Trifler No. 19 [On Pale Scholars and Northern Summers]

“To be free-minded and cheerfully disposed at hours of meat and of sleep and of exercise, is one of the best precepts of long lasting. As for the passions and studies of the mind, avoid envy, anxious fears, anger fretting inwards, subtle and knotty inquisitions, joys and exhilarations in excess, sadness not communicated.” –Sir Francis Bacon

I.
 “Cambridge has no summer” they said. “Cambridge is a wet blanket,” they said. “Prepare yourself for seasonal absence disorder” they said. “We’re going to the south of France to find summer,’ they said. Even then, I did not buy the rhetoric. First, because it is an insult to our city—pure continental bias. If Cambridge does not have a summer, why the temperature rise? Why the billion leaves and fattening seed pods? Why the moist brow after a cycle? Why the pool openings? Why the almost-tanned residents? Why the rotting lichen at the head of Jesus Green canal? Why the turn from signets to swans? Why the mature mosses turning the river to proto-swamp? Why the hordes of tourists? Why the armies of sightseers? Why the blinkered summer schoolers? Why the lack of blear-eyed students? Why the weary tolerance on the faces of permanent residents? If Cambridge does not have a summer, I thought, this is a sad excuse for a winter. 

And if, I thought, for the sake of argument, this is not summer, it is a six-month spring—a repeating newness, never weary of surprising, always keeping cards close to chest, now warm, now cool, now wet, now dry, now furious, now soothing. And if one runs away from such a season, it is not because the Cambridge summer is too weak, but because it is too strong and he is too weak to love it. These were my thoughts two weeks ago, as I eyed the rain lashing our apartment windows and turned on our boiler for some relief from the cool.* But, as the week progressed, the clouds cleared; the forecast changed; the barometer rose; a thermal dome sealed above southern England, and heat began collecting, first in open spaces—the greens, the roads—then it slipped between trees, crawled underneath parked cars, slid between ill-sealed frame and window, ghosted through single-paned glass, filled the city to the top of castle hill, and finally, embedded in the soil and made the earth itself a kind of terrestrial radiator, hot to the touch. Escape was impossible, and doubly so because the air in Cambridge is largely unconditioned.

So, on Tuesday, when the needle had reached the nineties and I could bear the swelter no longer, I took up my work (a pen, a notebook, a tome on Adorno, an essay on Sabbath sacred time, and Tennyson’s collected poetry) and stumbled through the haze of heat to the one place that I knew had a stash of cool—the Jesus Green Lido, a long, narrow channel of blue that, if it were but a bit longer, might qualify as a man-made river. Any pool in these parts is necessarily a niche business—on normal days, a dipping-place for the brave, the warm-blooded, or for those who own wet-suits. But on this day, locals—sun-screen slathered, slung with pool towels smelling of storage cupboards—formed a line fifty yards outside the Lido, chattering, sweating, waiting for the veritable booster shot of Vitamin D that awaited on the far side of the turnstile. I joined and passed the time mulling strategies for keeping my library books dry.

II.
It is not that I had to go to the pool. I suppose I could have sought and found some cool nook in Vanity Fair**—bought a smoothie, slapped on headphones to drown out the tired-old imported American pop voices echoing through its lonely, pale hollows, and accomplished as much work. But, I thought as the line inched, the scholar should not always be the pale building-dweller. The healthy scholar should, every now and then, step outside. He should climb a tree. He should dive into a river. He should toss a football. He should lift and throw a large rock. He should sprint. He should tear a rotting limb from a tree. He should tuck into an eggs and bacon breakfast. He should burn in the sun. He should remind himself that the brain is of the body and the body of the brain—that hands may form thoughts, that feet and arms and legs and neck may participate in a stronger kind of memory, that trains of thought run along every one of one’s nerves, down to the toes and back again.

Now, study is my bread and butter. In many ways, I live the life of the scholar—the piles of books, the ever-cooling hot drinks, the misplaced notes, the mussed hair, the sore-backed hours in desk chairs, the sequestered days cultivating eye-wrinkles and near-sightedness. Yes, I have given my eyesight to the academy and will give more e’er the end, but I refuse to hand over the burning lung-ed pleasure of a long, striding run across a field or down a road, or the full-blooded sense of strength and clarity of mind one feels after hoisting or curling some weight. And this day at the Lido, I felt profoundly unwilling to give up the sun, that star that has turned the pale sailor swarthy and raised the mightiest oak.

