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Sunday, May 11, 2008

I Know Not What They Mean

‘Any woman who sheds tears for love in loneliness is a saint. The Church has never understood that saintly woman are made of God’s tears.’

‘Only tears will be weighed at the Last Judgement.’

‘Shall I ever be so pure that only saints’ tears could be my mirror?’

Three random captures from Cioran’s Tears and Saints (whose cover features a detail from the above painting, van der Weydens The Descent from the Cross), prompted by Christopher Reid’s request in ‘A Reasonable Demand that someone ‘please explain tears’. Ben Wilkinson has taken up the challenge here.

Tears are the human soul succumbing to the temptation to exist.

In his moving new pamphlet or not-even-pamphlet (the colophon announces 31 copies) A Widower’s Dozen, Reid rearranges his ‘sad thoughts in new, hopeful arrangements’ like an elephant chucking bones hither and yon in an elephant graveyard. In the freshness of grief he feels a ‘new-born soul’ take up residence in his emptiness and set about distilling ‘pure tears’. He cites Henry James’s preface to The Altar of the Dead, and ‘the awful doom of general dishumanisation’ whereby the dead are not to be invoked in polite company. ‘I see an old writer, gagging on the ghost-rich air /of a literary salon, a terrible place to cry in.’ In ‘Bathroom of the Vanities’ Reid describes cosmetic bottles still on the shelves but never to be used again. There is no Hardyesque epiphany or reinstatement of the departed one, as the bottles ‘conserve their last drops of essence and aura /and wait for no one’. There is simply nothing more to be said.

Christopher Reid, A Widower’s Dozen (Own Desk)

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