Sunday, December 26, 2010

Golden Age

Golden Age

It is bittersweet to mispose fried yellow
in an orb of French eyes.

It is easy to fall into fish.

It is easy to fall in a cinnamon roll.

It is not hard to be a Fibonacci series.

But most difficult is seriously to suppose sunrise
in punctuation as curtains ascend on Vienna.

She hennas hand. She hennas hair. She hennas mustache and beard.

Hearing you have life to relive you are turbulence
barreling up the East Coast threatening snow.

We are not here to commoditize nature.

We are not here to sodomize le Duc de Blangis.

We are not here to know .36 from .38.

It is easy enough to fall into hatred.

It is easy enough to forget two or three drinks bar to bar.

It is easy to sing.

[EAC copyright 2010]
Click on image to view at full size.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Delirium (Invocation Of Garcia Lorca)

Delirium (Invocation Of Garcia Lorca)

On the thirteenth of October

the poet arrives in Argentina

with his luggage of sun and sea,

frightening the rain of Chile into silence.

Where did the gloom go?

Is it hidden damp and plotting in a copper mine?

In the stadium

on the nineteenth day of August

the poet is killed in the shade

of high summer.

He disappears leaving eighteen.

His body is eaten to transparency in the acid of the air.

He is a butterfly with razor blade wings.

When Dali, dressed to the nines, gets word the poet is dead

he shouts: “"Olé!" The bull has won!”

His outspread arms are imprinted on the sand.

He sings like a Spanish guitar.

He laughs at black bayonets.

He is a flamboyant dresser with pneumatic pantaloons.

His suit of lights glows into the darkness of the next half century.

He worries about Mickey Mouse.

The cockroaches fear his arrival in the underworld.

They read his obituary.

They shiver.

They scurry into darkness.

[Fragment from "The Death Of Neruda" Copyright EAC 2010]
Click on the image to view at full size.

Thursday, October 14, 2010



In far Arctic and Antarctic
ice people are confused by flowers
as Dutch are driven mad by tulips.

They live in greenhouses
against the cold,
insolent in ships and machines,
in dikes against the sea,
in work and symbols.

In tropics isometric in night and day
rose is the flesh of universal scent
in motion among leaves and thorns,
repeating over and over.

No frost kills. No Spring brings to life.

Flowers balloon like piñatas,
aching with skeletons poised
to dance on air.

So is woman replete in her own orbit,
so is man the dotted line of death and regression.

When you see the bones of a poem
you see how it moves. You see its seasons
and place under the sun and one day
you uncover your own diagram
in every breath between.

[EAC copyright 2010]

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Delirium [Fragment]

Delirium [Fragment]

Dormant corpses

cities underground no one sees

singing to machine guns

smashed hands

crushed guitars

silent drills in criminal air

the shrillness of childlessness

as when the child learning to read

comes face to face with a meat-eating planet....

If you are the gods let me tell you a story
for your time is infinite
and my mouth will not be a part of it
but a whole through which echos without end
the memory that is your present and future.

There is a soccer game in the fog,
men and women naked in the damp.

There is monumental applause
for every goal, in which they are punched
and kicked through the goalposts of the underground.

The clapping is like gunfire,
like the clatter of an African rattle....

They say there is an outdoor cafe
in the middle of the universe

where many questions are answered only in skeletons
by the sages of East and West.

Inca and Pharaoh dine there,
eating humanity and throwing the bones
under the table to the Dogstar,
whose sharp teeth of light gnaw
them into ivory and ebony.

What do you call this reality that devours itself,
and what is left after the meal is done?

This is a question for divine physiology.

Does the spiral eat and shit?

Is the universe an endless body,
and when you are at the end of its fingertips,
what do they point to—what do they wave at,
what do they reach out to touch?

If life has a purpose how do you live?

If live has no purpose how do you live?

If living has purpose and you don't know it,
where do you look?

Under which rock is the answer,
under which stone has the absentee landlord left the key?

In the old wives' tales there are only signs
in octagonal red signaling blood is the answer,
and after that more blood.

[Enter the Feathered Man, silent]

The coldest horror is the little things,
in matter of fact bureaucrats that eat
away substance and gods page by page,
who may have begun life in the womb
as a mother's concertina,
who gamble at cards in off hours,
who shuffle papers,
who spare children no smile

who requisition just the right number of rounds
to gun down a mountain town,
even its dogs

who have a precise quota
of infants smashed against rocks
or thrown down wells

That's why the Spanish fight bulls
while we watch patiently.

The Conqueror broke only the fiercest
cattle of the forest hand to hand
and like the Roman at Lupercal pays continued
respect in sword against horn
which with one quick flick can disarm him of his testicles
and penetrate to the intestines.

That is why the tribes first loved the Spanish,
who were beautiful in their ferocity,
with nostrils flaring overoxygenated blood.

That is why we bake them brown
in the ovens of our women.

Let us be frank, my friends,
for if we were blood enemies
we are all intimates now:

we are carving the stone blocks of two cultures,
a multiverse of many tongues,
with blind courage to be stupid as a fighting

as patient as an unsurrendered chief
chewing coca leaves on the mountainside,
like a squat tiger who is the jaguar.

