Wednesday, September 5, 2012

A Model for the Destruction of Hard Things

A woman studying the fracture properties
of coconuts may insist that nature
breaks its own structures reluctantly, along fault lines
of hard resin on fibrous interiors. 
She might apply that principle to apples,
animal horns and wood,
profile a pineapple so that she might
learn something about destruction.

You stand alone at the edge of ice, push
a half-submerged tree branch deeper into a hole.
Your branch a lever, the entire frozen pond reacts:
you recognize, (with iterations!) Mandelbrot sets
forming across its surface.  It crackles
loudly beneath you, obeying symmetry,
brokenness: illusions begin
to thaw as water seeps into lines from below.

Coconuts have nothing to do with ice.  Levers
do not determine fault lines.  The sound of wood
splitting has nothing to do with the smell
of a forest in January.  Wait.  Apples just might
have everything to do with a pond in winter.  I’m suggesting:
a woman in a lab, chiseling antlers to celebrate
breaking, has everything to do with you
standing in the cold wood, holding a tree branch.

--First published in Fourth River, Autumn 2011

Song for the Troubled Mathematician Who Confronted Remote Infinities

Cantor was depressive, too. Paranoid,
he believed he heard God’s voice reciting
theorems—divine mathematical whispers.
Here, birds eat, drink, and mate on the wing. Such
aerial existence has a certain
disadvantage: come what may, we all end up
on the ground. But the air has substance.
The spaces between stars are filled with dust
and gas. Large African antelope can survive
indefinitely without drinking. Saw off layers of
antlers to find the atheism of dry things. Still,
—and this explains a few things—
stars coalesce from dust and gas; God’s word
is flexible. Cantor had proof. 

[1] Georg Cantor (1845-1918), whose work implied “an infinity of infinities.”

--First published in Fourth River, Autumn 2011