Triptych (for the Beginning of Time) - Odes (2004-07)

piero scaruffi
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"I've been looking for
you: where are you?
Are you in your articles?
Are you in your poetry?
Are you with your friends?
I can't find you anywhere.
You go to everywhere,
but it seems that you
have lost yourself."
(Letter from my friend Tao Zhu,
Beijing, february 2006)

Prelude - Ode to Nothingness


It only makes sense to write
of what one knows nothing of.

"You are something
that everybody else
is doing. Elsewhere."

I comprehend the answers,
but the questions elude me.

"A paradise shimmers
on the other side
of your mind. Your
mind is not yours.
The more the less".

The question is not
"why" but "how":
how can we be?

To understand is to forgive,
or, at least, to silently recast
the fiction so that it will
tell a story with the same
plot but a different ending.

(And what if god is one of us?
What if i am god, and a divine
amnesia has erased the world
as it was supposed to be?)

Part 1. Eros - Invisible Architecture


  1. (Ode to You)

    "The symphony of crystals
    that explodes in your eyes
    when nobody is looking
    will it outlast
    its echo, or sink
    heavier than the I
    into oblivion's
    ever recurring
    nightmare?"

    (We speak as if
    we were one soul
    in one universe
    instead
    of multitudes
    of yesterdays
    in waterfalls
    of emptiness).
  2. (Ode to Birth)

    I hear the sound
    of the other side,
    and louder every hour,

    the melody inside the egg,

    the tide that lulls us
    ante litteram,

    before anything is revealed,

    the glacial erosion
    that accounts for the
    unexpected crevice
    on the way to our
    salvation,

    a clangor of obelisks, crosses
    and prayer-wheels, always farther
    away than you plot them to be,

    the cracking of the shell,

    the divine hourglass
    bleeding stars on horizons,

    the buzz of the giant brain,
    each moon a neuron
    that pumps blood into the others,
    each galaxy a super-thought
    that thinks itself and all.
  3. (Ode to Knowledge/ I)

    Consciousness is all reality.
    There is nothing beyond
    consciousness, although
    there might be something
    out there, after all.
    Reality dwells at the edge
    of infinity. It constitutes
    a border, a line drawn
    in the sand, a twisting
    contour of days, the crest
    of the wave as it crashes
    upon the reef, the horizon
    as it sinks at sunset
    in the eyes of the castaway.
    The fabric of reality
    has been torn by a godless
    supernatural order.
    We emerged from that crack.
    I am the experience
    of myself, as i survived
    the cataclysm and saw
    the other drown. I swam
    to shore, therefore i am.
    Whatever can be know,
    i am it.
  4. (Ode to Chaos)

    The wind wove our shadows
    into the fabric of twilight
    as we stared at the city,
    at the swarms of fireflies
    trapped inside their nests
    all around the silent bay;
    the uncoordinated design
    of all those stories
    looming upon us like
    perpetual premonitions
    of one momentous event
    that would at last impose
    a new magnificent order
    on the surrounding chaos.
    Yet, the vast dark skies
    of your eyes reflected
    a different world, one
    without them.

    I wanted to tell you
    that the invisible becomes
    visible from above.
    Seeing the unseeable
    seemed a logical way
    to end our journey.
    But your smile was asking
    for far less: atoms of sense
    to crack the obscure koan
    of the future.

    (When you looked outside
    to the distant hills,
    you missed perhaps
    the blooming flowers
    behind you).

    I watched you plant
    the seeds of sunrise
    into the heavens (amid
    the receding rumbles
    of a postponed
    apocalypse).

    Let us walk
    to the end
    of the world
    and find out
    what lies
    beyond.
  5. (Ode to the Butterfly)

    The ghost of you lingers
    long after you have been
    devoured by the thought
    of another feverish sun
    that never truly set,
    long after the tedious
    frail progress of time
    has relented its grip
    on my unwelcoming mind.
    We stare at each other
    across this miniature
    universe that centuries
    of geological disasters
    chiseled like an austere
    monument to mortal love,
    knowing without knowing,
    butterflies that flutter
    for a day and that think
    it will be forever.
  6. (Ode to the Moon)

    I recede from the visible universe
    in the opposite direction to the Moon,
    the blunt scythe harvesting nights,
    while the endless agony of gravity
    leaks the lost alphabet of stars
    in which sunrise will be written.

