An Experiment in Artifice and Abject-oriented Ontology


by Noah Eli Gordon

between a prayer for the telescope

and a prayer for the microscope

pixels flare into the image of an atom

in an anthill an airplane entering

the troposphere an idea orbiting

that of human cognition in the authoritative

shape of earth seen from elsewhere

antiquating the 20th century’s

representational doubt or doubting

all representations of ownership

in our condensed book of vigilance

where the absence of a crown

shows hierarchy to have no color

I prefer the muddy ghost of one

sustained cello note over one

hundred thousand science experiments

I prefer two electrified balloons

pushing away from each other

like localized points of reference

perhaps one can love the academic sentence

for its ethical contortions the footnote

for its fishhooks pulling up islands

from an ocean floor perhaps a barge

passing below a bridge exemplifies

a green horizon free from the expectation

of green blackened with carbon completely

submerged the egg holds around it

a fine film of air it is silver the silver

of barges and the silver of bridges

a perfect pear-shaped lampshade

bringing to the room an understanding

of artifice the silver shape of Colorado

in spring its glossy parody of an ideal

landscape shattered by the airplane window

crossed-out like the X wedged into

a representation of the upper atmosphere

the sun’s light is white this is the light

of example a world within a red lampshade

whose idea of orange is a tiny dandelion

giving to a field its greenness anyone

can bend and scatter blue and violet rays

but who puts together a life by praising

mathematical air around an elephant

half of the sky excuses itself

from such a question sixty-five million

years ago an asteroid smashed into

the earth what remains is loneliness

for the nihilistic imperative withdrawn

as Copernicus withered as an oak leaf

clinging like an aura of classical inevitability

around the little effort it takes to imagine

a scorpion you don’t admire an icon you

just click on it the airplane and the

atmosphere were never one spiraling

through a pre-Mayan zero’s impossible

boundary the barge and the bridge were

never one a seed disintegrates in soil

complete potentiality comes to the elephant

and the egg one validates the other’s

annulment reaching toward the lamp

someone’s decided the world’s too full

of illumination both captain and pilot

survive scrutiny as the barge destroys

the view from the bridge and the

nomenclature of clouds gives the day

another creation myth to ignore the guts

of a piano would make a good example

but of what I’m unsure so we continue

to engineer our architectural music

taking cues from Chaucer like clues

from the hourglass shape of a Chinese

alchemist’s furnace too much symbolism

annihilates the sublimated form therefore

no one mentions swans anymore would you

rather have a goddess of terror

to whom goats are sacrificed or

the implications of Eve signifying human

sensitivity entrenched in the post-

European psyche for another millennium

I’m through thinking in images says

the bodily eye to its narrative

dismemberment while a decapitated head

rolls out of the cliché and I’ve built

another victim of fully embodied rhetoric

and in this lies the difference between

picture and proposition between

thinking afresh as if nothing had happened

and taking a tidal wave apart a salty

phoneme sinks in sand it is not

novel pictorial noise but the limits

of draftsmanship standing for the limits

of earthly existence removed from

the videocassette multi-petalled rose-like

I give you permission to see beneath

the apparent image of the flower

in this model two prongs of a fork

are pushed into a cork J’Lyn moves

from Joshua Paul and Kristin expand

without tipping or toppling over the fern

marks an absolute conclusion simplistic

and perishable impermanence yes

the gymnast considers another balancing

experiment and our boat demonstrates

a failure to parse the greenest of sentences

the fork however is easily returned

to the drawer the fern to the forest

airplane to the air and the elephant

to the twisted nucleotides that give it order

after the piano was repaired its music

seems dated derivative as attention

tossed to the ruptured balloon ruining

the experiment’s proof of repulsion

but proving sideways listening a kind

of detonation a miniature electric cell

in which notes are to noise as bees

are to a shaft of wheat compressed

into the best tasting bread things don’t

correspond they coalesce a lion crushes

a dandelion a crown crushes abstract

autonomy Dante damns his enemies

in every new translation as all true images

are collapsing again into the earth

we enter the Clouds of Magellan

only to drift like heterogeneous ideas

yoked together by violets this is

the terrible loneliness of an electron’s

orbit botany and pornography fused

into the most aerodynamic of asteroids

goodbye Hegelian aliens the rational alone

is a real hinge pulpy and puffy children

swing in summertime alive as animation

so much for the playground hypothesis

of a disaster movie ripping open

an already cauterized cultural wound

you like novels and I like nudity

underneath all utilitarian and decorative states

an instrument of epiphany sits unstrung

as a book of etiquette from the age

of cause and effect American acoustics

thrive in their theatrical qualities

while the sky drained of any significance

drops like a curtain over our embrace

of reading into the empirical now

the piano implicates us in its generous

and possessive melody the cricket emerges

an imago parents roam from room

to room demolishing themselves

like Socratic students both egg

and airplane crack leaving no other trace

than the transitory and arbitrary volume

of a little air tender wreckage

grass nailed objectively to the ground

About the Author

Noah Eli Gordon is the co-publisher of Letter Machine Editions, an editor for The Volta, and an assistant professor in the MFA program in creative writing at the University of Colorado at Boulder, where he currently directs Subito Press. His recent books include THE YEAR OF THE ROOSTER (Ahsahta Press, 2013), THE SOURCE (Futurepoem Books, 2011), and Novel Pictorial Noise (Harper Perennial, 2007). More info can be found here.

Publication Rights

Poem originally published at the Boston Review. Republished here with the permission of the author.


From a photogrpah by Brianna Santellan (Unsplash).