By Peter Halstead

Far be it for the world to mimic
What is merely metonymic,
Although it must be one of nature's goals
To show just bits of giant wholes,
And replace the impenetrable arts
With more fathomable parts,
Straightforward means and ends
That a sailor comprehends
To be not simile or metaphor,
But what the heavens really stand for,
So a corner of the greater sky
Fills the anxious searching eye
With all the comets, trees, and land
The intellect can understand,
As what we see is what we get,
The entire world's silhouette,
Not the planet, just the cave,
The titanic ocean wave by wave—
Leaving it to some on shore
To suspect there might be more.

November 6th, 2002


This is also a poem about idea golf—that is, linking one railroad track to another, until at last the distant bay is attained by a chugging locomotive.
Metonymy is a devious form of thinking in which the poet, up to no good, substitutes the easy, chummy part for the impossible, frozen whole. That is, a poet sees only a part of the universe when he looks at a sky, or a dandelion, but to him, a small hiker lounging in a large meadow, that cloud or flower drags along with it soil, roots, earth, and planet. Blossoms come with consequences, and words are not used lightly, because they wear so many fashions and must be coordinated.
Sailors use patterned flags, or semaphores, hoisted on the rigging as letters and symbols to suggest ideas to distant ships and distant readers. Those semaphore letters are thus similar to similes, parts which, taken together, suggest ships, which, in turn, suggest weather, storms, pirates. Each increasingly difficult transition between letters, words, ideas, and maritime piracy involves metaphor, which is, as the poem describes it, a symbol, a stand-in, a part which hints at what the whole means, a clue to what the view is.
We need to see more symbols; the reality might be too much. For similar reasons, the face of god cannot be beheld in certain religions, not that the chance is typically offered.
It stands to reason that if we see a small bit of blue, peeking between leaves or apartment buildings, then there must be more, and if we thus see tiny examples of fate here and there, that somewhere there must be an even more ineluctable conspiracy of cause and effect. That is: inference, metaphor, jumping to foolish and revelatory conclusions, are offerings, gifts we discourage at our own risk.
The poem says nothing about god. That inference is the final, off-the-page, leap. It seems an obvious one, possibly because I am a poor poet, always trying to make ends meet, or make means mean.