Surfing an Empty Sea

Misunderstanding our world as a machine
We have brought about an empty world.
Complexity, a healthy living world,
Reduced to water, gas, and rock.

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Spectacle

Narragansett Pier: An incongruous
tow crosses from North to South. A
too small seeming tug – sure they’re
powerful – a derrick-crane barge,
low to the water, covered with stuff,
stepping on waves, follows close
behind. Close behind it a long –
three hundred foot – four hundred
foot – reef-like barge, just clear
of awash. The first barge’s cargo;
drums, boxes, cylinders, and
squares, in rust red or pale yellow,
dirty white in the angled light; fill-
in beneath the horizontal linked-Xs
of the crane at rest. The second
barge looks made of brown stone
with horizontal stretches piled
sedimentary. Impossible to tell
what they’re made of, rusty metal,
wood? Stone? Close behind, a
small, red-housed tug steering the
assemblage by holding it back. The
whole procession takes ten minutes
to traverse its own length.

Action! The after-tug has gone free
and is ranging up the side, overtak-
ing the larger barge, reaching level
with the derrick barge in the time it
took to write this line. It’s form
blends into the shapes on the barge
as it ties-up amidships. The proces-
sion continues its glacial pace, a
living lesson in inertia.

It’s hard to imagine why they are
here, so close-in along a rocky
shore, on a course with little sea-
room for miles ahead until Point
Judith is rounded. Its movement
can only be measured over time.
Each instant shows little change
from the last. Its course precarious,
its speed ponderous, their purpose
imponderable, their ultimate end
unknowable.

Have they stopped? Lights begin to
show against the dusk. White lights
on the white sides of the lead tug,
pale pinpricks. They appear sta-
tionary now, only moving against
the waves; low, flat, tired swells
that trip in shallow water to crest emer-
ald green and white.

Each of the three remaining silhou-
ettes seem ranged not in a line, but
in echelon. The lead tug appears to
be heading more towards the land
than the other two. An out-of-
kilter air presides over the entire
assemblage; old, ill-equipped,
poorly placed, and off-course.
These concerns written in the
scrawl of their profiles, in the angles
and vectors of their passing.

They haven’t progressed in all these
lines. The reason for such a stop
here at this time another mystery.
Beach-walkers, traffic, fire trucks,
yapping dogs; no one pays the tow
the least attention. It’s uncanny
their blindness. Perhaps a million
tons of bristling equipment mere
hundreds of yards away, where sea-
borne traffic is normally crawling
across the horizon, the gigantism of
ships disguised by distance.…
Would an invasion fleet be as easily
overlooked? Tojo’s carriers steaming
right into Pearl Harbor? An alien
spaceship pressing down its im-
mense, yet weightless bulk on the
White House? Perhaps, if their
coming were not beat into us,
broad-cast by so many electronic
repeaters. Any true import washed
away by the superficiality of manu-
factured interest and isolated detail.

I look, I always have, to seaward,
puzzling at the signs, however
much the land turns its back on
them. As the lights begin to distin-
guish themselves from the growing
gloom – in an hour their electrified
twinkle may attract the shoreline’s
attentions. Twinkling lights de-
tached from corporeality, the trail-
ing mass and tangle lost in deep
black.

They still haven’t moved in all these
lines. Sirens, blinking lights, rush
past behind me. Walking with their
eyes on their personal electronics,
muses and mediators combined,
clutched in their young paws; a
group of teenage boys walk by out-
of-place, out of time.

The spectacle engrosses from every
angle. Silent portents on the sea, no
way to know what it all means.
Attention drawn to dreads and
fears during this hyped-up season
of the dead, Halloween and the
Mid-term election. One lone surfer
dressed in black walks a white
board in the shallows, turns to face
the next wave, rides it quickly to its
dissolution, walks back out. Neo-
prene figure astride his white
mount in frigid waters in growing
darkness. Lost? Or merely awaiting
his three companions? Dark riders,
pale horses….

The spectacle looms over us all. Its
demands unceasing, its concerns;
draining, depressing, frightening,
and demoralizing; are inescapable.
No one controls it, though many
want to ride it to riches, to power,
to fame. There is the ultimate sign
of its proportions, when the great-
est ambition is not money or
power, but to be fed to the spect-
acle, to shine in its glow, to burn
with its fire, to be consumed; but
not forgotten, at least until the next
sacrifice reaches the front of the
line.

The Aztec seems cruel in hindsight,
his victims writhing as he plucks
out their hearts, watched by the
fervent multitudes framed in leery
fire-light. I can now understand
they may have been willing, as will-
ing as we are to pay the full price
for feeding the spectacle. The cost
blithely undertaken, accepted
without complaint by those wor-
shiping spectacle above all else. The
cost, hidden in plain sight, in all its
improvised contingency, out of
place, ill-conceived, its future, our
future, precarious…. The whole
implausible, incongruous thing,
looming in growing darkness, ig-
nored.

10.30.10

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Over Drawn

“It came home to me this week that the background level of unease I have treated as normal isn’t – and that I can do something about this.”

“Personal unease, I guess. Partly it’s constantly living with a sense of endless things needing doing.”

Dougald Hine on Twitter

Over Drawn
Over                    Drawn
Over                                         Drawn
Over                                                                      Delineated
Above                                                                   Pulled Out
Too Much                                                                 Drafted
On Top                                                            Distinguished
Über                                                                         Profiled
Dominating                                                           Sketched
Controlling                                                            Designed
Demanding                                                                 Lined
Hyper-trophic                                                          Limned
More Than Desired                                          Determined
Beyond                                                                      Beaten
Beyond                                                                      Forged
Beyond                                                                   Wrought
Beyond                                                                        Made
Beyond                                                                 Tensioned
Over Drawn:                                    
Ambition
Sufficiency
Satiety
Drive
Compulsion
Enough
Appetite
Hunger
Demand
Pacé
Pax
Peace
Pace
Stride
Walk
Run
Rout
Route
Root
Around
Scuffle
Fight
Rebel
Time Enough
Time to Spare
Time Wasted
Time Gone
In Time
Out of Time
Outside Time
Time Out
Break
Broken
Desire
Broken Desire
Desire to Fix
Fix
Stop
Repair
Make Whole
Everything
Too Much
Not Enough
Never Enough
Anguished
Fearful
Over Wrought
Made Too Much of
Anxious
Angry
Motivated
Pushed
Pulled
Torn

10.15.10

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Fear

This poem had been a coda hanging off the end of Breath, call it a gasp, or a shudder…

We are all afraid
…..but only the powerful
……….seem affronted by its presence
in themselves.

They don’t
…..hear
……….how pitiful they sound
gathering their victimization around themselves

Reason
…..and excuse
……….dispensation
for the outrages they perform on those they fear

On those
…..they give this power
……….over themselves
to cover their inability to accept

That fear can only be managed
…..not overcome
……….through desperate actions
taken by powerful overgrown children

Throwing terrible
…..tantrums
……….against the way
things are.

01.07.10

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