Continents drift, volcanoes
island the ocean, great glaciers plough
upheavals of earth, furrows mark time.
Later, shiploads of compassing seamen
sight land, ah, just as we thought:
build cities and plant, crisscross,
secreting trade routes, cobwebbing
railways, six days of freight.
Sundays, relax and admire the miracles.
Continents drift. Hurry, we’ll miss
the eruption. The train is late
Either something existed or nothing.
With or without cause, nothing
grew something, then something else,
forever inching beyond, evolving
either something or nothing
Something begins in the soupstock sea,
concealer of secrets through seething eons
of anarchy, jettisoned flotsam drifting
from unrememberable origins, either-or,
shunting to turgid backwash pools,
fermenting in tidal marshes, harboring
coagulants, covert mudwater mergers
estranged from the sun and sea,
spawning the cleverest emulsion of all
Or, a sufficient number of bivalves,
connected in series, calculates
vast subtrahends, undersea
chain molecule relay race brain,
powered by the oceanic action
of one giant, salt-inspired voltaic cell
and out of the Marianas trench
an immense bedrock strata slants upward,
pockmarked memory bank, projecting:
the probability that anything
more civilized than mollusks
can develop from this broth
is point cipher cipher cipher
Out of the ocean pens, unnoticed by night,
a logical quadruped creeps dripping
Up over the beach and under the overhang
moonshade of rainforest branches,
hiding in impotent fright, awaiting
the passage of lizards, failure of insects
to achieve anything beyond number,
watching the cockroach, waiting his turn
Either it works or it doesn’t.
Either it stays or it goes.
Survive, extinguish, either-or,
succeed or fail; adapt, regress,
minus or plus; keep score
This much we know:
all being is either white or non-white.
Based on the premise that all cabbage
is animal, then this cabbage is animal.
Eat your salad, dear, before it eats you
The day the wheat belt buckled in Kansas City
the granary owner fell into the grain.
Of course there were questions:
Is there an established ceiling
percentage of cereal men in the cereal?
Ownership intestate, who will assume
guardianship of the infected silo
until after the mandated quarantine
of seven lean years?
Seven billion kernels of fermenting wheat
catalyzed by one fermenting wheat magnate
brew a febrile, decaying organic mass
of sufficient complexity to gain consciousness
and perform either a) simple arithmetical tasks
or b) spontaneous combustion
City evacuated, silo forsaken, bursts
in white heat and black smoke, spelling out
carboniferous clauses in the sky:
“All I ever wanted was a little respect and dignity”
Thought recites action faster
than actions reflect thought,
True or False?
Commissioned for self-design,
the either-or machine projects:
barring unforeseen breakthrough
prove impractical develop
autonomous being Dear Sir
Lucrative opportunities for
skilled programmers enroll now
Each relay is a gate
The gate is opened or closed
The answer is yes or no
Who made me? Yes
Why did God make me? No
All cabbage is animal. No
All being is either
white or non-white. Yes
All animal is either
god or non-god. Yes
And this animal, this animal,
Either-or, the gate is either
open or closed, yes or no?
In microseconds we have reached
nonplusses that in another age
would have taken years.
Stripping gear after toothless gear
the great either-or machine
spits up a sonnet, a sonata, whirrs,
wheezes, suggests a game of chess.
Independent thought has been achieved,
pandemonium of piled-up tapes: all
permutations of every copulating verb
unreel while verbless trains of impulse,
unholstered, ply the think tank floor,
tapeworms choking on undigested fact;
Reason for being: none
The main contribution
of the Babylonians to
mathematics is zero
Isn’t that something?
The warrior crab owes
to his markings the fact
he is seldom attacked
and seldom defended
Light is propagated through a vacuum
at precisely the speed
of the Apostles Creed
This train is late
but it goes so fast
soon it will be on time
After that, it will be early
Volunteer firemen tuck in undershirts,
rush to the scene, trailing hoses,
save the machine! Thunder. A hush.
Hoses cease squirting, the annual tug of war
goes slack, the machine stops unreeling,
everything still. Now something will happen
because nothing is happening
Then he appears…rising,
reshapen horizon, forested beard,
voice of the tree limbs creaking:
“Being is its own reason for being.
Believe that or there is nothing to believe.
Proceed with that or pass, and in passing
Leave reason for no being to grieve.
You can say I said so
“Nothing exists that is not within reach.
Nothing exists that is not in sight.
Nothing exists away during the day.
Nothing at all exists at night.
You can say I said so
“And being of sound mind, I bequeath
all my earthly possessions to the meek.
You can say I said so”
Still hiding, the logical quadruped
strains to stand, squirt, speak, pray.
Sprawls. Rests. Learns to smile,
to lull strong foes, lure edible friends,
coax sunup, soften fright muscles, rest.
For each thing
There is a name, for each name a thing.
Big names hide little names inside.
In darkness hides food, food is afraid,
all being is either food or non-food,
mine or not mine, me or not me, either-or
For every action there is an equal
and opposite reward or punishment.
For every winner there is an equal
and opposite loser, a death
in one family, a meal in another
And there on the platter, the head
of John the non-adaptive Baptist
who had been preaching
when he should have been dancing
Introducing, The Sense of Awe:
mutation inspired by discovery
of the incredible singing rocks
Announcing, cynicism: singing rocks
taste no better than silent rocks
Dolphin Books. Quitting business.
Closeout sale. Everything marked down.
Important message coming up:
encyclopedia of molten silicates
scheduled for issuance Sunday
through chimney of Mauna Loa
Thousands gather to a) listen
or b) pick nuts
The either–or machine finds comfort
in companionship: a machine
to convert dirt into lumber,
another to convert dirt into beef,
one to convert grass into milk,
forever ruminating, beef or milk,
either-or, one machine to translate
dirt into dust and to name other machines
For every name, there is a thing,
for every misspelling, a mutation
which, if adaptive, will multiply
faster than the original spelling,
which is at first correct
Standing at the edge of the gorge,
a half-beast announces he is a half-man.
Looking up from the pit, a half-man
learns to believe in the man-fearing god
of the high rocks, learns to believe
in the force that holds rocks high,
learns to believe in long shadows,
learns to pray for release of the sun
and, that done, learns to hunt,
track the succulent half-beast
haunting the rocks
Warm bodies are better
than cold bodies. Eaten,
they keep you warm.
learns to listen to wing beats
learns the track of the sun,
patterns of heat and blood,
warm stones and damp breath,
fires that play at dusk,
fires that struggle with night,
learns to look into lakes
deep with time, seeing half-man
staring, sensing the deep-throated
rumble of a machine churning
beneath, at the bottom of things
Half man half beast, either-or,
outcast from man and beast.
A half planet is a whole planet.
A half life is a whole life
for the half beast half something
or half nothing, looking
for things to fill pictures
to fill names, limping,
half liberated, half deformed
by thought, this desperate mutation
uprooting animals from soft earth
and issuing demands:
for warmth to become love
for glands to become art
for music to increase
the production of eggs
for old-brain yearnings
to cease the tug of tides
on bridge piers. Remember?
Nothing was uncertain in the sea.
Nothing was certain, nothing had to be