We’ve loved a summer now,

 
We’ve loved a summer now,
and words have scattered in your sight.
That surge towards you in my heart
pulls smiles, not words, to kiss my lips,
and sighs (and—god!—those moans) to
echo in my throat.
I gasp your words in place of air,
yet trace my scattering phrases
in my touch upon your skin.
 
And now—and now—
as you sleep on Skype,
and snuggle in my pixels,
my heart pumps words within my veins.
And silence flows with feeling now articulate.
And caring comes in whispers
of my pen upon this page.
 

(3/8/13)

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Poetry

 
Poetry is a mindset
it’s a rhythm of thought.
A poem is not the content
nor, I fear, is it beauty.
It’s a half communication,
a resonance.
A unity of thought that overspills.
 

(1/4/13)

Poem: We pare down meanings

Another sonnet. Highly conventional (and probably dull) in terms of stanza structure. This was written, for the most part, ages ago but forgotten. I found it recently, and wanted to complete it. However, in the interim I lost what I wanted to say. The second quatrain is newest, and I’m not sure it fits the rest.

We pare down meanings with thick blunted knives
Discard crude flesh, expose the deeper bones
They rattle wicked death o’er jangling life
And laughter mocks the grave, the pauper’s throne
Condensing truth into the barest spark
To burn beyond our feeble watery light
As lightning blazing strikes the mortal heart
Then vanishes in vast immortal night
No words immortal linger in the dust
No song remains beyond time’s stronger call
A siren sumptuous luring us to trust
As starker echoes haunt once hallowed halls
Fast legacies elude the grasp of proof
As barren silence speaks the silent truth

 

Schrodinger’s Cat, “Villette” & the Status of Character

A cat and a radioactive source are in a box. A quantity of poison will be released if radioactivity is detected. Is the cat alive or dead?

**Massive Disclaimer: I’m not in any way a scientist.**

I got an A in my physics A Level, but that was a while ago now. I do, however, remember being told about the challenge of observation when the things that necessarily accompany the act of observation can affect that which one wishes to observe. And this, in a vague, please-don’t-quote-me-on-this, kind of way, is part of how I understand this thought experiment. To be ever so slightly more precise with the specific quantum physics, some form of observation of measurement stops the thing ideally to be observed from being a superposition of states, with it becoming either one state or the other.

Fortunately, however, I don’t wish to dwell on the physics. I merely wish to note that in this thought experiment, until the box is opened, there is no way of knowing whether the cat is dead or alive. The question thus prompted is the degree to which it could be said to either both or neither.

What I wish instead to focus on is literary character. The critical discourse on this is huge, and I’ve read my small wedge of it. I shall not, however, engage with specifics but summarise the two extremes of position.

  1. Characters are to be read as (quasi) people.
  2. Characters are fundamentally textual elements in a linguistic text of many elements.

Neither stance alone is very satisfactory. Character seems more than a syntactic unit; its function in a text is more than a form of determination of the allocation of actions. ‘[He/She/It] did [x] to [him/her/it]’ can be assigned to different syntactic subjects, but without a more humanised notion of an agent, subject, or object something seems lacking. And indeed, without a similarity between characters and people we fail to really grasp the full literary effect or import of a character. This humanising also permits us to assimilate more to the subject than its own acts, be it inferences from environmental context, or our desire to supply the character with a life that extends beyond the duration of the text’s focus and the individual instances of the character’s appearances in the text.

Furthermore, the personifying of character can be seen as the reciprocal side of the coin of the characterising of the person. If I speak of my friend, I employ very similar lexis to speaking of a fictional character. I can remark that ‘Helen has brown hair’ and ‘Lynne has brown hair’ and it is only the contingent fact that for me one seems to reference (or at least attempts to reference) a real person that introduces an ontological difference between ‘Helen’ and ‘Lynne’, if indeed at the level of the language or the text such a difference exists.

However, let us consider Charlotte Brontë’s Villette. I enjoyed Jane Eyre, but the ending was nauseating. I similarly enjoyed Villette, but the ending was fascinating. In short, the protagonist’s loved one, embarks on his return voyage from a duration abroad. Bad weather, we are told, claims the lives of many loved ones on board. Yet, we are also informed of the joy to be felt by those whose loved ones could still return home. Thus the novel ends, without telling us into which category the protagonist and her man fall. Brontë herself remarked on the debate that arose, on correspondence she received asking whether the character lived or died. She, to my knowledge, refused to answer.

For me, the answer is obvious. He did neither. Or both. He, as a literary character is akin to Schrödinger’s Cat. For me he is not, I should clarify, technically both dead and alive: the human-ness which is invoked in his description would make that trait unviable. He is, however, underdetermined on this aspect. As a person he must, at the fictional spatio-temporal point of the text’s close, have been either dead or alive, but as a character he is characterised by indefinitely embodying both possibilities, with the qualification that either possibility would preclude the other.

Thus, character is not person.

We can again consider the flipside. People I know who are not here with me may now, for all I know, be dead. As with absentee characters, unless they figure in the witnessed now of the text, they are unknown. If we espouse a radical idealism, of course, like character they might no longer exist. But typically we’d say that for real people the issue is epistemic not ontological. As material beings they have a definite state and location; we just cannot know it. For characters though, it seems as if the inverse might be the case, that their fundamental ontology is one bound up in our epistemological access to them, and thus is distinctly non-human.

 

Poem: I felt

I felt, dully, my senses playing catch up
Felt, somehow, stilled
Neutrality condensing in my inexperience
My echoes, constant, of something missed
That lapse
A single, overwhelming instant,
A tiny, refracted delay
Until I begin to play that melody
That universal harmony
Delayed
Knowing, inside, its new discordance.
 
I don’t know how to truly watch
And yet pre-empt the Time
I always chase
While it, elusive, mocks my failure,
Leaves me there behind.
Responsive.
A word that seems alive
And subtle and engaging
But which prohibits all but dull response.
How can I touch a world that,
In my time of touching,
Isn’t there?
 
My own response left disconnected,
While you, you seem to feel the present
To fill the present with that movement of response
To feel and to direct as one
As if in your responding lies a future you can feel
To know the now before
As I do after
As I, discordant, break apart.
 

Your darkness stirred beneath my touch

Your darkness stirred beneath my touch,
soft and damply fertile.
I say darkness, but for myself I know
that term is yours, you seeing dark
where I behold just light and life.
just living;
all and only.
 
I break the frost
and turn and turn the earth
barehanded
see the stains alight my fingers
and even out the cracks of time.
What dirt is there to shirk or shed?
but nourish; turn
and turn again
and never go full circle.
It is time that cycles,
impotent, with seasons
not with lives.
It merely marks the change
and we must move while it repeats,
retreats to regain future losses.
We, sweet scarecrow, are not static
but ever linear. Come,
re-turn your earth.
 
Don’t worry, I do not intend
to plant my seed, and reap
the crop I might have planted.
No.
Why not let the field lie fallow
and sit
and savour in the air
the scents of new churned loam
and in the air
of spring
of skies that thaw to rain?