Friday, December 28, 2007

The Duke corresponds with Wildebord Snell, first formulator of the rules of refraction

Dear Snell,

It is one of the great tragedies of thought, as played out on every scale, that significant qualitative changes only tend to occur when a quantitative limit is reached. There are objectively too many poems, or no more oil, or trees, or too many are hungry, or the body can take no more brandy and carcinogens and so the whole life must change. I think that a slab of marble is only like a heap of stones, which I smash into dust with the power of my thought. The resultant powder, however, brings on the sneeze of indifference. Not my indifference, but that of the world. It doesn’t care how small things get, though it responds to everything—nothing is empty, sterile, undeveloped or without perception. No matter how the light breaks up against the side of the house, changing into a panoply of colors that might, after all, be entirely specific to this region, or even to this singular and unrepeatable day, on which I have done nearly nothing, logged on and off, admired the snow softly piling up on the branches, cursed it with the next breath as if dividing time into such distinct moments would get me on to the next thing, despaired and smoked and coughed and cleaned the tub and reflected upon the past, trying to find the precise moments of change under the glacial sheets of long-since retroactively narrated periods or phases, none of this ever attains the scale at which things meet and cohere into an existence, mine or the world’s. That light breaks down into my speech, and in turn into a sheaf of mucous layered in the lung, and from there into a rattle cut into particulate clicks separated by—and including—a dimensionless void into which any excess can pour forever.

Imagine that there were two stones, for example the diamond of the Grand Duke and that of the Great Mogul. How should these ever meet beyond the borders of the similarities that join them in a sentence? (An easier question: how can we specify the relations by juxtaposition that have, thus far, been our only alternative if we wish to express the world as it may be prior to the arrangements of grammar? Scream?) They are divided not only by actualities, but by the seething plenitude of activity. Today I heard on the radio the sentence:

At the hospital where she died, some smashed glass and wailed

and the pulse of this was neatly eradicated by the swift proliferation across varied networks and stations of the same vocabulary. In order to capture this I wrote:

imitating the intonation in which
Benazir Bhutto has expired
the distinct rhythms of two reports in which
Benazir Bhutto has expired
hum of the cone
at the pitch of one
man’s voice repeating
Benazir Bhutto has expired

how in the fuck am I supposed to know why
Benazir Bhutto has expired
when the radio hammers away at this
until it shatters into its metaphors

a breath and lung
a past and hope
a policy and excuse
an offer not to be repeated

not to be repeated

This smashed glass is the double diamond.
Inside us, more machines.
We go downstairs until we jump
—and something cracks. Through the fracture,
we can see bodies, one oozing mass
against the crystalline firmament
of the way things touch each other from far away.

Until this crack in our own bones widens, there’s only the infinite descent that we can share only in terms of our knowledge that we can’t share it, even with ourselves. The emptiness of a second reading; the resuscitation of swallows which make their winter quarters in reeds and which are discovered with no semblance of life; experiments with people killed by cold, drowned or strangled, and who are then brought back to life… all these things confirm my opinion that such states differ only in degree. If you ask me in particular what I say about the sun, my answer will vary from ray to ray. In order to avoid your accusations of inconsistency or downright deception, I will withhold any answer.

I am worried. Since there is no life, we’re stuck choosing between resignation and something we can’t possibly imagine. How to stumble so that we fall upon it?

Why not sing with utmost grace
your goddamn ugly song? A lapse
nearly always feels good. The snow,
once a signal of something ineffable,
now just sits piled on the trees.

One died clowning, repeating
From station to station,
spreads. That was an example
of condensation. I lean against the window
and get wet and a cold. Something in Pakistan is happening.

You try,
which breaks.

Blood boils at the prospect of stopping, please
Leaves matted for discovery. Undernourished in the trap of this. That made
a likeable corpse unrotting in the backwards snow. She thrums her vulva
like a missed tone on the screen. He chafes his hearts as if it mattered
to the night. You like that in the present tense, but
remembering it is ow.

I have imagined for far too long
that you have pretended for far too long
to an enmity.

Give it up,


The Nut


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