    The waters curling in the air
    disturb the withered horizon,
    still flickering, still hissing,
    and its calm, unwinding murderer.

    Darkness, perhaps, is the true fire,
    burning all echoes that wouldn't stop.
    It is the edge that we wouldn't cross,
    that we ought to smelt until it glows.

    I cannot fathom an ending to this fear,
    i the bleeding shell played by tides,
    i the sand castle melting in the foam,
    i the vanishing footprint with no name,
    i the drop of steam exploding in the surf:
    the fear of being lost;
    the fear of being found;
    the fear of running too fast;
    the fear of flying too high;
    the haunting fear, perhaps,
    of not fearing enough.

    The moon unleashes its wake of dreams,
    like an oracle that foretells the end.
  7. (Ode to the Reader)

    I am the reader
    of the reverse book
    that creates its author,
    the reader's lover.

Part 2. Thanatos - Cognitive Archeology


  1. (Ode to Life/ I)

    How can life
    be so fragile?
    How can my life
    mean so little
    to so many?
  2. (Ode to Death)

    I am afraid of how
    afraid i will be.

    I am myself
    only when
    i think
    of death;
    the fictions
    recede,
    and become
    philosophy;
    and philosophy
    science,
    and science
    history,
    history
    of the self.

    "This is, after all,
    my last will,
    and one, for once,
    of no beginning,
    of no memories;
    and of no ending.
    Nothing. Nobody.
    Nowhere.

    May the last minute
    be like the first one,
    an act of reversing
    the non-existence
    of centuries gone,
    redeeming a past
    both vividly remembered
    and never experienced.

    "Always" and "never"
    are the two sides
    of each instant.

    For the time being
    the ultimate question
    remains unthought,
    a redundant postscript.

    Death towers
    over all else.
  3. (Ode to Truth)

    A good day to die: is there such a day?
    I wonder if there is a good day
    for giving up, if there is a moment
    in time that matters more (or less)
    than the rest of time, the moment
    when the final syllable forms
    of the solemn convoluted speech
    we have been preparing for a day
    that we don't know has come.

    Life seesaws between moments of truth
    and the glaring truths of a moment.
  4. (Ode to the Dead)

    The city
    of the dead
    predated
    the city
    of the living.

    Death makes life
    how we know it.

    We, the dead,
    are the sole
    architects
    of our existence.
    The building,
    of course,
    exists only
    while it is
    being built.

    We master the art
    of what can be said
    without saying it,
    and we leave this life
    without quite knowing
    how to fully explain
    what happened to us.

    (Nothing that can be
    perceived, is worth
    learning). In a sense,
    there is no sense.
    In the same sense,
    sense is all there is.
  5. (Ode to the Sky)

    Are there other planets
    on which the sky is blue?

    As a child, i often
    wondered if everybody
    died but me, if i was
    the only immortal.
    As an adult, i wonder
    what it would be like
    to be the only one
    who dies, the only
    mortal among
    immortals.
  6. (Ode to the Mother)

    Something about the mortality
    of your own mother strikes you
    as a cosmic revolution.
    The decomposition
    of that familiar body
    that will never reappear
    has changed the universe
    and the temporal dimension
    forever. "Now" morphed
    into a different category,
    that is less about time
    than about rebirth.
    She is leaking her soul,
    into the earth, slime
    to be collected
    by the rains
    of future worlds.

    Before the funeral
    i had read about the sky
    not being blue except
    on this planet. While
    marching in the procession
    down the deserted streets
    of her native village,
    i stared at the sky,
    not at the coffin.