Pizarro, standing below a hundred thousand
charging down, pissing in his pants,
but standing his ground and playing us
a peasant's veronica greedy for gold.

We ceded his viciousness the power of the air
and he died of it purified, forgetting gold,
to be reborn among us in stone.

The civil servants and gray generals
and talkative merchants
we will feed to the fish,
for we honor
only the fiercest and purest
and have one poet.

The best have now been summoned
as fermented flesh, disappearing into
wastelands and trash dumps as food
for condors and giant rats,
who carry them to the three-eyed tiger
to be reborn.

[Fragment from "The Death Of Neruda" Copyright EAC 2010]

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Southern Exposure

Southern Exposure

Space is given,
we grow into time
with memory as rings.

Somewhere far south
in the garden of mutual skin
silk falls from green velvet branches
and clothes us in one shimmer
rippling in the warm breeze.

How curious this canopy
under white and blue sky
where you and I take our ease.

How curious this silken green tree
branching between me and you.

How curious this ever summer
and never fall.

Who begat this cold night
in which we were lost?
Who wrote it?
Where is it written?
When does it end?

Expelled from Eden
where shall we walk to
breathed in the kisses of its leaves?

[copyright EAC September 2010]

Friday, July 30, 2010



Every beyond is a chorus speaking,
or a dialogue, or characters in search of a drama,
or an echo, or just meaningless noise.

What is written in water is still written.

[copyright EAC 2010]

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Ballad (Parmi colonnes)

Ballad (Parmi colonnes)

So long them ago, so long ago,
So tunes among the ruins:

(a) poor loony villain off to Angers
(shall we)

in sharded malignity
(shall we)

cursing and blaspheming
(shall we)

she in clashing register with punk hair
looking merry window in Japanese
beyond grand compassion.

Or (b)

Riding one in front, one in rear
(shall we)

on dear absent-minded mount (bumpity, bumpity)
(shall we)

biding time with Peking duck
(shall we)

murderer of orgasms in small hot drips
with curling lips sans mercy.

Or (c)

some small gesture in parting, amants martirs,
unthrifty say--a last hot meal
before the chair
with champagne vintaged
in tears and troubles.

Mademoiselle, parlez-vous?

owning up at least like honest honeyed cat
(shall we)

our desiring machines well-laved in one long sure purr
(shall we)

cheek to cheek like fur-bearing mammals with pure shaved skin
(shall we)?

[copyright EAC 2010]

Monday, May 3, 2010

The Three

The Three

R’s arise in the form of rows.
Are you too?
Are we?
Are trees?

[copyright EAC 2010]

Friday, April 2, 2010

Dance Of The Hours

Dance Of The Hours

Around this stone
flesh is grown
as from a blue egg inverted
arises a mythical bird
living in a thrush’s song of rot,
dieting on fat worms.

In the mirror
within the white sofa
opens another stone
and grows turgid Doric column.

So priests and priestesses
cross the abyss,
well whet archaic smile,
blade to stone,
stone to blade
clothed in sacred fish flesh.

Under grotesque masks
blaring false persons
skeletons on every side,
every one a hard case:
non fui, fui, non sum.

There is no master race in abstraction.
On this planet it is survival of the shittiest,
consignable only to the room of repitition,
locked fast and key thrown away
again and again forever.

Only symbols repeat.
Like money earning interest
continuum includes manure,
fertile, blooming nature in every spring,
spattered with snow water,
colorless as bleached leather.

So we throw ourselves
like a living calculus
across the clattering speech
of stone breaking stone
owning up to nothing.

On that right angle
Pythagorean dangles
the music of fear,
animates the marionettes
of the condemned
dancing in the freezing wind,
dancing across space.

It is all rubbing two sticks together.
It is all heat. It is all growth and rot.
Why ask about beginning and end?

If you are looking for singing personal and plural
look here: we are all executed together
in multiples of three
dancing in the fresh breeze,
dancing across space.

[copyright EAC]

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The Time Machine

A.D. 2010

There is not much to say about hell anymore.

It grows like honeysuckle.

It chokes into the smooth myrrh of indifference

with sweet cloying smell.

Does it tickle?

A.D. 2025


"Just how many nuclear wars did they have?"

Embodied. "They?"

A.D. 2040

Under the plum blossoms

strange rose gloves of the same hand


[copyright EAC 2010]

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Stalin Among The Milkmaids

Stalin Among The Milkmaids

Her pure uncle

her poor sons

her nails red with blood

the Victrola plays ragtime

the radio plays regime

she studies engineering

he speaks icon sound

she shot herself

the band plays on.

[copyright EAC 2010]

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Rusticus Expectat

What is it about rivers that gives rise to thoughts about time? Or is this purely a cultural artifact?

Rusticus expectat, go the lines of Horace alluded to by Immanuel Kant in his Prolegomena, dum defluat amnis, at ille labitur et labetur in omne volubilis aevum.

A light and loose rendering might be:

The rube waits for the river to flow away
But it keeps on rolling and rolling
Forever and a day.

But this misses the subtilty of in omne volubilis aevum—“flowing for all eternity”.

The aevum is by the way the origin of the English “eon” and kin to the Greek aion. All three denote both eternity and “life time or “age”.

