the rain wants to kill itself

With its fingers the rain stains your window and mumbles.
It wants to come in and kill itself.
I see you are in bed and couldn’t care less.
In the dark. Naked. Couldn’t care less.
Your hair loose. Your thighs spread open.
And there, in plain sight, black moss!
Your left middle finger busy, busy!
Villain, searching for the red crest.
While golden honey already oozes.
You call me from your delirium tremens.
Me already changed into a crow.
I fly down into your lap and peck, peck.
And then in my beak carry the caught fish away,
to go play cards and drink.
While the rain with its fingers
makes stains over your windowpanes and mumbles,
counts its beads,
wants to come in and kill itself.

Milan Djordjević
tr. Charles Simic





Sarah Hermans



to open

Behind the door nothing, behind the curtain,
a mark imprinted on the wall, below,
the car, the window shuts, the wind still ruffles
the curtain, on the black ceiling
a dim stain, a hand mark without source,
nothing, pressing, a silk handkerchief,
the swinging chandelier, a knot, a light, an ink-stain,
on the floor, above the curtain, the cane chair scrapes,
on the floor drops of sweat from nowhere,
a stain that won't vanish, behind the curtain,
the black silk of the handkerchief, glitters on the ceiling,
a hand rests on it, the fire in the hand,
on the armchair a silk knot, glitters,
a wounded woman, the hour of blood on the wall,
the silk of the handkerchief, a shaking hand.


Because the curtain stirs, it rises,
the wind, light through the vent, darkness,
behind the curtain there is, night, day
boats in the canals, in a string, quiet canals, 
navigate, loaded with sand, under the bridges,  
it's morning, the iron of the steps, cars and motors, 
footsteps on the sand, wind on the sand, 
the curtains lift their hems, because it's night 
day of wind, of rain on the sea, 
the sea behind the door, the curtains filled with sand, 
stockings, rain, hanging, filthy with blood.

Antonio Porta,  fragment from Aprire (To Open), tr. Lawrence R. Smith


Der Traum des Allan Gray

still from “Der Traum des Allan Gray” (Vampyr)
Directed by Carl Theodor Dreyer, France/Germany, 1932



two figures at a window

Francis Bacon, 1953
oilᅠ onᅠ canvas
152.4 x 116.5 cm.ᅠ(60 x 45 7/8 in.)



beneath the window of love

A mandarin fell in love with a courtesan. "I shall be yours," she told him, "when you have spent a hundred
nights waiting for me, sitting on a stool, in my garden, beneath my window." But on the ninety-ninth night, the
mandarin stood up, put his stool under his arm, and went away.

from Barthes, from A Lover's Discourse: Fragments.



XXXV Windows

He who looks through an open window from the outside, never sees as many things as he who gazes at a closed window. There is nothing deeper, more mysterious, more fecund, more shadowy, more dazzling, than a window lit up by a candle. What one can see in the sun is always less interesting than what happens behind a pane of glass. In that black and luminous hole, life lives, life dreams, life suffers.

Over the billows of the roof tops, I see a mature woman, already wrinkled, poor, always bent over something, and who never goes out. Using her face, using her clothing, using almost nothing, I rewrote the story of this woman's life, or rather her legend, and sometimes I recount it to myself and cry.

If it had been a poor old man, I would have rewritten his just as easily.

And I go to bed, proud of having lived and suffered in others than myself.

Perhaps you will say to me: "Are you sure that that legend is true?" What does it matter what reality might be outside of myself, if it helps me to live, to feel that I am and what I am?

from Paris Spleen by Charles Baudelaire
tr. Cat Nilan

Les Fenêtres

Celui qui regarde du dehors à travers une fenêtre ouverte, ne voit jamais autant de choses que celui qui regarde une fenêtre fermée. Il n'est pas d'objet plus profond, plus mystérieux, plus fécond, plus ténébreux, plus éblouissant qu'une fenêtre éclairée d'une chandelle. Ce qu'on peut voir au soleil est toujours moins intéressant que ce qui se passe derrière une vitre. Dans ce trou noir ou lumineux vit la vit, rêve la vie, souffre la vie.

