By Peter Halstead

Come forth you bugs and be July’d,
Halogen’d, liquidified,
        Dance around the cones and rods
            Of the fiber-optic gods,
Tree limbs tinseled on the wind
Table lamps Luciferined,
            Lava gushing from the arc
            Of streetlamps spilling in the park,
As novas coruscate from blazes
In swinging syncopated mazes,
            As the moon and stars and buildings spark
            All around us in the dark,
Cut off from the walking sighted
By the shadows of the badly lighted,
            The whole effulgent, frothing shell
            Of evening softly gone to hell,
The iris’s prismatic squint
At a lantern’s heartless flint,
            Fractals welding jets of rage,
            Chaos forced into a frothing cage,
Touch, with dismal sight, distracted
By the normal world refracted,
            Medusas flashing off and on:
            The planet gone, the planet gone—
Cars themselves approaching streams
Of anemones with fractured beams,
            Dragon eyes and cross-hatch flares
            That sweep the sidewalks with their stares,
Incandescence overdone
Like prominences from the sun
            Aureoles with spider limbs
            Gassing from all headlight rims,
Acetylene eruptions waterfalling
From a neon billboard’s scrawling,
            Streamers broken into spindling
            By the eye’s internal kindling,
Blurry pyrotechnic glories
Sprung from Mesolithic stories
            Embedded in the pinhole of the eye
            By hidden chasms in the sky,
The dazzling semaphoric perks
Of vision’s bloodshot fireworks:
            Amaurotic self-made pyres
            Of the eye’s deluded fires,
Bubbling skies and human fission,
Spangled waves of tunnel vision
            Hallucinating in 3-D’s
            Fizzing Pepto-Bismol seas,
Arcing legs of flindered sties
Sprung from my diluted eyes
            As I move among my self-made pyres,
            Alive with pyrotechnic fires,
As blind as sleep’s atomic moon,
Alone with panic’s seared cartoon,
            Nothing left on earth but these
            Nuclear catastrophes,
Flaming with narcotic’s perks,
Blasting sight to fireworks.

November 27th, 2004,

Rue de Varenne
April 6th


This was the way the Honolulu night looked to me after emerging from an eye exam with both eyes diluted. The next morning the apocalypse had returned to its normal, slightly blurry world, which offers its own epiphanies to the suitably myopic, as dimly documented in this volume.

The problem with seeing things clearly is that we then take them for granted. We believe items to be fully defined by their names, by the routine of sight. A car is just a car, rather than an absurd collage of Tinguely nuts and bolts that moves in dangerous and unpredictable ways through a landscape, possibly controlled by roads. As Richard Wilbur has pointed out, a bear is a much more monstrous apparition than its tame name. Both Nabokov and Biely have noted how streets float loosely in the sky before maps and familiarity settle them into their accustomed roles.

So myopia preserves a certain innocence, a certain distance from the distractions of clarity.

“Splinder” is a word I’ve always known, and yet which no longer appears in the online dictionaries I've seen, and thus may be lost to people who may have grown tired of leafing through the OED.

(Speaking of leafing, my college roommate had his vocabulary on a Rolodex. Every day I’d secretly remove an entry, and he would never use that word again. (Eventually, I put them all back, worried I might have affected his personality.))

There are many similar words which have to do with the Industrial Revolution, with shaping molten ore and ingots into the stuff on which modern commerce and maybe our trendy identity is based. “Flinders” are shards, long iron-filing-like strips of metal separated off of an ingot during smelting. It’s a verb as well. “Splinders” are the molten shower of filings which arc welders split off ingots in a spray of thin, white-hot sparklers, much hotter and more dangerous than the harmless sparks which emanate from a sparkler.

A Catherine wheel, or fireworks pinwheel, gives off this shower of sparkles, like an intense meteor shower. To the momentarily dilated, such sparkles seem to pour out of a headlight or off a traffic light, like a fractal cascade of phosphorescent streaks or filaments out of a water faucet. This is exactly what splindering describes.

Splinters are broken off the same family tree. For some reason these words are considered to be Scottish, as if the Scots vocabulary retains its Stone Age and Iron Age roots long after normal Norman words have been reduced to emoticons.

It is probably necessary for the mind to come to terms with miracles of the eye in order to risk the dentist, but one day our eyes open a bit wider and we wander distractedly out to sea, like Rimbaud, never to return, as the poem hints. The wages of sparkling.