In turn they are cognate with the Sanskrit ayu, “life”, as well as the Old Norse ævi "lifetime" and the German ewig "everlasting."

In Old English another cognate is “a”, “always, forever”.

In English “time” as a river is still a commonplace, but the figure of flowing in eternity and eternity in turn as ever flowing is not so patent nowadays perhaps as it once was.

One once taught English to a Chinese physicist who, trying to illustrate how “primitive” was his China even in the Twentieth Century, exclaimed, “Why my father believed that the earth stood still and the sun and stars moved around it!”

Somehow the concept of an earth revolving around the sun and turning on its axis in relation to a background of seemingly fixed stars makes the image of a moving, almost living eternity, rather more striking.

Horace’s eternity also gibes neatly with Heraclitus of Ephesus, whose panta rhei—“everything flows” characterizes a universe in flux.

G.W.F. Hegel, whose philosophy hinges on the coincidence of opposites, not surprisingly had a very high opinion of Heraclitus, or at least a very high opinion of whom he thought Heraclitus to be.

Dieser kühne Geist hat zuerst das tief Wort gesagt, ‘Das Seyn is nicht mehr als das Nichtseyn”, Hegel observed—“This bold spirit first made the profound statement, ‘Being is no more than Non-Being'”, a principle which is central to Hegel’s own philosophy.

It is not clear that Heraclitus ever said what Hegel says he said. There is a passage in Aristotle that seems to convict Heraclitus of holding “all things are and are not”(panta einai kai me einai). But even if this is genuinely Heraclitan in origin rather than a later extrapolation, the coexistence of is and is not is not quite the same thing as their being identical.

The closest an inarguably genuine fragment comes to postulating an identity of what is and what is not is: potamoisi toisi autoisi embainomen te kai ouk embainomen, eimen te ai ouk eimen—that is, “In the same rivers we both step and do not step, we both are and are not.”

The difficulty with taking this in wholly existential terms is that “are” and “are not” may refer only to being and not being in the same rivers in question rather than to a general being and not being at the same time.

From another perspective it is not until Parmenides, Heraclitus’ great critic, that a logical analysis of absolute being and non-being is accomplished. Heraclitus, then, seems rather wrapped up in opposites and their putative unity, which is indeed the whole thrust of the philosophy evidenced in the surviving fragments. He does not, for instance, ever seem to have separated these opposites into strictly logical events susceptible to authentic ontological analysis.

Among the most legended of Heraclitus’ fragments is, “You cannot step into the same river twice” (dis es ton auton potamon ouk an embaies) which survives in a quotation by Plato.

This makes immediate if perhaps all too superficial sense to many moderns seemingly because, as Heraclitus himself elaborates in other fragments, upon those who do step into a stream “ever different waters flow”, which is to say, that the river perforce of its movement is always in motion and thus no definite and completed thing.

A common apprehension in the ancient world is, then, that Heraclitus was undermining the unconscious identification of names with things both unchanging and existent simply because named.

This may not be wholly mistaken.

Plato’s dialogue between Socrates and the avowed Heraclitan, Cratylus, is a rollicking carnival of word play with a philosopher who, according to Aristotle, went his master Heraclitus one better with the argument that, if you cannot step in the same river twice, you cannot not step in it even once—oud’ hapax.

Also according to Aristotle, this Cratylus ended up by holding that he need not say anything at all but simply point his finger.

Plato tells us, specifically in the context of the river image, that Heraclitus’ context was that of a judgment to the effect that “everything goes forward and nothing stands still” (panta chorei kai ouden menei).

Whether or not Heraclitus put any emphasis on the point, the use of “go forward” (choreo) specifically conjoined with a river is in effect an implicit statement that the “flow” of time is unidirectional.

Plato also informs that Heraclitus’ river was a metaphor for all existence (ta onta).

Aristotle, pursuing the same metaphor, concluded that this view implied real motion in all things, even those that seemed to stay the same.

This is apparently going too far for many moderns. G. S. Kirk and J. E. Raven ask, “Can Heraclitus really have thought a rock or a bronze cauldron, for example, was invariably undergoing invisible changes of material. Perhaps so; but nothing in the extent fragments suggests that he did, and his clearly expressed reliance on the senses suggests that he did not. It cannot be too strongly emphasized that before Parmenides…gross departures from common sense must only be accepted when the evidence for them is very strong.”

Ironically, the notable departure from common sense here seems to be that of Messrs. Kirk and Raven in thinking that an ancient Greek who relied on his senses would necessarily see a rock or a bronze cauldron as some determined and materially unchanging object. Bronze corrodes, as every Greek certainly knew, and over time even rock like marble undergoes subtle but clearly observable changes to those with a close eye and long attention span, both of which Heraclitus, along with most other Greeks of the time, surely had.

Kirk and Raven are fine and useful scholars. It is all the more significant, then, that they are the ones who seem to populate the world, even the ancient world, with sensuously unchanging “objects” undergoing “invisible changes”, which is, of course, exactly what the modern physicists and chemists and such would have the laity believe, to wit, both (1) that they qua “scientists” are initiates of a molecular and sub-atomic “invisible world” through their science, and (2) that this world is not obvious as a matter of sense and common sense to the rest of unscientific humanity.