    I did hold infinity
    in the palm of my hand:
    pebbles, shells, berries, twigs,
    lichens, crystals, bubbles,
    leaves, petals, and, closer
    and closer, pecks of dust,
    pollen, flecks of dirt,
    a simple dot of nothing.
    Eternity, though, evokes
    a furtive snake that winds
    its way on a sand dune,
    whittling furrows of powdery
    breeze as it vanishes
    in a dazzling mirage.

    The distance
    from being
    to not being
    is a blue sky.
  7. (Ode to the Fossils)

    Who
    is listening
    to my complaint,
    who shall deliver
    the sentence,
    and who
    shall remain
    to dispose
    of the coral
    that no ocean
    will ever
    claim as bait?

    What is death?
    What is it
    that is happening
    to me, to us,
    to them? We "are"
    death. We are
    born fossils,
    but we die
    brains.

Part 3. Chronos - Sidereus Nuncius


  1. (Ode to Spacetime)

    In the face of
    the endless free fall
    shaping our universe,
    what is one expected
    to expect?
  2. (Ode to the Past)

    How odd
    that we
    experience
    the past
    before
    the future
    when, in fact,
    it is the future,
    not the past,
    that we desire.
    And how odd
    that we
    are so eager
    to learn
    the future
    when, in fact,
    the ultimate
    future is
    our eternal
    death.
  3. (Ode to Memory)

    Memories are often similar to stars,
    grouped in clouds of curious shapes,
    flotsams of past ignited by darkness,
    unfinished and immutable, dead and,
    yet, alight with bonfires of worlds;

    remote glimmers of an intimate eternity
    beyond the boundaries of public mortality.

    Memory is a lantern

    to walk in the tunnel
    that we dug,
    to dwell in the cave
    that we chose.
  4. (Ode to the Future)

    All we hear
    when we whistle
    is the echo
    of a silence
    shouting at us
    the beginning
    that we forgot.

    (When a shining maze
    of timeless filaments
    morphed into the soul
    of everything
    and everywhere,
    the future,
    not the past,
    was created).

    We could remember
    ourselves before
    we existed, but,
    mostly, we don't
    want to. Memory
    of the future
    is less painful
    than of the past.

    Hence there are no traces
    of our secret journeys
    to the source of life.

    The aimless carillon
    keeps playing its tune
    across space and time.
    The beaches, glimpsed
    from far away, do not
    reveal any harbor, or,
    for that matter, any
    route.
  5. (Ode to Meaning)

    If life is nothing
    but a pearl in a casket;

    if the scent that we revere
    as "death" has trailed us
    from birth, permeating
    the very air that we breathe;

    if joy and sorrow are mere
    reflections of algorithms
    that we unwillingly perform
    until we run out of digits
    to be stored and computed;

    if the race is to end with us
    squatting alone in a corner
    and whispering a lost name
    to echo through the maze;

    who will sweep the dead
    leaves from the ground
    when i shut the door
    behind me and follow
    the rainbow towards
    the stately resignation
    of the shore?

    What will keep track
    of one's arrivals and departures
    that, like the sloping ripples
    tattooed on the skin of the lake
    by the sobbing swan moored to
    an invisible center of gravity
    and propelled by the universal urge
    to make the unfamiliar familiar,
    radiate the ancestral meaning
    of one's struggle for survival
    to the rest of the world?
  6. (Ode to Eternity)

    Knowing is not being.

    You can measure eternity, if you
    have to, along the rainbow
    sculpted on the hologram
    of the iridescent thread
    hung by a spider like a note
    between two flitting leaves.

    At twilight a trail
    of ants scoured
    the unfolding
    carcass of a snail.
    A death in the forest
    of a nameless animal
    reminded me
    of the sea shell,
    of the eternal breathing
    of dead beings
    of ages ago:
    no sun could have filled
    the florid spirals
    with so many bits
    of the cosmic speech.
    Wandering inside
    the endless vortex
    of the chalky path,
    like a smiling face
    trapped in a vast
    maze of mirrors,
    the drone was powerless
    to cease and vanish.

    Eternity lasted
    only a second;
    but the present
    shall outlast all.

