Favorite Short Reads

   Here is New York - ~ two excerpts ~
_    by E.B.White _(1949)

     [First Paragraph]

On any person who desires such queer prizes, New York will bestow the gift of loneliness and the gift of privacy. It is this largess that accounts for the presence within the city's walls of a considerable section of the population; for the residents of Manhattan are to a large extent strangers who have pulled up stakes somewhere and come to town, seeking sanctuary or fulfillment or some greater or lesser grail. The capacity to make such dubious gifts is a mysterious quality of New York. It can destroy an individual, or it can fulfill him, depending a good deal on luck. No one should come to New York to live unless he is willing to be lucky.

     [Fifth Paragraph from the end]

The subtlest change in New York is something people don't speak much about but that is in everyone's mind. The city, for the first time in its long history, is destructible. A single flight of planes no bigger than a wedge of geese can quickly end this island fantasy, burn the towers, crumble the bridges, turn the underground passages into lethal chambers, cremate the millions. The intimation of mortality is part of New York now: in the sound of jets overhead, in the black headlines of the latest edition.

Archy and Mehitabel was written by Don Marquis as a newpaper series for the The New York Sun in the early 1920s. Archy is a cockroach typing his stories (not able to use the shift for capitals) with the soul of a poet; and Mehitabel is a cat who traces her lineage back to Cleopatra -- not to a cat in Cleopatra's time, but Cleopatra herself.

mehitabel and her kittens          
by Don Marquis

well boss
mehitabel the cat has reappeared
in her old haunts with a flock of kittens
three of them this time

archy she says to me yesterday
the life of a female artist is
continually hampered
what in hell have i done to deserve
all these kittens
i look back on my life
and it seems to me to be
just one damned kitten after another
i am a dancer archy
and my only prayer is to be allowed
to give my best to my art
but just as i feel
that i am succeeding in my life work
along comes another batch
of these damned kittens
it is not archy
that i am shy on mother love
god knows i care for the
sweet little things
curse them
but am i never to be allowed to live
my own life
i have purposely avoided
matrimony in the interests of the higher life
but i might just
as well have been a domestic slave for all
the freedom i have gained
i hope none of them
gets run over by an automobile
my heart would bleed
if anything happened to them
and i found it out
but it isn t fair archy
it isn t fair
these damned tom cats have all the fun and freedom
if i was like some of these
green eyed feline vamps i know
i would simply walk out on the bunch of them
and let them shift for themselves
but i am not that kind
archy i am full of mother love
my kindness has always been my curse
a tender heart is the cross i bear
self sacrifice always and forever
is my motto damn them
i will make a home for the sweet innocent little things
unless of course providence in his wisdom
should remove them
they are living just now in an abandoned
garbage can just behind a made over stable in
greenwich village and if it rained into the can before
i could get back and rescue them
i am afraid the little dears might drown
it makes me shudder just
to think of it of course
if i were a family cat
they would probably be drowned anyhow
sometimes i think the kinder thing would be for me
to carry the sweet little things over to the river
and drop them in myself
but a mother s love archy
is so unreasonable
something always prevents me
these terrible conflicts are always
presenting themselves to the artist
the eternal struggle between art and life archy
is something fierce
my what a dramatic life i have lived
one moment up the next
moment down again
but always gay archy always gay
and always the lady too
in spite of
well boss it will be interesting to note
just how mehitabel works out her present problem
a dark mystery still broods over the manner in which
the former family of three kittens disappeared
one day she was taking to me
of the kittens and the next day when i asked her about them she said innocently
what kittens
interrogation point
and that was all i could ever get out
of her on the subject
we had a heavy rain right after she spoke to me
but probably that garbage can leaks so the kittens
have not yet been drowned



There Will Be No Peace _

            by W.H.Auden _(1956)

Though mild clear weather
Smile again on the shire of your esteem
And its colors come back, the storm has changed you:
You will not forget, ever,
The darkness blotting out hope, the gale
Prophesying your downfall.

You must live with your knowledge.
Way back, beyond, outside of you are others,
In moonless absences you never heard of,
Who have certainly heard of you,
Beings of unknown number and gender:
And they do not like you.

What have you done to them?
Nothing? Nothing is not an answer:
You will come to believe--how can you help it?--
That you did, you did do something;
You will find yourself wishing you could make them laugh,
You will long for their friendship.

There will be no peace.
Fight back, then, with such courage as you have
And every unchivalrous dodge you know of,
Clear in your conscience on this:
Their cause, if they had one, is nothing to them now;
They hate for hate's sake.

       – W.H.Auden, 1956            


an excerpt from his memoir, "A Sadness As Deep As The Sea"  in EMINENT MARICONES about the last days of the Cuban-born REINALDO ARENAS ("Before Night Falls") 

"This plague  AIDS  is but a symptom of the sickness in our age"

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    "..and I woke up in a fever so delirious I'm in a patriotic panic.  Where the fuck at 5 o'clock in the morning can I buy a big American flag?"

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Historical Community Flashback:

gay pride  

Published anonymously and originally passed out by activists marching with ACT UP at New York Gay Pride 1990
 * re-constructed PDF  

THE HEART SUTRA      excerpt

No Birth, no death. no-thing is defiled, no-thing is pure. No-thing can increase, no-thing can decrease. Hence: in sunyata, no form, no feeling, no thought, no volition, no consciousness, no eyes, no ears, no nose, no tongue, no body, no mind; no seeing, no hearing, no smelling, no tasting, no touching, no thinking, no world of sight, no world of consciousness, no ignorance and no end to ignorance; no old age and death and no end to old age and death. No suffering, no craving, no extinction, no path, no wisdom, no attainment. Indeed, there is nothing to be attained. Far beyond up side down views, at last nirvana. Past, present, and future, all buddhas, bodhisattvas, rely on prajna paramita and therefore reach the most supreme enlightenment.  

Set forth this dharani and say: Ga Te Ga Te Pa Ra Ga Te Pa Ra Sam Ga Te Bo Dhi Sva Ha.

Heart Sutra



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