Too, it seems, Kirk and Raven have taken the metaphor of the flowing river quite to heart and also in the context of modern physics. If common objects “flow” must they not flow as a river with ever different but unseen “matter” in motion through a seemingly unchanging form?

It may be that the most obvious conclusion to be reached from what Plato says is that Heraclitus was less interested in the materies of such things as rocks and pots than in all those kinds of changes that are only too visible over time—as the flow of rivers—but which are concretized in language as unchanging and definite “things” purely as a matter of names.

Admittedly this is a red herring, for there is every reason to conclude that Heraclitus was no materialist at all, and surely not in the grossest and most rudimentary of modern modes.

“The way up and down is one and the same way" (hodos ano kato mia kai houte)—another of Heraclitus' more famous fragments—seems on the surface the exact opposite of a material opposition, and as a matter of direction, is in kind a purely formal polarity.

What is this “one way”, then, and how can that “one way” be reconciled with the implied “going forward” of a river?

Descending again to the level of rocks and bronze cauldrons, that may be easily explicable if is recalled that the “same” river’s course may meander in many directions of the compass. The direction of the flow, on the other hand, is unidirectional along a continuous line away from each past locus and toward the next and future one, which is never the last.

Interestingly enough, the flow of a river as metaphor of reality in eternal flux through time corresponds almost eerily to the Buddhists’ view that the world is a multiplicity of objects imaged as “strings of events in one direction, "strings” in which every moment is seen as the cause of the one following (samantara-pratyaya).

Is it mere coincidence that Heraclitus and Gautama Buddha happen to be rough contemporaries?

To the “same” river in which we are and are not, the much later Roman Stoic philosopher (also tutor and advisor of the young Emperor Nero) Lucius Annaeus Seneca adds an intriguing dimension in one of his letters: et ego ipse, dum loquor mutari ista, mutatus sum. Hoc est quod ait Heraclitus: in idem flumen bis descendimus et non descendimus—manet enim idem fluminis nomen, aqua transmissa est. Hoc in amne manifestius est quam in homine, sed nos quoque non minus velox cursus praetervehit, to wit:

And I myself in the process of saying that these things change, change. This what Heraclitus says—in the same river we step twice and do not step at all, for while the name of the river is the same, the water has rolled on. This is clearer in the case of a river than it is in that of a human being, but nevertheless the swift stream carries us ever onward.

It has not been noticed, as far as one knows, how reminiscent Seneca’s figure of the swift stream—velox cursus—is of Horace’s fluent eon, “voluble for all time.” Is it then the most arbitrary of ideas to refer both to the Heraclitan image of all things in flux—panta rhei—as a river, including Heraclitus himself, who makes the observation?

And I myself in the process of saying these things change, change.” So far as it goes, that is simple logic. If all things change and Seneca is a thing, Seneca changes. Note, however, that according to Seneca the name of the river—nomen fluminis—stays the same. At one end, that takes us immediately back to Plato’s Cratylus, and at the other to Friedrich Hegel and Ludwig Wittgenstein.

But those are tales for another day.

[copyright E.A. Costa 1984/2010]

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Duchamp In America

Duchamp In America

Tertullian who had Tacitus
notes that in the Holy of Holies
at Jerusalem great Pompey
for all his perscrutiny saw:

nihil simulacri

Did you then in Philadelphia
view solely mummified artifacts fluted
in a room that smelled of

It is all by design:
as rose crystal in a pawn shop window
thoroughly exercised by dawn
broadcasts radioactive
to some other earth.

[copyright EAC 2010]

Monday, February 15, 2010

Dialogue In The Third Degree: Quelque Chose Qui Cloche

Castor: Are there different degrees of consciousness do you suppose?

Pollux: I am not sure what you mean.

Castor: What is unclear? You do not dispute what consciousness is, do you?

: Taking it as some sort of awareness, I suppose not.

Castor: Then where the problem?

: I am not sure what you mean by degrees, or whether it applies to consciousness.

: You surprise me. You don’t know what a degree is?

: Do you?

: Well, for example, a thermometer measures temperature in degrees.

: A very ill analogy, if I may say so, at least without considerable explanation.

Castor: How so? Now it is my turn not to follow what is meant.

Pollux: In saying that consciousness has degrees as a thermometer has degrees, are you saying that consciousness is, like heat, one thing and one thing only and that it is measurable, like temperature, and that the proper measurement is “degrees”?

: Apparently I must be saying that, yes.

Pollux: In saying that, however, you also say that consciousness, as one thing, is subject to quantification in degrees. Do you mean that in the sense of there being instances of greater and lesser consciousness or as a matter of intensification?

: Actually I was perhaps thinking in terms of levels, as a staircase.

: Ah, the etymology!

Castor: The etymology? Again I am now the one who does not follow.

: You are a gifted etymologist whether you know it or not then. In origin “degree” is French, from the Latin “degradus”, which means a “step”, as in a staircase or as a stage in the musical scale, ascending or descending, or the measure of blood relationship in terms of distance removed through generations. Interestingly, “degree” originates from exactly the same word as does “degrade.”

Castor: But staircase makes an apt metaphor, don't you think?

Pollux: For consciousness, you mean?

