Every now and then, I just like to share something I have found pleasant or interesting in one way or another.  Here is this handsome and extremely talented Polish fellow — Jakub Józef Orliński — singing the Vivaldi aria Vedrò con mio diletto — “I Shall See to my Delight”:

Apparently he was surprised to find an audience present instead of just a private recording session when this video was made — but I find his casual clothing for the event delightful.  I don’t know why people feel they have to “dress up” for classical music.

Here are the words in Italian and English:

Vedrò con mio diletto

Vedrò con mio diletto / I shall see, to my delight,
L’alma dell’alma mia  /  The soul of my soul —
dell’alma mia               /  Of my soul,
Il core del mio cor      /  The heart of my heart,
Pien di contento         /  Full of happiness,
Pien di contento          / Full of happiness.
Vedrò con mio diletto  / I shall see, to my delight,
L’alma dell’alma mia   / The soul of my soul —
dell’alma mia                /  Of my soul,
Il core del quisto cor   /  The heart of this heart,
Pien di contento           /  Full of happiness —
Pien di contento           /  Full of happiness.
E se dal caro oggetto   /And if from the dear one
Lungi convien che sia /I may have to be far —
convien che sia             /I may have to be —
Sospirerò penando       /I shall sigh, suffering
ogni momento               /Every moment.



Here is another translated poem by the Alexandrian Greek poet Constantine Cavafy:


Let me stop here; and let me also look at nature a while.
Sea of morning and cloudless sky
Brilliant mauve, and yellow shore —
All beautiful and bright.

Let me stop here; and let me smile as I see them —
I did actually see them a moment when first I stopped,
And not my fantasies here —
My memories — the sensual images.

Cavafy pauses at the shore of the Mediterranean to look at the view — the morning sea, sky, and shore .

He smiles as he looks, because after only a moment of seeing sea, sky, and shore, his vision turned inward, and then he saw nothing but the images in his mind of sensual — that is, sexual — memories.

As so often happens with us, he is looking but not really seeing — lost in the images within his mind instead of the view before him.

It is amazing how much time we humans spend in our memories, thoughts and imagination rather than in the reality of the world around us.  And even when we are aware of that world, we all too often see it through the distorting glass of our fears, hopes, and expectations.  We really live in two worlds — the outer and the inner, and frequently  — like Cavafy in this poem — far more in the latter.

Where I translate “let me smile,” others have “let me pretend” or “let me fool myself.”

Here is the poem in a phonetic transliteration, so you may get some sense of the sound of the original:

Edó as stathó. Ki as do k’ egó tin fýsi lígo.
Thálassas tou proïoú ki anéfelou ouranoú
lamprá maviá, kai kítrini óchthi:
óla oraía kai megála fotisména.

Edó as stathó. Ki as gelasthó pos vlépo aftá
ta eíd’ alítheia mia stigmí san protostáthika
ki óchi k’ edó tes fantasíes mou, tes anamníseis mou,
ta indálmata tis idonís.

And here is the original Greek:

Θάλασσα του πρωϊού

Εδώ ας σταθώ. Κι ας δω κ’ εγώ την φύσι λίγο.
Θάλασσας του πρωϊού κι ανέφελου ουρανού
λαμπρά μαβιά, και κίτρινη όχθη· όλα
ωραία και μεγάλα φωτισμένα.

Εδώ ας σταθώ. Κι ας γελασθώ πως βλέπω αυτά
(τα είδ’ αλήθεια μια στιγμή σαν πρωτοστάθηκα)·
κι όχι κ’ εδώ τες φαντασίες μου,
τες αναμνήσεις μου, τα ινδάλματα της ηδονής.


And now for something completely different.

In the last quarter of 2020, I began reading a genre of books totally new to me — something that did not exist at all when I was a boy — YA (“young adult”) gay-themed fiction.

I got quite a surprise , because not only did I find some (of course not all) of the books entertaining, but I also saw how helpful they could be to people in their teens with same-sex attraction, as well as to their friends, relatives, and others wanting to have a better understanding of that orientation.  And YA books — though they do include a bit of sex here and there — tend to do it very tastefully and as a helpful ancillary to the overall plot.  That is quite in contrast to many adult gay-themed books, which as I quickly found all too often emphasize graphic sex over story line.

In the past few months I have read quite a number of books in this new-to-me genre, and would like to recommend some of the best of them — the ones I enjoyed most — to those who might be interested.  I will do that gradually over time.

First, I would like to introduce you briefly to two related books by Michael Barakiva that I highly recommend — One Man Guy and Hold My Hand.

First, One Man Guy:

Meet Alek Khederian and his very Armenian-American family. They are seated at a restaurant as Alek’s mother runs the unsuspecting waitress through a lengthy interrogation concerning the water and food, prompting Alek’s view that Armenian restaurant-goers should come with a warning label:  “Waiting on Armenians Might Be Hazardous to Your Health.”

While they are at table, Alek’s parents inform him he is going to summer school — much to his displeasure.  That is the first hint we have that Alek’s life is largely guided by his parents, who keep a short but concerned and loving leash on his activities.  But just before summer school begins, Alek has an unexpected and life-changing encounter with a boy named Ethan — just the beginning of the coming together of their two very different worlds.  Where dark-haired Alek is conservative and restrained, liberal, blond Ethan — at least to Alek’s eyes — is the very embodiment of cool.

We follow the two as Alek reacts to Ethan’s challenging, adventurous and free-spirited personality — and Ethan follows his strong attraction to Alek.

Michael Barakiva has created a very absorbing and loving portrait of two very different young guys exploring their youthful world and their feelings together — and of how the beginning of their journey affects those around them.

Hold My Hand is the must-read sequel for those who met Alek and Ethan in One Man Guy.  As often happens in life, it turns out the road for these two is not always without obstacles.  Through their experiences, we learn the importance of trust, honesty, fidelity and forgiveness in relationships.  We also learn that normally-quiet Alek is not afraid to take on the backward attitudes and prejudices of the Armenian Orthodox Church concerning same-sex attraction.

As you can tell, I don’t want to reveal too much of the story.  I don’t want take away from the freshness and enjoyment of it.  Suffice it to say that Michael Barakiva has written a very touching and often deeply moving story of young love and of growth through facing the difficulties that life and relationships can bring us.

As I turned the pages of Hold My Hand, I found myself giving an unexpected amount of thought to the psychology of the interactions of Ethan and Alek — how their backgrounds and personal issues may have motivated them to react to events as they did.  The book certainly offers much to ponder about the nature of relationships, whether among teens or adults.

I will add that when you finish the second of the two books, you will probably — like me — not want the story of Alek and Ethan to end.

One Man Guy, by Michael Barakiva;
Publisher : Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR) (May 27, 2014)

Hold My Hand, by Michael Barakiva
Publisher : Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR) (May 21, 2019)





A loose translation of a spring hokku by Kikaku:

Dim in the shadows
Of the pines —
The moonlit night.

Oboro to wa  matsu no kurosa ni tsuki yo kana

It has somewhat the feeling of the last lines of Walt Whitman’s “When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d”:

Lilac and star and bird twined with the chant of my soul,
There in the fragrant pines and the cedars dusk and dim.