life as we know it 3



A flightless penitent is journeying barefoot to Port Botany after a revelatory event on the motorway—a pseudorandom monk plagiarized The Rime of the Ancient Mariner while he painted the penitent’s windscreen with seagulls. The polar spirits, Azimuth and Altitude, are helping him stay on track with cattle prods. Part one is here.

In southern Alexandria, my electric shepherds
grudgingly approved a measured stimulation,
and I queued up at a mobile coffee truck.

Before me in the line, an impatient stranger
caught my eye, and I introduced myself
with a fictional appellation.

I spoke at length of my enlightenment
on the motorway, of the windscreen seagulls
and their uncanny resemblance
to the artwork on her Ray-Bans:
a colorful kingfisher on each lens.

She responded with a desultory and mildly hurtful

Although you might imagine a curious similarity—
two feathered lifeforms, carbon-based,
on an unimportant planet
in the Milky Way’s Orion Branch—
there is no deeper meaning.

I chose to disagree.

You and I, feathered or not,
share an aleatoric connectivity,
a perpendicular logicity.
Our paths have crossed for an unknowable,
yet profoundly geometric, reason,
and though I’ve strived for failure all my life,
I realize now that I’ve failed to achieve it,
and paradoxically succeeded.

The kingfishers flapped their painted wings
in desperate launch attempts,
but I continued nonetheless,
until détente diplomacy prevailed—
my vow of silence in exchange
for the stranger’s story.

My name is Alcione and I’m an undercover alchemist.
In spin-dried manuscripts from old Atlantis,
I found a formula for a negative entropic potion,
a way to conquer chaos and disorder.

But I angered Zeroth, the statistical god
of thermodynamics, who wrathfully
demanded shares in my cosmetics company,
and painted these very kingfishers on my sunnies.

The polar spirits, overhearing,
sent a jealous RF whisper arcing to my ear.
They knew naught of Zeroth,
Alcione could not be trusted,
and would I please find out
the company’s name?

But I kept my promise, brooding silently
while Alcione ordered an espresso, triple shot,
and before I reached the counter,
the capricious spirits sent me on my way.

to continue


Alcyone in Greek mythology; RF is radio frequency, emitted by electrical discharges including lightning.


Flightless enlightenment (part above). The illustrated mind: this image is a mathematical visualization of EEG data.

35 thoughts on “life as we know it 3

    • Thanks. I never really played the Scrolls, Knights, absolutely. I think what might have influenced me was seeing Ready Player One. I wonder if anyone has counted how many references there are in that movie. I hope there will be 4.


  1. Laughing my britches off!! What the heck is RF? I can just see the protagonist’s polite sulk. The lines about failing to succeed at failing had me chortling away! And I haven’t even had breakfast yet. What a nice start to the day. Thinking of having Kingfishers painted on my Ray-Bans, but not sure I can carry it off. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • As Randy commented, it’s “radio frequency.” I really should put it beneath the poem. With my own background, it didn’t occur to me. Electrical discharges, including lightning, emit a lot of RF.

      I’m quite sure you could carry off the kingfishers, BG. The real problem is how on earth would you see anything through them? Thank you and glad you enjoyed.


  2. “…and though I’ve strived for failure all my life, I realize now that I’ve failed to achieve it, and paradoxically succeeded” – congratulations Steve! Will be reading this over and over and over and over again…until part 4 comes along 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • I was pleased with that little paradox, thanks for noticing it, Sobhana. I’d better make sure there is a part 4 then; I’m pretty sure part 3 will become boring very quickly. 😃


    • Glad you liked it. I usually choose Latin American names (where I used to live). I’m interested in the sound and rhythm, and meaning, either directly or the name of some mythical or other figure. I don’t spend time on it, and I do reuse names. So here Alcione (4 syllables, stressed 3rd) is the Brazilian version of Alcyone or Halcyon. A minor poetry problem is that readers might not know how to pronounce the names, but I just live with it.

      Thank you, and sorry for the long-winded answer. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. (another) fabulous write. The kingfishers reminded me of the line by Ern Malley: “I said to my love (who is living) / Dear we shall never be that verb / Perched on the sole Arabian Tree / (Here the peacock blinks the eyes / of his multipennate tail.)”

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Peter. I haven’t read that before, a wonderful dream, which in turn reminds me of some lyrics by Atlas Sound (who are realish) … “and when we die we’ll bury ourselves.”


  4. Wouldn’t it be nice to meet someone like Alcione in a coffee shop at a strip mall in the middle of nowhere? She must have a million stories to tell.

    I wanted to let you know I’m still reading you. You have a way of transforming Sydney and its suburbs into something completely different.

    Hope you’re having a lovely Sunday evening!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m sure she has a lot of stories, but in the real world, I’m not sure how I’d react. For example if someone came to my door selling skin creams made according to an old Atlantean recipe, I’d probably be amused, but I wouldn’t buy any.

      Sydney will never be as different as I’d like it. Unfortunately Sunday was pretty busy with work problems, which is why I’m running later than usual with inconstantlight. Thank you, Annie.


  5. A negative entropic potion…I’d like some of that! On second thought, maybe not. I wouldn’t want to face Zeroth’s wrath.
    I suppose one way of conquering one’s fear of failure is to strive for failure. 😉
    What kind of polar spirits would deprive a barefoot pilgrim of the opportunity for an espresso?!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Perhaps if he had shares in the company, Zeroth would be promoting it on TV: “They think that I’m immortal, they don’t know about this marvelous Atlantean beauty lotion. My skin is so soft now.”

      I should probably mention that I don’t endorse striving for failure. I suspect it’s easy to succeed at that.

      The polar spirits may be an embodiment of er… something. After all, the poles are cold, unfriendly, and demanding places.

      Liked by 1 person

    • I’m playing catch up, and hooray, I’m only five days behind. Maybe, and maybe I have a tendency to remember all the occasions when I can’t think of anything to write. This helps me because I am driven by fear as I’ve explained. If I really believed I could be creative on demand, I suspect it would be the end of my writing.

      Liked by 1 person

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