Moment of Silence

Weighing in.

One option, when it comes to dealing with confusion is: promise, announce, proclaim, blame. Another, offering less up front, commands infinitely more. Observing a full spectrum of unknowns, this one points silently with the gaze, to offer no defense. Defenseless, the humble observer can only sway, moving steadily into an unnamed dance. No one teaches its choreography because there is nothing to teach, and no one ever comes running to learn how to wait. 

Crooked Climber

In awe of an asymmetrical ascent.

Lovebird, what made you decide that it wasn’t enough to walk on two feet, and how did it occur to you to surmise that your face, repurposed, might become a third limb?

Lovebird, they say that you have a sense of humor, calling into question such a basic assumption of movement in a body. Where others saw only two sides, you found a third way. Where others settled for the old coin metaphor, the mirror, the simple reflection, you said, regarding dimensions, there are more,

and went on your way––up, up, evolving.

***

Inspired by an article I saw in this morning’s New York Times, about a groundbreaking discovery in lovebird locomotion, overcoming (with other parrots) “a forbidden phenotype.” And by my Grandma, who used to call us “lovebird” and “loverbird,” among other pet names.

I don’t know if the African Grey parrot in the photo does any beak walking, but I love her expression, so am imagining her as the speaker.

For the Living and the Dead

Against the machine.

When the horror of a moment renders a body speechless, the acts of pen to page, brush to canvas, fingers to keys––become negotiations with death. Yours, mine: what are they and how do they relate? To account for whole cities of dead, a vast underground rendered invisible through banality. What is it to write a voice, paint a vision––while standing on ground in full recognition of the brothers beneath it, and the invisible sisters with their children and parents in mass graves? Welcome to the necropolis, says one, where screens herald the battalion.

What are the stakes at this scale? Life. Lives. Forget numbers, abstractions. Try instead: One.  

One. 

One. 

One.

Each a brother, sister, mother, daughter, each with a scent of their own, a particular laugh and secret hopes––erased.

What is at stake? The human condition in the age of the war machine.

How to resist? The first act is naming.

***

Inspired by the work of Juan RufloChristina Rivera Garza, and Achille Mbembe.

Cornered

From a tight space.

Call it a threat––back against two walls, but some dream best from spaces like this. If I wanted to hide, I could walk in the open, but only from here can I bear witness to being, the intricate choreography of shadows, swinging between the arms of a branching angle. Turning from one wall into to the next, I find the other half of this shell, enough to negate the noise of a universe with its effusive unknowns, and hear, between breaths, the song of a single house finch. 

***

Inspired by, and using borrowed phrases from, the chapter “Corner” in Gaston Bachelard’s The Poetics of Space.

Mechanical Issues

Looking for a few good ideas.

I was having some mechanical difficulties, so I decided to do some research. A body with issues of an uncertain nature may sometimes find relief by revisiting certain fundamental tenets of the physical world.

To be sure, greater minds than this one have long considered these questions––which may concern, among other things, the action and reaction of bodies at rest and in motion––not to mention acoustics and optics. Also, heat, friction; details related to magnetism, electricity. Astronomical matters may seem remote, but these, too, are not to be discounted, considering how profoundly any number of factors may govern aspects of the visible and invisible world. 

In conclusion, it’s complicated. 

There are a number of implications for these findings. For example, while I am still entirely unsure about the origins of that squeaky grinding noise that sometimes but not always happens when I make a right turn, it is reasonable to conclude that while the stereo system remains functional, it should be possible to avoid hearing it until a more appropriate time. 

As for this other thing I am trying to write, I am no more certain of my approach than I was before this brief foray into certain essential principles of structure, but at least I’ve found myself in good company when it comes to my ongoing bafflement regarding the proportional significance of any number of factors in a given system.

***

Inspired by a chance encounter with Mortimer J. Adler’s chapter on “Mechanics” from The Great Ideas: A Lexicon of Western Thought. And some other things. 

Advice from the Ground Beetles

Confidence of cave-dwelling carabid.

You can hurry, but it won’t get you anywhere. You were way too late for this prologue’s conclusion, and still want to rush. We are the stagehands you missed, ushering the deaths you wouldn’t stand.

It’s not the worst, really, to let others make a punchline of your life, like Where have you been, under a rock all this time? As a matter of fact, you can tell them––or not, cleaning your sensors with smooth precision.

I don’t want to frighten you, but let’s face it; it doesn’t take much. We live in the settings of your nightmares. No one knows you better than the one who recognizes what you refuse––I won’t say, to look at. You really ought to consider your bias toward sight, along with a few other favorite metaphors. Look at the river of life, you say, let’s jump in! From the places you call nowhere and not yet, we laugh and call back, you first! ––which is always your preference anyway.

