the edges of reality

Light. A remnant from the birth
of the universe is sneaking
through the glass.

Birds. They called each other,
chirping more quickly
than they should,
a sense of urgency
because the world
is ending.

Me. In a cold bed, taking notes
in shorthand, or possibly Klingon.

Professional qualifications.
My certificate from Mrs Smedley,
mathematics, Class 2B, faded in the wash,
and now my resume is a modulated
modicum of nothing.

Nothing ever steers me
from my ocean of delusions.
Cumulonimbus wraps my mind,
and far beyond, the planets orbit,
on Tuesdays, the perigee of Mars,
on Fridays, the apogee of Venus.

In polydecahedral reveries,
I dream that there’s another side of me,
less of mist and long-departed ghosts,
and more of origami, matchsticks,
and white sand.

I’ve tried to see my life from above its plane,
my street from a fractal dimension,
but the minutiae of existence are comforting.
They hold me in the small and lonely hours
when the cricket’s long antennae
are pointers in the night,
drifting through the edges of reality.

Coda. I collect the curios,
the matchstick trinkets,
to protect me
from the only ghost
I fear:

the ghost of me.

In my youth, I did a lot of collecting: stamps, rocks, leaves, and less common items, such as bottle tops, scavenged from the trodden dirt in parks. Collecting lends a sense of security, of safety. It’s an occupation that shields our psyches from our insignificance in space-time.

The Edge of Reality, or Sunday, Friday, and Tuesday, is about the echo of the days (which represent celestial bodies) in the hours after midnight. Artwork created with VEE, the visual evolution engine, together with ALISA, Adaptive Layered Image Synthesis, for the figures, and the all new CYNDE, cyclic nonlinear desaturation. Info about VEE, videos, etc and contact form here.

27 thoughts on “the edges of reality

  1. Such a haunting and tender piece, Steve. I think it’s one of my favorites of yours. Your visual art is such a perfect companion as well. The human figures appeared to be delicately anchored to the tiny relics of their tangible surroundings.

    • Wow, thank you. I mostly do the scifi narratives. I think the lockdown here in Sydney, with the virus spreading, had something to do with my state of mind.

      Thanks also for your feedback on the art. I think I’m becoming a little more sure about what I want now. I had the background image first, and I imagined it with suspended figures.

    • This poem is so haunting and echoes the doubts and fears many of us confront in the wee small hours. I love the matchsticks and origami’ metaphor. Fragility. Your poems are becoming more personal, Steve. I like that change. I believe humans enjoy collecting pointless objects and filling their homes with clutter because it makes them feel less insecure. I’m just as guilty with my astonishing collection of earrings and scarves. We hope it will offer protection from the great inevitable. If only!

    • Running late as usual. Thanks, Nikita. With whatever I do, and quite a bit of it turns out to be pointless, once I get the flow happening, it doesn’t matter. I don’t think about mortality or anything else, really. And that includes collecting er… stuff.

      These days, I’m thinking the pithy precept, “Do right” is not a bad one to follow, but if I don’t have some time for myself, time for harmless pleasures, then I won’t be in a state to do anything.

      And if you enjoy doing whatever your “right” is, *bonus*.😸

  2. like fingerprints snaking over brain cells, your writing here evokes so many nostalgic moments that give me a little brain freeze shivers, collecting pieces of childhood, seeking safety in possessions, you have just exposed such a deeply emotional human coping mechanism. love the flow of the poem Steve.

    • Thank you, Gina. I’m glad that the piece resonates. As well as the collections, in my youth, I carried out many science experiments, from books, and kits when my parents indulged me. I still like experimenting, mostly with art now, and I have what you might call “collections,” a workshop overflowing with them, but they’re bits and pieces that I need occasionally–optics, electronics, audio, computing, art materials, woodworking, metalworking etc. And things that I can no longer work out what they are, but I’m sure they’re important.😸

      Alright, I admit there’s the liquid cesium, but I’ll do something with it eventually. It’s not like I can toss it in the rubbish bin.🙀

    • I hope that cesium has more than doubled it’s half life! Or is it a non radioactive one? Gosh it brings back memories, last I worked with a cesium source was when I was in my late thirties. Your workshop sounds like a treasure trove Steve. And probably a place where a lot of unidentifiable magic happens.

    • It’s a moderate quantity of ordinary old cesium that catches fire in air and can’t be transported on passenger aircraft, so no problemo. I do hear strange noises coming from the workshop at night (it’s in the house). Something is living in there, but who cares? 🤷‍♂️

    • I can just imagine a viridian blue burning in your workshop, when everyone is asleep. But that’s what they want you think! Thanks for always giving me a lovely trippy train of thought when I stumble here. Take care and please stay safe.

  3. A supernatural treat. Very precise placement of of scenes and objects that suggest time, time passed and time to come. Apologies for the Anonymous post above-my mistake in using the app vesion of this website.

    • Hi Paul, no need to apologise. The new system is a bit of a mess. I have stacks of problems getting my own site to recognise me, now that it’s a business account. I blame WordPress.

      Thanks for your thoughtful commenting. This piece went through a few revisions, including rearrangements of the material, and the format. Time is the big one for me, and, as you know, I’m fascinated with it.

  4. The minutiae of existence are indeed comforting…and distracting from the end of the world drawing near. I wonder if he deliberately kept the certificate from Mrs Smedley, or if he just happened not to get rid of it. I doubt it was his intention to put it in the wash. 😉 I like the melancholic, philosophical tone of this piece, Steve.

    • Thank you, Margarisa. Yes, I’m sure that when I can’t stop myself from spending too much time on a very minor problem, it’s the same type of distraction.

      I think he wanted to keep it. I have some books from my father that I read when I was very young, like “Quills: A School Story.” They were prizes awarded to him in school, with certificates in front. I could make very little sense of them, they were set in an England of long ago. They were his memorabilia, and now he’s gone, they’re mine.

  5. “Collecting lends a sense of security, of safety. It’s an occupation that shields our psyches from our insignificance in space-time.” This is incredibly insightful, a profound moment for me . It explains much of my childhood. Thank you.

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