    Being is not knowing.
  7. (Ode to Space)

    Proust's
    telescope of time,
    memory, amplifies
    distant echoes.
    Remembering
    is compulsory
    time travel.
    The journey
    is endless
    and involuntary.
    Why is the past
    so important
    that we have
    to revisit it
    forever? What
    makes so inevitable
    the impossible?
    Why do places
    that have long
    ceased to exist
    survive and thrive,
    endlessly reshaped
    by our memory?

Part 4. Appendix: A History of Time


There are walls
that we cannot
climb.
There are bridges
that we cannot
cross.

4.a Bridges


  1. (Ode to Nature)

    Nature's disdain
    for truth
    is self-evident:
    the scent
    of the pollen
    disguises
    the bee's true
    intentions.

    The calm
    and articulate
    candor of sunset
    blindfolds the eye
    that is supposed
    to roam the skies
    for signs of life.
    Life is unlike
    death, we are told
    by an inner voice
    or we tell ourselves
    that so we are told.

    To live and be
    like a flower;
    to live and become
    the message itself;
    not a silent, living
    thing at all. Let maya
    unlock the full
    inexplicable power
    of the largest ocean
    of all, the one
    inside us.
  2. (Ode to Childhood)

    When i was a child, the world,
    with all its mysteries scattered
    all around my body, was a question
    that i dared not ask. I was not afraid:
    i was overwhelmed. I did not know yet
    the language that could weave together
    the words, the sounds, the meaning
    which, like a new map, were replacing
    the twitching fabric of my dreams.

    In the wake of the dying kite,
    i understood the meaning of time,
    of everybody's time, of the fear
    that wise ancient masters buried
    in the gilded spires of churches.

    At a beach far away from any ocean,
    i, the observer, stood in awe of life
    and its infinity: i was nowhere nothing,
    but life was always there, and beyond.
    I, the wave, ran deep into the woods
    to feel it into my soul, to learn
    its tongue, boundless strains of myth
    pervading every cell of my brain.

    Since then i, the eigenstate, often toasted
    to the infinity of life, because everywhere
    everything appeared the same, and nowhere
    did nothingness transpire. Life is the name
    for the emerging infinity of all infinities.
  3. (Ode to Myself/ I)

    (The universe
    is easier
    to understand
    sometimes if
    you think of it
    not as a "You"
    but as an "I").
  4. (Ode to the Mirror)

    The mirror
    doesn't know
    whom it reflects.
    And yet a mirror
    is still someone,
    although someone
    else, or multiple
    selves, not itself.
    And, of course,
    that is true
    of each of us.
    Shroud the mirror.
    Bury its soul.
    Release the ghost.
    There is more
    to life than
    your name.

    Everything
    is a mirror,
    isn't it?
    Objects reflect
    each other,
    don't they?
    Each thought as well,
    each action. Reality
    revolves inside
    a hall of mirrors.
    A recursive symbol,
    a baffling spiral
    of nested loops.

    Existence is about
    being a mirror image
    of something else,
    of everything else.
  5. (Ode to Knowledge/ II)

    "You are not afraid"
    "Yes, of course i am"

    No, you cannot be:
    you are fearless
    in a way that you
    have not learned
    to recognize yet.

    (Cohere you could not make it, Ezra,
    but i cannot make it end either).

    The truth is not in you
    or in me, the truth is
    in between, and beyond
    (the stream of consciousness
    of the objects that surround us
    being no less real than ours).

    Time emerges from frail
    fluctuations of reality.
    The future is a reconnaissance
    of invisible territories.
    Unlike what Plato foretold,
    remembering my name in the
    darkest cave was easy enough.

    And suddenly you know,
    and the knowledge of knowing
    repudiates your previous self,
    and you are but a dialogue
    between what you know
    and what you do not know.

    Like a blind man
    i have seen light
    where it was only
    utter darkness.

    Lightning feeds the sky.
    In a sense, the ending has
    been removed from the story.
  6. (Ode to Everything)

    We often confuse
    everything that exists
    and the existence
    of everything.
    It is easier to erase from the universe
    an immortal thing than a mortal one.