Par delà des vagues de toits, j'aperçois une femme mûre, ridée déjà, pauvre, toujours penchée sur quelque chose, et qui ne sort jamais. Avec son visage, avec son vêtement, avec presque rien, j'ai refait l'histoire de cette femme, ou plutôt sa légende, et quelquefois je me la raconte à moi-même en pleurant.

Si c'eût été un pauvre vieux homme, j'aurais refait la sienne tout aussi aisément.

Et je me couche, fier d'avoir vécu et souffert dans d'autres que moi-même.

Peut-être me direz-vous: «Es-tu sûr que cette légende soit la vraie?» Qu'importe ce que peut être la réalité placée hors de moi, si elle m'a aidé à vivre, à sentir que je suis et ce que suis?



i might as well open the window

May I kiss you then? On this miserable paper? I might as well open the window and kiss the night air.

Kafka, from Letters to Felice



the utmost refinement of light and shadow

A Japanese room might be likened to an inkwash painting, the paper-paneled shoji being the
expanse where the ink is thinnest, and the alcove where it is the darkest. Whenever I see the
alcove of a tastefully built Japanese room, I marvel at our comprehension of the secrets of
shadows, our sensitive use of shadow and light. For the beauty of the alcove is not the work of
some clever device. An empty space is marked off with plain wood and plain walls, so that the
light drawn into its forms dim shadows within emptiness. There is nothing more. And yet, when
we gaze into the darkness that gathers behind the crossbeam, around the flower vase, beneath the
shelves, though we know perfectly well it is mere shadow, we are overcome with the feeling that
in this small corner of the atmosphere there reigns complete and utter silence; that here in the
darkness immutable tranquility holds sway. The “mysterious Orient” of which Westerners speak
probably refers to the uncanny silence of these dark places. And even we as children would feel
an inexpressible chill as we peered into the depths of an alcove to which the sunlight had never
penetrated. Where lies the key to this mystery? Ultimately it is the magic of shadows. Were the
shadows to be banished from its corners, the alcove would in that instant revert to mere void.
This was the genius of our ancestors, that by cutting off the light from this empty space they
imparted to the world of shadows that formed there a quality of mystery and depth superior to
that of any wall painting or ornament. The technique seems simple, but was by no means so
simply achieved. We can imagine with little difficulty what extraordinary pains were taken with
each invisible detail—the placement of the window in the shelving recess, the depth of the
crossbeam, the height of the threshold. But for me the most exquisite touch is the pale white glow
of the shoji in the sturdy bay; I need only pause before it and I forget the passage of time.
The sturdy bay, as the name suggests, was originally a projecting window built to provide a place
for reading. Over the years it came to be regarded as no more than a source of light for the alcove;
but most often it serves not so much to illuminate the alcove as to soften the sidelong rays from
without, to filter them through paper panels. There is a cold and desolate tinge to the light by the
time it reaches these panels. The little sunlight from the garden that manages to make its way
beneath the eaves and through the corridors has by then lost its power to illuminate, seems
drained of the complexion of life. It can do no more than accentuate the whiteness of the paper. I
sometimes linger before these panels and study the surface of the paper, bright, but giving no
impression of brilliance.

In temple architecture the main room stands at a considerable distance from the garden; so dilute
is the light there that no matter what the season, on fair days or cloudy, morning, midday, or
evening, the pale, white glow scarcely varies. And the shadows at the interstices of the ribs seem
strangely immobile, as if dust collected in the corners had become a part of the paper itself. I
blink in uncertainty at this dreamlike luminescence, feeling as though some misty film were
blunting my vision. The light from the pale white paper, powerless to dispel the heavy darkness
of the alcove, is instead repelled by the darkness, creating a world of confusion where dark and
light are indistinguishable. Have not you yourselves sensed a difference in the light that suffuses
such a room, a rare tranquility not found in ordinary light? Have you never felt a sort of fear in
the face of the ageless, a fear that in that room you might lose all consciousness of the passage of
time, that untold years might pass and upon emerging you should find you had grown old and

From In Praise of Shadows, by Tanizaki