Notes.

A Division of Tongues (I)

Some stanzas from a series I’m working on about the Tower of Babel and Solomon. From a section on the motif of the Division of Language in the Tower of Babel story.

The idea of language coming apart is a fascinating one no matter how you look at it: mythological, psychological, social, mental.

I have been trying to think through this idea that there is something that a word means and when it stops meaning it the word still exists and still acts as a label for that something which it’s not anymore. Sometimes new words are made for the occasion, but sometimes not. Sometimes words are borrowed to understand what they were never intended to. This is the problem of the sign and its referent, whatever that means.

Words are planted, and grow, and do not stop growing. When I mean words here I also mean phrases, ideas, thoughts, ways of thinking.

The problem of language
is the problem with
the engine stalling out
or the microscope
that cannot see
all the way down.

When there’s no other way
of saying something
we must say it
the way it sounds
though it may not be
how we meant it.

We’re locked tidally
to the manner of the
language that’s spoken,
just as we cannot know
beyond our science
without some hoping.

So build it up and out.
Fine tune instruments.
Build them large without
and more precise within,
so we can mean only what 
we mean, and no more then.

Tomorrow we cure
through technology
death and disease
and reverse entropy
by taking measurements
absolutely accurately.

Today we say something
knowing full well it is
not what we mean,
to know it ourselves,
so it may come to look
like what it seems.

Lament of the Pharaoh’s Daughter in Summer

Part of a series I’m working on about some biblical stories.

The Pharaoh’s Daughter was the wife of Solomon. Solomon, king of Jerusalem, who desired wisdom above all else, had a harem of a thousand wives and concubines, a feat rivalled maybe only by Genghis Khan? I dunno, but it seems excessive. Apparently it was his love of women that ended up being Solomon’s downfall.

The Pharaoh’s Daughter is the only wife named in the story, although that’s probably not the name on her driver’s license.

Here she is, in a lament that owes a debt to William Carlos Williams’ The Widow’s Lament in Springtime, and to the story in Kings, and to my own misgivings about forgoing relationships in search of wisdom


Lament of the Pharaoh’s Daughter in Summer

Even when you are around
you’re not here. I may have
your eyes, at times, never
your ear. I have looked down 
the bottom of wells for you.
Asked sunsets what to do.

The sun in the afternoon
is muggy and unbearable.
Nor ice, nor dripping reeds
hung from windows will
cool, but the heat keeps me
from being able to miss you.

Only in evenings do I know
the same sorrow as widows
and a dying like the sun’s dying
going down again and again.
You’ve built magnificent houses
but do not know how to live in them.

When will your searching end?
When will this yearning ripen
into wisdom, that you may
be done with learning and
return to a family and to me?
O when, my love, O when?

Knowledge will not warm
a bed. It does not take children
to the park, or kiss a forehead.
Knowing will not sooth the morning
I wake and find you’ve left for good,
having understood some revealed truth.

Wilderness is all that knowledge
knows, and all that satisfies.
It ventures into woods unceasingly.
It strikes out to map and civilize
and breeds, in cities it leaves
behind, contemptuous familiarity.

Next to knowledge I am nothing
but a name, something to check
back on, to be reassured nothing
out of the ordinary has changed.
Only the same want for affection,
only desires, unfulfilled, remain.

Extremely Online

You were trying to remind yourself

what it was you were doing on here.

Seeing if you saw yourself in each post.

You and the phone are two objects,

des atomes crochus, orbiting like

a binary of heavenly bodies:

what the screen shows you to be,

and what, in reality, you are.

At the barycenter, an identity.

What you were trying to get at

but which always seemed to be too far.

Now one of you is gaining mass

while the other is losing it

when you decide whether

to keep scrolling or to quit.

On Anger & The Iliad

I have an anger issue. 

For several weeks now I’ve been trying to update one of my poetry books in Amazon’s KDP. I’ve done this a couple of times before without issue, but for some reason, inexplicably, the ghost in the machine is gone. The updated file never seems to get updated on the site itself, despite being updated on the backend. And this was going to be the last revision! I’d finally gotten everything perfect. Just the way I wanted it. I’ve been emailing the helpdesk for a week now, and so far I’ve received nonanswers. The most pleasantly benign of dismissals. It’s a “technical issue.” They are “looking into it.”

I received another nonanswer shortly before writing this. That was when it seized me. When the eagle talons of anger cinched around my brain, possessed as I was for a brief time by an insensate anger that negates and shuns and refuses. This is stupid, I thought. I’m sure of it. The people on the other end of this email are stupid. Amazon is stupid, too. There is stupidity lurking everywhere, around every corner. I am living inside a blackhole of stupidity.

I became hopelessly irrational.

Continue reading “On Anger & The Iliad”