: Of course. Isn't that what we are discussing?

Pollux: I am not at all sure about its aptness. How is consciousness or awareness like a staircase?

Castor: There are different steps or levels of consciousness.

Pollux: Easy to say but perhaps not so easy to understand. The staircase itself is not an object apart from its steps, but the steps exist all at the same time in the same staircase. That sort of step or level is quite different from a step taken by a man when walking. In that case step seems to be, as most use it, a point in a sequence. Are you saying consciousness has its own levels or that one goes up or down steps on a staircase called consciousness? If the latter, it seems to me, you are positing consciousness or awareness as something different from the one who may be conscious, to wit, a distinct and separate reality that can be climbed. Or again, are you saying consciousness has steps in the way a creature with legs moves in steps?

Castor: I admit the difficulties of the metaphor. But recall, I began by speaking in terms of the degrees of a thermometer.

Pollux: Do you presume that consciousness is all of a piece or that it varies in measurable ways?

Castor: What sort of choice is that?

: A difficult one. Let us resolve it for you—is consciousness of a piece and does it vary?

Castor: Taken closely, I suppose that I have to say both to be consistent in the metaphor.

Pollux: Of a piece and varying, as you wish. Do you then use some scale to measure degrees of consciousness as with heat?

: Well, if there are different levels or degrees, I suppose there would be higher and lower levels of consciousness, greater or less, as with temperature.

Pollux: In other words, by positing different levels you do not compass consciousness purely as a threshold phenomenon, wherein one is either conscious or not conscious, like being pregnant or drunk?

: I see what you are getting at. You consider consciousness and awareness as either present or absent, then, with no levels in between?

Pollux: You jump to conclusions.

Castor: How so? What is the alternative?

: Let's leave that aside for the moment. There may be more alternatives than you seem to have considered. The idea of consciousness as a staircase, for example, and therefore as an externality in its steps is at least interesting enough to be considered. I suppose that would be a consciousness that exists apart from the individual, whatever the individual is.

: Again I do not follow. If it is a staircase, how can it be external to itself?

: Is being on one step of the staircase the same as or different from being on no step at all, or being on several steps or all steps at the same time?

Castor: The staircase image is your making. I have already said I prefer to refer to the degrees of a thermometer.

: On the contrary, you brought up staircase as metaphor for levels as I recall. Consciousness like heat is all one phenomenon, then? But graded and measurable?

Castor: I think we have established that is my gist. Do you deny it?

Pollux: I am not in a position to deny it or confirm until I understand what you mean.

Castor: That would suggest that you do not see consciousness as analogous to temperature.

: Let's pursue that aspect for a moment.

Castor: Certainly, that is the point of the discussion as far as I am concerned.

: .Even were consciousness admitted to be analogous to heat or temperature there seem to be difficulties. We call the physical phenomenon heat, and the measure of the degree of heat its temperature. So degree is a measure. But what is measure? Measure is a mark, is it not, whether the mark is a number on a scale or a physical sensation in consciousness as greater or lesser. Yet in order to posit greater and lesser heat, does not one need at least two events, contemporaneous or in sequence. I measure the temperature today, for example, as 70 degrees. But if the temperature never changed would I be measuring it at all?

Castor: True enough, unchanging temperature would be a ground of being, not able to be marked as greater or lesser. On the other hand, it surely might be sensed as a ground, don't you think? We see through air, for example, and in the act of seeing through consider air invisible, if not absolutely, in relative terms. Still, even the ancients realized there was an invisible physical substance which they could not see and called it air.

Pollux: But there were also sound and the wind. What is seen through the air is in some ways akin to what is heard through the air, but there are differences. And wind, which is air in movement, was discernible to touch. Still, that is all by the way and has nothing to do with what I am getting at.

Castor: Please hurry along—I am anxious to know just what it is you are getting at, if anything.

Pollux: Actually, I am surprised you did not bring up the matter of two hands in two different containers of water of different temperature. Is consciousness like that, do you suppose—so that the same person can measure two different levels of consciousness at the same time?

Castor: I had not thought of that.

Pollux: But again we digress.

: Well, get on with it, old chap—I cannot wait to hear what you are getting at.

Pollux: This consciousness which you say has degrees. May I ask where the degrees are marked?

Castor: What a strange question.

: Not strange at all. Does what we call heat have different marks on it that say 70 degrees or 120 degrees or hotter or colder, or is the degree of heat measured separately and externally to the heat itself?

: Ah, I see. That is a difficult question. There must be something about heat that allows it to be measured in distinct degrees. But I am not sure I would call whatever that may be its measurement or mark.

Pollux: Here again you stumble into a conundrum. Are you saying the changeability of heat unfolds in distinct steps and the steps are measured or that heat is a continuum, with no inherent stages or levels, but which may be measured by marks that are different from what is measured?

Castor: I see now--as with a clock.

Pollux: Most clocks have hands or digital numerals that tick off in steps. But what is measured by the clock is not just the ticks.

Castor: Time you mean? You mean to say, then, time is a continuum measured by distinct marks, and that the marks are not what is measured.

Pollux: Actually with clocks I don't consider we have to go that far.

Castor: Again you lose me. You are not referring to time as a continuum?

