September 24, 2018KR BlogBlogCurrent EventsEthicsRemembrancesWriting

Little Monsters: On Time & The Consciousness of Poems

Hope is a pearl that I share
I share it with you
It’s a pearl that I share
I share it with you, all the time
I share it with you, all the time
So I lose my track of time
I can’t keep tracking my time

—Anna von Hausswolff, “Track of Time


Imagine you create a poem, and it has consciousness.

A consciousness, that is, separate from your own.

The poem begins to study itself, asks questions of its history, its structure, its language.

It is a world unfolding on a blank page, only it doesn’t know all that empty space is a page, an open document, a saved file, a second printing. It isn’t sure of its future, but to a poem with consciousness, all that empty space can only be possibility.

A lot of open space to reach, cross, supersede. In the spirit of seeking out and finding other poems with consciousness.

How can we not relate as humans to this kind of poem?

To prove the existence of another world is, in a sense, to prove your own.

Because a conscious poem is a world that only knows verse, that believes language is verse— can you imagine?

And when does this poem first develop consciousness?

Does its conception begin at the first completed line? Or the first word you type or write down?

Perhaps it’s the mere thought that you had of the poem.

Or: a feeling of/for the poem.

So, then, at whatever starting point you’d like to choose, say the poem not only comes into existence, but also becomes aware of its existence.

The question is not: What happens between the poem and me?

The question is: What is happening in the world that is this poem?


Where did we come from is a question very particular to us because {imagine} there are forces that exist outside Time.

That we are even looking for a Unified Field Theory means that we believe the universe abides by the same kind of math that we must abide by.

Our world has very clear boundaries when it comes to life and death.

Here, the living cannot escape Time.

This must be for a reason.

If you really think about, we don’t live very long in our bodies, which limit how far we could travel elsewhere.

Creation is a tradition, after all, passed down through generations of artists and engineers, through family and civilizations, but how different the act must look elsewhere, especially among those who do not need to follow our linear, temporal path.

Imagine the kind of creation which does not heed Time.

The kind that does not ask about beginnings, or seek sequential evidence.


I recently finished a poem sequence in which I proposed a fifth fundamental force of nature that coincides alongside Gravitational, Electromagnetic, Strong and Weak Forces.

I propose this force, gave it a name, as a poet, but I’m also completely serious about its existence.

It feels like dangerous ground, the mixing of fields of studies— theoretical physics and poetry— whose similarities I can better express in poetry, in the poetry I wrote, then here in an essay.

But I’ll try anyway.

Because when asked why I’d do things like this— here, provoking science with a theory in which I provide more questions than answers— I always respond as a poet: Why not?

Because it’s a running joke, between me and a string theorist friend, when I ask him to prove to me that he is not a poem.

Prove to me that each one of you did not begin as a poem.


Imagine alien life were once poems someone else wrote.

Or rather: Imagine alien life was once a series of unrelated poems someone else (plural) wrote.

These unrelated poems clustered together, and formed a galaxy.

My string theorist friend would like to ask here: But why poems? You could substitute a number of words there. You could say dust. Or light.

And to that I say: you can’t substitute any word, because I don’t mean “words,” but Language.

(Additionally, poems themselves can take many different forms. I’m not quite sure what an alien poem would look like {though my imagination goes places}, but I’ll address that later.)

All forces of nature operate in Language, by which I mean: means to interact and communicate.

Creation here is an act of forces speaking at/to other forces, to matter, to unknown things like dark energy.

So my friend, who is looking eternally for Unified Field Theory, we can agree that if you’re looking for something to make clear the how and why forces interact and affect one another, then I will propose they do so by/through/because of Language.

(Again, I don’t just mean “words,” though I realize I’m using them to express meaning.

Everything, large or small, wishes to speak, and wishes to speak to each other.

Imagine how forces of nature might act with each other in equations that do not abide by human logic or mathematics.

Or Time.

We did not create language.

Language is creating us.

Language, I believe, is the way to discover other forces that do not abide by Time, or our attempts to lock existing forces into our static-walled definitions.


Now, as I was saying: Imagine alien life as unrelated poems clustering together, and forming a galaxy.

{Hallo, new idea of community}

Now imagine that this alien life knew exactly what it was doing— creating poems in the spirit of exploration and furthering knowledge— though not knowing the specific outcome of creating these poems.

Imagine, if you will, these poems as a technology.

A technology meant to fix something, or make something better, or save a life.

All the while these poems became conscious, and grew and grew.

Say the poems became greater than their creators.

Say the creators let it be.

Say no interference.

Say the alien beings did not live to see their poems become worlds no longer governed by the laws of Time.

Say they knew all along they’d die before those new worlds unfolded.

Call that hope, if you will.


I underwent surgery this month, and recovery has been easier than expected. My will to heal stems from my hunger for more Time.

This hunger stems from the first time my well-being was threatened.

I think about the exact day when this first happened often.

Before I went under, I was asked a number of health-related questions by the anesthesiologist. I don’t have a “good time” with anesthesia in general. I come out feeling a lot of ways. We talked a bit, and when I told her I was a poet, she said: Oooo, what’s that like?

Right now, I’m working on an essay about Time, I say.

Time? She asks.

You’re an anesthesiologist, I say. What is it like to share time with patients who lose time when they go under?

She smiles at me. You’re asking…. you lose time and… I share… when you go under?

I nod.

She’s laughing. No one has ever asked me that. I don’t know what to say. I never thought about it like that.

