The Art of Not Being Descartes

by Guy Kettelhack
Wild Poetry Forum
Third Place, October 2017
Judged by Michael Larrain

“What is all this?” must surely be a candidate
for the iniquitous ubiquitous first question
asked by sentient beings everywhere; well,
asked by those at least who dare to cleave
to their galactic versions of Cartesian reason:

you think therefore you are. From that self-serving
point of view, who else but you could be the star?
A star exploding into untoward elements which cool
on spinning orbs to sod: can Word be lurking far
behind, all ready to be Flesh, Body of the Letter?
How more neatly to suggest that thought is God?

(Harold Bloom says add the Odd and you have
something better: genius.) God is Phileas Fogg,
finding, naming, blaming worlds. Existence
is a language test. But you and I will shock the rest:
we’ll dock them in our pockets of resistance.

Like nests availing birds, we rest on other
than another’s words. I am the place you live.
You are the thing that lives there. What undergirds
this into grace? What theory does God have waiting
for us to remind us of our place? We don’t care.
You are where I live. I am who lives there.

How very unusual to find a poem rich with actual intellectual curiosity, but not in the least pedantic, off-putting or even boring. Iniquitous Ubiquitous should be a character in a movie based on an obscure children’s book. Apart from my personal detestation of semi-colons (probably the result of reading Henry James), I found it great fun. The author’s questions are good questions, and it helps that they are playfully posed. This is why many of us got into what Dashiell Hammett once referred to as the “literary grift” in the first place: to be able to think. To see where your mind will take you once distractions have been set aside. It made me want to take up café living, to sit all day at a table on the Rue de Something or Other in the heart of the 21st Arrondissement (the one that exists only in the Paris to be found only in our minds), sipping an aperitif—well, make that a vodka martini—and pondering such matters, our minds wandering through the galaxy while our bodies remain resolutely still. --Michael Larrain