Pollux: You brought up clocks and time, not I.

Castor: It seems a rather good analogy to heat insofar as the question of continuum is concerned, don't you think?

Pollux: Perhaps. But one need not bring time into it at all. The hands of the clock are in movement, it is true. And the distinct intervals of movement are mechanical or electronic. But the movement behind the movement is not necessarily in distinct steps.

Castor: The movement behind the movement?

Pollux: Well, in the case of mechanical clocks the spring, or with a cuckoo clock the weight or what we call the force of gravity.

Castor: I see. Yes, that is a pertinent aspect.

: Indeed I am not sure that the concept of continuum must be physical at all. There seem to be continua that are physical but that is incidental. The mathematicians, for example, posit a continuum of quantity between numbers.

: Indeed they do. That is the origin of the continuum problem.

: Not the origin at all--in modern times, simply one of its later and clearest formulations. Parmenides and Zeno both phrased very precise problems based on an idea of the continuum and how continuum is supposed to be mensurable.

Castor: But where does that leave us, then, either in regard to heat or consciousness.

: I think we have made some progress. To say there are mensurable degrees of consciousness at the very least brings up the matter of whether consciousness is all one thing and a continuum.

Castor: Are you now saying then that there may be different kinds of consciousness?

Pollux: I leave that to you, dear fellow, who came up with the degrees in the first place. I am not even sure I want to use to the word, “consciousnesses”, however direly it may be needed in this discussion.

Castor: Well, I must be going. I will not mention modes of consciousness again lest you take the rest of the day distinguishing modes from kinds or steps or degrees or staircases or whatnot.

Pollux: More progress then.

: More progress? Now I truly have no idea what you mean.

: Perhaps neither of us does separately and without discussion. But you must be off, as you say.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Death Of Zeno

Diogenes Laertius, the late biographer whose namesake was the earlier Diogenes, famous in his search for an honest man, notes of Zeno, inventor of the famous paradoxes, that he was not only student of Parmenides, but the elder sage’s son by adoption.

Diogenes cites as his source Apollodorus’ Chronika.

There is nothing outlandish about the report.

Both Zeno and Parmenides were from Elea, and Zeno was a follower and companion of Parmenides.

Indeed, Zeno’s paradoxes are a systematic effort, still precisely unanswerable, supporting the validity of his master’s insight that all physical motion is an illusion and logically contradictory.

Plato mentions that Zeno was tall. Aristotle names him as the discoverer (heuretes) of dialectic. Diogenes Laertius also mentions that Zeno was distinguished both in philosophy and politics and cites Heraclides’ epitome of Satryus about Zeno’s end.

Zeno, the story goes, was implicated in a plot to overthrow the local tyrant. Some say the tyrant’s name was Nearchus, others Diomedon. Zeno seemingly was caught red-handed smuggling arms to Lipara as part of a plot. The dialectician was arrested and cross-examined under torture.

Unintimidated, he implicated all the tyrant’s own friends, aiming to strip him of support, then beckoned the tyrant himself to approach, as if to tell him something for his ears only.

Nearchus or Diomedon was fool enough to comply.

The tyrant likely had not read Zeno’s philosophical tracts and was unacquainted with his logic.

Zeno bit the tyrant’s ear and could not be removed until he had been thoroughly and definitively stabbed to death.

Also according to Diogenes, Demetrius in his Homonymoi says Zeno bit off Nearchus’ or Diomedon’s nose.

Another story is retailed by Antisthenes in his Diadochai, according to Diogenes.

Supposedly Nearchus or Diomedon asked Zeno who else was in the plot. Zeno shot back, “You, curse of the city!”

Zeno then addressed the bystanders and said he marveled at the cowardice of those who, for fear of enduring what he was going through in cross examination, were counted among the tyrant’s slaves.

Finally, according to Antisthenes though Diogenes, Zeno bit off his own tongue and spat it out in Nearchus’ or Diomedon’s face. At this point it is not clear whether Nearchus or Diomedon still had both ears and a nose. According to this last story Zeno’s fellow citizens were so exercised by his defiance they stoned the tyrant to death.

Does Zeno himself survive, tongueless, the story of his own execution?

It is worth noting that Diogenes Laertius retails this last version as that with which most of the authors he had read agreed.

Finally, Diogenes Laertius refers Hermippus, whose account is short and very unsweet: Zeno was cast into a mortar and beaten to death.

This establishes, not how small and inconsequential Zeno, but how large and formidable some ancient Greek mortars must have been.

Diogenes himself in his epitaph of Zeno accepts the story of the mortar:

Zeno, my man, you aimed at a noble deed
In trying to slay the tyrant and free Elea
He caught you and ground you up in a mortar, it is true,
But I say this: he pulverized body, not you.

For “body”. Diogenes Laertius uses soma, and the finish is fairly neat—“soma gar, ouchi de se”, more literally, “indeed body [he beat], but you not at all.”

Among moderns, it is not now fashionable to take Diogenes Laertius too seriously as stylist or critic, rather than as late and bustling collector of references about earlier, more seminal figures. This is true as far as it goes.

Interestingly, however, in this neat little play--soma gar, ouchi de se—Diogenes summarizes in five words the problem that became in another form the so-called body-mind dichotomy, most famously phrased in a much later age by Descartes.

