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David W. Parsley

Interference (an Ode)

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Interference (an Ode)


"... our proper place is on the mainland of doing."
The Existential Pleasures of Engineering, S. Florman

"No word in my vocabulary could express greater
hatred than Interference... a transcendental Interferer."
Surprised by Joy, C.S. Lewis


The mainland of doing: it sounds right, the place we all
concern ourselves with, when it comes to it.
Whatever misted river mouths, atolls,
or sun-bright archipelagoes intuit
collective or single transcendence, this is where
I find myself most often moored, awake
to conflicts though positive in my logic, blind
to fiend or ally in the sky. Even here
I can't force views to resolution, stake
my bets on weights and measures, facts revised

as they are gathered. I strive for whites and blacks,
attempt twin grails of certainty and completeness.
It's all been tried before. Spinoza hacks
the Elements of Euclid, hoping to tease
bared beauty into truth. Aquinas shines
The Metaphysics onto Paul, prime mover
yet unmoved. Each narrative finds paradox
tracing new veins in Heisenberg's temple. Signs
mark interference patterns at the verge
of repeatable outcome. Measure what's there and is not.

Cloud banks and planetary rings reveal
themselves by what does not get through. Circuits
imagine hurricane's dervish arms to the pixel
according to what is absorbed or reflected. It's
the inside-out of detection: occultation;
scatter; absence made epiphany;
conflict enacting self-invented order.
History unveils its guided intention
in what the victors suppress as much as by
their writings. Opacity defines our borders.

And spoilers abound. Interferers great
and small derail each feat which seems to range
extremes of magnitude from washing plates
to space missions, an agency of wrong
endemic to each enterprise. Equipment
exhibits hum and crosstalk, crazing, pinch point
and purple plague, stress corrosion, bug,
gremlins, glitches, daemons: evident
some incompatibility or joint
objective in collision. Or just bad luck.

Look at space missions: start with statement of need,
objectives; proceed to nail the operations
concept, constraints, a few specifics, key
parameters - instantly there are channel and station
commitments, agencies with signal strength
and bandwidth limits, protocols. It goes
downhill from there. Each discipline then marshals
best practice, expertise, a regiment
of method sure to clash another's close
held standards. All solutions realized are partial.

Proximity breeds interference. Descend
thought's diving bell to where conductors bundle
and sprawl like a culture in miniature, contend
their individual voices amid the rumble
of machines rotating remote to the drama moved.
Transform enabling power's peculiar angst.
Pluck signals from the thrumming. Isolate.
Disrupt return paths masking message. Narrow
loops to thwart extraneous coupling amongst
those varied assertions till squiggles emerge, dilate

in aggregate clarity to mission's compass.
Then come dry runs, scrubs, and countdowns, launch
announcing the trial of flight, separations, arrays
deployed to capture sun and downlink. Stopwatch
precision anticipates auroras, plasma
sheets erupting from the poles. Each orbit
discovers South Atlantic Anomaly's
irradiant surge, pepper of cosmic ray
through fragile memory. Improbably, bits
come through like the stuttering tongue of Demosthenes.

Perhaps this is the labor's secret glory
though performed for the purpose of others. Outlast.
Engineer the questioner's wakened proxy
among atoms and the void, celestial blasts:
detect and designate Earth's rocket plumes
according to their duties; image and sound
the Cat 5 for wind speed, breadth, and depth of surge,
cueing alerts from the coastlines; profile moons'
acetylene lakes or jets of ice unbound
to streak across the hexagon pole of Saturn.

I sometimes dream up missions of my own
fined-tuned to inform noumena of my choosing.
Expense no object, only to match each probe
its target phenomena. Through interposing
time and distance, span of existence, how
breach veils predating pagan myth emplaced
like slabs between the measure and understanding?
Apprising limits inherent to the prow
of detection tasked uncharted arid waste
or toxic vapors, architect the pending

surrogate: surrendered drone, or free
flying navigator. Dare consequence
and edge the limits of autonomy.
Innovate. Endow genetic controls, inference,
self-healing assemblies, neural nets. Implant
random walks and registers, paradox
handlers agnostic of outcome. As data read
out in prayer bead staccato, decant
the pure confession as truth. Monitor. Log
what is broken or pained. Tally the charges of need.

