December 2007

Whatever it is, it avails not—distance avails not, and
place avails not,
I too lived, Brooklyn of ample hills was mine,
I too walk’d the streets of Manhattan island, and bathed
in the waters around it,
I too felt the curious abrupt questionings stir within me,
In the day among crowds of people sometimes they came
upon me,
In my walks home late at night or as I lay in my bed
they came upon me,
I too had been struck from the float forever held in
I too had receiv’d identity by my body,
That I was I knew was of my body, and what I should
be I knew I should be of my body.

– Walt Whitman, “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry” (1856) from Leaves of Grass (1886 ed.), pp. 57-64.

This tree’s leaf that from the East
To my garden’s been entrusted
Holds a secret sense, and grist
To a man intent on knowledge.

It is one, this thing alive,
By and in itself divided,
Or two beings who connive
That as one the world shall see them?

Fitly now I can reveal
What the pondered question taught me;
In my songs do you not feel
That at once I’m one and double?

J.W. von Goethe, “Gingo Bilboa” (1815) from The Parliament of West and East (Michael Hamburger, trans.)

… on the one hand, the need to fight against imperialist oppression — which may well require manufacture in the future of the national community as the subject of modernity — is far from diminished in the world today, and, on the other hand, the homogenization of that national community could too often lead to the tremendous victimization of those who are culturally and linguistically heterogeneous.

However, unbearable it may be … we have to live with this ambivalence.

– Naoki Sakai, Translation and Subjectivity (Minneapolis: U of Minneapolis Press, 1997), p. 39.