The temptation for English speakers is perhaps to translate, “your body”.

The Greek bears this easily enough: the possessive pronoun need not be stated in regard to one’s own body parts to be understood.

On the other hand, the emphasis of ouchi and the particle de, which separates any emphatic pronoun “you” (su) from soma allow a more general “body” with person and personal possession left unstated.

Whatever it was the Nearchus or Diomedon pulverized, it was not Zeno in essence or anything included in his personhood, grammatical or otherwise.

Does the same apply to the tyrant’s ear or nose?

[copyright EAC 2010]

Monday, February 8, 2010

Deer Park (From Wang Wei)

Deer Park (From Wang Wei)

On the spare mountain no man seen
yet there echo voices about the peak.
Sun scissors sillhouettes on the forest floor
necklacing with diamonds the wet green moss.

[copyright EAC 1985-2010]
Click on image to view at full size

Thursday, February 4, 2010



She hears growling from invisible spirits.

He sees gray ghosts gesturing with their hands
and splitting their sides with laughter.

Old Professor Nicholson used to tell his story over and over:

"Did you hear, " he would say, "what the tailor from Italy
said to the classicist who brought him trousers to be mended?"

Rabelais, raising brown ale to face red like Santa Claus,
clouds over.

Mikhail Bakhtin on the other side of time pauses at his writing desk
staring into string theory.

Petronius dictating the true history of a werewolf
to fearful Trimalchio pauses at the crossroads with quizzical lips.

"Euripides?", says Professor Nicholson.

The question mark is lost in the howling.

[copyright EAC 2010]

Harvard Yard '65 (In Memoriam Jack D'Arcy)

Over the holidays the sun shines sherry—that is Jack.

He turns back to flash thumbs up in a tuxedo.

It is the year of a squadron of picked men assembled before dawn
and walked to Jack’s lookout to sip Kirsch and fly out of the sun
over Mount Ararat.

There is one order: show up.

“Codeword Bagratid”, Jack says and passes the cherry liqueur.

Norman to bone, Jack has the high ground on the ivied Yard wall, second floor.

On one side he reconnoiters dangerous Widener, on the other the Hayes Bick

where he gets his grilled cheese and tomato.

Who knows—would you prefer a prose resume
sequined in the commoditized time of Capitalism?

Harvard kept us together in the same tent, rent by war and flying apart.

That itself is fine art.

There is no end of tales save telephoning after death.

The new secretary says: “There is no Jack D’Arcy here.”

No Strongbow in Dublin? But this is the number to his office—no Jack?”

She would check and be right back.

I am very sorry to have to tell you this in this manner. You are his friend? Oh dear! Jack died suddenly of a heart attack. He no longer works here.

Don’t stay down long, Jack. On the Vineyard there's a bar with iced glass steins, high-frothed head,

and Patricia Irish-eyed brown to share a bed.

[EAC copyright 2010]

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Vitruvia Nova

Vitruvia Nova

This is the new temple,

four quadrants of sky still curious and blue.

Cloaked with leaves by the sea, mother of all,

be she of marble on the sere beach,

waxed nude in every crevice

and standing shy with glowing leaves.

She breathes devices so far distant now--

in the next step by a stranger

beyond the anger that fed us,

beyond the softness and smiles

that healed, beyond the bed

of every day myths, delighting

in wild and different notions.

Only yesterday is the line time of encircling ocean

smiling from here to here.

Some lives grow gold and that is a way of finding them.

Others rush forward in a mad crowd on the strand

when one tries to remember which day

appeared on the sand loveliest and far graced.

Was she youngest and most patient?

Was she wisest and most ancient?

Was she most treacherous and loyal,

straight-laced and most royal,

lecherous and most unspoiled?

This is a new temple,

four quadrants of still curious blue.

What shall we do?

[copyright EAC 2010]

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Bone: Writing For The New Age

Identifying self with the counting number one brings the individual into seeming being, as counting a particular finger of a hand as a separate item brings one aspect of the whole into focus and, the process turned back on itself, defines hand as sum of five.

“The individuum”, says Thomas Aquinas, following Aristotle, “is ineffable.”

To wit: “What is counted as one individual item is unsayable.”

The sense of individuality—that you are yourself and no one else and also singular—is the function of a mask in a drama. The mask is the persona who speaks as the counting number one. In theater the unspeakable becomes speakable. But every persona is an aspect of the play, even when the play is only one character.

For the ancient Greeks only the leading characters of tragedy spoke as individuals. The chorus, which sang together as the many, provided the sea on which the tragic heroes and heroines met their shipwreck as individuals.

In one sense the flaw of the hero or heroine in the very mode of Greek tragedy as a medium is in every case the tragic figure’s individuality.

The history of Christianity in the West is a play upon the construction of separate selves out of an ancient pagan world that no longer exists. The stage is the God of the Old Testament whom the Jewish priests had already separated from the Tribe, as the hand is separated from the fingers when only what is counted is the focus.

The Tribal God, elevated to the status of God of All by the Jewish priests, is elevated by Christ, the anti-priest, into the God ruling not the Tribe, but every finger counted as one on the hand.