    But isn't it futile
    to infer eternity
    from the flow of time?
    The continuity of all lives
    is the discontinuity
    of immortalities.

    Emptiness is full of entities
    that interact with each other
    and vanish into the vanishing
    of the others.

    The world at large
    has evolved into a state
    of being in which its origins
    are no longer what they were.

    Most of the time
    nothing really happens.
    Yet, everything happens
    all the time. There are
    no answers. Only
    questions.
  7. (Ode to Humanity)

    Microscopes
    and telescopes
    allow us to see
    the unseeable.
    By their nature, they
    inject a new mind
    in our body to feel
    the unfeelable.

    Human knowledge
    is bounded
    by the inadequacy
    of our senses
    to connect
    with scales
    larger or smaller
    than ourselves.

    We only know
    the dimension
    that communicates
    through forms
    of energy that
    our bodies can
    intercept.

    The meanings
    that we assign
    to the very small
    and the very large
    are mediated
    by the tools
    that we invent.
    Science translates
    an incomprehensible
    foreign language
    into the vernacular
    of our daily lives
    by replacing our
    sensory experience
    with alluring visions
    of worlds that are
    homologous to ours.

    Our mind, in vacuo,
    could not imagine
    the ontology
    of the world
    that contains us;
    nor of the world
    that is contained
    in us. Reality
    is a runaway loop
    from our minds
    to our tools
    to our minds.

4.b Walls


  1. (Ode to Truth/ Part II)



    If everything begins because there is
    an end to fulfill, why do we feel
    the urge to turn back, and cease,
    abandon the struggle and be less
    rather than more?
    Why do shadows trail behind bodies
    instead of leading them?
    Where are the instructions
    that we are supposed to follow
    for writing the instructions
    that others will follow?

    It seems to me, from this cave
    of ancient thought, that our fire
    is but borrowed light
    whose source always shines
    in the other's gaze.

    Truth is elsewhere, but
    where is elsewhere?
  2. (Ode to Thought)

    Our minds
    have bodies
    that think.

    Bodies
    encapsulate
    the world
    for minds
    to know it.
    The fiction
    of our science
    is the psychology
    of our religion.
    As we focus,
    the focus shifts.
    Thought is
    indeterminate
    to the extent
    that we think
    what can be
    thought.

    Our bodies
    have minds
    that walk.
  3. (Ode to Life/ II)

    When the lights
    are switched off,
    the actors
    begin to see
    the absolute
    truth that lies
    between the curtains
    and the audience,
    and to taste
    the bitter poison
    of the fiction.
  4. (Ode to Tomorrow)

    It happened in a dark
    room of an old wing
    of the campus.
    When someone said to
    the physicist "there's no
    tomorrow", the physicist
    replied "there are only
    tomorrows".

    Lingering on the burden
    of being the interpreter
    of my own nonsense
    (staring at the image
    of myself staring at me),
    i acknowledged the bitter
    truth: the steepest wall
    to climb is inside, since
    what makes us (the wake
    of the seafarer ahead of us)
    is also what consumes us.

    The physicist smiled at me,
    from wherever he was,
    a point in the sky:
    "Tomorrow will be
    someone else's
    yesterday."
  5. (Ode to the Soul)

    When the sudden clouds
    leaked kites on the beach, i had
    a vision of dripping filaments
    of gravity casting silence between
    the ink of these words.
    I felt the ocean was a twitching
    brain transplanted from the skull
    of the sky to the vagina of the earth.
    When the city gates were pried open
    by countless shades of darkness,
    the tales of the survivors
    emptied the night, the drunk
    architecture of their faces draining
    the alluvial floods of their fates.
    So it is that rust forms in the time warp,
    and the universe appears to be
    a vast mirror of my withering
    soul, of this orbiting poem.
  6. (Ode to Light)

    Nothingness envelops
    even the thought of it.

    "We emerged tuned to the harmony
    of creation, languages without
    a voice, voices without a sound."

