgive codependent. –Berton Averre

Someday I want to be rich. Some people get so rich they lose respect for humanity. That’s how rich I want to be. –Rita Rudner

The penalty for success is to be bored by the people who used to snub you. –Nancy Astor

I was much distressed by next-door people who had twin babies and played the violin; but one of the twins died, and the other has eaten the fiddle, so all is peace. –Edward Lear

Year, n. A period of three hundred and sixty-five disappointments. –Ambrose Bierce, The Devil’s Dictionary

Without fanaticism, one cannot accomplish anything. –Eva Peron

I think of myself as an intelligent, sensitive human being with the soul of a clown which always forces me to blow it at the most important moments. –Jim Morrison

I would cry if I knew how. I’m so hopelessly apathetic and unmotivated it is frustrating. –J. Stile

We couldn’t possibly know where it would lead, but we knew it had to be done. –Betty Friedan, It Changed My Life

Advice is what we ask for when we already know the answer but wish we didn’t. –Erica Jong, How to Save Your Own Life

I don’t know how to fight. All I know is how to stay alive. –Alice Walker, The Color Purple

Lead me not into temptation; I can find the way myself. –Rita Mae Brown

I’ve been on so many blind dates, I should get a free dog. –Wendy Liebman

Here I sit, broken-hearted; tried to shit but only farted. –graffiti in a Stormville, NY, rest stop bathroom

I hate cheering, excited people … I marched up to my manager, took him off in private, told him if I was going to be expected to attend events with marching bands and cheering loud people and this disgusting enthusiasm, I would have to leave this job. –from one of my listservs

There are images I need to complete my own reality. –Jim Morrison

On the one hand, we’ll never experience childbirth. On the other hand, we can open all our own jars. –Bruce Willis (On the difference between men and women)

The Web brings people together because no matter what kind of a twisted sexual mutant you happen to be, you’ve got millions of pals out there. Type in “Find people that have sex with goats that are on fire” and the computer will ask, “Specify type of goat.” – (?)

There are only two reasons to sit in the back row of an airplane: Either you have diarrhea, or you’re anxious to meet people who do. – (?)

I saw a woman wearing a sweatshirt with “Guess” on it. I said, “Thyroid problem?” – (?)

The golf course is the only place I can dress like a pimp and fit in. Anywhere else, wearing lime-green pants and alligator shoes, I got a cop on my buns. –Samuel L. Jackson

Hockey is a sport for white men. Basketball is a sport for black men. Golf is a sport for white men dressed like black pimps. – (?)

I discovered I scream the same way whether I’m about to be devoured by a Great White or if a piece of seaweed touches my foot. – (?)

Information is not knowledge, knowledge is not wisdom, wisdom is not truth, truth is not beauty, beauty is not love. –(?)

Forgive your enemies, but never forget their names. –John F. Kennedy

The best way to judge a man’s character is to see what he does when he thinks no one is looking. –Poserina

We’re all in this alone. –Tomlin

It’s not that I have nothing to give, but rather that no one wants what I have. –Dan Goodman, Meditations for Miserable People Who Want to Stay that Way

I cannot retrieve my inner child, for it is dead and buried in my backyard. –ditto

Jealousy is wanting what others have. Stupidity is thinking you might one day get it. –ditto

Killing is an excellent way of dealing with a hostility problem. –James Coburn, in The President’s Analyst

Everything is funny. As long as it happens to someone else. –Will Rogers

Let be be finale of seem. –Wallace Stevens, “Emperor of Ice Cream”

When you look into the abyss, the abyss also looks into you. –Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil

If I can’t dance, I don’t want to be a part of your revolution. –Emma Goldman

So this was the way the world was to end. Not with a bang, not with a whimper, but with retching nausea as the teeming billions struggled for their final gulps of food and air before sinking forever into the stench, filth, disease, and slime that would certainly be our final environment in the huge rubbish dump and toilet that we have created out of paradise. –Ben Elton, Stark

As rust corrupts iron, so envy corrupts man. –Anisthenes

Snobbery is the pride of those who are not sure of their position. –Braley

N’ayant pu me corrompre, ils m’ont assassiné. [Not having been able to corrupt me, they have assassinated me.] –written on a postcard version of Louis David’s painting “The Death of Marat”

My body was given back to me sprawled out, distorted, recolored, clad in mourning in that white winter day. –Franz Fanon, Black Skin, White Mask

