By Peter Halstead

Principle of Operation

Where not but in human seams
Lie the hopes of finding grounds
As indefinable as streams,
As unprovable as sounds,
And who but you, professors
Of the sky, of sun,
To teach your impressionable lessers
Of the bangled spoils won
Through springs and jacks,
Tenon, truss, and bore
That early music lacks,
That righteous men ignore,
Instead of jumping at the chance
To deny the sense of tangle,
The sudden starts of dance,
The fireworks that dangle
From the slats and laths
Of parts, the mortise points
Of sleep, the unshaped paths
That meet at hopeless joints
Where angle, adz, and gable
Admissibly enable angels.


The New York Times, around New Year’s of 2005, asked a group of, in retrospect, craftily selected scientists what they suspected but couldn’t prove. What a chance for romance, for fun, for dreams. Which instead produced monsters, wronged gods. Diatribes against patterns. Bitterness about physics. Denials of “Intelligent Design,” which itself is a fascistic misreading of a Frost poem. I understand that theocratic fanaticism has perversely called attention to avenging deities who seem at best careless curators, but perversion is no excuse for rejecting desire: one lone expert in the article spoke out in defense of true love.
If one should despair of anything, it is of false religion co-opting bad science, of false gods whose bad example demonizes real ones. Of creationism, which sullies, with its leaps into hell, perfectly celestial Buddhism.
Tom Stoppard’s play Jumpers quantifies the arc of metaphor between art and science; it defines the way brilliance plays on brilliance, like day shining from the facets of a diamond. But then there is the dark side, the dull thuds of grounded imaginations that simply substitute religion for science, rather than using both to make fire.
I woke a few days later with this on the tip of my tongue, more of a mood, but the last couplet was already there, suggesting the rest of the poem, the dream mind drifting backwards from the dynamite to the fuse.
A piano has 12,000 moving parts, all to create parts that are abstractly moving. A soundboard is the drum of glued laths off of which pianists bounce hammers and felts to produce music, earth that makes sky.
As one of the scientists noted in the article, the principles on which we operate are not necessarily rational. Thus it follows that logical denunciations of human aspiration do not always follow logically.
In the words “angle,” “adz,” and “gable” are angels rearranged. The language of music, and the music of language, are by definition the unprovable resounding. Angels rise out of spruce, gods out of trees: both inexplicable and inexorable. And logical, at least to me.

January 8th, 2005