Ode to the Body of a Poem

After Rosmarie Waldrop’s Lawn of Excluded Middle


Say I hold darkness deeply, as if blind, fathoming enough to hear penetration tumbling into emptiness, (O) poem, into longing tumbled to. Still I desire you, your excluded lawn, even as your lawless body turns riverine, oceanic. But listen as this sentence casts us into line, sputters on what surges past my hands, calling beyond my tongue. In my mouth, I wonder if the words gathered into darkness are shells, to be shelled, or the shelling itself. How can a word like middle be itself the act, the cracking open of a distance? Like stealing time out of the backward, as if you could reel the abscissa uncut, incoordinate, chasmic. To skew the line you aren’t, though pricked by every point, I pull this alignment out of myself. 


A line recast, I ravel my ladder of lists, strands pulling other strands, white weave between your lungs. To look through veined windows is to see a few words beyond the masquerades of seeing through. A few arrows penetrate my mind and lodge there a moment, making me their quiver, their pointing to wherever I turn. Bright churn of sand, a dance with density. Light’s tap on my shoulder has meaning too, delight, but also faux transparent walls, the all’s clarity blushing blue through windows rising up and beyond my own.


The dance is in being swept up, in sending clarity thither. But how to dance as I sweep up afterwards, pulling the scatter toward myself, the minutes long, to get each bit, here, in this small dot. A full stop once arrived at I’d like to either gulp down or curl up inside of. But the sentence is not satisfied, and pushes me beyond myself, the clutter of my choices clattering toward you. Is the first breath in, or doubt? Though only one hand holds the pen, I hesitate. “The meaning of certainty is getting burned.” Rewriting these lines, I drag readings older, beds of toil, smoldering with each word not chosen.


One of those words is “woman,” another “logic.” What I leave to assumption would resist my definition. A girl has her hour of waltzing in the middle, false with truths and true with falsehoods, a pleasant diversion from the logic of opposition. Until the girl is swirled away to seal the empty center of a woman’s body. But what if the girl won’t stop dancing, won’t let emptiness settle, wait, weight—until she can dip her mind down into that hollow? She who knows this cannot save me, seems to sing from your body’s silences.


A line is the shortest distance between two points, but what if one point lies where the body is naught? In lieu of lines to and fro, the labyrinth where I lose myself, mywords, to wonder a way back into the world. Making my point there less linear, more poetic. Less my own, and more my own. Certain echoes are inaudible until I realize the language of my voice is not my own. But the voice can’t be heard without the body’s tone, which you touch in your space of absence. To move from that point, the logic is alternate, and thus one of a countless number. The cipher of logics beyond logistic, in the logistics of the particular bodies where they lodge.


One postulate beginning with myself: one body of a mind: a particular tree, its ramifications elastic, with the birds that lodge there, given points in time. My hands have branched into your book, two wings on a spine that some streak of vastness never leaves. In the same way an idea comes and goes before the sky can leave the bird. Limbs stretching after flight, the body of a mind has to settle for pedestrian arms and legs. I set aside my reading, walk, reach my fingers toward the sky, ready to trace its comings and goings. Awaiting which I smash into the fact of a tree I can no more enter than my own postulate of a body.


An older woman will fall into the middle, nearly excluded from the marketplace. Her meaning will be lost from its translations, the wearing down from one side to the other. Still, she must pull the weight of pride toward the height of age until, dragging face behind her, she falls. Older drops to old, and by the logic of the transaction, older is younger than old, is emptiness still shriveling. Shriveled, the woman rises up bold toward the final heights, from which fear has fallen away. A compact with a center ready to sluice down darkness wide, she leaps toward prayers once woven from rim to sky, nets netting nets, a knife between her lips.


Until the fatal stab words slice through our inner and outer chains of speech, reading curves back to writing, writing to reading. Curve of world, the apple’s curve, in laws collapsed, apple of the middle: your apple. Desire moves us to constraint, until we fall neither toward nor away, but perfectly astray—figures of pure breach? The presentiment of which may flood the heart, the need to seduce or possess washed away by the fathomless in language, lasting the space between two sentences. To fall deeply in love while reading is to arc back over this, writing.


Unto the blank with black script, into the gulf of white scroll, waves breaching, ways, on earth as in the clouds, the same ambivalent ocean. Swimming its waters, I no longer struggle to keep my eyes open. Darkness doesn’t seek admission into their twin rooms, but glides body through mind. Where I don’t see, I swallow you, a way of thinking passing through my body, where the remoteness of meaning drifts into doubt.


Or words mean so fast, so nutshell neat, that distance doubts. Poem to body, body to poem, between metaphors, mystaphors, distance curves away desire’s curving toward: in the cave behind convexing lenses, I shadow-punch the line, supercilious in its single dimension, bent as I am on shaping away the tyranny of either end, or the exclusion of what their binary is “not.” Distance crazes, cracks open invitations

to step into my own breach
, to war,
   woman the girl, eat gap, her
gape, law you less
                  and less
       land messy
in the abyss, tumble to
more than I can mumble






In Curves to the Apple, the final page of Rosmarie Waldrop’s Lawn of Excluded Middle:


1. The law of excluded middle is a venerable old law of logic. But much can be said against its claim that everything must be either true or false.

2. The idea that women cannot think logically is a not so venerable old stereotype. As an example of thinking, I don’t think we need to discuss it.

3. Lawn of Excluded Middle plays with the idea of woman as the excluded middle. Women and, more particularly, the womb, the empty center of the woman’s body, the locus of fertility.

4. This is not a syllogism.

5. This is a syllogism.

6. Poetry: an alternate, less linear logic.

7. Wittgenstein makes language with its ambiguities the ground of philosophy. His games are played on the lawn of excluded middle.

8. The picture of the world drawn by classical physics conflicts with the picture drawn by quantum theory. As A.S. Eddington says, we use classical physics on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and quantum theory on Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday.

9. For Newton, the apple has the perplexing habit of falling. In another frame of reference, Newton is buffeted up toward the apple at rest.

9 bis. The gravity of love encompasses ambivalence.”