(An Adaptation from Zhuangzi)

We use a net to catch fish;
then, we drop the net.

We use words to say ideas;
then, we …

We must drop the words.

Yet show me someone
who has dropped words.

No. We like to talk!

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“If you think about it … a word is a meme. How do you install a meme? Well, the first time the kid hears it, it’s just a sound. The second time the kid hears it, it’s a somewhat familiar sound and maybe there’s something about the context that’s the same. The third time the kid hears it, a little bit more. Pretty soon, by a process of gradual installation, a structure gets established, a little tiny micro-habit in the brain, which is then available to be exploited in various ways and, of course, not always well.”
— In a fantastic conversation from The Edge, philosopher Daniel Dennett considers why language is the greatest meme of all – an idea he has advocated for decades. (via chels)

(Source: explore-blog, via chels)

Symbols Don’t Mean Beans


You can sell your

birthright for porridge;

you can sell your cow

for beans—

Somehow, somehow 

symbol will eat 

your lunch, and the 

heavy boat of metaphor

will sink in as meta

-phors do do. Leave 

you gasping for air.


Symbols don’t

go away nicely: 

We try to chuck

them with words, 

words, words, 

but symbols—

like old tires, 

like fan belts—

don’t rot. When 

that’s over and 

done we’ll name 

it brand new.  


Symbols don’t

go away nicely. 

What do you read? 

Words, words.

What’s the matter? 

The matter?


Symbols don’t

go away nicely—

they say who

is in, who out;

who gets hurt,

who gets

the beans. What 

do the symbols 

mean, I mean, when 

used out loud and 

for something?

Who gets ahead?

Who gets hurt?

What does it matter?


Symbols dead 

and buried

come back 

ready to kick 

ass again.


what do 

they say 

“yes” to,

“no” to? 


What will 

they start

and put a 

stop to?


Symbols don’t

go away nicely. 

Don’t go away

at all. And one’s 

freedom is

another’s cell, 

n’est-ce pas

What are the 

thoughts set

stirring? What are 

the symbols 

marching about?

Who tells the story?

Who is listening?

Who’s left out?

Who’s hurt? What 

power and which 



If you ain’t 

got beans 

you don’t 

throw ‘em 

in a pot.


Symbols don’t

go away nicely. 

& even then 

watch ‘em 

come back.

the way time works

the way time works


Notice I’m not asking
you to see the same
thing—merely a road

and a full moon
in early evening

—that’s all &
imagine your
face raised
to take in
the cooling air

& that sudden
hit on the skin
that says—

here it is—
this is it—

a moment in time,
seriously—a now
that is some
kind of that.

Notice I’m asking
you to see your
own huge glass
jar of time burst
into fragments on
that same…

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Welcome Home, Jack

Truth is a story

we tell ourselves,

a set of beans

we sell the cow

for and walk 

proudly home

from the deal

only to be 

slapped by that

dear old mother

we call the real. 


If Only the Grinder and the Monkey

(for Robert Duncan)

The hopeful chords, the 

cranking that makes an 

organ grinder deserve 

any coin that may be 

dropped into his brown 

hat, but only the shadow 

of a monkey 

dances now under an 

upturned, outstretched 

hat (funny how tastes

and the laws they cause

change in a whim). To

play the song he does,

the hand that turns the

handle must grind all 

of them out of the wood

—old, shut out, captive,

monkeys, strangers,

the flesh in the alley,

foreigners (for sure),

animals, vegetables

minerals, air … any

alternate pain we might

name, and the nameless

too—the incognito, 

the invisible, the lost,

lazy, the condemned—

each that has ever been

lost—will be ground

into being there out 

of the warped wood

where only the shadow 

of a primate dances as

proclivities and the

laws they cause go 


‘round and—

with the tip 

of a straw hat—


Nine Propositions Concerning Truth


Perhaps it’s true that

our metaphor is better 

than yours. Ours is truer 

than that, where we were 

born, when we were born,

there and then we knew

all the answers. Such as:


When a pauper

takes to sail

and lives to 

come back,

he will be rich 

and find his love.

Clearly. Look


at these tree-lined 

streets, flags

on every house.

Everybody’s a

patriot here, 

marching to 

the drum,

to the drum



acres of cars,

trucks, hoods

up, wait 

to lose this 

and that

part forever

in service of


going on. See,


heads that may



turn enough
degrees, though


the bodies 

never last 

so long

as the excuse 

for the killing, 



hanging from a golden
chain is hanging still.


A girl turns the crank

on the jack-in-the-box.

It makes her smile;
it makes her wince 

in anticipation.

She turns the crank

and it will, it 

will jump out …


“I’ve fished deeper waters,”

the captain said as 

the Golden Dawn went down.


Religious Studies 102

Clever potters that we are,

first we cast the jar,

the vase, the box,

then we fill it. 

Clever carpenters 

that we are,

first we nail the 

box, the vase,

the jar, then we 

sell it.

Clever glassblowers 

that we are,

first we form 

the vase, the box, 

the jar, then set them 

on a shelf—

this, here, can make 

all this better—

that’s the plan for

the containers we cast.

That’s the plan that

never works out.