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Amber Paulen

Henry Miller

Third or Fourth Day of Spring

Black Spring

Third or Fourth Day of Spring has within its crumbling black words, all I will ever need. If this piece would be all I’m allowed of the complete collection of the illustrious Henry Miller, it would suffice. If this piece would be all I’m allowed of all the great works of all the illustrious writers, it would surpass that which suffices.

Flipping through my rough-and-tumble copy of Black Spring seven years ago I settled into page nineteen, reading: The house wherein I passed the most important years of my life had only three rooms. The day was like today, the onset of May with rain hanging heavily and grey. I sat under the stone eaves on a stone balcony four flights above via Cicerone, Rome. Could Chance have brought me to this piece at that time? My mind was so fresh, so supple, that in one grand inhale, I digested it all.

I continue to digest. Once is not enough. It has been over seven years and I cannot shake those words firing through my senses; seven years and their chorus goes on, unstoppable; seven years and the words’ sharp truth has not grown dull with time, but instead has sharpened the instrument through which I decipher them. Third or Fourth Day of Spring was typed into my lineaments by a man with a heavy hand.

The dreamers dream from the neck up, their bodies securely strapped into the electric chair. To imagine a new world is to live it daily, each thought, each glance, each step, each gesture killing and recreating, death always a step in advance.

As I reread I become maudlin. It is as if the words of this piece are no longer words but have become the fertile earth that has seeded. I believe that everything Henry Miller wanted to say was said in this short piece. I believe that everything that can be said is said in this short piece. I believe there is nothing before and after this piece. Third or Fourth Day of Spring encompasses all.

The world is a mirror of myself dying, the world not dying any more than I die, I more alive a thousand years from now than this moment and this world in which I am now dying also more alive then than now though dead a thousand years. When each thing is lived to the end there is no death and no regrets, neither is there a false springtime; each moment lived pushes open a greater, wider horizon from which there is no escape save the living.

I have found myself on nights of solitude, listening to this recording of Third or Fourth Day of Spring. To listen to Henry Miller read his own words, to listen without reading the words, just to listen, reveals another level of meaningfulness. As I listen I become maudlin. From Miller’s rambling introduction: “There crept into it an added intensity. . . fever. . . tempo that I don’t think the other books had. It was meant to be a very joyous book though it contains some terrible things. At bottom, what I think I wanted to convey was joy, even more than that, perhaps, ecstasy.”

Reading or listening to Third or Fourth Day of Spring is ecstasy; an ecstasy over and above any physical embodiment, an ecstasy over and above my perpetually conceiving self. An ecstasy beyond. To live beyond illusion or with it? that’s the question.

Always summer and everything true to pattern. If it’s a horse it’s a horse for all time. If it’s apoplexy it’s apoplexy, and not St. Vitus’s Dance. No early morning whores, no gardenias. No dead cats in the gutter, no sweat and perspiration. If it be a lip it must be a lip that trembles eternally.

Bracciano Italy
May 2008


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