Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Question Clarisse Asks Montag

“But everyone I know is either shouting or dancing around like wild or beating up one another. Do you notice how people hurt each other nowadays?”

“You sound so very old.”

“Sometimes I’m ancient. I’m afraid of children my own age. They kill each other. Did it always use to be that way? My uncle says no. Six of my friends have been shot in the last year alone. Ten of them died in car wrecks. I’m afraid of them and they don’t like me because I’m afraid. My uncle says his grandfather remembers when children didn’t kill each other. But that was a long time ago when they had things different.”

Ray Bradbury
from Fahrenheit 451
imagining the future in 1953

In Oscar Wilde’s book, “The Picture of Dorian Gray,”
Dorian, the immortal beauty, murders Basil,
the painter who created the portrait that changes
instead of Dorian, that ages, becomes corrupt.

But what drives Dorian’s hatred in the murder scene?

Is Dorian furious at his external soul,
the painting that is punished for his own transgressions,
and does he kill Basil for the part that Basil played
in his immortality, his endless awareness
of what he is and his terror that others might see?

Or when Basil begs Dorian to repent, to pray,
to undo the connection to the magic picture,
does Dorian panic thinking Basil might succeed?

Many years later, I mean later than Oscar Wilde,
Andrew Wyeth created a series of paintings
that would become famous known as the Helga paintings.

So far as I know, nobody killed anybody
as a consequence, as a sequel, to those paintings.

Wilde wrote in England. Wyeth painted in New England.

Now it is many years later, I mean later than
the Helga paintings, and I wonder if New England
has aged, or is endless and aware like old England?

I’ve known beautiful women. I’ve wanted to paint them.

In something like awareness of something like panic,
my temptation is to keep my desires to myself.

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