Friday, February 18, 2011

TC: Multiple Screen Window Display


Like so many tiny pixie tv's
Flashing messages to each other all night
The hundred billion neurons in your brain
Replace identity as such with deep
Cosmic gossip while your body's arrested
in mid flight back toward an old savannah --
A hundred billion neurons seeking shelter,
Losing that deep self because you're asleep,
Lost in your dreams, a functional state
Of your brain lapsing into disappearance,
Your brain not bothering to compute you,
Your sense of who you are going up in smoke,
Though if the soul be several not one
There's only now and that now has presence.

Windows: Charles Sheeler, c. 1952 (Hirschl and Adler Galleries, New York)


Anonymous said...

Tom, I really love both the poem and the Sheeler. They go together beautifully. Because my own sleep has become so peculiar (the only time I'm vividly aware of my dreams is when I've fallen into a deep sleep brought on by exhaustion caused by previous sleeplessness), this hits me very hard, particularly "Your brain not bothering to compute you" and the final two lines. I always think of Jane as sleeping very well (and being pleased about that and envying her for it), but two nights ago I was surprised to run into her in the kitchen when we wandered in from opposite directions to get a glass of water. Her calm and poise allayed my agitation and I was grateful for that. Interesting to learn that Windows was painted the year Hirschl & Adler Galleries was founded; I wonder whether they originally showed it? There's a pretty Sheeler called Ephrata (a place in Pennsylvania) currently on their website. Windows reminds of me Manhattan when I'm happy to be there, when both I and the city seem to be confident and in control, i.e., "modern". Now that we've both slipped past that (at this point I only experience this feeling in dreams), I'm fairly confident I'll be all right, but I think NYC turned a dark corner some time ago, around the time when you suddenly found that every city had all the same chain stores and none of them had any appeal whatsoever. Sorry to quote you back at you, but:

"Replace identity as such with deep/
Cosmic gossip while your body's arrested/
in mid flight"

I love that.

TC said...


What a kitchen moment that must have been. We insomniacs are of course secretly shamed by our inability to sleep like the "normals". The fear one's child may follow this same terrible path to oblivion would be too much to bear, had not her poised bearing reassured you. But then too, appearances can at times deceive.

I do remember sleep, dreaming & c. I think this phenomenon of recalling a faculty one no longer possesses is perhaps much as blind people remember colours.

NYC would scare me, too. The East Bay scares me.

But then, too, my shadow scares me.

Anonymous said...

Well, we think alike then. Caroline, also a bad sleeper, has no shortage of advice (gleaned from her father, a doctor) about constructive ways to deal with sleep maladies. None of them work for me, however or for her. I remain stuck on seeing the clock at 1:11, 2:22, 3:33, 4:44, etc. (Actually, by the last time, I'm usually up, around, drinking coffee and expanding my knowledge of the world, which is partly causing my sleeplessness.) It IS like blind people remembering colors, which reminds me that I read George Shearing just passed away.

Peter Greene said...

Great poem, and what a magnificent painting. thanks for both.

TC said...

Thank you, Peter.

I love the way that Sheeler just keeps going... up.