Despite the Most Active Resistance
by Stephanie Strickland
Simone Weil, 1909-1943
Being built of clay, not sky, Babel failed—
Gertrude Stein, 1874-1946
meant for a rainbow, a limit
Does it leave you cold
if mass and sound
share the same signature, a simple one, a sine wave?
A sine, a rippling curve, the ink
on a pendulum or tuning fork, but deeper now,
or finer-meshed, what signature of light?
We, adrift in the midst of mathematical
that refuses to understand itself.
In this sudden possession neither my sense
nor my imagination
had any part; I only felt… the presence
of a love, like that which one reads
… on a beloved
face. As she said, nothing
… happened. As she said, You
cannot communicate anything to me
“Patriarchal Poetry”: to love and to reject
the language and literature in which you write—
“Letter to a Priest,”
the faith by which you live.
A secret, a plain way of speaking
like the purloined letter—
apprehensive in love, because a sword
hangs over: one woman
smiles, that one is stately. That one
is heavy-bodied and she feels light.
This one is thin and feels
clumsy. Each of them, tokens,
trained with males, Harvard’s Annex,
Henri Quatre. Bring the self-
castrating old men, bring Tolstoi,
bring Gandhi, to stand
beside them—barren women, not
made bitter, not shocked,
not unable to work, not mesmerized
by ruin: Simone Weil,
On the Right Use of School Studies,”
Gertrude Stein, Mrs. Reynolds.
Lady and Her Family
for Simone Weil, 1909-1943
I was going to say that heaven did not seem to be
my home; and I broke my heart with weeping
to come back to earth ...
a mind enclosed
in language is in prison. Held
fast, by the number
of relations that can be
present to it and ignorant of thoughts which involve
a greater number: unformulable thought,
though rigorously clear—and every one
of the relations capable of precise expression in words.
It is why
we cling secretly to nonsense,
runes, the fairy stories.
that thinking does not pledge them; it alone
Spectator 435, 7.19.1712:
“It was very entertaining to me to see them
dividing their speculations
between jellies and stars
and making a sudden
transition from the sun to an apricot.”
The Lady and her family, being the spectacle
of the Spectator, are, perhaps, conscious
and read cosmology] of being
entertainment and perhaps
affect them in their [great, formal, triple] task.