a fishy thing, an old doggerel to fetch a bone withal

whipping wild fish into fashion
while whispering sweet nuttings
into the lips of a crocus
there is a splendour lurking
in the bower eaves
don’t mistake it for
malice or shirking
partisan brimful with
arrogance and spite
(despite?) all these paragons
are wallowing in their own
fortitude drowning in their
own virtue beware the
sneaking suspicion that you
are right write down yr.
whiskered breaths upon
the windowpane cracked
though it is with spiderwebs
and time

discussing fine wine on
the backs of water-
starved fish dry ribs
heaving in the sun
por qua, my dour
cockle-shell? your
dainty bounties are
withering in the
wind wipe those
quiet tears from
off your back–we
have no room for excess
baggage (luggage?)

piecing together the
witnesses to all the
wilted gld in all the
windy treasure boxes
of the world
i’m sorry there’s nothing
more to say when
all the birds on earth
are dead try us
i might i cannot
summon up the
courage to face a
bird-free sky
parlor games charlatan
tricks soupcon of
a garrulous
medicine man
don’t drink the water

neither swim in it
nor bathe or dusk
your flanks in the
dusky dirt
but do wrap up your
sighs in boxes packed
away in livid orange
u-haul trucks store
them away all winter
but beware do not
raise the door too
quick mouldering
winterlong in dust
and shadow (darkness?)
deep secrets have
been growing
secrets deep enough & dark
enow to burst your heartstings

as you like the sparkling
dewdrop painted heaven
so the nighttime
revels dance their
stardust moonbeam
spirals in the
sea shore
once when i was
small & the seaside
shone with life and
bright odors of salt
and sea came bringing
all my sandy wishes
home scuttling crabs
and flopping fish have
become my seashore

time was we’d had
some sorrows lodged
in mind but grief
resolved itself into
something not
quite known before
how to say it? what
in nightly dreams
has made its leave
within my mind
what name would
give this sweetness
breath? …
i don’t know, but
it is worthy to be
praised my word
what a boisterous
sleep i have

to be sure there is
no remedy for past
sorrow it remains
with me forever
i would not part
with my soft sorrow
for all the joy that
lies in world’s
unknown vapors crash
throughout these
phantasies and madnesses
and self-made-self
which wanders mightily
questions questions
questions and all
my word-hoard lies
useless in its vault

a found transcription of a thing; also present, though handwritten marginalia: “key in a tree” and “Undset

That book list of mine…

So, I have gone through and made a preliminary pass through that list of those books I’ve read and put an asterisk next to those titles… well, that seemed to stand out to me. Basically, in a whimsical sort of way, I put an asterisk next to everything which I felt an impulse to note or something.

I wish I had more of a methodology to this, but I haven’t really come up with one yet.


I’d like to take the time to recommend the writings of Emergence: The Connected Lives of Ants, Brains, Cities, and Software and Mind Wide Open : Your Brain and the Neuroscience of Everyday Life.

In the research style of Howard Rheingold, Steven Johnson seems to spend his time traveling around the country collecting bits of information from inventors and scientists, as well as a healthy backlog of reading material. I like that Johhson, in his wonderfully meandering style, isn’t afraid to drag literary works into the mix as well. There’s a delightful (for me) moment in Mind Wide Open when he uses Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway to illustrate the point he’s making about brain functions. He also uses a passage from Henry James’ The Golden Bowl (okay, so I may be remembering this incorrectly) to illustrate the the way that people (and their brains) continuously interpret the subtle interactions of body language and facial expressions.

I read Emergence first and, as per usual, I can’t quite recall the place that I originally read about this book, though I seem to remember reading this interview with Steven Johnson on Salon.com when it originally came out. I didn’t read the book at the time or even look for it. What I can’t remember is what prompted me to read the book now. It’s funny that I can remember an interview I read three years ago, but not the reason that I decided to read a book two or three months ago.

–Completely tangentially, but I think that the image or metaphor of my brain that most seems to fit is based on a dream that I had some time ago, but that was so vivid it’s stuck with me ever since. I had a very detailed dream in which I designed and built a circular cage in which fans were arranged in such a way that air blew through the cage in a constant tumult. Into this cage, I put thousands and thousands of cut-up words and phrases, so that, when the fans were blowing, the bits and pieces of paper would fly about in a constant and random flurry of motion. In the dream, I would stand in the middle of this cage and, in order to ascertain the answers to my questions, I would reach out into this moiling of paper and grab the bits of paper that I needed. I would use this as a practice of prophecy or divination and, in the dream, I was absolutely convinced that this system would work. What was fascinating to me, even while dreaming it, was the detail that went into the construction of this device (shall I call it a fragmenomancer?), from the initial technical drawings to the bolting and shaping of metal and electrical systems. And me without an engineering bone in my body. So, transpose words on paper to thoughts as words on scraps of paper that flurry around the self, momentarily and somewhat randomly coming into vision, then… that seems about right. My brain as a giant cut-up machine.

Emergence deals primarily with the way in which complex systems arise out of the interaction of simple rules, repeated many times. For example, the way in which the 20 or so chemical signals that one ant creates, repeated many times over, generates ant colony behavior from the layout of the colony to the way in which an ant colony will react to food or scarcity thereof. Johnson goes on to discuss the properties of emerging complexity which appear in such disparate things as the physical development of cities over time, human brains and software development. He’s even got people talking to him about how creativity is an emergent property. Emergence is well worth reading. Especially in terms of the way in which emergent complexity, as metaphor, changes the ways in which we think about our world around us and ourselves.

In many ways, Mind Wide Open seems like a logical follow-up to Emergence. In it, through his conversations with neurologists and bio-feedback engineers, Steven Johnson records his exploration of his own brain. There’s an interesting thing that seems to happen (to me) when I read about how brains function. I’ll be reading some description of a mental reaction to some situation and, while reading, I’ll find my own brain beginning to mirror that reaction. It’s very strange. Perhaps this happens more than I think, but I’m only hyper-aware of it when reading a book about brain activity. Very worthwhile for all you brain enthusiasts out there. (Heh.)