Thursday, November 21, 2013


In the ninth pairing of the Ten Buts thru Ten Comms Project reading A Method of Cloak” through “Thou shalt not bear false witness,” Dave Green jumped in with steady vision, saying the title suggests, “We should cloak (clothe) ourselves with the truth. That will keep us warm and protected.


A single climb to a line, a straight exchange to a cane, a desperate adventure and courage and a clock, all this which is a system, which has feeling, which has resignation and success, all makes an attractive black silver.


“The poem suggests a difficult journey that takes courage to complete. This can be viewed as a metaphor for always telling the truth, i.e., not bearing false witness. How? Because it is not easy to always tell the truth; it takes a certain courage. Sometimes telling the truth makes you feel good (success) and sometimes it makes you feel bad (resignation). But adhering to this commandment is the moral equivalent of a precious metal (attractive black silver). It makes you part of a moral ‘system.’ A clock is involved because not only is it important to tell the truth, it is important to tell it in a timely manner. A single climb and a straight exchange suggest a straightforward and honest approach. We may need a metaphorical cane to support ourselves sometimes, but we should not build that cane out of falsehoods, it should be built on something stronger.”


The Steiny Road Poet added this: “A straight exchange to a cane could be someone taking a beating for bearing false witness. Well maybe something more complicated and here's what comes to mind from the huge oeuvre of Stein

“There is a scene in The Making of Americans (in the Martha Hersland section) where a man beats a woman with an umbrella while shouting at her to leave him alone. Stein writes, "the woman had a red face partly in anger and partly in asking and the man wanted the woman to know then that he wanted her to leave him alone then in a public street where people were passing  and Martha saw this and this man was for her the ending of the living I have been describing that she had been living. She would go to college, she knew it then and understand everything and know the meaning of the living and the feeling in men and women. She would go to college and she told it then to her father and her mother and they had no objection, no one was paying very much attention and she began her preparation..."

“Without hours of rereading, I believe what happened between the man and the woman is that they had an affair either on the up and up or illicit, maybe she is pregnant with his child, whatever. She sees him in the street and says she needs something from him but she is embarrassed and when he hits her as if he is the victim saying "Leave me alone," she is now both red-faced from embarrassment but also from anger. So in this case, he is publically bearing false witness against her as if she has done injury to him.

“Now add to this, Stein, as narrator of MOA, being so psychologically marked by this scene that she goes to her parents (who have been spending a lot of time educating her and her siblings, hiring special tutors and doing all sorts of things to make her be motivated to learn) and says she is going to college.

“If I am not mistaken the umbrella scene actually happened one day when Gertrude was on her way to a singing lesson. By this time in her real life, both of her parents were dead and she had dropped out of high school. She and brother Leo made it a habit to take a wagon of books into the Oakland hills and walk around all night occasionally stopping to read.

“I think I am coming at this completely aslant but this business of bearing false witness in a very perverse and public way is something that affected her so much that she got her psychological act together and made it a point to go to college so no man could hold an umbrella over her head.”

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