A Line

Here’s a conundrum:
a point lacks dimension,
yet two points,
each ambit-free,
rubbing against each other,
cuddling for warmth,
not superimposed,
those form a line
and that line has length—
­no breadth or height,
width or depth—
starting at one point,
ending at the other,
and with the definition
of that line,
a dimension exists,
yet only one.

Aside from length,
the line owns
no other space;
it is not
a thin slip of tape
reeling off a roll;
admired from its side,
it presents no wall,
no impediment to a
submicroscopic man on a
determined orthogonal path
straight at the line’s true course;
it is not a skinny cylinder,
a nanotube between two
pointillistic plugs popped in each end;
these faint possibilities
possess dimensions
far beyond the
slight simplicity
of the line
drawn however briefly
in your mind’s eye
between two points,
neither occupying
anything at all.

We imagine a line
flat or erect or
extending into an
imaginary plane and
away from us
towards other places,
other worlds beyond,
or maybe at a tilt
signifying a trend,
an implication of movement
up or down, in or out,
but a line
lies between
two imaginary space-free
specks anywhere in the vastness
of all-space, all-time
demarcating not just what
lies on this side
or the other
but up and down and around it
a cylinder of possibilities
which itself reaches out
beyond the walls of
anything we will ever see
or know.

Finite

Recreate

The Eclipse

On the day of the eclipse
I walked above the ground
tripping over no impediment
that might have been in my way.
I was pulled aloft by the alignment
of these two huge bodies,
these disruptive orbs in gravity’s fabric,
playing hide and seek from
billions of curious eyes
that could not look directly
at the wonder
without a device placed in between
those spheres of light and dark
and our tiny, squinting eyes,
wondering, not as our ancestors did,
whether the world was coming to an end,
but whether it would follow through,
complete its implied path and allow us
to continue our quotidian tasks
of swiping through smart phones
for news of dubious merit
regarding who was doing what to whom
in our circle of friends,
in the world of the famous and nearly so,
in our politicians’ shadow games,
fashioning ridiculous new,
completely malicious tissues of lies
from the sweet and simple,
abrupt and brutal,
long and short truths of our lives.

Featured image (image listed in Google as not requiring attribution but provided)

Trance

Visceral

The Point

Hmmm…

Is a point as huge as a period—
an ocean of carbon particles mashed into
the warp and weft of cellulose,
crannies, abysses of space separating
their dark, emphatic engagement with paper—
or is a point briefer than a
Planck length, light stopped
before it starts a path through a perfect vacuum?

Why do we concern ourselves with such things
(and by “we,” I mean “I,” unless you too are afflicted)?
Because it is important to ask questions
while remaining skeptical, quizzical
when we get answers back,
an irresolvable game of table tennis
our two selves helming each end
of a curvilinear surface occupying nothing,
while we each give the thing
shuttling between us a good smash
with a paddle of no size or substance,
back and forth, on and on and on…

Illusion

Featured image

Pictures of ?

“One lives in the hope of becoming a memory.” – Antonio Porchia (1886-1968

A strange item among my mother’s remains:
A manila envelope labeled, in a bold print scrawl,
“Pictures of ?” askew on its container,
starting roughly at a level where an address might be
and heading upwards toward where a stamp belonged.
Neither an address nor a stamp are here,
just the scrawl begging for some resolution
not found during her life, except when she acquired it—
the pictures—contained within,
secured with a metal clasp common to these envelopes
(is there a company that makes these pliant fingers
meant to bend, while the other digits grasp the sallow weave
in a death grip, protecting both mysteries and the irrelevant
with the same reverence, a clutching finger and thumb
expecting to be pinched away and hoping all the same to remain
in place?).

Bent away, the clasps don’t break, they yield and reveal
pieces of cardboard holding tight to a well-shot black-and-white
of “?,” a young man in a well-tailored double-breasted suit,
right hand in pants pocket, left hand dangling, fingers curled in
towards the thigh, photographer’s imprimatur low in the right-hand corner:
“Rice,” then “Montreal,” an artist’s signature and culture
cut into the print in a practiced, stylish statement
of artistry, ownership, pride,
enhanced on the reverse by “Rice Studio Limited—For Duplicates No.”—
and then the number “73356-7” on a stamped line, followed by “Montreal, Can.,”
all in an oval, except for the penciled numbers,
graphite as durable as the ink upon which they sit,
a good seventy or eighty years since they were placed there with care
by James Rice, or an assistant (who knows?),
but in the hopes that “?” would call now and then and order
one or two, maybe more, for his family, friends, the people who knew him,
knew he was not a question mark on a manila vault,
but a young guy in a new suit, looking a distance past the querying lens,
past whatever immediate future he faced into a time when everyone he knew
would welcome him back into their homes, into their rituals
of waking, working, eating, sleeping, speaking of life and its hardships,
partnering with the people he cared for,
living an anonymous life in the presence of everyone else.