How to ask if need drives the framing of worlds?
Perhaps the ghost of it haunts like hum in tradition
and writ, our own limbic fires, operators;
transcendence moving with Jehovah volition
on laborer, craftsman, self-deposing prince.
Could seven of forty days disclose constraints
derived from creation? What is implied: sequence?
Or iteration? Could even omnipotence
resuming our conflicted self-healing domains
not break on its own shore of benevolence?

Place incarnation in the wilderness
of us, drift of plates rupturing at our fault lines.
Withdraw. Here the isolate ghost quickens
naked from birth to the scatter of signs
and roads that channel our brief congregate coming
and sunder. At what point does experience part
shared atlas to its own bearing and faculty?
Inexpert, the rest of us seek more mundane working,
partial solutions, touching the hem of standard
injustices: conflict, choice, feasibility,

chance. It feels like injustice. Belonging and not
belonging, being and not: my private versions
of paradox pre-Gödel, lacking the comfort
of proof. Accept it as mission? Thrive interference,
divide among my sources. Assimilate
cleft singularities of miracle
and failure, emergence of fact. Wade rivers of smoke
deliberate, defiant. Separate
cleanly my comforts: love, trust, discovery. Call
it contentment. Say I surrendered. Wondered. Woke.

 

previously unpublished
© 2016 David W. Parsley

Parsley Poetry Collection

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Not sure what is going on, with the alternating fonts and sizes. I gave up and just posted it. The poem needs help. Please bring your carving knives. I know it is long - any comments will help.

 

- Dave

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Hi David,

I rarely attempt to read a long poem. Eliot is an exception. He works for me with the variety of rhythms, voices, imagery condensed within a poem like the Wasteland, but with themes bound in narrative and character threads. Of course, he is not everyone's taste. I am not finding a way into the blocks of writing that make-up your Ode. The poem is overwhelmed with abstract thought, driven by intellect rather than the senses. Of course, for other readers the hooks of thought are enough.

 

best

 

Phil

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Hi David, Admittedly I'm not a long poem reader either but I did attempt this. I'm sorry, after the first stanza you pretty much lost me, but in all fairness, these days it's easy to do.

 

I did like the sonics of the piece. Read aloud it sounds like a lofty ode and way beyond my overwhelmed brain.

 

Since I couldnt help you with the composition, I tried to at least assist you with the crazy font thing you had going on. You must have copied and pasted the work. It had different internal HTML code with fonts and sizes that the system here couldn't interpret. I removed the code so at least it is easier to read here. I am sorry but in the process I think I accidentally deleted 2 end words in the 6th stanza lines 6 and 7. I really tried to be careful not to interfere with the poem itself, just the type but like life no amount of care can prevent every accident. Sorry. Please check and correct.

 

~~Tink

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Hi David,

I rarely attempt to read a long poem. Eliot is an exception. He works for me with the variety of rhythms, voices, imagery condensed within a poem like the Wasteland, but with themes bound in narrative and character threads. Of course, he is not everyone's taste. I am not finding a way into the blocks of writing that make-up your Ode. The poem is overwhelmed with abstract thought, driven by intellect rather than the senses. Of course, for other readers the hooks of thought are enough.

 

best

 

Phil

Hi Phil, I am grateful that you took time to attempt this thing, responding to a colleague's request for help. I did know that it would present difficulties, this attempt to compare the act and potential motivations of creation, to the planning and execution of real and fantasized space missions. (Of interest to my friends here: the real space missions described are all ones in which I have had some level of responsibility.)

 

Your observation that the poem seemed to be blocks of writing was helpful. I went back and reassessed the flow of thought and the scansion. I often resonate with Milton's desire to "roughen up" lines of iambic (as he did for "Lycidas", for example), just to avoid overly wooden or singsong movement in my formal poems. But the high incidence of scientific, technical, and philosophic words and concepts here will prevent that anyway. So I did go back and improve narrative flow, and smooth out with more iambics and their close relatives, the anapests. I think it helps!

