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Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Children of the Future


File:Hackenbush girl.svg

The poor remedy of days can't ease us

Nor afford us line to fathom bottoms

Whose profane history’s not yet clear –-

That some authors speak of running years

Others of time down on its knees, panting, spent;

That there are as many great things perished

And forgotten as are now remaining here,

Vexed and perplexed in thought and precept,

Uncertain, doubtful and conjectural

As when evening shuts in to overtake

The world with darkness and, blinded,

After the long night of this world, we miss

The break of day into which light hurls

Wounded children, unable to hear or speak

File:Pentomino Naming Conventions.svg

First hackenbush girl (from Winning Ways for Your Mathematical Plays): image by Zeycus, 2008

Pentomino Naming Conventions: image by R. A. Nonenmacher, 2008


Alva Svoboda said...

A perfect insomniac's sonnet, Tom, proceeding as it does from "the poor remedy of days" into evening, long night, and missing (a lapse of consciousness, but not the rest of sleep?) a "break of day" more painful than that initial poor remedy. I respond to the running conceit too, as an aging ex-runner, the sense of the world breaking down physically, and of the shutting down experienced as a being overtaken, not past great things returning to overtake, because those are both perished and forgotten, but the darkness behind... The "line to fathom bottoms" reads as a third, specifically Marvellian conceit that is dropped into the poem in a way that imitates the metaphor itself. Does fathoming clarify profane history? Or, while giving the limit, further muddy the waters?

I love the multiplicities allowed by the neo-metaphysical syntactic ambiguities here, Tom -- and how the consistency of melancholy emotion masters those ambiguities. The dialectic between emotion and metaphysic that you present in this poem and others like it is one of the great moments in contemporary poetry -- I believe history, profane or not, will take note of this...

u.v.ray. said...

I am not an educated man, Tom. I cannot dissect a poem with such precise analysis as Mr. Svoboda. I wouldn't attempt an understanding of the chemical composition of an orange.

But I can tell you, I first read your work in the late eighties. And sometimes it's enough to simply enjoy the taste of the orange. No complexities necessary, for us simple men.

TC said...


Again you've sussed what I'm up to. Neo-insomniacal-metaphysical is dead-on. (You've made me feel it may also be not simply dead.) But then, the future is Now. It's as if John Donne's spirit one day woke up from a too-short restless nap and found his "mast of children" had morphed into awkward pimply adolescents hanging about playing video games, skateboarding and saying "Whoa, dude... awesome."


For my money both you and Mr. Svoboda are bloody geniuses. I have high esteem for my friends, there are too few of them not to. Hearing that you've been able to extract a bit of juice from the orange has made my day. (After all at my phase of the process it's all too easy to feel at times you have withered on the tree and all that's left is the dry husk.)

Actually, it is, was and always will be totally about the juice.

My sense is Mr. Svoboda probably feels likewise, indeed he appears to have more of it than me (though perhaps still falling a few short of John Donne's children production count.)

human being said...

nothing really perishes or is forgotten...
this is evolution....