by Darcie Dennigan
Onto, onto, onto the day. Last night’s ingredients and dishes spread over the kitchen. How attenuated can structure be and still register as order in the mind? To speak not as things are but as they should be is the province of kids. And of things as they might in fact be, of novelists. I don’t want to worry distinctions but I do. I want to be an ontologist when I grow up. Or an onticologist. Poets can be either. And onanists. Well. It feels so good. It’s hard to get past feeling to thinking. Because thinking begs beliefs. It’s hard you know. I’m not sure anymore. If we stay very small, like this apartment, ok, maybe I can be an onticologist. Here are some kids, some cats. Here is the coffee cup on the onyx countertop. But you know even little objects are hard. I am surrounded by objects but I can’t stay with them, not even the littlest thing, like a coffee cup. Things aren’t little anyway nothing is little. Onticologists you know get a bad rap with some poets, like take this zinger: A pale excess of being, ontic anaethesia, mere physical exercise, it is not to celebrate these sapless fruitions that men cultivate their impulses and develop their instincts. Like ok wow guys, you know in this century it’s actually really something if one can figure out their noumenal reality. You who are reading this: can you even name the material on which the words appear? If we stay very small, stay in this apartment, ok, I believe in these two cats and that they will wake the kids. They, well it’s one, one cat in particular, has trawled the kitchen for food, found a plastic bag of treats, is wrestling with said bag directly in front of kid’s bedroom door. The onomatopoetic crinkle resounds. I will kill this cat. Sometimes I really think I would, for a few more moments to think, to get back to ontological thoughts, which are so much easier for me, easier by far than poems, which seem to scatter each time I gather them. And yet I read something by Vladimir N about literary creation finding “in the objects around us the fragrant tenderness that only posterity will discern” and laughed because on this day I cannot but see each object’s fragrant tenderness. Dude, that’s the main problem. Posterity tends to haunt every object when demise is imminent. What is my fixed point? Say that it is the coffee cup. It cannot be. Right away the coffee stays onshore while I’m flown off—on to the grounds bagged in plastic, on to a vague sense of a far-off farmer, on, always, to the cow from whose nipples this cream was extracted, and on to a sense of wrongness about how easy it all is. Make the coffee hot enough to scald your tongue and you’ll be back here quick enough. Oh I could have the facts. I could give them to you too. I could have them right now—the coffee fact and the cow fact and the plastic statistic—but would they sufficiently convince me of the reality I am journeying on? How can I do so much harm and no good is the ongoing question. And yet I suspect it would be worse to be righteous, it always is worse, isn’t it, though I do want to learn to make tea from potato skins, and what’s more, to grow my own potatoes. What I must be asking for then is war. That is the condition that would force the potato growing, the peel tea. How I don’t want to be on my own doing the right thing! How I long for a more obvious battle. And I will name the battle when it comes, of course, being a consummate onamatologist. They’re just words, just some cool words, I know you know, but I had to start somewhere, I know we’re already at war. Why doesn’t it feel like, feel like it.
About the Author
Darcie Dennigan is the author of five books, including Palace of Subatomic Bliss (Canarium) and Slater Orchard: An etymology (FC2). She won the 2019 Anna Rabinowitz Award from the Poetry Society of America for “venturesome, interdisciplinary work.”
Post image is a detail from Gerard ter Borch, A Maid Milking a Cow in a Barn, c. 1654.