the curtain of obscurity

A vast bitterness seemed to inspire these images, images I understood very well as referring to what had begun to play out before my eyes, the curtain of obscurity now lifted--the spectacle that for many nights now he could not observe without sorrow. The studio windows that opened onto the wall perpendicular to his and the rear windows of the building that faced onto the street all lit up almost simultaneously once the sun had passed, although the shred of sky visible from the well was still light. Many of the windows had no curtains, at least, no one bothered to close any. The astonishing variety of life was displayed there. 'An unacceptable waste of gestures, of words, an incoherent mix of differences and similarities, endless complication, a boiler bursting with screams . . .' I don't know which I found more painful: seeing these vague silhouettes behind windows, some furtive, others immobile for long stretches of time (the studios were so small that empty windows were rare), each making its own gestures, imperfect, fragmentary, discordant, mysterious; or hearing that voice, barely audible and once in a while suddenly hard and almost shrill, commenting on the spectacle which, in truth, was no spectacle since these shadows were in all likelihood alive.

Philippe Jaccottet, Obscurity, pg. 25
tr. Tess Lewis



the window as bridge, the window as revelation

To say that everything in our world is interrelated to everything else does not mean that everything is directly connected to everything else. In fact, anything we identify as a “thing” has a limited number of direct connections, and even these connections vary according to the way we look at them. The tree outside my window is connected to the soil, to the birds that are perching in it and the insects crawling around its leaves, to the neighboring trees whose branches it touches, and even to me who happens to be looking at it. I was struck by this late one afternoon as the sun was setting and I saw my own faint image in the window pane superimposed on the scene, as if I were suspended in the middle of the tree. 

There before me was the fiction of the phantom spectator, the self, that imagines itself looking objectively, when in fact it is no more than a pale haze overlaying and obscuring the real connections I have with the tree. But if I focus on any part of the tree, I see that it is a web of connecting parts that make those first connections indirect. And so on, down to the subatomic level. And if this is so, then the tree is also, in some distant sense, connected to everything else, right down to the last jar of honey in the corner grocery store. No “thing,” at any level, from whatever perspective we look at it, subsists on its own.

from: James W. Heisig, Nothingness and Desire

(for erin)



The Street Window

Whoever leads a solitary life and yet now and then wants to attach himself somewhere; whoever, according to changes in the time of day, the weather, the state of his business, and the like, suddenly wishes to see any arm at all to which he might cling—he will not be able to manage for long without a window looking on to the street. And if he is in the mood of not desiring anything and only goes to his window sill a tired man, with eyes turning from his public to heaven and back again, not wanting to look out and having thrown his head up a little, even then the horses below will draw him down into their train of wagons and tumult, and so at last into the human harmony.

F. Kafka, The Street Window


my room has two doors

My room has two doors
and one window.
One door is red and the other is gray.
I cannot open the red door;
the gray door does not interest me.
Having no choice,
I shall lock them both
and look out of the window.

Kay Sage

image: My Room Has Two Doors by Kay Sage (1939)



a figure and a window

Tadeusz Kantor, A Figure and a Window (People extended by objects. A Man and a Window), 1971



sitting by the window on the Prague-Berlin train

it's 1962 March 28th

I'm sitting by the window on the Prague-Berlin train
night is falling
I never knew I liked
night descending like a tired bird on a smoky wet plain
I don't like
comparing nightfall to a tired bird


I didn't know I liked rain
whether it falls like a fine net or splatters against the glass my
heart leaves me tangled up in a net or trapped inside a drop
and takes off for uncharted countries I didn't know I loved
rain but why did I suddenly discover all these passions sitting
by the window on the Prague-Berlin train
is it because I lit my sixth cigarette
one alone could kill me
is it because I'm half dead from thinking about someone back in Moscow
her hair straw-blond eyelashes blue

the train plunges on through the pitch-black night
I never knew I liked the night pitch-black
sparks fly from the engine
I didn't know I loved sparks
I didn't know I loved so many things and I had to wait until sixty
to find it out sitting by the window on the Prague-Berlin train
watching the world disappear as if on a journey of no return

Moscow, 19 April 1962

Things I Didn’t Know I Loved 


Nazim Hikmet


as against the half-light of the window

Time is not, Time is the evil, beloved
Beloved the hours brododaktylos
as against the half-light of the window
with the sea beyond making horizon
le contre-jour the line of the cameo

…a dream passing over the face in the half-light…
“beauty is difficult” sd/ Mr. Beardsley

Ezra Pound, Canto LXXIV



interior, strandgade 30

Vilhelm Hammershøi


self-portrait, madrid

Boris Savelev, 2007


I looked out of the window

“I looked out of the window and saw: a red-haired house painter caught a mouse in his wheelbarrow and killed it with the stroke of a brush, then he tossed it in a puddle. The puddle reflected the dark-blue sky, quick black upsilons (reflections of swallows flying high) and the knees of a squatting child, who was attentively studying the little grey round corpse.”

from Nabokov's letters to Vera



the great enigma

"The lake is a window into the earth."

Tomas Tranströmer