Three Poems by Phillip Barron
Slow Progress Ahead
by PHILLIP BARRON
As if allowing
lovers to love
could be apostasy
with stimulus funds
blast apart at the seams,
divide and conquer the Old
North State’s elderly
mountains, pull poplars
down blue ridges, drag
the stumps and stems
that know no suffering
through galax and wedding bells.
The ants crawl past pavers
grading clay, survey
the four corners
of the constitution’s new parking
lot, staunch the bleeding
and burn it all and hope
the view is lovely in the fall.
by PHILLIP BARRON
A levee is a thing to remember when the river starts
to rise, to know intimately as strangers
toss sweaty sandbags sidelong, as many as hands,
but a thing to forget when time is plain.
Don’t ask about its base, terrorist. Don’t ask
about its place, trespasser. It’s made of classified.
But between bureaucrats’ words is space
to trace the embankment of knowable,
like how high a Tomcat will fly or how low
an Ohio will go. With all eyes on a levee,
if you can’t know how the city stays afloat, why trust it?
Like political argot, levees occlude, obstruct
explorers, contain the curious, divert
the determined. Except when they don’t.
by PHILLIP BARRON
“What science can’t accept is some “off-limits” sign at the boundary of the interpretative disciplines.” –Alex Rosenberg, Final Thoughts of a Disenchanted Naturalist
To love wisdom unsettles
in the most satisfying way.
to look humbly
at that which comforts you most
not just pudding and paved streets,
but also antinomian absolutions,
good gods, and all things
to learn the world is but a cave
and the world worth knowing
requires crawling out the rope
ladder of reduction,
to gather the beliefs
you can’t live without,
and label their UHaul boxes fragile,
to pull them behind
in a canted makeshift cart
as you blunder and stagger
through the tulips for the first time
unsure that you know even how to walk
to let the fragiles melt
in the new, brighter light.
And after a while,
to find fresh comfort,
not only in absurd universes,
but in Darwinian induction,
and physicists dangling strings,
knowing all the while
that, with luck, you may live
long and become wise,
so sensitive as to see
the new, brighter light fade,
grow so dim that you notice
the string from which the bulb dangles,
and you wonder how far
it reaches before it too
finds purchase in the chert.
Let us call the strings synapses
and let the bulbs be neurons
and lose no more sleep over
how many turtles Russell can count
how many circles Emerson can draw
how many lines Augustine can divide
or how many caves from which Plato can free us.
A southerner by way of the American South and South America, Phillip Barron now lives in Davis, California. He teaches philosophy and poetry at the University of California, Davis, and recent poetry appears or is forthcoming in Main Street Rag, Counterexample Poetics, and the anthology Airplane Reading. He is a member of the Squaw Valley Community of Writers and an editor of The Squaw Valley Review and OccuPoetry.
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