Full of pith

I am reading “Nineteen poems” by W. S. Merwin in the May/June 2004 issue of American Poetry Review, and arguing with nearly every one.

Maybe I shouldn’t confess that I read some periodicals a year after their date of publication. You might get the idea that I am more up-to-date than I am.

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This morning I inaugurate a new pocket notebook by jotting down some would-be pithy observations, mainly because I’m too tired for sustained thinking. Sleeplessness started with a chill in my feet around 3:30 that became an ache in my left shoulder blade at 4:00 and then, when I tried to get out of bed at 4:45, turned into a stabbing pain in my right calf. Now I am fully awake and feel only the usual compulsion to line words up and drill some sense into them.

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Every mirror I’ve ever looked into, I’ve seen the same goddamn thing. You’d think just once there’d be something different in there.

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If the universe were as unchanging and eternal as each of us in moments of weakness have probably longed for it to be, wouldn’t we be blinded by the light from all those billions of stars? If there were no death, wouldn’t the heat from all that living turn us to ash?

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“Beyond belief” always sounds like an interesting place to visit. I picture some island nation on the equator: warm and pleasant year-round, with no seasons to speak of; hospitable natives; most of the economy derived in one way or another from the simple fact of being so remote from any other inhabited spot. Once every few generations, a cyclone comes along and flattens everything.

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I confess that I have never completely reconciled myself to cause and effect. I’m kind of superstitious that way. If I’m not careful, I find myself picturing each action as if it occurred in a literal void, that abhorrent vacuum. For all the years I’ve gardened, I still plant seeds expecting nothing to come of it. When it does, I think, “But maybe this would’ve happened anyway.”

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I am equally bored with the light and with the darkness. “There’s nothing to see here, folks. Move along!”

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A thought experiment: Convene a meeting of the most creative scientists from every field and ask them to assume complete lack of uniformity. Describe the universe using qualities only. Collaborate on all conclusions. Everyone gets a veto.

I imagine this would be exactly like a conclave of poets, except for the “collaborate” part. And probably the writing would be more precise, more carefully thought-through.

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An atheist, I suppose, is someone who can’t get over being appalled by the fact that the object(s) of desire are empty, bear no relationship to anything in the so-called real world.

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Augustine was wrong: a beginning of time is no beginning. To begin always means to stop, right in the middle of things, and reset the counter.

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In the beginning was the verb. And the verb was with child. And the umbilical cord was a worldwide web, full of mater and matter not yet differentiated into useful information versus solid waste.

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The headline says: “Homing In On A Receptor For The Fifth Taste.” But does the tongue receive, or produce?

Out of all the vast numbers of organic compounds, we are only equipped to detect five, basic kinds. Luckily, Ev*lution has given us a direct pipeline between nose and mouth. And the nose is completely profligate and believes in everything.

Ah, tongue! Little comforter for a damp bed where only lies ever manage to sleep.

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Dave Bonta (bio) crowd-sources his problems by following his gut, which he shares with 100 trillion of his closest microbial friends — a close-knit, symbiotic community comprising several thousand species of bacteria, fungi, and protozoa. In a similarly collaborative fashion, all of Dave’s writing is available for reuse and creative remix under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License. For attribution in printed material, his name (Dave Bonta) will suffice, but for web use, please link back to the original. Contact him for permission to waive the “share alike” provision (e.g. for use in a conventionally copyrighted work).

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