What the hell is a poem, anyway?

Uh oh, I’m lost again. I haven’t been able to write a poem for a bit because—literally—I can’t remember how.

This happens to me regularly, usually after finishing something and feeling like it’s time to move on to something new. I feel more and more like the first thing I have to do is provide myself with a structure (not a form) for conceptualizing what a poem is, and then I can begin to write them again.

When I’m not writing, I try to tell myself that I am in a “receiving” mode. Things in my daily life will stand out to me, stick with me, yank on my ear a little bit. Or, if I am trying to write in the “old structure” still, new themes will start to emerge, things I’m currently concerned with, working through, thinking about. Before writing RISK, I was writing weird little poems about landscapes, about being lost in landscape and sensing danger there, about moving on from a death, and about what it is that separates humans from machines. All of these themes ended up—somehow—playing into the book, but in a more succinct and more refined way.

I wrote a sad poem last week. It had a lot of physics in it, which means it’s a carryover from RISK. Someone was splitting atoms. This is a garbage poem (meaning I was just tilling up some subconscious muck), so I’ll post it here:

Tell me what is the purpose
for causation————

The physics
of being disappointed
has too many vectors

and collision————well, I’ve known so much of it

I’m just awfully broken now.

Energy is conserved. The sum total of all things in the universe
is nothing

And I hear the word “nothing” in your voice,
your gravelly, cracking voice

I want to touch something of you.
I want to be touched by something of you————a molecule, perhaps.

This lonely world is full of sham laws
and broken bodies, broken promise. Broken atoms.

When the first human split the atom
tell me————
why did we stop there?

There is bomb enough now
that no one need be lonely alone.
I can take this world with me————
It is a poor substitute

for the world
where living with you, happily,
broke every fucking law you could think of.

I’m interested in those long caesuras. I think I will keep those around. I’m thinking a lot about physics because of that Buffy book I’m reading.

I am also thinking a lot about movies (shocking). I’m thinking about unspooling narratives and cause-and-effect. That for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. I’m thinking about Newtonian physics and relativity. About how time passes. Here is a fun tidbit I learned about time:

Let’s say you are in London. Your and a friend set your watches to the exact same time, down to the second. You get on a plane and fly to San Francisco, then get on another plane and fly back right away. When you get back to London, your watch and your friend’s watch will read different times because time has passed more slowly for you due to your rate of travel (and since the fact that the earth’s rotation is a constant speed—the speed at which your friend traveled).

I also learned that planetary orbits are not elliptical, they are straight. Work that one out.

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