Any beetle can tell you about all the cries in the dark, but that doesn’t mean you will listen. So much grief in these places, but we’ve been here all along. We get a lot of tourists on quests, looking for a dragon to slay. Sure, we tell them, go farther, and then get back to our invisible work, laughing.

Do you have a friend who studies eyesight, who can talk at length about degrees of vision? The word vision suggests blindness all by itself. A person’s aspirations will tell you a lot about their fears. 

Please don’t expect a welcome every time you come back. As a matter of fact, you should try to go missing. Let them call you extinct, finished. We’ve been doing this for twenty million years, but the newcomers can’t help themselves. There’s a new announcement every few decades about how they’ve discovered us––again.

Every seed spends many nights in the earth, and what does this tell you about the dangers you presume of obscurity? Kid, you’re kind of a drag the way you go around trying to illuminate everything. That’s enough now, out with your light.

From this darkness, there will be no forgiveness for someone who refuses to meet it on its own terms. 

***

Over this morning’s coffee, I learned that today is the birthday of the Croation entymologist Josef Müller (1880-1964) who is best known for his extensive study of blind cave-dwelling ground beetles. I can only imagine that one would be compelled to shift perspective away from certain popular biases after spending so much time with any often-disregarded species, especially those that are regularly rediscovered after presumed extinction. The idea inspired me to play again with certain phrases and turns from Robert Bly’s “Advice from the Geese,” an exercise from The Daily Poet that I enjoyed very much when I first used it to make “Advice from the Silver Mollies” for Bly’s birthday.

Speaking of Which

Question mark.

The word Mystery is just as fraught as Nature and harder for me to resist. I’ve never been able to point to Nature, but with Mystery, at least, I can gesture jazz hands in the direction of the space over or around a moment, object, person, collection––to highlight the apparent lack of concrete explanation for its impact. Still, this raises certain questions about various assumptions I’ve been making about the readily available explanations of some other phenomena.

Tell Me, Neighbor

Feeling a wound.

The fact that it is so difficult to express is what complicates, and in these complications, sometimes art. In its invisible geography, the felt experience of any other tends to flicker, then disappear.

Like fireflies, or a faulty bulb? Like meteor showers?

No, not like any of these.

It breaks your metaphor, doesn’t it?

It breaks.

A choice, then: the astounding freedom of unsight, or the weight of witness.

This body, take it. It has never known certainty, the first sound a cry, shattering words.

***

In her profound The Body in Pain: The Making and Unmaking of the World, Elaine Scarry writes, “When one hears about another person’s physical pain, the events happening within the interior of that person’s body may seem to have the same remote character of some deep subterranean fact, belonging to an invisible geography that, however portentous, has no reality because it has not yet manifested itself on the visible surface of the earth. Or, alternatively, it may seem as distant as the interstellar events referred to by scientists who speak to us mysteriously of not yet detectable intergalactic screams. . .”

Thoughts on a Train

Over vanishing worlds.

The cynic will call your nostalgia an ailment, but consider the lost elegance of oaks, the grey slush of salted roads at the end of a snow day; purple ink of handwritten liner notes inside the plastic shell of a favorite mix tape, the pealing chorus of children screaming in chase, hiss of the downtown bus breaking, someone on the blue shag carpet of a den hooting about a bad call over a plate of cheese and crackers, beer, full ashtrays on coffee tables, end tables; world maps covering dents in the kitchen walls, and the way the aunts with their lipstick would be laughing over the salad spinner, at the last attempt of someone’s last date, to do what must have seemed appropriate at the time and a harmony of, I can’t even––over shuffle of silverware and children up and down the stairs like a herd of elephants.  

If you hear that again, you’ll know that there will soon be a pillow at the back of your head and not this sideways neck, and no, it won’t sound anything like this dream when it’s over, but you won’t be sick with it either, just slightly jarred the way a body always is to find itself moving at high speeds over steel rails on land almost familiar, with a sense that it is always slipping out of reach before the witness finds the words, and maybe this is the tension the children were playing with, screaming at chase, whenever the it got too close.

Non-Linear

Regarding some equations.

On first introduction to the idea of convergence, it is natural to take an optimistic view. However, in certain cases it is clear with moral certainty that whatever else happens, convergence does not.

Consider subharmonics. Proving their bare existence, we begin with a theorem of our own before beginning any proofs.

Suppose a positive constant, some fixed function bounded by a given. From there, find a local maximum. Suppose the velocity of a given around a stationary point, spinning.

Consider any variable whatsoever, and let it be x. It follows immediately that the notation parallel to that for symbol y is denoted by an alternate symbol.

We are always supposing. 

We suppose always,

assume the truth.

***

Today is the anniversary of the death of celebrated British mathematician, Dame Mary Cartwright (1900-1998), who is considered one of the pioneers of what came to be known as chaos theory. This exercise is a collage of phrases found in this paper she published in 1945.