STANDING POWER FIGURE (NKISI-NKONDI): by Bonnie McClellan

NKISI–NKONDI
The contract is only valid
when everyone believes
in the same magic.

MONEY
…..“With whom is the Courtesan’s contract made?”

She whose business is:
the manipulation of all parties
(including herself)
to her own best advantage.
Christlike she is
hero + victim of her own story.

……“The party of the second part is the Blacksmith.”

He whose hands are rough,
hard and dark as the hammer
he brings against the red point
of the witnessing nail.

NKISI–NKONDI
The contract is only valid
when everyone believes
in the same magic.

MONEY
LANGUAGE

A mantra to keep her head
above water : old words
– the end justifies the means
– one must hold power to create it
– an unalienable right to the pursuit of happiness
she reasons along the switch-back,
forked path,
the yellow wood;
…..worn thin by fine-shod feet of
…..courtesan,
…..consul,
…..cardinal,
……………..the prime minister
……………..the snake in the garden.
Things fall apart.

NKISI–NKONDI
The contract is only valid
when everyone believes
in the same magic.

MONEY
LANGUAGE
ETHICS

Forged of finer stuff
her slender circle glints around
the blacksmith’s rough hands
hard and dark as the hammer he rings
against the truth of the nail.
Iron wedges open wood’s yellow grain.
The courtesan’s ring corrupts his grip.
Yet, the nail is driven –
…..her gaze darts away from
…..open eyes || death’s mirror
He sees.

He sees.
Yet,
He believes.

The courtesan’s ring corrupts his grip
…………………………………corrupts the nail
…………………………………denies the magic
…………………………………of open eyes:

it’s all for sale.

 

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Standing power figure (nkisi nkondi)

Language’s Power: reading the code

As we near the start of IPM 2017 on Feb. 1st, submissions are arriving and I’m getting excited about presenting them to our readers. I was thinking about communication networks, social networks and neural networks. While looking for images of neural-network maps, I ended up with a bit of a headache from trying to understand what is and isn’t understood about how these cells function in the brain. It turns out there are hundreds of different types of neuronal network maps. I finally settled on one that reminded me of a Gustav Klimt painting – it’s from the sound-processing area of a mouse brain.

A two-photon microscopy image showing a calcium sensor (green), the nuclei of neurons (red) and supporting cells called astrocytes (magenta). Credit: John Issa/Johns Hopkins Medicine
Credit: John Issa/Johns Hopkins Medicine

The number of neurons in the human brain is enormous, estimates vary from 86 to 100 billion, but the truly fascinating thing is that each person has an individual ‘neural map’ that develops over time, formed and annotated by personal experience and varied input. One of the many jobs these networks do from the very beginning is process language – expanding our ability to express ourselves and to understand one another. One of the tools we use to achieve this result is the word; but words must be set within a structure to be understood. Some languages are now unreadable – such as those of the ancient Indus Valley civilizations: the words and their supporting structure are there to be read but, frustratingly, we can no longer decode them. As I mentioned in my previous post, others, such as the Sumerian and Akkadian of the Gilgamesh epic, are thankfully still communicating across the millennia despite the challenges of decoding them.

collection-of-tablets

As this makes clear, despite its power, language is limited – it needs not only a transmitter but also a receiver. As Andrea Moro points out in his book I Speak, Therefore I Am: Seventeen Thoughts About Language:

“We don’t actually see light, we only see its effects on objects. We know it exists because it is partly reflected by the things it encounters, thereby making visible what would otherwise be invisible. In this way nothing, illuminated by another nothing, becomes, for us, something. Words and sentences work in the same way: they have no content of their own, but if they encounter someone who listens they become something.”

Submissions are still open, so if you’re a poet please send your work to be considered. If you’re a reader – get ready to illuminate with your gaze the upcoming 28 poems and transform them into the splendid ‘somethings’ they were meant to be.

Sonnet on Descartes’ Vinyard / Sonetto sul Vigneto di Cartesio: by Bonnie McClellan

SONETTO SUL VIGNETO DI CARTESIO

Paesaggio trascrive in polvere il fantasma del tempo
Tratto manomesso; friabile, reticolo evidente.
Maledizione di Jahweh, o di Minerva fatidico dono
Nudo frutto d’Eden, nel lavoro ridefinito.
Asse cartesiana della mente ben ordita
Contro il caos verdeggiante; la ruota della ragione.
EGO SUM dell’uomo tirato in campo ardente
Morbida, intransigente linea infinita.

Cosa abbiamo perso in questo mondo ben composto,
Arato dalla nostra razza divisa e consapevole?
Beatitudine incolta, dura, senza nome;
Primo bacio selvaggio tra Adamo ed Eva d’ossa fine;
Frusciante betulla sbiancata, mai scritta;
Panno primale della lingua, tessuto ma ancora spiegato.

*****     *****     *****

SONNET ON DESCARTES’ VINEYARD

Landscape writes out in dust the ghost of time
Well-fingered tract; friable, forceful grid.
Yahweh’s curse or Minerva’s fateful gift
Naked fruit of Eden, in labour, redefined.
Cartesian axle of the ordered mind
Brought against verdant chaos, reason’s wheel.
Man’s own I AM scratched out in burning field
Soft, intransigent infinity of line.

What have we lost in this well-structured world
Ploughed out by our sentient, divided kind?
A hard, unnamed, uncultivated bliss;
Adam and fine-boned Eve’s first savage kiss;
Clattering, chalky aspen undescribed;
Primal cloth of language, woven, yet unfurled.

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