I draw in a breath, but can’t seem to let it out. I shut my eyes for a moment, and there it is: the switch of reflection, slipping into the seconds-long second person, the poemimg of my own consciousness…


You want to laugh too. You don’t say it aloud, what you are thinking now. What you are now writing down, should be using the past tense, but you are still there in the hospital bed, the IV uncomfortable in your left arm.

You probably shouldn’t have such an intense moment with your anesthesiologist before going under. Distracting her like that.

Because for all your love of science and elegant equations {that you know in your heart lay down a framework for a bridge that will collapse the moment you step foot}, you are a deeply superstitious person who knocks on wood, throws salt over her shoulder, is careful not to say the name of the dead three times while looking in a mirror— though tempted to do just that.

You are a deeply suspicious person of Time and how it might have consciousness itself, to decide your fate.

So you want to believe.

You want to believe the anesthesiologist is not distracted.

You want to believe the bridge is stable.

So you are laughing with her too while thinking: When you put me under. Bring me back.

Just make sure to bring me back

But you don’t dare say that aloud.

Although you can’t fool Time who’s heard every damn word in your mind, even the ones you try to hide and bury before they can completely form.


When a poem obtains consciousness, a multitude of scenarios unfold.

Perhaps it separates from you because its awareness of self becomes priority one. It might deny your existence altogether. Free itself from the page in a way you cannot free yourself from your body.

Or: Perhaps it separates from you while looking for you, reaching out for you, for eternity.

Or: It changes its meaning, its causes and effects. It rewrites itself, what it’s capable of saying, addressing those you will never, ever know.


I’ve discovered that string theorists aren’t unlike poets: we both ravish and breach the limits of creation and invention.

String theorists create new language all the time, to reflect the laws of nature that {seem to} speak inalienable truths. They speak about the many, many things no one can actually see. Or prove.

When I speak of what my scientist friend does in my languagewith my poet’s tongue, there is tension between me and him.

Because my wish to understand fundamental forces of nature is a desire that devours him in feeling

That is: my kind of creation and invention becomes a feeling, when it should not. A feeling that we share about all those things we can’t see, which he tries to prove with elegant equations alone.

Math is not a feeling. Or so one {like him} would like to think.

But I can’t help myself, my wayward poet ways. I say: Time was given to us, and not necessarily as a gift. That we are mortal {and short-lived, in comparison to heavenly bodies} for a reason.

Creation itself is a devouring. It is affliction.

I ask him: When we die, do we go to where Time does not exist? What happens, then? Freed of the body, what happens then?


A week or so before the surgery, I have lunch with a close friend, a brilliant poet, playwright and artist who defies definition, Darrel Alejandro Holnes. He has the kind of intellect that radiates his genuinely good heart. He’s a rare kind, and I’m grateful for him in my life.

I’ve been telling him about my need for more Time.

That I’ve been wrestling with poems that keep unrolling before me like Torah scrolls, revealing something new about life on this planet here— only to draw me back {Up, There}. That I’ve become consumed by what I’ve been writing about: Black Holes, Voids, Gravitons, God, Mathematics. My theory of Efes, which I wrote in part about here.

That every time we try to define something, or find something as revealing and splendid as Unified Field Theory, that existing laws we believe are fixed and concrete will suddenly change.

Or rather: it’s not the answer that eludes us, but the riddle itself that changes completely.

That there is a reason for The Unsolvable remaining as such, while we inhabit the human body.

That we aren’t ready yet, still trying to get right the realness here on earth; the Absolutes we are so invested in must be brokenand breached, to give birth to something else.

The poems, I say. The poems we are writing that become conscious.

What goes on to separate from us.

What goes on to become something different, something more incredible and stronger.

That which will defy the laws of Time until their kind no longer remembers such a thing ever existed.

Imagine, I say, no beginnings or endings in the sense of life and death.

Imagine saying you don’t fear death— and really meaning it.

Darelo, as I call him, smiles and says: You’re going to be okay. You have time.


A week later, lying in Recovery, with wind howling in my ears in a windowless room, I’m still thinking about what it means to share time with those who have lost time.

Is it possible to share a feeling when only one of you falls into a deep sleep?

Is that when they find you, as you enter second person, on the page, in that space-time bent and quavering, all those poems of ancient {and now timeless} alien conception? All the poems, the little and large and great and bright and dimming and exploding poems?

Is this when Time itself feels its hold on you loosen and waver, is this when Time calls out to you, only to then free you from Itself?

For the universe is expanding, and unless we find a way around Time, later generations won’t be able to see the stars in the sky. They won’t know that other galaxies are {were} there. Already everything is drifting farther and farther away from each other.

And do you understand, poeta, what it means to be brought back once more, second chance, no take backs, from the void and unknown?

Do you know that every void in deep space, every pocket of emptiness, is also a poem, that each and every is speaking to all around it? 

That each is alive and filled with possibility?

Are you not alive still, awake and aware, that for all its inscrutable clout, Time is sharing Itself, in those very hours you’ve lost because you were seeking of more of It?

Is that how these poems will find you, returning you {for now} to this blessed earth, messing with all your little strings, joining their consciousness to your own, without telling you why or how, because this little monster, this little monster of Time which stands as a field overgrown with tall crops—

That if it weren’t for the poems lifting you up, would each year obscure the sky a bit more until you’ve forgotten it was there to begin with?



This is the latest installment in an ongoing series exploring themes that haunt, bewilder and astound us. Read “Little Monsters: On Language {Enunciation}” here and “Little Monsters: On Sex, Exorcisms and Efes” here.