III.
A woman scanned my card. I heard a sound. She nodded, and I stepped through the turnstile into the light. I found a comfortable spot in the sun and opened Tennyson. The afternoon was a series of boiling study-sessions’ body temperature rising, hydration falling, followed by short, gasping, deeply refreshing dips in the still-icy pool, a head shake, a return to study, an air-dry, a re-baking. After one of these plunges, I moved from Tennyson to Sabbath sacred time—a natural transition if there ever was one—and sidled over to a shadier spot on a grassy bank opposite. 

The noise of the place was a din, but a din without a ceiling and without a numbing rhythm or crying shrillness, and it was almost as good as silence as a background to study. Every now and then a whistle would warn some rowdy youth whose enthusiasm had outstripped his sense of safety, but I forgave both the whistle and the youth on the spot. My goodwill glowed like my sunburn. I forgave them all with sweeping generosity for their noise and splashing, for their eyeing and shoving and sunning and running and diving and tricks. For I was a scholar not merely living through summer but in it. I had come out of my scholar’s hole and renewed my bond with the outside world.

IV
The afternoon waned. After-work swimmers circled the lap-side, and shade sat in leaf-shaped patches on faces, backs, and chests. I stayed on, reading of the Sabbath and moments of thick time, of existence as existence, of time conquered by time. I thought then and I have thought since that, perhaps, this was a kind of Sabbath moment—a sudden thickening in the midst of a thin season, a gift to these Cambridge people of a southern summer day, a day to exist outside and yet within this northern town. 

R. Eric Tippin
Corner House, Cambridge (with a paragraph at Bridge Street Medical)
July 22-30, 2016

Image:
"Gorleston-on-Sea, Norfolk (British Railways carriage print original)"
Oil on Canvas - Date Unknown
Fredrick Donald Blake

* To no avail, for, it turned out, in the spring interregnum, its pump had given up the ghost. 

**Cambridge’s downtown shopping mall. Its builders named it the “The Galleria,” but even in my first moments in its over-perfumed, price-tagged, glutted halls, I knew it had been mis-christened.

Gambler, No. 26 [The Radio, Part I]

“Sleep undisturbed within this peaceful shrine,
Till angels wake thee with a note like thine.” – Johnson

The three men sat and slouched on a couch and wooden chair. The women were out; all was still, silent, but the voice of a man calling a baseball game. I sat with my father and his, huddled around the sound of a pastime. And we were past time.* Three generations of a family, each the oldest male in line, listened to balls colliding with leather and wood, the cheers of a skeleton-crowd, and the subtle cry of an announcer. The pitcher was struggling. He had given up a home run in each of his last twelve appearances, the longest streak in over a decade. In New York, he allowed five; four came in one inning. That day, he added to his streak.

“We must be leading the league in home runs allowed,” I said despairingly. My father rose in between innings; a few clicks later, he reported. Top five in the majors. The next inning began. “Unofficially: Four-hundred and seventy feet,” we heard. Longest in that ballpark’s history. My grandfather grimaced; I and my father groaned. But our team answered with their own moon-shot and won four runs to two.

Two days later, the three men again met around the sound. The pitcher was having a night; seven shutout innings in a row, sandwiched between two one-run innings.

“He’s still pitching?” my father bellowed from another room. He needed three more outs for a complete game, our team’s first of the year. He got two. We said nothing as he was pulled, and I inwardly groaned. I told my father and grandfather of the best pitching performance I witnessed in person: an eighty-pitch gem in which we scored four and shutout the team from Cincinnati. “I remember that game,” said my grandfather, as if remembering. Later that year I’d watch the Cy-young winner lose a 2-1 contest in extra innings. The playoffs weren’t on our radar that year. But it wasn’t out of range now; closer than four-hundred and seventy feet. We listened in silence as the game concluded, disappointed not to hear a complete game, satisfied not to hear another home run ball.

