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?
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,
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)
A longer stem and slips it with discreet
Precision, which mere placement seems to fix,
Right-angled underneath the first.
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,
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
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,
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
Disjointed elements and falls
In clattering disorder to the ground.