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Matter 4: Organic in-organs
So trifling to occur together
the finlike limbs of hard and soft
light-dim-darken our shades of difference,
our bumps and ropes of plumage
in flashes, flights and tints of mind.
What matters velvets a pierced dream.
What matters plays the dugong to the whale.
What matters runs the greyhound and the racehorse
to thickened stems of common and swedish turnips –
the perfect elastic of similar,
the bountiful membrane among drums of conjecture.
Thus unctuous bubble of fruitful fields:
solid liquid mush,
ranges the beehives of thought,
the beings of real
abuzz with organs.
Angle of jaw, fold of a wing –
so it is with geography
striking discoveries almost sure to spread
and seize on feebler classes
for swimming species.
The rodents of liquid branched from ancient marsupials,
a quite solid distinction related to rodents
but in points marsupial more than either rodent
or nearly all marsupial or that both rodent and marsupial
conquered by coincidence
but indirectly branched
from one existing rodent: solidity
who fathered density, hardness and friction
with vestigial hearts: rarity, softness and unction.
Matter 6: The Hard Seed-halves of Softness
That pedigree’s a millstone
we’ve seen in chapter five –
therefore musts and has to have,
the pudding stiffens to spongy
tensed to gritty proof, a kneaded-dough
made stubborn stark and bone.
So causes make addictions.
Yet, up and down
it doesn’t matter
to squirrels that scamper
round a tree-trunk.
Frightened threads dislike a surface,
tighten to gods, then lie in crumbled loops
of limber silk about the rigid crags of Order.
How lovely its flinty marble rock,
its horny granite wrought.
How fine its fossils
of steel and nails,
with debits and credits
in accounts of finches.
Birds utterly lost in belief,
birds collecting forms of time and space,
driven as fishes ever to succeed
in the beehives of thought that bees fashion –
the rules of the beautiful
that bees divine, command
in methods of wax –
honeycomb’s congruity –
its cells of space in the face
of the zigzagged givens.
Vaguely man speaks of species
of hardness and softness
of temper and laxity and their variant forms –
pebbles and corns, wax and plastic,
lithic buckram, or flaccid butter,
the bee’s prismatic vessels in the struggle for existence
a legend of bubbles to inevitable extinction.
Matter 9: To texture to verb
beached on the coast of specific gravity
at sea with fancy and sand for judgment
wonder steps on clams and mussels of metaphor
to skull and jaw, employing language to preposition.
To part in speech chalk and cheese, a dock
and a daisy – how very like a whale –
the moths, beetles, flies of Matter flutter
to harlequin Abstraction. Or vamp
the moods and tenses of Intellect. Then fidget Space
to veer, jibe, sidereal Volition
and shimmer Affection’s galaxy of spasms.
Suppose to patchwork world, hands wings fins
hook in peculiar loops the arteries of eggs in nests,
the spawn of the frog in water
the stripes on the cub of a lion,
the spotted chicks of blackbirds –
hook the framework’s splanchnology.
Suppose the tissue of matter is the change of matter,
its cleavage and strata – suppose we know what changes
It’s touch and go with the cat-tribes and plumage of stuff,
this disparate desperate otherwise.
Yes, we know means eyes and antennae
or grain a home-spun woolly cotton.
To text, to specify –
a whole without coherence
to sprinkle terrain, a world-thing mixed –
pregnant with alloy, laced with entanglement,
and haunted with purity.
Matter 10: A World-thing, a State of Powder
A state of sand, sawdust, grit or spores,
of mill-stones, graters, rasps and files.
A texture of pestles, mincers, teeth,
of thermions, flour, smoke and debris,
crumblings, rubbings impalpable friability!
Whenever it comes on, whether the seeds be tall or short,
specimens juncture, splice, come unlike – prehensile.
Each is a cosmos, each a mapping of sense, time and thought-work,
a fabric of surprise.
Matter being divisible, every atom may be a consciousness,
tangled with innumerable sparks. If that is so,
its genera and species too are conscious
and the origin of species a fantastic sentient creature.
What’s it signify to a bird? Or the colt of a cart-horse?
What’s a man’s millimeter to the beak, nostril, claw,
an eyelid’s blink,
of a pigeon-chick, twelve hours hatched?
Or the pouters, fantails, runts, and barbs that the wind-chimes
chime to unseen fingers.
That matter makes Latin mater and French matière,
Spanish madera and Portuguese madiera.
Mother to wood, timber, anything formed, made.
From Sanskrit ma: build, mold, arrange
as measure and mete and manus, the hand –
that which touches, can be moved, strained, broken.
Its horns shape the animal.
And light from the sun falls and falls
on the man who would be right
on the desperados of despair
on my shopping list: apples bread matter
on the money for books and ideas
on machines who make machines
to fix machines to run machines.
Born in Toronto, Meredith Quartermain spent her childhood in Ontario and the remote interior of British Columbia. Among her several books of poetry are Terms of Sale, Spatial Relations, A Thousand Mornings, Vancouver Walking, and, with Robin Blaser, Wanders.
Copyright ©2006 by Meredith Quartermain
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