Parallax

 

My daily walk: the engine

Of muscle, tendon, bone begins to hum

On automatic pilot and proceed,

Quite empty of intention

But to enact itself at measured speed.

And looking out on this continuum

 

Of houses, gardens, streets,

Abstractedly surveying what is here,

The engine housed inside my skull turns over

And instantly competes,

Self-generating pictures—like that rover

Which roams the Martian soil and atmosphere,

 

Recording, sending back

Its images. But those that I devise

Are surely much less fact than works of art,

So quickly do they lack

All reference to their setting and depart

From what it prompts and offers to my eyes.

 

I can recall a droll

Advertisement that had the Martians hoist

Before the rover’s lens screen after screen,

Across which it would scroll,

Filming a fake red desert, while unseen

Their high-rise city quietly rejoiced.

 

At times I half-suspect,

Walking the crafted streetscape, some such plot,

A suite of flimsy panels that enacts

That dubious effect

(The function of some small-scale parallax),

Sliding beside me, screening who knows what?

 

 

 

 

Feather Weight

 

In semidark the audience,

Almost, it seems, holding one breath together,

Anticipates the unfolding of her talents.

Her stance is calm,

Her concentration total and intense.

And so she takes in hand a large flight feather

And delicately bends to place,

And balance,

Its white and almost weightless grace

Right-angled on a foot-long stem of palm,

 

And lifts. You notice at her feet

A heap of them, an unsorted nest of sticks.

She stoops (the whole performance a slow dance)

To elevate

A longer stem and slips it with discreet

Precision, which mere placement seems to fix,

Right-angled underneath the first.

It cants,

And steadies, seeming unrehearsed,

Though hinged adroitly on its floating weight.

 

So she proceeds. Stem after stem,

Each longer than the last and subtly placed,

Right-angled, a flat mobile with no wires,

The structure grows,

The shifting model of a theorem

She keeps elaborating without haste,

Which almost, poised there on her hand,

Conspires

In framing the design she’s planned.

At last, though, she is forced to interpose

 

A foot among the pile to raise

The longest, one hand reaching down to lift

Them deftly into place. Exhibited,

With that swan quill

Librating at the edge, the rickle sways,

As though the pivot points might come adrift,

While gently she transfers it to

Her head,

To swivel riskily askew.

Ah, but one final length of palm is still,

 

You’ve noticed, lying on the floor.

With her extended foot she then depresses

The uptilt of its smoothly fashioned base

To make it stand,

Upright and unsupported. Pause. Before

This thin and rigid pedestal she assesses

What movements, fluent and exact,

To trace

In mind before she moves to act,

Then shifts the framework back from head to hand

 

To stem tip in a seamless flux

And passage, and dramatically steps clear.

And there it balances and oscillates

As though spellbound,

Like those who watch. On tiptoe then she plucks

The feather off that made it all cohere.

The structure instantly recalls

Its weight’s

Disjointed elements and falls

In clattering disorder to the ground.