    (To explain
    the unexplainable
    we often tell it
    in the foreign idiom
    of the explainable).

    We gasped in an abyss
    of meaning.
    Then we were redeemed
    by prophets
    who had survived the
    cataclysm.

    And now, out of the labyrinth
    that science has erected for us,
    we have, unwillingly, become
    prophets ourselves, forever bound
    to create ignorance and apocalypse
    under the pretense of knowledge.

    Everything radiates
    from darkness,
    because only darkness
    can be seen:
    light blinds.
  7. (Ode to Blindness)

    This is, after all,
    a universe of blind beings,
    that do not see the path,
    nor the destination.

    The blind live
    in the world
    that they can hear.
    They visit a place
    by listening to
    its sounds.
    They inhabit space
    that is alive, only
    when it is alive.
    They too are made
    of time, Jorge,
    persistent time.
    They hear
    the ticking
    but they
    cannot watch
    what happens
    to the minute hand
    of the clock
    as it gently drifts
    towards Dali's desert.
    To the blind
    every tick
    is the same.

    Blindness is the absence.
    The absence of reality;
    the absence even of absence.

4.c Footnote: A Theory of the End


  1. (Ode to the Voyagers)

    What needs our restless sorrow
    to carve love in the quartz
    of eternity like the lava flow
    carves a canyon in the flesh
    of the earth, shall need
    our forgiveness.

    (Upon reaching the land
    at the end of the map
    the voyagers discovered
    that the sand was gilded,
    and hastily returned to the boats,
    afraid that, during the night,
    they had missed the proper route,
    and thus resumed the voyage,
    indifferent to siren calls,
    without yet realizing
    that beyond the horizon
    there is no land as such,
    only rewinding of time
    and mirror images of lands
    ransacked and mapped out
    in previous expeditions).

    The map must be turned upside down
    and all names reversed. The world
    looks different, but it is the same.

    Life is not a journey
    and is not a destination:
    it is the perpetual memory
    of something worth living.
    It is the memory of what
    will never be the same,
    all the laughter and tears
    that may never return
    but will forever be here.

    All gather
    around the grave of time;

    Life is a memory
    of itself arising
    from the silence
    of so much grief.

    (The surroundings of life,
    the daily expeditions
    in search of survivors,
    in a word the survival
    itself, are to life what
    the corpse is to death:
    a macabre composition
    of limbs which do not exist
    anymore than the blue
    of the sky exists).

    Our destiny seems to be the waiting,
    our souls lost in form, seeds
    frozen under thick sheets of snow.
    (We are Penelopes not Ulysseses)

    The relation between the distance
    and the destination is a measure
    of the waiting.

  2. (Ode to Life/ III)

    The secret of what is
    lies in the secret
    of what isn't.

    Life is the empty
    sound of what remains...

    ...in the desert,
    the sun flipping
    through the sand dunes
    like a weary librarian
    through the pages
    of a misplaced book.

    Life is a footnote
    to all that was before.

    Life is time in space,
    bounded by thoughts.
    Life is life.
  3. (Ode to Death/ II)

    (Life is about
    finding solutions
    to solvable problems.
    I yearn for the stage
    when, instead,
    we'll find solutions
    to unsolvable problems).
  4. (Ode to Myself/II)

    I am ready.
    But for what?
    A collective or
    an intimate
    apocalypse?

    Is the summit
    the end?
    If not here,
    where?
  5. (Ode to Life/ IV)

    Life is an arcane metaphor
    that we follow to its dead
    end. Slowly we become
    metaphors of ourselves.
  6. (Ode to the Shadow)

    "You don't know what to say."

    ("Lastly we shall see
    more kinds of shadows,
    never the sun as it is" -
    Plato). Life is a question
    in the form of an answer.

    "Yes, i know what to say:
    I don't know how to say it."

    I am god.
  7. (Ode to Silence)

    (As well as the creature
    that i forgot i created).

    "We should speak once,
    and then never again".

    Forgive me
    for not
    forgiving you.

TM, ®, Copyright © 2008 Piero Scaruffi All rights reserved.