Wednesday, July 9, 2014


I've been trying something new, lately.

There is a spoken-word open-mic on Sunday evenings at a coffee shop a short walk from where I live. I attended a few times, then decided to try standing up and speaking something.

There are a number of things I've been trying to put into words - regarding ethics, teaching, urban sustainability, hope - that have eluded me when my aim has been to produce academic prose, or even blog posts.

I have discovered that if I turn sideways and address a different audience in a different form, I can begin to connect things together.

Here is something I presented this past Sunday, July 6, about thermodynamics and hope.

Note that this was written to be spoken aloud, so I can't vouch for how it will come across in print.


It flutters and flops against the window –
legs and wings and slender body
an absurd tangle of thread,
a badly tied lure –
beating an erratic pulse upon the glass.

My God! – you might think, on seeing it –
Look at the size of that mosquito!

And, fearing for your blood
or fearing disease
you reach for a magazine
or start rolling up some newspaper,
preparing to defend yourself
and your home.

But hold off a moment, and look.
That’s no mosquito,
and a mayfly can’t really harm you.

It emerged into adulthood with no mouth
its tiny body holding just enough substance
for one day of flight,
one day to find a mate and the chance
of passing something of itself on to the future,
one day to cast its dice against entropy.

And yet, here it is,
drumming its desperate tattoo against your window.

Your window.

Why’d you have to go and put a window here, anyway?
But there you stand, girding for battle
against this small scrap of futility?

You monster.

So, stay your hand –
but not out of remorse,
or mercy,
or pity,
but out of solidarity.

You, with mere decades to leave a legacy –
a child, maybe
a child well raised
or maybe a poem well written
or a song well sung
or a lesson well taught
or a durably built shed
or a finely stitched quilt
or even just a kind word
spoken in a moment of need –
something to leave a small part of the world
better and sweeter and more whole
for your passing.

You, fluttering and flopping against shackles, against walls,
against oppression, against convention,
against fear, against addiction.
You, against illness and infirmity and illusion.
You against age and the unraveling
of you.

The city, with its centuries,
that might endure for a while
as a fit place for human beings
to live together and apart,
to strive and to rest from striving,
to learn and to teach,
to argue and to fight,
to plan and to build and to create.

The city, as the pumps run dry,
and the rain ceases to fall,
and the oceans rise,
and divisions fester
and riots blossom
and buildings crumble
and the networks shatter
and the lights go out
and the books burn.
The city, against the heat-death of
the city.

America – its one true legacy
the mere idea that free human beings
of every description
can live together as equals
in one another’s eyes
and before a law
of our own making.

America, against corruption and betrayal,
against envy and contempt,
against division and exclusion,
against power and belligerence,
against waste and distraction,
against indifference and ignorance.
America, against the history
of America.

Humanity, with our pocketful of millennia.

Humanity, against ourselves
and against the slowly turning ages of the Earth.

The Earth, against the dying of the sun.

Before you reach for a magazine
or start rolling up some newspaper,
stop and look.
Know what you are seeing
and, if you can,
open the window.

Let it go free –

this tiny possibility of a future.


Dreami Tom said...

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