 

Thank You,

- Dave

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Hi David, Admittedly I'm not a long poem reader either but I did attempt this. I'm sorry, after the first stanza you pretty much lost me, but in all fairness, these days it's easy to do.

 

I did like the sonics of the piece. Read aloud it sounds like a lofty ode and way beyond my overwhelmed brain.

 

Since I couldnt help you with the composition, I tried to at least assist you with the crazy font thing you had going on. You must have copied and pasted the work. It had different internal HTML code with fonts and sizes that the system here couldn't interpret. I removed the code so at least it is easier to read here. I am sorry but in the process I think I accidentally deleted 2 end words in the 6th stanza lines 6 and 7. I really tried to be careful not to interfere with the poem itself, just the type but like life no amount of care can prevent every accident. Sorry. Please check and correct.

 

~~Tink

 

Tinker, thanks so much for all the work you put into eliminating the erratic font jumps that were in this entry. As I mentioned to badger above, I was revising the poem anyway, so I just came in and corrected the occasional error as I went, while also incorporating revisions.

 

Your protest of limited attention span is overly humble. The poem is difficult and I knew it would be. I just needed to get a lot of this out of me and also needed to exercise myself in this form anyway. I am going to need it for at least one section of Notes from the Common Era (I have it in mind for a much more accessible Karntnertortheatre, 1824.) The Keatsian Ode form seems to suit my (yes, lofty) aims for both applications. Most important to me was that the poem reads well and you have confirmed that for me.

 

Many Thanks!

- Dave

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Note on the poem's difficulty. My teacher, friend, and mentor, J. A. Christensen, once remarked, "To understand the poetry of T. S. Eliot, one must have read everything that he ever read and thought everything he ever thought." Whatever the merits of that perspective, there is every possibility that this ode risks falling into such a category. A few things to say on that point:

 

1. Okay, I mention by name nine separate scientists, philosophers, apologists, theologians, and engineers in this poem. For those who are acquainted with the appropriate works of these authors (i.e. “read everything that [David] ever read”), they may have managed to divine my intention to indicate known limitations of several known systems of thought. In addition to those named I also allude to, or hint at, other methods and metanarratives (e.g. logical positivism.) All have taken damage from some sort of difficulty inherent to their underlying logic systems or methods, whether it be by paradox (Russell and his ken), uncertainty principles (Heisenberg et al), chaos theory, incompleteness, or inconsistency (talk to Gödel and his successors.)

 

2. But even these diviners may be stonewalled by a few thoughts introduced in stanza eleven (for example), because they are probably speculations of my own making. Most prominent is that seven-of-forty-days thing – it reflects a notion of mine that perhaps the seven days of creation were actual 24-hour days spent by Moses on Mt. Sinai. That is, seven of the forty days that he spent getting the lowdown from God himself, from which resulted the Ten Commandments, the tabernacle plan, and the “five books of Moses” a.k.a. the Torah (or, Pentateuch.) The first of those books is known as Genesis. What if God thought He should spend a week setting a context for all that was to follow, by revealing the sequence (or iteration?) of the act of creation. It would have been a lot to absorb. It still is.

 

3. Naturally I also refer to any number of works of literature here. I am disinclined to produce a full set of notes, but can’t resist pointing to a fine sonnet by Edna St. Vincent Millay, “Euclid Alone.”

 

4. There has been a significant amount of evidence-based medical science generated in the investigation of transcendent experience in human beings. The work that first caught my attention was, “Why God Won’t Go Away; Brain Science and the Biology of Belief,” written for non-specialists by researchers in the field, Andrew Newberg, M.D., Eugene d’Aquili, M.D., and Vince Rause. Among the more fascinating results is an observable (quantifiable?) link between such experiences and the brain's limbic system.

 

Cheers!

- Dave

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