the rivers of it, abridged

New York City skyline at night




Brant Lyon

The Supreme Logic of the Universe

It had to be you calling to say
your prize African cichlid just croaked.
I knew it, even before the phone rang.
It had the ick. You slipped keeping the water pH
between 6.6 and 7.
Inevitable. I would have warned you
to keep an eye on things,
except mine was distracted by
the blood trickling from the beak of an osprey
suddenly fallen from the sky.
Osteoporosis, maybe. And bird mites
making its creaky wing joints itch to distraction.
Foresight has prevented many a mishap
thwarting the attainment of one's desire.
It looked away for that fatal moment it took
to thwack its determined head upside a water tower.
But for the fish: better living through chemistry
(i.e., buffering capacity resists change).
Perhaps it was me who should have called,
but I didn't, and there's a reason for that, too.
The osprey must have seen, through its own
blue shadow, a fish wiggling in a pond.
And it was you who reflexively called at 6:07 in the morning.
(My ruminations sometimes don't jibe
with the overall agenda. It may be than not every fin
will evolve to paddle the air.)
Contingency. That explains it, plain and simple.
Nothing lives forever before it detours into another life.
Think: beak blood seeping into the ground
where hungry subterranean creatures lie waiting—
a generous yet modest helping of leftovers.
Think: limitation breaking out of itself—
the first ice crystals forming on the glass
of the fish tank you'll throw out this winter.
And of all the worms grateful for those few drops of water
dripping down its sides
as they open their icky little worm mouths
in the January thaw.
If all this doesn't seem very eco-friendly to you,
at least it's sustainable.


Without Insulation

We say we are shock-proof.
It's not good to be shock-proof.
Shock-proof means we already know everything
and so can't know all that much,
locked in an orbit,
numb to our own impedance,
spinning a valence become contemptible by
Over-familiarity with itself.

There are two kinds of shock:
taboo and innovation,
two kinds of unexpectedness.
Or inappropriateness perhaps.
Past and future, our parcelization of time
that apportions us a middle
defined by both
but which is everything neither.
A finger in the socket.

We trespass into the precincts of the gods,
feeling awkward as guests at a dinner party
among faces we don't know.
Gods are various. Or
our perceptions of them are.
In their presence we try to forget
that we are apprentice electricians,
our abject humanness,
our origin and destination,
the awful invigorating shock
burned in our retinas
at the sight of our own train wreck.
We lose control. We can't control the gods
we've created because
creation is what chooses a life of its own.
Powerless to break free from
the thrall of what we've been ineluctably
seduced by:
the damnable pitiable past.
The brutish children we sought to disown
are impossible to restrain—
they declare their independence,
ungrateful and sneering.
We churn what we are unable to digest
into a sour curd: taboo.
A negative polarity
which is but the resistance and reactance
of an alternating current
in need of completing its circuit.
We hold ourselves hostage,
self-gagged and blindfolded,
in tiny rooms replete with
all instruments of destruction
that prove to ourselves our power
to destroy what we hold most dear.
We fall in love with our captors,
but who are ourselves.
The greater daring: to leave ourselves
Without insulation
an even more exhilarating voltage moves through us,
twitching our limbs and pulsing our brains,
its kundalini tickling us to the point of torture.
Another taboo, or one in the making.
All the tomorrows that usher in
the who-knows-what-they-may-bring.
Perhaps they will be monsters,
or angels,
wearing fascinating new-fangled disguises
that confound
our ability to tell which is which.
Perhaps we don't wish to discern one from the other.
And how will we know if we have,
or that we discover we love them both
equally well?
Thus we increase our capacitance
and surrender to become master.
We learn to direct its current
and ground it
looking and living and being
in three places at once,
yesterday, today, and tomorrow,
compressing themselves into a
Hyper-lightning fast stream of limitless supply:
the eternally shocking now
where everything is instant and nothing denied
and everything never was, never will be,
but is.



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