And here he is again, sitting (this time), in the same studio,
but in a uniform of some type, a left shoulder patch with the word
“American” embroidered into a rectangle, an ellipsis into other,
unknown words, fading off into a past of service to some endeavor.
The young man smiles deep into the lens this sitting,
peering past the convex glass clenched in its mount,
his face, shoulders, arms, and chest contracted into a pinpoint of light,
then inverting, blossoming, and arriving at the emulsion
for sufficient time that the chemicals capture a part of his soul
within whatever device the photographer wielded,
into whatever film was selected for that man, that day,
for another fine portrait of an unknown fellow—
a fresh enlistee? on leave? duty fulfilled?—
smiling with confidence that good things were yet to come
or had already treated him with the kindness he deserved.
Like so many young men before and after these “Pictures of ?,”
this one has gone into the pantheons of memories
held by other people who, in their turn, have disappeared
among all of those hundreds, thousands, millions, and billions
who were everything they hoped they could be
or nothing they ever expected to become
or most usually, I suspect, something in between,
when a photo or two was planned and stored, perhaps forever,
perhaps for those who knew them,
perhaps for those who would wonder someday
who they could have possibly been,
and will we all fade, not like an indelible photograph,
but like a memory held precious by those near
and forgotten, like our own births and deaths, by the rest of the world.

 

Create

Natty

Uniform

Distant

It is a remote possibility that someone will see this and know who this is. I did an image search using several image search engines and came back empty. The photographer (I believe the same photographer took both) was James Rice who is well-known in Canada and in Montreal for many portraits of hockey players (or so I discovered in my searching). I have no reason to believe that this guy was a hockey player, but aside from a suspicion that he served in the “American… (maybe Red Cross?),” I haven’t been able to find an identical shoulder patch that confirms this. Anyway, dear readers, puzzle away. If you know something, please share your knowledge below. I hope the fellow and a long and happy life.

Shall We Rehearse?

I’m hungry! I’ll just stop up here and grab some breakfast…

I read much of my daily news on the Associated Press utility (when did “app” become a word? Honestly!) on my “smart” phone, which is not intelligent in itself, nor is it dressed well, a sharp pain, or brisk. It is definitely well-designed, but if I never turned it on, it would just be a well-designed chunk of glass, plastic, metal, and some exotic elements used in specific and increasingly clever and minuscule ways. I like this thing and it’s AP utility principally because I can invoke it when my attention flickers from whatever entertainment I have chosen and catch up on what others are doing with their lives.

A few days ago, by which I mean Friday, 19 May 2017, I noticed a headline in the “Most Recent” tab of the utility that piqued my curiosity, to wit:

Police: Body dumped along Texas road after hearse stolen

Okay, I may have said to myself, I will press my finger against the plastic membrane that protects the glass screen of my hand-held computing device and read more about this “Most Recent” news. It was a very brief piece, readable by you, dear reader, by clicking on the link above, which goes only to the apnews.com website and not down any ratholes of internet mischief, but I will summarize the story for you.

The driver, employed to deliver a recently deceased person from a location more closely associated with their demise to a funeral home selected, one assumes, by relatives of the decedent, found themselves in need of sustenance. And lo! there was a McDonald’s restaurant ahead, so this driver (I have not determined their gender, nor is it material to our story) pulled into the parking lot, exited the vehicle, and ambled inside to order some victuals (I’m going to pretend I know that it was breakfast on their mind as it was around 5:30 AM when the hunger struck our protagonist). As they perused the gleaming menu, ensconced in yellow plastic, as they watched and waited for the bleary-eyed, caffeine-fueled workers to fill orders for other supplicants at this purveyor of food-like items, nefarious deeds were being executed in the parking lot.

A person” (so says the news) entered the driver-side door of the hearse and, finding that (1) it was, in fact, thrumming away in neutral and/or (2) had the keys in the ignition and was waiting to be ignited, threw the gearshift into “D,” and drove away with the material remains of someone lying in repose on a gurney in the portion of the vehicle designed for this purpose. Approximately 90 minutes later, a passerby noted a corpse-like object supine on a gurney “on the side of” or “in the 6000 block of Dick Elliott Road.” A brief search of today’s (22 May 2017) news shows no indication that the hearse has been recovered, although the supine individual (gender not available to me) successfully completed their journey to the funeral home.

I am a curious person and this story raised several questions regarding the behaviors of at least two individuals of whom we know very little: (1) the hearse driver and (2) the hearse thief (an updated version of the more antiquated Texas vocation of horse thief).

