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Author Biography
Poetry By
  Janice Arnott

Published on: 4/5/2011

Before the world
was world, its word was written
in Voynich script.
The nothing-everything heaved inside out
like robotic insects learning to swarm: ugly,
this unborn mutant Universe,
but no curio curator can Pandora-glance
inside its jar, or explain the mighty
cosmic pilot light's anti-logic all riddled
through with anti-fractals curling inward.
Reality has it quarantined, non-existing
out of time, still and forever.

We are all refugees of that first battle,
back in the non-beginning when no rules applied.
Largely by accident nothing ate through everything
and everything invaded nothing,
both freeing the captive something --
some small discrete indignant speck
half-made, half-lost, and mad.

The Instance is the secret life of the Ideal
(life lies in imperfection)
so once an angel fell at the speed of entropy
through time for an 80-year span
and was shocked
to be.

She observed
and spacetime leapt into being,
wrapping around her senses,
and it seemed to her that reality
was merely what she saw,
that the distant trees
were really that small.

I stayed still and
pulled the future back
against me
at the speed of light
to let its moments stroke
past my brain
as the present time.

Thoughts, like vagrants,
own no real estate but
sneak off through space and even
steal, unnoticed, into someone else's brain
and leave all the lights on.

Some freak she was, one half of a
conjoined twin, the Universe
the other half. Joined sense
to sense like that: breath to
breath, back to back, each half-
hobbled by the other's pull,
she researched her wild escape
but found she supplied space and time
without which all things happened
at once and never: her own
death forever forestalled.

Oh well, she said,
nothing breeds hope so much
as things found wanting. And
I'll tell you something:
nothing ever happened without
desire so compelling as the opening
of the moon. Didn't you know?
Nature adores a vacuum.
That vast longing. The Universe
craved itself into existence.

We were like kids playing a holy game of house
with space and time, like walls and windows,
curtains, tea sets. All so meaningful in their
meaningless non-existent gleam tucked
away in a child's eye, being the industrious
wife with the egg beater and the vacuum
cleaner, martyring while spacetime cheated.

She never felt like moving forward
so she walked by turning
the Earth with her feet. What
other way was there? She thought
how energetic her will must be
to pull the world
and its trees and telephone poles
past her. How slippery space
must be to let every girl
make it slide.

Long before I knew you, I knew a madman.
There was something wrong with his brain -
he said he had a Janus-head observatory
where his mind ought to be. So
he saw reality in stereo and reported back to me,
half-astonished, that there was a retrograde view for everything.
It made him mad, or he was mad already, I don't know,
but he wouldn't move without also keeping still
and he was never in the moment without also shucking time.
I got used to it. It was just the way he was.
Anyway, after a while I sometimes caught myself pulling
space a little when pacing in the night.
I didn't tell him.
Maybe heliocentrism was counter-intuitive for a reason,
but nowadays no one thinks the Earth isn't moving and
I'm not about to start.

Truth, that binary star
co-dependent on antipodal pull,
wars without armistice for absolutes,
leaving everything hanging
and infinitely meaningful
and infinitely meaningless.

Evening breathes into the day
as sharp as sunlight splitting trees, and you watch the world print
its pretty sorrow
typeset (bold) in streaming clouds and shadow-sun.
It makes you shake, how
the hours become time-lapse seedlings quivering to life and death
in ten seconds flat, how
you are only as significant as your insignificance.

The universe was not made from scratch
but scraped out of excess. You, the
wholesome pioneer of this wilderness, break
potential like daily bread, like horses,
as prayerfully as you pick the stones from the field
and burn out the stumps. Out here there is only
one way to live: to give time and space to everything,
as needed, as much as your rough hands can bear,
and ignore the ghosts of other lives that float
dreamwards over the rich tilled earth.

Potential does not die but
abides, gently,
as an old man's hat on its stand.
Not stiff with bravado but soft
as a sleeper's peace;
still sometimes it's a bad tooth
keeping you up at night,
not for what could have been
but for what is,
somewhere just out of reach.

To answer your question,
Open-arm it; take home
particle and wave like prodigal sons.
Keeping giving yes as if everything
were true. It is;
Then spend a sleepless summer night
in North Bay, and beg
for morning, when you'll sweep
a thousand wiry corpses of mayflies
off the porch.
Yes, yes.

Home is lost without you.
Everything you ever touched
goes to seed, takes a new life,
and breeds.
Spacetime, bewildered by its
grief, shrivels up to nothing
and forgets what day it is.
Slipknots curl into fate
and fray around the edges;
order quits.
So vast is this loss, there's
no coming back, and nothing
to come back to:
the world is placeless,
rioting amongst itself,
churning emptiness and jammed
up with memories
of all the things that
never happened.

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