Thursday, June 25, 2009


Rain today, from morning’s drizzle
to downpour on the tin roof over the stalls
at the farmers market to mist and damp
all afternoon long to the steady trickle
I see now out the downstairs living
room window. Kids are asleep
while Emily and her friends Jen and
Rachel go out to dinner, try
to reconnect across time, space:
friends from her New York City days,
when I didn’t know her, when I scarcely
knew myself: those fog-sopped years, the
Nineties—can barely resist the urge
to quote Auden on the Thirties, let
it go, low in the sense of ignoble for sure
and innocent in that word’s darkest sense
of willful blindness to what’s real.
Bad day in Tehran, with security forces
in huge numbers preventing protestors
from massing, yet all those ordinary people
are still afire, a green fire
that just might yet consume
an unjust regime: here’s hoping
and here’s to the e-mail
of one brave young woman that
I read this morning
who was preparing for today, possibly
the last day of her life, by
watching scenes from favorite movies
and reading Persian poetry: how young
she must be and I hope still is
but they’re shooting people now:
I saw a photo of another young woman in her chador
bleeding to death on the street: what
does it mean to give your life
for what you believe: Badiou
might say at that moment, not the moment of death
but of decision, you are a person for the first time
in the fullest and only truthful sense:
in politics art science and love
for Badiou those are the conditions of truth
and the only realms in which the novum
can happen: well, French philosophers
like to say things like that but it’s compelling
all the same to sit for a while
with a rigorous schema
that proposes access to the real
via thought and form: in that sense
my rediscovery here of content
is untimely: I should go back
to language happening for its own sake
and pursue the naked forms
through which contact is made (contact!
wrote Thoreau: what are we? Where are we?)
with something appearances no matter how beautiful
only serve to conceal. I don’t understand
yet what this has to do with Ammons
or the set theory I’m painfully teaching myself
but I’m starting to glimpse sublimities
like those of the power set: take a set
of anything, prime numbers say
and then propose the power set, which includes
all possible subsets of the main set S
and therefore is necessarily larger than S
though as you’ve perhaps noticed, S,
the set of all prime numbers, is infinite: that’s
how we end up pluralizing infinity
and can say with confidence and wonder
that one infinity, called S, can be larger than
another: p(S). No doubt I’m learning just
enough to make a fool of myself, but
I’m still stunned by the elegance
of what I think I understand: I think
for example that there’s a set, call it W
that includes everything in the world
that we humans call the world (nations,
bees, sex, ideologies, cockroaches,
elms and birches and snow and vacancy): what
would the power set of W be then
if not the earth itself, ultimate horizon
of any human order or disorder
and of the rocks and animals and plants too:
so E = p(W) and adds unthought combinations
to already infinite possibilities
of life larger than life as it’s lived.
The theme is creative and has vista,
as Whitman said. So I’ll plunge ahead:
a tripper, an asker, searching unsolvable X
and when I find that X and make it my own
some new thing may arise. The
green tree at night makes a negative
image of itself against the enameling
sky, and my room that was a place to look from
becomes a theater for the passerby.

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