II

In those late-afternoons spent in a small Arizona town, huddled around a baseball game, two time-periods clashed. I am inching closer to thirty, but, despite my old bones, I know I am yet young. My grandfather was born on the eve of battle in ’39; my father in ’59, on the eve of another battle; I broke ranks and came into the world missing ’89 by one month and three days, amidst the destruction of battlegrounds. A gap of over fifty years sat slouched on a couch; familial blood and a ball-game brought us together; one sound shattered the boundaries of age, time, experience. I wonder now how many games my father and grandfather have collectively heard; I wonder what they did when we won in ’85. Times were different now. While we huddled around a baseball game as men did when the world was slower, when there was less to do; when we observed this hallowed ritual, we did so in the most modern way: around a MacBook, listening to our team, playing two-thousand miles away in Philadelphia. The game was fed through a wireless internet connection; the sounds were crisp and clear; the modern-microphone misses little; but we missed the crackling of radio waves; we missed fine-tuning the dial to find the station; we missed local commercials and endured the same, automated advertisements at each inning-break; we missed parts of calls, cut off from the feed, at times, because we lagged so far behind the live game action. But what we missed most of all was the defining element of radio-listening: the necessity to listen. As we listened, we watched an app flash balls and strikes before our eyes. We weren’t forced, as we should have been, to keep track of the game situation in our head. If my father or grandfather asked, “how many outs?” we could ignore, for the present, that all-important announcer and simply refer to the screen. We could, in a real and true sense, listen to the game without actually listening to it.

III 

On road trips, I often search stations for ballgames – any game, any team. I always pick a team to cheer, generally those whose announcers call the game. On my drive to Arizona last month, I listened as the Rockies hit a game-winning home run in the bottom of the ninth against the Diamondbacks. I yelled my frustrations with the rest of Arizona and their two announcers. I remember, too, listening in on a Colorado football game while driving under the dark night-skies of Iowa with two friends. The feed was rocky, and I caught but glimpses of gains, losses, fading in and out as my friends fought for sleep. The game must have been close, for the announcers were often yelling. But then, it could have been the feed. Once you start to lose a signal, every time an audible voice is heard through the crackling storm of white noise, it is like the voice is crying out through the wilderness. It is as if the man yells over and across the storm, and every gain of two reverberates like a touchdown.  

Once, upon another cold, darkened road in Oklahoma, my father and I listened to a late-night AM talk-show. We puttered along in a dying, Ford Tempo, built the year I was born, its back-bumper hanging off. It lacked a tape-deck, so we crushed the prairie-silence and car’s wheezing last-breaths with radio-sounds. An angry lady raged like game-announcers. She had been dismissed from the winter Olympics for bringing a gun. So she raged against injustice; the host mocked her. She raged on; he mocked her still. We chuckled; we considered changing the station. She kept raging. Neither of us moved a muscle. She may still be raging as I write.

IV 

The radio in my home sits atop a dark-brown coffee-table. It is a small, wood-paneled, radio; it requires precise dial-tuning, a game of nanometers. The only music it sings is classical. In Vegas, a man may listen continuously to classical music. It is unnecessary, perhaps. But there is something about prayer and soft-Baroque before Sunday-worship;** there is something in motoring madly around town to Mozart; there is something in dancing to Tchaikovsky’s “Romeo and Juliet,” in startling an orange tabby like some spritely Russian goddess; there is something in arriving to work to Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata.” There is something sweet, yet almost sinister, eerie, uncanny in a lonely choir on a lonely Friday evening. There is something in rocking by dim-lit lamps, a hallowed-haunting, as choir-voices seem to seep through walls; there is a certain spookiness in understanding words but not language; there is a certain ecstasy, an ecstasy that is an eeriness even, in smoking a pipe and listening to Mendelssohn’s “Ave Maria,” as both you and the orange tabby look on in great awe and wonder.

Broom Snow,
The Jolly Mariner – Rochelle Avenue
Las Vegas, Nevada
Wednesday, July 20-21, 2016

Painting: "Night Scene in a Watch Office
By Leslie Cole,
Oil on canvas, 1942

________________________

*See Bryn Homuth’s poem, “The Empty Field Game: Baltimore, MD, April 29, 2015"

**There is something else entirely in listening to soft-Baroque and then entering a modern-day, happy-clappy, fast-food mass.