Here are my questions, although I leave it to each of you to place them in a sequence of importance that you find most appealing:

  1. When a hearse driver is hungry, is it ever appropriate for said driver to stop between receipt and delivery of a decedent to allay the hunger?
  2. Is it appropriate for a hearse driver to stop for a meal whenever they are actually driving a hearse… regardless of contents other than themselves?
  3. Is it not possible that the mere presence of a hearse at a restaurant of any description (barring for the sake of argument fuel stations that have restaurants inside) may raise thoughts among those dining inside (or in the parking lot outside) that the driver is in the process of treating a decedent with less care than is warranted?
  4. Do individuals engaged in the act of sating their hunger want to think about hearses and their contents whenever a hearse driver thrusts that option before them?
  5. In areas of this nation, perhaps elsewhere as well, it is considered courteous to pull over and wait for a funeral procession to pass, whether that procession is performed by horses and carriages, by people on foot, or by a line of cars with their headlights on. If a hearse is involved, isn’t it already a procession marking the end of a life, and should that procession lead through a restaurant parking lot? Ever?
  6. Is it ever a good idea to leave (1) the engine running (either for convenience or temperature control) and/or (2) the keys in the ignition, and/or (3) the vehicle doors unlocked when the driver exits the vehicle whether for a stop at a restaurant or a restroom (in this context, “rest room” is fraught with other meanings)?
  7. If one finds themselves in a parking lot and sees a hearse sitting there, hears the engine chugging away in neutral, sees the driver exit the vehicle and do nothing to secure the vehicle, why does this bit of happenstance, of utter serendipity, turn into a perfect occasion to hijack the hearse, regardless of its contents?
  8. Was the person who jacked the hearse out that morning hoping to find a hearse to purloin or did it just seem like a good idea at the time? A better idea than, say, completing the more probable mission of having a bit of breakfast at the “Arches?”
  9. Having stolen the hearse, what would make the newly ascendant driver take a quick look in the back, notice that they were not alone, and decide that having a passenger in the hearse—a vehicle intended for the transport of supine and lifeless passengers—spoiled “the game” and the passenger had to go, but the hearse could remain with them?
  10. What was it about the 6000 block of Dick Elliot Road that seemed like the right place to pull the hearse over, place the transmission in neutral, exit the vehicle, walk around to the rear of the vehicle, open the large tailgate door with the glass window and pleated draperies, pull the gurney out with the individual in place, leave them “on the side of” or “in the” road, close the tailgate, return to the driver-side door, enter the vehicle and drive off?
  11. Where is the hearse? I mean, we are not talking about a white 2005 Chevrolet Cavalier, a car that must populate the roads of Texas and the U.S. in general in multitudes. The missing “car” is black, probably recently cleaned and polished, with large windows, curtains (! – this alone makes it rather rare amongst vehicles), and quite possibly the name of the funeral home etched into the window glass or painted on the doors. How hard could it be to find this vehicle? It’s been three full days and half of today and it is still out among the other hearses of America!

Those are my questions. There are probably other questions, but those are mine. Astonishingly, stealing hearses seems to be a “thing” here in the U.S. While finding the exact story I read from the AP utility, I found several other such stories:

Thieves steal Ohio hearse, dump corpse, leave note

Family chases down man who stole hearse with relative’s casket inside

If hearse-thievery is going to happen, perhaps Mumbai-based Lunatic Koncepts has the solution:

Is THIS driverless hearse the future of funerals? Bizarre transparent coffin beams hologram of deceased and plays their favourite song

I’m hoping that spontaneous human combustion will visit me in my last seconds and relieve me of these worries.

Adrift

Unmoored

Farce

Final

Featured image by Aalborg Stift

Imprints

I bear the imprints…

I bear the imprints,
deep and broad,
of the strap he wielded
with his words.
Sliced into the dura mater,
dribbles, runnels, rivulets,
channels course and creep
through each thought,
trenching a path for patterns
in actions and deeds,
written and spoken
verbiage like locusts
cutting through wheat,
leaving grain and chaff
alike fluttering in dust.

Like most elders,
he lunged at shadows,
wraiths imagined,
yet real to him,
he fought reflections,
crisp, bright fragments of light,
the blood he drew,
at times thick, dark,
often a spiraling vapor,
figments flecking amber,
in motion and frozen,
always a mystery—
to him and me—
their intent or effect
never known, not to know.

Each time he spoke,
it was a choice
between speaking at all
and regretting the attempt,
carefully selecting each word
from his enormous intellect,
then stumbling forward,
reflexively placing his hands
before his face
so his nose and brow
would go unscarred.
His discussions about
the burdens he shouldered
during an accomplished life
an example to us all
of feet poorly placed
on a gravel fundament
shifting in dry sand
on a dim and windy day.

Gray

Pattern

Featured image by James.mcd.nz

Space/Time

In a place without time
there is no story to tell

In a place without time
there is no story to tell,
all persons, places,
firm and free,
transfixed and stubborn
in the silent still.

That which would move
does not flinch a fiber,
those who would try
cannot move a muscle,
particles that spin and bounce
do neither in their torpor,
rusted through the core,
the rust can creep no more.

Motion needs time
to step through its dance.
Time needs motion
until the clock stops.
Think of one,
you’ve set them both
racing towards
a distant goal.


This thing popped into being while I was reading the sixth “brief lesson” in Carlo Rovelli’s Seven Brief Lessons on Physics. That sixth lesson is titled “Probability, Time, and the Heat of Black Holes.” The tiny thing I’ve presented above addresses the unimaginable and, thus, is a paradox.

Timely
Continue reading “Space/Time”