Here is an end of the house of Argives

all white-shirted, bearded, limbs angular

and bandied, un buveur né d’un buveur.

There’s a kind of saliva like wet glue

in the back of the mouth

stuccoed to soft velar tissue

with each successive medallion of whisky.


Among secondhand furniture we take our seats

on the carpet, our legs crossed or arching

in the manner of bedroom philosophy,

late night senates of bodies in motion.

He says we’re all quite mistaken…

Our souls eek forth amid transpositions.

He says—the lowball swinging in the seat

of his three fingers—

           any logical system

cannot be both complete and consistent.


She and I trade a look lukewarm and coy.


What we don’t know isn’t out there (his glass extends)

but is always the center of our knowing,

in fact it determines our circumference.

The mind works like this— I glimpse her smirk,

curl of an extinguishing flame—:


The path of lightning predetermined

by these limbs of ionized gases called ‘leaders’

that weave and spread out like rivers

down the riverbed of gravity

from the tops of mountains into the sea,

that lightning only follows afterwards.

Also, the architecture of xylem

and phloem like the suburbs of a tree.

Also, the infinite remainders of π

when expressed as a natural number.

Also, the whole universe, I mean all matter,

accelerating along webs of dark energy.

Also, the coincidence of single-celled mold

resembling the Tokyo Railway System.

Also, the novelty of language from simple

computational properties. Also,

the inevitable network of a snowflake—


O that one’s been done to death, she laughs, don’t be dull.

How? he asks.

Going on like that.

You’re not writing the gospel.


Well? he says, turning to me, navigating

her humor like some temporary swell.

I answer something like, you assume

logic is a necessity for all systems.


She laughs again,

     O! What a catamite.

At the other end of the bluedark room

a plastic vodka bottle spills,

they lay down paper towels, and continue.

There’s no reason a snowflake should have six

than, say, eight sides, or gosh, why fish smell like fish.


Their skin contains trimethylamine oxide

that breaks down into ammonias

when it comes in contact with the air.

And snowflakes are always six-sided because

of the way two hydrogen atoms bond

with oxygen, always 104.5 degrees

from each other. The molecules tessellate

into hexagonal structures when they freeze.


Is that right? she asks, and pulls her knees

closer to her chest.

Look it up, he poses. We scrutinize

with the white face of our phones against our noses.


Is there necessity in everything?


I say I need another drink.

Yes, you see his glass is empty. He needs another drink.

She lights up: ‘Streets that follow like a tedious argument

lead you to that question.’ Her tongue, scornful, clicks.

He thinks he’s misheard her.

What’s that?


Tsk tsk tsk. You’re not supposed to ask.


The air around the kitchen tastes of mint

of weed immolated to invisible gas.

I have to get past this kind of thinking.

Returning, I swing my leg over the couch, slip

into the frayed cushions.


Is it naïve to hope the world stays unintelligible?

I don’t at all like the sense we’ve made of it.

No matter what you say, it costs too much,

(she says his ideas are as unnerving as a hospital visit)

You want to make a metaphor of leaves

on a tree, the universe, or whatever,

but can’t say it as well as Cowper, Cummings, you know.

Just admit that’s what you want to do,

but you pretend not to dress it up.

Even Freud said the poets were there before me.

(Oh, even when she speaks, she sings!)


You’re accusing me of not being pretty?

Poetry is unfalsifiable.

Well, back me up…

He’s not your confidant.


She’s trying to tell me we don’t need lightbulbs

because the sun shines.


I need to use the bathroom…

Now he needs to use the bathroom!



I cup a pond of faucet water,

lift it into me.

A familiar sermon submerges

like the weak embering of a coal,

an indiscriminate madness,

distant, observed, and wholly rational,

either argument so fluid

and borderless, all river and no stone.


My beard in the mirror hangs wetly into a single point.

there is only coincidence and silence.

the mind, recursive and automatic

can only make meaning, and cannot make it true.

It was something like this that turned dad to Christ.

After we left him and headed west—and

yes I can drink, but he was always drinking

He told me one night he’d finished off a fifth

and lay on the apartment floor alone,

his stomach calcified, body sweating it out of him.

Then there was only one way of seeing things,

nothing polysemous, nothing Hamlet,

but all the thinking that was objectless

was given a form, ecclesial and full of regret.


Did he suffer, like I do, from so much imagination?

Some black, sloping curve on the horizon

flowing with each thought towards where I can’t see,

the end of knowing.


The whole room has lost its balance,

and the smell of soap and damp towels—

everything gives an impression of having lost its center—

Of course it makes sense why his god would suggest

“but what is the end of death?”

I have a soul weak as water, weaker

than the papery lotus leaf on water.


Yet pressing my face against the hand towel

there’s the sense that all objects have this, too,

the end of ignorance. —


So to the door again, and the bend

of the hallway, to our encampment

in the corner of the den,

a detachment aloof in the basin.


She angles back like a swan towards me,

the featherless wings of her shoulderblades

protrude through a white and whaletoothed tank top.

He props an elbow on the coffee table,

wearing an amulet of gold drink close to his chest.


Descend in this chariot without fear

being beyond synthesis, an effect

of motion being a charioteer.

All around you that luminance bends, converges.

Hand me the glowing patera, O love.

Send down the gods, sing all the dirges.

R. Charboneau

One thought on “The Body Politic

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