 

 

Gambler, No. 25 [The Roadwork]

“It is allowed that vocations and employments of least dignity are of the most apparent use; that the meanest artisan or manufacturer contributes more to the accommodation of life than the profound scholar and argumentative theorist; and that the public would suffer less present inconvenience from the banishment of philosophers than from the extinction of any common trade.” – Samuel Johnson

I

My head throbbed, and I woke, preparing coffee and food. I ate the meal, then prepared for the day, fitting my body into slacks, button-up, and sport-coat. My head throbbed; I gave the cat a kick, and left the Desert Schooner, the final days of calling it home, the final days of relying on a car to get to work. My head throbbed; I moped down the steps, weary and sick, and I told myself I’d teach and come right back. My heavy head suspended like a bobble on my body, eyes eyeing concrete slabs and cracks. My will forced my bobbing head to rise and find the car. “Just teach and come home,” I said to myself. “Just teach and – ” My eyelids shut themselves like large, lethargic, metal doors. I willed myself to blink. What I saw remained. “Not again,” I said. My sad soul sunk and I approached the vehicle as if sliding through sludge or slop. Tired, I eyed the back left tire. As if hoping to change the scenery, I removed my sun-glasses. But nothing changed. I glared disgustingly at another flat tire.

A woman passed and saw the tire. She smiled, and I wearily smiled back but cursed the car, not for the first time. That day, I did not teach. That day I called in sick. I drove my car cautiously, slowly to the gas station, filled up with air, roared to the tire shop, and listened to the diagnosis: “Looks like you’ve got a nail,” the man said. We could both hear the hiss of air leaving the tire. “Oh,” I replied. “Must be all this construction.” He looked me in the eye like a man who had heard this before, like a man who simply knew. He only had to say, “Yeah, man. Vegas roads,” and I knew exactly what he meant.

II 

Road construction in Vegas is unique. But let me first say that road construction reflects the town, generally, and so road construction in any town, or locale, is unique. As a point of reference, consider the road construction south of Des Moines, Iowa on Interstate 35. Now, one who has traveled the road frequently in the past fifteen years or so knows that a perpetual project is underway. What exactly they are fixing is not clear, but one knows they’re working hard. One knows this because it is occurring in Iowa, and if Iowans love to do anything, they love to work. They love to work so much, they will create work if there is none; they will break bridges to build them all over again. So the construction project in Iowa is different than the three or so projects on Interstate 40 between Tucumcari and Kingman. Cones are placed there more as monuments; the people travel west to visit national parks, or historical buildings, and so the road construction in many ways simply blends into the rest of the west’s milieu. It’s why there’s never anyone working. But the road construction project south of Des Moines is a living project. When this world fades away, when that eternal sunset scorches the plains and fields and all is made new, when all bodies burst from their graves, I know that a few good Iowans will rise and return to that very spot. In the twilight of time they will build a road; and they will work on it with the grace and vigor of men perfected in mind, body, and spirit.

In Kansas City roadwork takes on a whole different meaning. The Iowan – so long as he’s working – is really content filling the same pothole several times over. But the resident of Kansas City, the resident of Johnson County specifically, does not deal with trivialities. These men are all about bulldozing, building, expanding the possibilities of roads; these men tear up sidewalks, and lawns, and ditches, and dykes, all for new lanes; these men put up stoplights on a whim, build bridges in their sleep, alter intersections for fun. These men will not rest easy, will not sleep soundly, until they feel every lane, exit, and on-ramp is not just fixed but efficient, not just reconstructed but aesthetic, not just working but perfected. These men will thankfully be out of work in the new world.

III 

The Vegas roads are best observed close up, walking or biking. The walker notices generally – and the biker more so – the mounds of trash, debris, and clutter strewn throughout the streets. Nails, bags, boxes, bottles, boards, wood, cans, cardboard, glass, gloves, wrappers, tissues, shirts, shoes, socks, shorts, paper, food, and, occasionally, humans litter the streets and lanes and cul-de-sacs. When the wind whips itself into a frenzy the litter comes to life – a single Vegas lane looks like the Strip as bags and paper tussle about in the air and boxes and bottles battle below. The Vegas road reflects the Vegas men, whirling and twirling this-way-and-that. The road is a wild zoo on any average day. But on Construction Day, the road rumbles with the march of the war drum.