Beginning in henotheism and ending in a universalized monotheism, the Jewish priests constructed—that is separated out—one God of and for all.

Christ in turn variegated one God for all into one God for every individual counted as an individual and cardinal number one.

The Sanhedrin led by the High Priest saw into the bottom of the matter: in Christ’s teaching it was not the one God which was under attack but the all that was the Tribe.

“Have you not thought it through”, says Caiaphas the High Priest to the Sanhedrin, “that it is more expedient for you that one man—heis anthropos—die for the people than that the whole nation—holon to ethnos—be destroyed”? (John 11.50).

Interestingly enough, John adds as an aside that Caiaphas was not speaking on his own—aph’ heautou—but in his capacity as High Priest was truly prophesying the death of Christ for the same whole that was the ethnos or nation.

The logical aspect, once clearly seen, is the ground of enduring myth and speculation, for it is a drama acted out by roles defined seemingly as singular--Christ, Caiaphas, Herod, Pilate and so forth--but is none other in its bones than a piece of theater whose plot is the ancient Greek philosophical problem of the one and the many.

Caiaphas, not as one man—heis anthropos—but as High Priest and voice of the ethnos—condemns an individual to die for the calculated good of the whole.

And, according to John, Caiaphas does so as an act of valid prophecy, though perhaps unknowingly to him as an individual.

The twist is that Caiaphas’ prophecy is to the effect that the whole that is the hand will be benefited by the sacrifice of a finger, but is in that very statement about the separability of an individual—heis anthropos—the recognition of individuality as what can be defined and cut off from the life of the group not only without harm but to advantage.

In denying the life of the particular man--heis anthropos--as beneficial to the Tribe, therefore, Caiaphas actively recognizes the individual man who must be condemned as Christ, and in essence redefines the ethnos of the tribe he seeks to preserve as the sum of a plurality of members defined as individual and separable without loss.

This drama, published to the world that followed as various versions of “Christianity”, is the seed from which grew the modern pathology of individualism in both the secular and sacred worlds of the West, ultimately abstracted by Leibniz into the philosophy of monadology, in which the universe is a collection of monads, that is, a plurality of completely isolated and separable individuals counted as the sum of a collection of cardinal number ones.

Monadology, then, is the ultimate abstraction of the modern Christian, that is mainly Protestant, eschatology.

With the extension of one version of Christian metaphysics to economics, Calvinism--as Max Weber saw in attempting to add a non-material and metaphysical dimension to Marx--reconstitutes the whole of productive activity in the profane world as the stage upon which the sum of the elect evidence their particular salvation as a countable sum of individuals, that is, as separable and distinct fingers comprising the one and only saved hand.

Society as the sum of countable individuals is society as simple arithmetic. The logic is more entertaining and dramatic.

From the sacred Christian drama in which the individual, Christ, sacrifices for a new all, which sacrifice both Caiaphas and John agree on, the Calvinism of modern Protestant Capitalism moves to a diametric opposite materially, that is, to the sacrifice the whole for the individuum, understood as the individual self and ego of the Capitalist.

In one version this is the return to the primordial war of all against all—bellum omnium contra omnes—of Thomas Hobbes, which, nicely enough, can also be translated as the “war of each against each.”

This does not mean, however, that the Capitalist mentality is always and ever in a war of dog against dog. Even Capitalists, as Marx saw, operate collectively as a class, just as Leibniz’s monads could mirror one another and communicate through symbols, as well as act in concert.

What Marx did not see as significant—in fact implicitly accepted in his economic analysis—is that the collective action is the collective action of individuals each separable and countable as one.

[copyright EAC December 2009]

Reprise à trois


I have learned a lot
in the past half decade.

I have learned to make
a good cup of coffee to begin the day.

I am often out of cream.

Sometimes I have planned ahead
and have bought evaporated milk,
the use of which I learned from you,
for just such emergencies.

I have not learned to sew.

Just so you know.

Outer Child

For every child in you
there is a bright and shiny Heraclitus
coppery with sunrise
like a new penny.

Except when it rains.

Then it is anything German or British,
like the charge of a lancer in fog.


If it is gentle and distant
it may do.

If it is a business meeting
or a presentation I will have to pass.

Unless the audio-visuals are good.

If it is a debate or an argument,
it’s wasting all our time,
knock on wood.

If it is a walk down memory lane
it is always too early.

If it is exploratory
it is never too late.

If it is a prayer breakfast
I’ll be there as an observer.

If it is a date on the calendar
it will have to be the full moon.

If it is check boxes with multiple choice
it may as well be noise.

If it is a secret rendez-vous
with destiny with no one knowing
whether we are coming or going
who could say no? I’ll bring
my valise.

[copyright EAC 2010]

Friday, January 8, 2010

Pronaos: How The Temple Should Face

Do snakes shed universes
when they shed their skin
and then grow new ones
in the space between?

Does a spinning top
remember where it has been
and try to right itself
when pushed from its beginning way?

How many innings are there
in a baseball game no one wins?

Are all containers the same?
Is every continent a moving picture
drifting toward the southern pole?

Is there any need for Eden?
Does the part need the whole?

Doesn’t every fable
begin in the middle
to wend its way day by day
little by little toward many ends?

[copyright EAC 2010]