I can tell you that our bodies sometimes serve as the symbolic ground where order and disorder fight for supremacy, an uneasy divide that to some of us feels as porous and inconstant as a frayed tatter of gauze. –Caroline Kettlewell, Skin Game

Oh God
am I so much more sensitive than everybody else?
do I feel things so much more acutely than them,
and understand so much more?
I bet I’m the first person who’s ever felt as
rotten as this.
Could it be
that I’m going to grow up
to be a great poet and thinker, and all those
other wankers in my class
are going to have to work in factories
or go on the dole?
Yes, I think it could.
–Rick’s teen anguish poem, from Bachelor Boys, a Young Ones book

Capital punishment turns the state into a murderer. But imprisonment turns the state into a gay dungeon-master. – (?)

My mother never saw the irony in calling me a son-of-a-bitch. –(?)

… It is as if we were all parts of an electrical force which interconnects all things, or partook of the pure essence that encompasses all things. –K’ang Yu-wei, Da Tongshu

There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over, and men are no longer willing to be plunged into an abyss of injustice where they experience the blackness of corroding despair. –Martin Luther King, Jr., “Letter from a Birmingham Jail”

Some people say that I must be a horrible person, but that’s not true. I have the heart of a young boy—on a jar on my desk. –Stephen King

You may be disappointed if you fail, but you are doomed if you don’t try. –Beverly Sills

Our ability to delude ourselves may be an important survival tool. –Jane Wagner

Until you lose your reputation, you never realize what a burden it was, or what freedom really is. –Margaret Mitchell

There is a remarkable breakdown of taste and intelligence at Christmastime. Mature, responsible grown men wear neckties made out of holly leaves and drink alcoholic beverages with raw egg yolks and cottage cheese in them. –PJ O’Rourke

You never really understood me—never really even tried. –Kate Bush

I’ve been trying for some time to develop a lifestyle that doesn’t require my presence. –Gary Trudeau

Instead of perfume there will be rottenness. –Isaiah 3:24

I do not deny that many things do disturb me. –Cebes, in Phaedo

When the Tukanas cut off her head, the old woman collected her own blood in her hands and blew it towards the sun.
         “My soul enters you, too!” she shouted.
         Since then, anyone who kills receives in his body, without waning or knowing it, the soul of his victim.
–Eduardo Galeano, Memory of Fire: Genesis

Deep Thoughts, by Jack Handey

First I stripped her naked; how she did kick, bite, and scratch! I choked her to death, then cut her in small pieces so I could take my meat back to my room, to cook and eat it. How sweet and tender her little ass was roasted in the oven. It took me nine days to eat her entire body. I did not fuck her, though I could have, had I wished. She died a virgin. –serial killer Albert Fish

It is better to pooh blood then to eat bloody pooh. –baffling quote spotted on the internet

I called a detox center, just to see how much it would cost: $13,000 for three and a half weeks! My friends, if you can come up with thirteen grand, you don’t have a problem yet! –Sam Kinison

Anyone who gives a surgeon six thousand dollars for “breast augmentation” should give some thought to investing a little more on brain augmentation. –Mike Royko

Maybe because they find it easier to masturbate. –Crow’s friend Annie, on why men sleep in the nude more frequently than women [seen on Isca BBS]

That’s my name, dipshit! –Tivka to Dawn, as Dawn read a medicine bottle, thinking Tivka’s last name was a prescription drug [seen on Isca BBS]

I don’t even feel like thinking anymore. I’m going away now. –Ooseven’s brother [seen on Isca BBS]

If you can’t eat it and you can’t fuck it, then piss on it! –Pinacolada’s ex-boyfriend [seen on Isca BBS]

To go into debt before living in poverty. –Wadjet’s friend, when asked why she was in college if she’s going to be a writer [seen on Isca BBS]

Men—gotta love ’em: organizational skills of sheep. –someone commenting on Thgarris and his friends [seen on Isca BBS]

Roses are red
Violets are blue
Chrysanthemums are purple—
Let’s fuck.
–audience participation at Rocky Horror Picture Show

I may look bored, but there is a Barry Manilow concert going on inside my head. –seen on the internet

Reality is for people who lack imagination. –ditto

Reality’s the only obstacle to happiness. –ditto

Suburbia: where they tear out the trees & then name streets after them. –ditto

I just want revenge. Is that so wrong? –ditto

Not all men are annoying. Some are dead. –ditto