Wednesday, February 13, 2008


The end-to-end method is reminiscent of poetic redundancy; but whereas the latter method involves shortening each line of a poem to its final few words, the former consists of removing the middle portion of each line, such that its first and last words are condensed into a potent burst of figuration and meaning (potent in theory, at least).

When applied to the first section of Wallace Stevens's "The Auroras of Autumn," the end-to-end method yielded the following result:

The Auroras of Autumn


This is the bodiless,
His head at night.
Eyes open every sky.

Or is this the egg,
Another cave,
Another body’s slough?

This is his nest,
These fields, distances,
And the pines beside the sea.

This is formlessness,
Skin disappearances
And the serpent skin.

This is its base.
These lights attain a pole
In the serpent there,

In another maze
Of body and images,
Relentlessly in happiness.

This is his poison: disbelieve
Even in the ferns,
When sure of sun.

Made in his head,
Black beaded animal,
The moving glade.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Cylinder (part 3)

con't from the post of January 20, 2008 (apologies for the delay to any readers out there):

3. “Dr. Howe–if you are hearing this, let me begin by saying that I have the utmost respect for your work as a physician. While I was in medical school I read about your experiences researching and treating infectious diseases, and I thought I saw in them a woman dedicated not only to her profession, but to all of humanity. Which is why I want you to know what I know.

“My name is Jorge Canosado, and I am a doctor from Colombia. A year ago I was forced to flee my country to protect my young family from political violence. The men in power in Colombia do not stop at slander when attacking dissent, but my elders taught me never to suppress my own convictions, so I donated money to opposition candidates and wrote letters to my city’s newspaper protesting the government’s roots in corruption and violence. I never thought of the consequences of my actions; I did what I did instinctively, because it was the right thing to do. But one of my friends in the government told me that my words had drawn the attention of the dogs running Bogota, and that my family was in danger. There are many sacrifices I would make for my country, but my family is not one of them. So I fled north to the United States, coming to rest in your city, mopping floors in your hospital to support my wife and child, unwilling to risk exposure by practicing medicine in this country.

“I have no illusions about the purity of the United States. As a South American, I am too familiar with the U.S.’s history of aggression in the world. And you, as a native of England, must be disturbed as well by the potential for evil your adopted nation his displayed in recent years. But what I have witnessed in the last few months.... I will not attempt to describe it; the videotape I have included will do so better than I ever could. But I will say that in your hospital, in your division–under your nose, as they say–men are committing an injustice that terrifies even someone of my experience. I leave it to you, as someone the American medical community respects, to decide how best to use the information I am putting in your hands.”

The tape ran out. Madeleine, her face drawn with concern, looked up at Charles, whose expression had not changed as he stared out at the lake through her sliding doors. When she first heard the tape she had been puzzled, intrigued; now, after viewing the videotape of which Dr. Canosado spoke, she could barely suppress a wave of emotion on hearing his voice.

“I know what you want to do–” began Charles.

“I would hope so,” said Madeleine. Charles paused and sighed before he continued.

“But we can’t do it.”

“Why in hell not?” said Madeleine, reverting to her youthful Cockney accent as her anger mounted.

“Because if we do, our funding will dry up. Along with that of many of our colleagues. And all the good we’ve staked our careers on will turn to air.”

“Wait...,” said Madeleine, a dark realization spreading from the corners of her consciousness. “You mean–,”

“I don’t want you to think less of me, Madeleine, because I’ve kept silent about this. You have to think about all the possible costs.”

“You already know? How long, Charles? How bloody long?”

“That doesn’t matter. Here’s what matters: the man who left you these tapes is probably dead now. And that’s how you’re going to end up if you speak to anyone else about this research. You have to understand, Madeleine, that the men in that video draw their support from sources who aren’t we are.” Pronouncing ‘civilized’ here with bitter irony.

Madeleine was silent. She thought of Coleridge’s image of slimy things crawling on a slimy sea, of a world turning demonic before her eyes and grant money hanging like an albatross from her neck.

“I take it from your silence that we’re in agreement?” said Charles, his voice laced with caution.

“I don’t know,” said Madeleine. “I’ll have to think about it. The prospect of losing–Charles,” her thoughts changing track, “why didn’t you tell me what was going on, if you knew?”

Charles rubbed his forehead. “I just didn’t want to saddle you with the guilt.” He smiled ruefully. “It gnaws at the insides, you know.”

They couldn’t think of anything else to say. He crossed the room and opened the door to leave, pausing with one foot in the hall. “Promise me you’ll let me know first if you decide to do anything rash,” he said.

“I promise,” said Madeleine.

Two days later Charles received a package in the mail from Madeleine. She had copied the VHS tape of the doctors’ conversation to DVD. Included in the package was a brief note: “A reminder. In case the gnawing ever subsides.”

A week after that, Charles received another package, this time from an anonymous source. It was another DVD, with another note: “We know you know.” The gray sky outside was pressing down like the surface of Earth’s menacing double. He went immediately to his living room and played the DVD, only to see:

(con't at the post of January 15, 2008)