The cones conquer the town. They are more unruly than any mob, more authoritative than a tyrant. They march, not always uniformly, but they march. In fact, oftentimes, they march more like ants set on fire – down a lane, across the street, through a parking lot, blocking off drive-thru’s and driveways, so the cones march to their own beat. There is rarely, if ever, any warning. Cones creep up on cars quite suddenly. Roads will be silent, still, at rest in the twilight of day; mothers and fathers will put their children to bed, tucking them in and promising them a quick, painless ride to school the next day. Then, like a quiet crescendo, the cones come crashing down upon the streets as we sleep. Like mighty war jets letting men out in random parachutes, here and there and everywhere, so the cones descend upon us. The invasion affects all – drivers, bikers, walkers. A slew of men in cars are strewn across the streets to dodge the barricade of cones crowding it. A man flies down a side street to escape the onslaught, nearly taking out a biker, only to discover the cones have captured that road too. He takes another lane. Then another, sending pedestrians to the sidewalks. Then, just when he believes he’s free of the madness, he finds he’s trapped – cornered by cones. He makes a U-turn only to realize now that he’s led several of his comrades into the cage.

Road construction, I understand, is always an issue. No town is immune. But in other cities I’ve lived in, there was always hope in its purpose. I know now that it served a real purpose in Iowa. Why is that Iowan still filling that pothole? I ask. Why, he fills it because it’s his job; he loves to work, and at night he becomes Mr. Hyde and destroys his work so that he can come back to refill it in the morning. But now why is this laborer in Kansas City still working on this road? Why, he was told to fill a pothole and later decided to widen the lanes, make an exit ramp, and build a cinema. But when I ask why the Vegas cones sit there, glaring at me, marching back and forth as if I’m in a war camp, I am given no answers. No one here knows what they’re working on, why they’re working on it, or where they will begin working next. Sometimes cones pop up just for an afternoon; other times, cones are nearly cemented to their spot for months. Men work; but more often than not, when they are done working, the road is not only unimproved but worse. But a theory has been proposed. A local here has hinted at the horror happening on our streets. It is worse than the worst of nightmares, more terrible than the terror of death. For an English professor explained to me once that the road workers are actually not working on the roads at all; they are improving the wireless internet in the hotels. Well, I suppose this makes the most sense, for the roads, more often than not, are not fixed. This seems to make the most sense, for Vegas seems the perfect city to combine these two evils. I’ve held for some time now that the internet has come to destroy the world. Another wise man said the internal combustion engine came to destroy the world. This may just be their battle. Vegas may just be the town to end all towns; the war between the Devil and his demons has begun.

Broom Snow
The Jolly Mariner – Rochelle Avenue
Las Vegas, Nevada
Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Painting: "Construction Work by the Lyric Cinema Seen from Midland Road, Wellingborough, Northamptonshire"
By Thomas Lay,
Oil on board, 1974

 

Trifler No. 18 [On Noticing]

“Wrong was easy; gravity helped it. / Right is difficult and long. / In choosing what is difficult / we are free, the mind too / making its little flight / out from the shadow into the clear / in time between work and sleep.”—Wendell Berry

I.
My friend was late. We planned chess in Grantchester but, when we saw the southern sky darken, settled for beer and talk at The Mill. I D-locked my bike to a fence, and stepped into the pub. It smelled of damp clothes and stale beer; the bar was shoulder-to-shoulder, three deep, and dripping with spills. Lanyarded summer school students gabbed and strewed floor space between tables with backpacks and rain jackets. Some woman with pink hair laughed uncontrollably in a corner. The noise had reached that level at which it begins to feed back into itself—when one yells because it is loud and when it is loud because one yells.

I had expected such an atmosphere. It is a rare evening that one can catch a downtown Cambridge pub sleepy or sparse or quiet or in need of business. They seethe with eaters and drinkers and talkers from dinner on. I have not yet grown strong or good enough to appreciate such raw, packed humanity, and after a half-hearted attempt to find a table, I slipped back outside where the sky was continuing to darken and froth.

The Mill sits on the edge of Fen Causeway—a web of paths through a marsh dotted with weeping willows and draining into Mill Pond. Punting tours begin here, and here the Cam is spliced in two by a series of drains and warrenous waterworks hemmed in by a knee-high brick wall. I meandered across the street, sat on this wall, zipped my rain jacket, and waited for the friend. Within five seconds, a great temptation came over me to pull my phone from my pocket and check e-mail or the radar. It is an old, red-eyed, honey-voiced temptation and one that has so embedded itself into fingers and hands and arms that, often, the physical act of giving in precedes the decision to do so. It is, perhaps, one of the great temptations of our time (if it is admissible to call ‘temptation’ what only a handful bother to resist) not to notice, not to preside over a place, not to entertain oneself with surrounding particulars and persons. And yet, this day, in a moment of grace, I did resist, placed my hand, which was half-way to my pocket, back at my side and gazed around, blinking.

