A Solution to Science, In Part
The thin portrayals were leaving me parched,
and time was the only game the children bothered
to fill the streets with anymore. A disappearing ink
fell upon us, even with our blotters at the ready,
so that not all hours passed into clouds of
the rare ones stuck to our ribs, by our sides,
and gave us weight. Our feet held firmly to dirt
while our heads dreamed escape in the skyways.
And just like that: every special simulacrum
wanted its fifteen minutes of fame;
the scorpion threw out the dead guinea pig
in disgust, its only love sacrificed at the behest
of these earthbound breasts, this arm, that sky.
There should have been more images among us,
ones that could mislead the witness
on his search for the latest factual placebos,
but boxes started arriving, filled with a human
percentage that would lighten the moon’s distance.
“Me” moves to “our” in the first stanza, but only a “human percentage” seems to be left in the second – “breasts,” “arm,” “images” (“simulacrum”). There is a “witness,” but we have to wonder about his humanity.
So is this what is meant by “in part?” That the only thing science does is divide? The solution is humanity’s end?
In the first stanza, our narrator is “parched,” and children don’t have energy or opportunity to do anything but merely be outside. What people write is of no significance – leisure is not merely the absence of work, but the absence of oppression. The “shortening shadows” destroy hours, time cannot truly pass in a world that is only day.
It looks like the world is dominated by an ever-present sun. One could take this to be a metaphor for global warming, but I think the safer argument is that this is the world science has crafted, the world where everything must be scrutinized, a world that is only light.
I should note that some people accuse me of scrutinizing poetry. Typically, these are people who don’t care to read, and hate to hear another having thoughts. There’s a big difference between appreciation and scrutiny for no real end. The latter characterizes the approach of the academy today in all disciplines; progress is our banner, a mere pushing intellectually should result in betterment for all.
Whether the appreciation/scrutiny for progress’ sake divide holds is something we want to examine through this poem. A solution to science would involve the existence of appreciation.
We get hints in the first stanza that such a thing does or did exist: “thin portrayals” presumably means there was a time things could be genuinely represented. Children used to play outside. We still want to write, perhaps even do write – it’s readers that are absent.
“The rare ones” that stick beside us are a mystery. Certainly we produce shadows; loved ones, particularly children (“ribs”), clinging to us would explain best the move from “me”to “our.” But “the rare ones” could also be “shadows,” “clouds” or “hours,” even the “disappearing ink.” If we read a writing metaphor into the first stanza, where science consists of “thin portrayals,” we can say this: a humanity devoted to progress writes its own destiny as time unfolds – it writes ever higher and higher.
If we take that reading, then “our heads dreamed escape in the skyways” is an implicit rejection of “the rare ones.” It stems from our earthly love – we want to escape together – but results in the second stanza.
Every “simulacrum,” an imagining that is a semblance, a “likeness,” suddenly emerges and wants to dominate. That love of domination – “whoever is correct must have the most power,” the “principle” of efficacy driving technology – looks like a scorpion killing a guinea pig and bemoaning the loss. We cannot recognize that we have been attempting to conquer, we are Cyclopean in having all and not knowing how to live.
But it wasn’t Cyclops as a male that forced the sacrifice – “these breasts,” “this arm,” “that sky.” This reminds us of Auden’s “nursing mothers” which we have discussed previously: the drive for the perfect home, endless comfort and security, is the cause of Earth’s destruction. This isn’t a drive for honor or power, to use a stereotypical symbolism that nearly every author invokes, toys with, and changes by works’ end.
The witness seeks images, but ones that will serve as “factual placebos.” There is a new theory about why everything is collapsing, and the old facts representing objects will not do. But an insistence to explain it all at once does destroy diversity. Our last image in this poem is that of catalog shopping/consumerism. There are still shadows, but they only package our wants. The heavens still remain mysterious, unconquered, but it is only a matter of theory and time before they are packaged too.