Thirteen ways of looking at an unseen bird

In response to “Learning the Name” by Ursula K. Le Guin

Read its name in English, such as crow or Swainson’s thrush.
Read its name in Latin.
Look at a picture of a bird of its species and sex.
Write an equation to model its flocking behaviour.
Add its decaying nest to your collection.
Find its bones among black nightshades in the ruins of a harvested field.
Look at the bars on your window, the iron latch on your door.

Study the tree where you think it hides.
Close your eyes and count the shape of its song.
Transcribe its cry into dots and sticks on lines.
Look at your own ears.

Measure the lips of the day-white moon. Threads of sunlight hanging between blue hills. Your eye in a raindrop. The face of a gnat.

Stand under the tree until it shits on the sphere of your head.

From A coat of ashes.
“Learning the Name” is on p. 121 of Finding my Elegy: New and Selected Poems by Ursula K. Le Guin, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt 2010.

Meditation

The horse snorts and bucks and pulls at the reins
But I am not the horse

I’m not his rider either
jouncing her brain up and down
trying to recite calm words

I am the trees and posts
beside the path, the stones, the earth
beneath the hooves, the sky within
which he moves

Not the magpies and skydivers spooking him
Not rain, rainbow, sun, drenching and drying him
I am sky itself
all the way to space

And when he has had his run
I am the stable,
the frame, the six walls
and half-door view
to which at last
he returns

Calculus

We proposed in the mid 1990s that consciousness depends on biologically ‘orchestrated’ coherent quantum processes in collections of microtubules within brain neurons. — Stuart Hameroff and Roger Penrose, “Consciousness in the Universe: A Review of the ‘Orch OR’ Theory.” Physics of Life Reviews 11(1), March 2014, pp. 39–78.

We look for it
in some tiny place
A structure in the brain
A microtubule in a cell
A curled 11-dimensional string

We imagine it
a field, laid out
on spacetime, a matrix
of infinitesimal
points

We try to find it
by going back in time
or collapsing in,
shrinking towards
a singularity

But infinitesimal and singularity
are concepts from calculus,
limits of infinite journeys
We find ourselves caught
in Zeno’s paradox

trying to touch the hub
between the spokes, the doorway
between the jambs, the pause

between the breaths, the ma
between the fragment
and the phrase

From A coat of ashes.
First published in Meniscus 5(1), June 2017.

What is Tao?

Erasure from the Zhuangzi translated by Thomas Merton

out     a hand
down     a foot
a knee
like a dance     what
is Tao?

when I first began
I would see me
all in one mass

after three years I saw

but now I see
with the eye free to work
space finds its own way
I cut no joint chop no bone

a year I have used this
it has cut
its edge
keen
when this finds space
there is all the room

I feel     slow down     watch
hold back     move
and whump the part falls away
like a clod of earth

then I the blade
stand still
clean     and put it away

From A coat of ashes. First published in The Authorised Theft: Writing,
Scholarship, Collaboration Papers
, the proceedings of the 21st Conference
of the Australasian Association of Writing Programs.