Below, unwieldy punters weaved drunkenly across and along the river. The Mill’s two doors swarmed like a noon anthill. A sphere of white gnats hovered near my head, but not near enough to swat. Two women to my left fiddled with an unwilling umbrella and shot glances at the sky, which was, by now, black-grey. A large drop splashed on my arm. Not having my phone to think for me, I worked up a few thoughts of my own—nothing ornate. I thought of the near-saturate clouds above me, of the bricks below me, of our usual Grantchester pub, of its fireplace, of its beer, of its piping chili, of its chess board. I pulled up my hood and wondered how the manufacturer defined 'shower' in 'shower-proof'. Drops began spangling my jean knees, so I stood. Smokers outside The Mill leaned back against its brick. I debated a return to The Mill and voted for rain over ruckus. Then the sky broke. The two women—umbrella now out—endured for a minute and then trudged off across the marsh, heads together. Smokers tossed away cigarettes and re-entered the pub. I alone remained now.

Only then did I remember the gnats. I turned to see how they fared. The spectre-sphere remained, but large drops were cutting through it like bullets through a regiment, enveloping whole gnats, I supposed, and dashing them against the cobblestones below. The site had a kind of minimal heroism to it, and I continued to watch—knowing how it must end. It was not a pathetic sight or a sad sight, but I did feel a kind of childlike wonder, for I had never thought of what happened to gnats when it rained. And now I knew. It was all over in about twenty seconds. I returned my gaze to The Mill, squinting to see through the downpour, and in the doorway stood another raincoated man, waving.

II.
Yesterday was a day of sun and clear and calm and dissipating clouds, and as the evening approached, my wife and I set off to walk the now familiar loop around Jesus Green. The day was warm enough to leave some of its heat in the ground, and it radiated up and out from the sidewalk. Playing, eating, drinking, tossing, lying, running, barbecuing people strewed the lawn as we walked through the avenue of plane trees. The whole green luxuriated and seemed to move in slow motion through the heavy, still air. We turned south from the avenue and into the sun— orange-gold as it set, filtering through air and tree. Fat flies buzzed. Gnats swarmed. We had said very little—a comment here and there about our company the night before—but the beauty overwhelmed me, so I flung out my arms and said, “I mean to say, look at this.” 
“Yes,” she replied. Silence returned. Not yet feeling unburdened, I went on.
“Even the gnats look nice, black against the sun like that.”
“No, I don’t think so,” she said with real belief in her voice, “The rest is beautiful. Not the gnats.”
“I mean, as long as you’re not in among them,” I said, losing conviction and spotting another swarm near a horse chestnut. I had only mentioned it, I knew, because I was still thinking of those other gnats, keeping formation in a storm. I knew too that, in an aesthetic sense, she was right; a gnat is, at best, a tiny monster and, if the it has any artistic value, it is purely gothic. We dropped the gnats and took up the horse chestnut, remembering another night when its flowers were yellow and conical.* Our walk continued on toward the river along a row of houses at the southern edge of the lawn; we stopped twice, once to examine a hydrangea and again to squint at a flower we guessed was an African Lily. 

The sun slipped behind the trees. By now the river was on our left, and we looked to our right out across the green. There we saw the moon suspended in a cloudless sky just above All Saints steeple. “Look at that,” I said, overwhelmed again.
“So clear” she said. 
“So blue” said I. “What kind of a place have we found ourselves in, wife?”
 “I don’t know,” she said in equal wonder. We were now along the Cam and shifted our gaze that direction. We noticed summer mosses ghosting up from the murk of the river-bottom bent with the current, and two punts running alongside one another, sharing stories and cigarettes and some thick potation. We re-crossed the bridge and trudged up Carlyle, past the employment office and Helen's house, toward our red door. The walk ended in twilight.

And as darkness fell, the pedestrians passing on the sidewalk outside Corner House looked like blue, bodiless faces, lit only by cell phone backlights, and, every now and then, a hand waving away invisible bugs drawn to the light.

R. Eric Tippin
In the Sun
Alexandra Gardens, Cambridge
July 18, 2016

Image:
"Past and Present, No. 3"
Oil on Canvas - 1858
Tate Britain

*See, Trifler No. 10, in many ways the sister to this.