Friday, October 21, 2011

More revisions

So lately I've just been revisiting stuff that I felt wasn't quite finished. And for me the White Whale of my work has been the poem "Infinitude of Kisses". The concept was to take a very elegant mathematical proof and use its language as a poem. I really felt like the idea (if pulled off) could be brilliant, maybe even career defining stuff. I got lucky because my first draft got published in Ploughshares, but I didn't like that draft very much and felt it was ultimately unsuccessful at achieving my goal of having the poem parallel the proof's logic. I worked on it and thought I was getting closer and then a few days ago made some more small changes that helped incrementally. I wasn't certain that I grasped the proof well enough to mirror it conceptually. And of course there's the question of how much 'poetic license' I should allow myself. But then I found myself sitting in a 2/5 NL poker game with another player Wayne Lewis who I know has a Ph.D in math and so I decided to ask him a question about a simile in the Al Khwarizmi poem that had been bothering me in terms of its conceptual fidelity. And he confirmed that the line should be changed, so that was good, and then I decided to mention the "Infinitude" poem. Now, I almost never talk about poetry at the poker table if for no other reason than there's almost never anyone to talk about it with. There's a few folk I talk about books or literature with and I very much dig those conversations, but they're usually about fiction. But it's not everyday that you get to talk to someone whose an expert in the field you're referring to. So, I brought it up and ended up actually showing him the poem, since the problem I was having couldn't really be conceptualized without reading the piece. Anyway, he dug what I was trying to do, but wasn't sure I was there. I suggested changing the title and he agreed and said my new title would help because "it would define what the poem was about." It's amazing how such a simple phrase could make such a huge difference. After changing the title several times I came to realize that the problem wasn't with the title, but rather with the fact that the poem itself, which is allegedly a proof, doesn't contain that act of definition. And of course all proofs do. So I changed one line, and BAM! there it was, the whole enchilada; salsa, sour cream, guacamole and all. I revised line 9 to read "where L(f, s)=Love of a Father and Son" which I think sets up everything the poem is trying to do, including demonstrating in a clear manner the way I'm trying to use the variables in the equations. I was worried about all this grand complicated conceptual stuff and the whole problem was actually so simple all along.

(for Little Joel)

Let us define a topology
on the emotion L
by imagining a sub-love L1
to be an open love
if and only if
it either contains
open kisses or it contains
a union of physical sequences
L(f, s),
where L(f, s)=Love of a Father and Son.
In other words,
L1 is open if and only if
every hesitant male heart
that is a member of L1
admits some non-hero condition F or S.
The axioms for a topology
are easily verified:
by definition,
an open mouth kiss is open;
L is just the sequence L(U, I),
and (if true) is open as well.
For any collection of open mouths
the intersection of two
(and hence finitely many)
open mouths is an open kiss:
Let the lips U and I
form open mouths,
then, let the mouths meet.
The topology is quite different
from the usual Cupidean one,
and has two notable properties:
Since any open mouth
can receive infinite kisses,
no finite mouth can be open;
put another way,
the complement of an open kiss
cannot be a closed mouth.
The basic mouths {father, son}
are closed by nature,
but we can imagine L(f, s)
as the complement
of an open mouth as follows:
"There are many kinds of open
how a diamond comes into a knot of flame
how sound comes into a word . . .
. . . Love is a word, another kind of open."

Among the sounds
that are emotional multiples
of open kisses
is rain falling on a field,
i.e. [a topology of touch]
By the first property,
the mouth (raining sky)
cannot be closed.
On the other hand,
by the second property,
the mouth (fallow field) is closed.
So, if there were only
finitely many drops of rain
then the mouths (field, sky)
would be in a finite union
of closed mouths,
and hence closed.
This would be
a contradiction,
thus L(f, s) must contain
infinitely many
kisses falling
on an open mouth.
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