Shrunken and small

For Coral

I dreamed my friend was suicidal
So useless she said so useless
that I may as well just die
Shrunken and small she was
A little old nothing

When I told her the dream she said
yes shrunken and small that’s how I feel

I hope she soon feels better
Expands back into her everyday
tremendousness

First published in Creatrix 50, September 2020

The mammogram machine

In the women’s clinic
the mammogram machine
is shaped like an embryo in profile

Large awkward squarish head
Straight spine
Tucked-under pelvis

A leg bud (tray)
An arm bud (compressor plate)
Mouthparts where the beam comes out

Embossed in the plastic a plus-sign
where a proto-eye might be

First published in Creatrix 49, June 2020

The centre

The Dao produces the One.
The One turns into the Two.
The Two give rise to the Three.
The Three bring forth the myriad of things.
— Laozi

Is that a system of mathematical axioms?

Number the number beyond
all numbers
Count the myriad things of Heaven
and Earth
Lay out the way
simplicity
brings forth complexity:
a dove, a flock of doves,
a window, Facebook, this text,
finger, chest,
spinal cord,
heart
and all its blood

Say pi
because a circle is never complete

Say i
for the square root of minus one:
one step in a direction
that can’t be taken

Fabricate a qubit
holding a mixture
of no and yes
immanent, imminent
superposed until measured

What lies like truth at the centre
without a name?

Take a direction opposite to all directions
Send a message back from the farthest shore

Construct a non-commutative algebra
in which x plus y needn’t equal y plus x
but x can’t ever mean one
and y can’t ever be two
let alone i or pi
Construct a mathematics
in which nothing
may be counted

Look in, in to the Planck time,
the dream moment of birth,
where our physics fails
as quantum and gravity clash
and the cosmos is crushed to a jot
immanent, imminent
a tiny infinite Not

Look in, in to the Planck scale,
ten to the minus thirty-three centimetres,
beyond which our flesh of cells and instruments,
in principle, can’t see
Where our physics fails
as quantum and gravity clash
and our systems of coordinates,
our here/there, then/when, this/that,
names, numbers,
are not

Take a selfie at the end of the rainbow
Stand between parallel mirrors and tweet
the farthest reflection

Show
how formlessness
gives rise to form:

a dove, a flock of doves,
a window, Facebook, this text,
finger, chest,
spinal cord,
heart

The blood, the valves, the walls
but not
the chambers.

What lies
like truth
at the centre?

Look in, in, turn away from doves and windows
Forget the myriad things of Heaven and Earth
Theorise the theory of all
theories, model the principle
of principles

Define the space within
all spaces, the algebra
underlying all algebras, the axioms
that (impossibly) lead to all theorems

Number the number beyond all numbers
Diagram the set of sets
Take a selfie
at the end of the rainbow
Send a message back from the farthest shore.

The epigraph is from the Dao De Jing, translated by Wang Keping, in The Classic of the Dao: A New Investigation, Foreign Languages Press 1998, chapter 42.

From A coat of ashes

The nothing

Over my shoulder
     the shadow eyes watch
In the tiny hairs of my ears
     the shadow voices whisper

I do the crossword
     The shadow helps
     slyly suggesting words
I look out the window at the rain
     The shadow says
     It comes
     It goes
I regard the mirrored mouth
     The shadow asks
     Who’s that?
I tap my feet
     The shadow says
     Wanna dance?

When the shadow speaks
     there’s a pulling.
An in-breath.
     Drawing, searching gravity.
     Loneliness.

There’s also
     a pausing.
An out-breath.
     A sweeping. A clearing.
     Solitude.

At the mention of solitude
the shadow mouth
     turns up its corners
and the shadow eyes
     glint

The shadow is not
     an other
Not a space
     holding a place for an other

It’s wu:
the nothing.
     The vastness
     capacity
     void
     field
where lips
     droplets
     jukeboxes
     thoughts
     the ten thousand things
     that constitute the universe
arise
and return.

In the void
     of the shadow soul
loneliness
     the breathing-in
draws them forth.

In the vastness
     of the shadow mind
solitude
     the breathing-out
sweeps them back.

As the ten thousand things
     arise and return
     lips
     droplets
     jukeboxes
     thoughts
wu
     the nothing
     the shadow mind

whispering loneliness
breathing solitude

sits on its barstool
watching them all