The anatomy of perception (conclusion)

This entry is part 5 of 5 in the series Anatomy of Perception



We only consult the ear because the heart is wanting. (Pascal)

But we are all fish
out of water,
giddy with oxygen.
Who can tell
the smell of ozone –
electric & wet – from
the taste of
their own fear
when the storm comes?

     the commercial fisherman:

     we entered the sound on a rough sea
     in pea-soup fog
     cut the motor & listened
     for the buoy clang

     the captain swears he can feel
     the change in the swells
     but that too could be
     a kind of listening

     men don’t talk about
     their instincts much
     we’re supposed to be impervious
     to gauge to ogle

     but looking makes everything
     smaller than it is
     the world

     & if something can kill you
     you need to find it
     magnify it
     keep it close

     every pore in my body listened
     for that buoy its dull echo
     sweeter than a church bell
     over the hiss of the waves

Who has ears to hear, let him hear.
I crave immersion in the medium of grace.

I think of whale song more alluring
than any Lorelei, seals & walruses

whose ancestors heard the surf
pounding in their temples. Otters,

already so much more playful than
their bloodthirsty cousins on dry land.

I think perhaps our destiny is not
to be sucked out among the stars – vacuum

without sound – but back in the water,
sonorous & shining. Like Jesus

inscribed in the cursive alpha:
shoal. Implausible feast.

The storm approaches.
As pressure drops,
the ears fill
& pop & the heart
works harder.
Just like
when kisses land
lightly as
a fisherman’s fly
on the skin – creek
or lover –
& the trout in
the bloodstream
takes the hook.


The least movement affects all nature; the entire sea changes because of a rock. . . . Impenetrability is a quality of bodies. (Pascal)

Yesterday morning, from the trees
up on the ridge, a cacophony of rusty hinges.
Startled by something, it stills, turns
into an immense rustle of wings.
A thousand blackbirds lift, pivot,
drift high across the field like
a cloud of smoke.

This morning, walking through the fog
on top of the same ridge, I am stopped
by a yellow sugar maple leaf
dangling from an invisible strand of silk
six feet off the ground.
The slight breeze is enough to make it
flip, flop, fly. The forest drips.

These are not metaphors for anything.
Science says, a body at rest,
a body in motion.
But only
such abstract bodies really make sense.
Ah, unreal body, home to an unreal sense!
Move one finger and the universe shifts: try it.
Let the small hairs on the back of your neck stand up.

Series Navigation← The anatomy of perception (5)

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