P a r a d i s o


I'm in the long process of making a trilogy of novels whose secret protagonist I suspect may be the history of the United States: Fragments from a Notebook of the Wilderness (2000) [which covers about 1810 to 1989], Homeland (2011) [set in a dystopic present or near future], & one more whose title I don't yet know. Maybe Fragments is the trilogy's Inferno, & Homeland its Purgatorio—which means I still have to write the Paradiso. Paradise meets the history of the United States, hmm. All suggestions welcome.

So what is Paradiso?


[A garden enclosed is my sister, my spouse; a spring shut up, a fountain sealed. Song of Songs]

•  a word of Persian origin: pairidaeza, 'enclosure, orchard, garden,' compound of pairi-  'around' + diz 'to make, form (a wall).'  An ideal or idyllic place or state: The surrounding countryside is a walker's paradise. My idea of paradise is to relax on the seafront. 
 •  the third part of Dante's trilogy, which ends with a vision of a rose—about which CS Lewis said, "it is not really like any of the things we know," & within which Dante said, "My course is set for an uncharted sea." 
 •  the great novel of Cuban poet José Lezama Lima, which my colleague Eduardo Lago found in the Himalayas when he was a young adventurer & wondered, "Why can't I read this book if it's in my language?" "It's a magnificent book," he said. "It just can't be understood by human beings." [Re Paradiso as novel, Lezama might have agreed with Proust, when he said "The novel form is the form from which it departs least."]


George's ?.PNG

[ Every sentence I utter must be understood not as an affirmation, but as a question. Niels Bohr ]


From a talk at Sarah Lawrence called "Lovers," August 2004:  "I remember once being in the Cambridge backyard of a college friend’s house, where I lived for a while; it was a summer afternoon and our particular faction of the army of lovers and ex-lovers was cooking and playing music and dancing and laughing and arguing about politics and drifting in and out of the house, about a dozen multicultural lesbians in their twenties, most with no shirts on. At one point my friend’s grandmother, a Viennese refugee from the Nazis, then in her eighties, came downstairs and surveyed the scene, sucked her teeth and shook her head and said, 'I guess this is what paradise must look like.'” 


Here is another vision of paradise:

"Loafe with me on the grass--loose the stop from your throat,
Not words, not music or rhyme I want, not custom or lecture, not even the best,
Only the lull I like, the hum of your valved voice.

"I mind how once we lay such a transparent summer morning,
How you settled your head athwart my hips and gently turned over upon me,
And parted the shirt from my bosom-bone, and plunged your tongue to my bare-stript heart,
And reached till you felt my beard, and reached till you held my feet.

"Swiftly arose and spread around me the peace and knowledge that pass all the argument of the earth,
And I know that the hand of God is the elderhand of my own,
And I know that the spirit of God is the brother of my own,
And that all the men ever born are also my brothers, and the women my sisters and lovers,
And that a kelson of the creation is love..."

But then he goes on, this is how the 5th section of "Song of Myself" finishes: 

"And limitless are leaves stiff or drooping in the fields,
And brown ants in the little wells beneath them,
And mossy scabs of the worm fence, and heaped stones, elder, mullein and poke-weed."


So maybe paradiso looks like this: 

    One theme of the Song of Songs: Oh honey, you're so beautiful / You're as beautiful as food


Another theme of the Song of Songs: Oh honey, you're so beautiful / You're as beautiful as a goat
Photo by Dona Ann McAdams

Or this <<<


Is it where Natalie's Isaiah came from? does he remember?

Natalie & Isaiah


Is it some combination of the people at the Travyon demonstration in Union Square <<< & Pound's "petals on wet black bough"? >>>


Savion Glover surrounded by Aimé Césaire

                                      Is it this? 


From Agnès Varda's Salut au cubains

Or this? 


Is it paradiso Allan Harris is singing about when he says, "I know there's a free place..." 


...or does it sound like this union song >>> 


...or this one, "I am huntin for a city, to stay a while / O believer got a home at las." 

From Slave Songs of the United States, William Francis Allen, Charles Pickard Ware, Lucy McKim Garrison, 1867


"If a separate personal Paradise exists for each of us, mine must irreparably be planted with trees of words which the wind silvers like poplars, by people who see their confiscated justice given back, and by birds that even in the midst of the truth of death insist on singing in Greek, saying, eros, eros, eros."
Odysseus Elytis