The walls are dark here, as the sky.
Nothing to distinguish eye from eye.
        A sea of swimming shapeless night
            Kept from the coordinates of light.
We break worlds up in rods and cones,
Like children playing games with stones,
            And yet the scenes that miss division
            Are the very souls of vision,
The darkened tunnels of the nerves
Where the slightest innuendo serves.
            The mind however needs its zones
            To make a note from semitones,
And suddenly in the roiling black
The gods of geometry attack,
            Rolling off the wooden storm
            To leave on stage a rosy form,
The brain’s remembrance of the window frame,
An object now without a name,
            Stripped of curtains, room, and view,
            Like a pool without the blue,
But nonetheless our bedroom window,
No matter how incognito,
            As if the mind’s real aim
            In seeing isn’t quite the same
As ours, amassing figures like confetti
That aren’t real, but Giacometti,
            As if to say the heart
            Of looking could be art.
But let the cells manipulate—
The objects always come out straight:
            Even random bits of floating white
            Are exactly copied on the right;
All corners of the screen contain
That dancing background of grey rain,
            As if the reticules of memory
            Were the underpinnings of a tree,
Which without its ordered Braille
Might be very like a whale,
            The way computers cannot place
            The bitmap of a human face
Because what gives us each a soul
Is mathematically quite droll—
            Human nature needs a border
            To rescue insight from disorder,
The way magic needs a bright cravat
To pull a rabbit from a hat.

Tippet Alley
July 10th, 1995