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Eight Experiments in Artifice

A barge passing below a bridge is an example of a green horizon free from the expectation of green. Blackened with carbon, completely submerged, the egg holds around it a fine film of air. It is silver. The sliver of barges and the silver of bridges. A perfect, pear-shaped lampshade bringing to the room an understanding of artifice. The silver shape of Colorado in Spring, its glossy parody of an ideal landscape shattered by the airplane window, crossed-out like the X wedged into a representation of the upper atmosphere. 
     The sun’s light is white. This is the light of example: a world within a red lampshade, whose idea of orange is a tiny dandelion giving to a field its greenness. Anyone can bend and scatter blue and violet rays, but who puts together a life by praising mathematical air around an elephant? Half of the sky excuses itself from such a question. 65 million years ago, an asteroid smashed into the earth. What remains is loneliness for the nihilistic imperative, withdrawn as Copernicus, withered as an oak leaf clinging like an aura of classical inevitability around the little effort it takes to imagine a scorpion. You don’t admire an icon. You just click on it. 
     The airplane and the atmosphere were never one, spiraling through a pre-Mayan zero’s impossible boundary. The barge and the bridge were never one. A seed disintegrates in soil, and complete potentiality comes to the elephant and the egg. One validates the other’s annulment, and someone reaching toward the lamp decides the world’s too full of illumination.


Between a prayer for the telescope and a prayer for the microscope, pixels flare into a water-logged anthill, antiquating the 20th Century’s representational doubt, or doubting all representations of ownership. In the condensed book of this boy’s vigilance, the absence of a crown shows hierarchy to have no color. I prefer the muddy ghost of one sustained cello note over one hundred thousand science experiments. I prefer two electrified balloons pushing away from each other like localized points of reference. 
     Perhaps one can love the academic sentence for its ethical contortions, the footnote for its fishhooks pulling up islands from the ocean floor. Both captain and pilot survive consideration, as the barge destroys the view from the bridge and the nomenclature of clouds gives the day another creation myth to ignore. 


The guts of a piano would make a good example, but of what I’m unsure, so we continue to engineer our architectural music, taking cues from Chaucer like clues from the hourglass shape of a Chinese alchemist’s furnace. Too much symbolism anilities the sublimated form, therefore no one mentions swans anymore. 


Would you rather have a goddess of terror to whom goats are sacrificed or the implications of Eve signifying human sensitivity entrenched in the post-European psyche for another millennium? I’m through thinking in images, says the bodily eye to its narrative dismemberment, while a decapitated head rolls out of the cliché, and I’ve built another victim of fully embodied rhetoric. 
     And in this lies the difference between picture and proposition, between thinking afresh as if nothing had happened and taking a tidal wave apart. A salty phoneme sinks in sand. It is not novel pictorial noise, but the limits of draftsmanship standing for the limits of earthly existence removed from the videocassette. Multi-petalled, rose-like, I give you permission to see beneath the apparent image of the flower.


In this model, two prongs of a fork are pushed into a cork. J’Lyn moves from Joshua. Paul and Kristin expand. Without tipping or toppling over, the fern marks an absolute conclusion—simplistic and perishable impermanence. Yes, the gymnast considers another balancing experiment and our boat fails to demonstrate anything parseable about all this green. The fork, however, is easily return to the drawer: the fern to the forest; airplane to the air; and the elephant to the twisted nucleotides that give it order.


After the piano was repaired, its music seems dated, derivative as attention tossed to the ruptured balloon, ruining the experiment’s proof of repulsion, but proving sideways listening a kind of detonation, a miniature electric cell, in which notes are to noise as bees are to a shaft of wheat compressed into the best tasting bread. 
     Things don’t correspond. They coalesce. A lion crushes a dandelion. A crown crushes abstract autonomy. Dante damns his enemies in every new translation, as all true images are collapsing again into the earth.


We enter the Clouds of Magellan only to drift like heterogeneous ideas yoked together by violets. This is the terrible loneliness of an electron’s orbit, botany and pornography fused into the most aerodynamic of asteroids. Goodbye Hegelian aliens, the rational alone is a real hinge. Pulpy and puffy children swing in summertime, alive as animation. So much for the playground hypothesis of a disaster movie ripping open an already cauterized cultural wound. 
     You like novels and I like nudity. Underneath all utilitarian and decorative states, an instrument of epiphany sits unstrung as a book of edict from the age of cause and effect. American acoustics thrive in their theatrical qualities and the sky drained of any significance drops like a curtain over our embrace of reading into the empirical.


Now the piano implicates us in its generous and possessive melody. The cricket emerges an imago. Parents roam from room to room, demolishing themselves like Socratic students. Both egg and airplane crack, leaving no other trace than the transitory and arbitrary volume of a little air. Tender wreckage, grass nailed objectively to the ground.

Noah Eli Gordon teaches in the MFA program at the University of Colorado-Boulder, and is the author of The Source, from Futurepoem Books. Other excerpts from it can be found in New American Writing, Shadowbox, Aufgabe, Black Warrior Review, and Denver Quarterly.