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Wednesday 29 February 2012

The Gentle Art of Removing a Light Bulb in a Complex World

Avoiding, for a change, the bagatelle,
he made his way,
towards the stool, his stool. The air
was thick with memories of hanging smoke.
Raw moments from his past
slid by
       (as did the stool beneath him)
He called for one more jar of memories from the bar.
The potent brew
               slipped down without him noticing - almost.
It mingled with the few that had preceded it.
It laughed with them. Then argued. Finally, 
it fought with them.
A thousand details, unannounced, confronted him.
He buttonholed them one by one.

Material for his fantasies, they came,
expanding like so many bright balloons.
All overblown. Some burst as they arrived.
The rest turned black or simply danced away.

The fuzz and buzz worked on him once again,
an alchemy of alcohol and brain
transmuting, grain by grain,
the few remaining grams of gold
           to dross.

           Above his head
a light bulb in a coolie hat
pricked at the corner of his eye.
He closed the eye. He opened it. He saw a switch.
He pressed it with his thumb.
Up. Down. Off. On. Closed. Open. Nothing. Not his day.

Unsteadily, he climbed
and crouched a moment on the stool.
Then straightened - shakily - to his full height.
He reached above his head towards the orb.
Both hands. Too hot. One chink of merriment
before it danced away,
became a super nova detonating in
the deep space of a mirror hung behind the bar.
Shards scattered like a hail of comets from the sky.

Where moments earlier a bank of fierce-hued bottled nebulae
had vied
        each with each and each with its reflected clone,
now in the gilt framed image of the bar
was spectacle surpassing all.
                             Guilt framed,
his thoughts were fed by the reflections.
Ricochets of light burnt through his head.
Soft pinpoints blown to solar flares.

But in his mind the bulb swung on,
a comet in a sky of Northern Lights,
a bright-eyed pendulum.
His inner eye locked-on,
stayed with the fire ball
as it traced its complex shapes,
drew fractals in the air,
a fractal-maker drawing plots -
alive and well and living in his world!

The bulb became a small girl's lost balloon.
Beddington. The park. The wind
had carried it away, and he,
Sir Galahad, had promised to recover it.
Its twists and turns,
its flights and returns,
embarrassed him.
And then it finished in a lake beyond his reach!

Failure. A tankard full of failures. Big
and small. A life that had, quite simply, skipped away.

And so, chest out, head back, full height, he sang.
All that he remembered from The Student Prince ,
The Drinking Song.
                  He was at school again. A vintage year.
The Cock House Cup, the Gold Ribband, his blue
all in that one good year.

He had not heard the oaths among the tinkling of the glass
or seen the barman raise his baseball bat, then put it down.
His gaze was on the bagatelle.
Ball after ball careering round the board. Pin after pin
emitting ever thinner sounds of pain;
ball after ball eluding or becoming corralled by the pins.

His life 'till then reflected in the travels of the balls.
The plots that had confounded him
were traced anew in each ball's circuit of the board
The key to each mistake
lay in its origin
                 and not its destination.
That he clearly saw at last.
                            He swayed,
made one last, desperate attempt to stay
upright, b ut saw the final ball roll out of play.
That's GO TO JAIL, my friend, he yelled
Hell's bells. Wrong game!
Which art? Which art is in heaven?
Whose art will be there?
Hallowed be the name of...
BENOIT MANDELBROT, the fractal man
and Koch and Julia who met 
the new reality inside a numbers set.
Complex numbers, be it known!
See how the finger writes
and having writ
goes back and forth and back again
fragmenting bit by bit
the plot - if there's to be a plot -
The plot is thickening.

There was no plot. There is no plot.
He saw a sea of grinning faces,
saw them as a single entity.
had massed itself against him once again
References: Mandelbrot : Julia Sets : The Koch Snowflake


Rachel Green said...

What a fine stream of images. Some very clever twists and turns in there.

Brian Miller said...

ok....twisty...and interesting...need to google a few things...and in doing so found it all the more fascinating...fractals eh, smiles...nice sir

Bagman and Butler said...

As an alcoholic (recovering, gratefully) I can assure you that your poem is spot on! Of course, as a poem, it does far more -- rich words, details that make the charactor live before and beyond the poem. I really like this one. And, of course -- Been there, done that, threw up on the t-shirt.

Mary said...

Lots of imagery in this poem, some references that I don't understand; but, in the end, it leaves me feeling very sad.

Tommaso Gervasutti said...

It's an engaging, alluring nightmare of a narrative poem.
Really great. It seems you have a mine of visions ready to trigger poems.

Tommaso Gervasutti said...

And the title seems to continue the glorious tradition of
"Ineluctable modality of the visible"
"The unbearable lightness of being"

Ygraine said...

I love the flowing motion of images that pop up, disintegrate and retreat; only to reappear in slightly altered forms.
Somewhat reminiscent of the wild parties of my youth!! Haha

Unknown said...

This poem reflects how crazy out of shape a person's reality can become while working on mathematical puzzles. Having worked on turtle puzzles at university, in checkerboard patterns, I am empathetic to the elusive obsession of solving a circular puzzle. I am not about to give over my life to find a solution, as the poor soul in your poem is doing. Good luck to him. Nicely written, Dave. Thank you.

Cloudia said...

I swallowed water at the beginning and struggled to the shore. Looks to have been a swell swim...perhaps later. (I'm a swimmer of very little tenacity and capacity. . . )

Aloha from Honolulu
Comfort Spiral

>< } } ( ° >

Cloudia said...

I swallowed water at the beginning and struggled to the shore. Looks to have been a swell swim...perhaps later. (I'm a swimmer of very little tenacity and capacity. . . )

Aloha from Honolulu
Comfort Spiral

>< } } ( ° >

Cloudia said...

nevertheless, I scrawl my graffito here affectionately. . .

Dave King said...

Much appreciate this comment. Thanks.

Sounds like I should have put in a few more links. Glad you liked it, though. Thanks for saying.

Bagman and Butler
Thanks so much for the confirmation. Your words mean a lot. (I have got as far as throwing up, but haven't experienced the full works.)

This sounds like an honest appraisal, for which much thanks. I suppose the sadness, not intended, was nevertheless inevitable.

I think youdo me too much honour - if, indeed, a mine of nightmare visions is an honour - but I thank you for it nonetheless.

Ah, yes, the wild parties of youth! Why did we ever stop throwing those? Lovely comment. Thanks for it.

Oh, a priceless comment! Thank you so much for it. My turtle problems were all worked out on the floor with special needs children.

Thank you. Hope you are fully recovered now. Your graffito is much valued.

Rose said...

This is absolutely fantastic! Love it:D