Robert C. Knox
I am a husband, father, rabid backyard gardener, and blogger on nature, books, films and other subjects based on the premise that there's a garden metaphor for everything. Still utopian and idealistic after all these years, I cover the arts for the Boston Globe's 'South' regional sections and also write about environmental issues. My short stories, poems, book reviews, and creative nonfiction have appeared in numerous literary publications. I was named a Finalist in the Massachusetts Artist Grant Program for a story about my "greatest generation" father.
B I G U N I V E R S E , L I T T L E M E
T h r e e V i e w s
Talking To India
I try to remember how to say the Indian word —
Sanskrit? is that still around? —
for 'corpse pose,'
my favorite moment in yoga class,
as if, somehow, I can't wait to be dead
(actually I can, thanks, in case anyone with authority in these matters
is listening in)
which is spelled savasana (though
making me think of Sha Na Na (whose lead singer I once interviewed)
Remembering this sublime conjunction of sound and body
sometimes, forgetting often,
I should not be shocked, therefore,
when the Indian man on the corporate help-line
mispronounces 'premises,' saying something like "pre-mee-ses"
making the word sound like some sort of
which I am certain is not his intention
'Do you have any pets on your pre-mee-ses?'
'Why do you wish to know?'
'Do you have any security codes, or fences on your pre-mee-ses?'
'Do you mean my place of residence?'
I explain where the accent belongs,
we share the complicated laugh
of travelers arriving at the same respite from different journeys,
but then it is back to the Land of Cross Purposes
I wish to lay my consumer's wrath at the doorstep
of somebody taking up space in the USA
Alas, he knows no person who fits this description
nor possesses any phone number for his company
in my country
In the Age of Digitalia
our connections are fouled at the mind's borders
my urge to rage against the corporate masters,
deflected, sublimated, ultimately blunted by their desire to remain secure, inviolate, impervious
behind the virtual separation wall
of the inevitably dispiriting eight-hundred number
and the voices hired to know nothing of them
and everything of you that can be put into a number
Someday, my nameless friend, you may come to this great country of ours,
and see for yourself the condition of my prem-ises
but you will surely be disappointed
by the absence of codes, of security, and barriers
the utter dearth of four-legged creatures with sharp teeth,
vicious claws and whining voices
that bark or hiss in English
and likewise when I stumble off the plane
to visit that great country of yours, I will look here and there,
high and low
and nowhere discover that perfect place
where I may lay my tired bones
and discover the ultimate meaning of savasana
The Nightingale Role
Keats had it wrong
'no full-throated ease'
The nightingale isn't playing some hide and seek dalliance
with darkness and light in the universe
And we are wrong, misguided at least,
to focus on the beauty of his urgent song —
for, of course, it's the male who sings,
one of nature's great tenors
(if needed, we will find two others).
The nightingale sings it, as profoundly, soul-stirringly as he can,
because he is auditioning for the greatest role
either art or nature can provide him,
advertising his aptitude for male parentage.
The male nightingale, learned biologists tell us,
is "essential to the nest,"
not only to guard the young when the greedy beaks of the nestlings
squawk their insatiable hunger
but to feed the female during the days and weeks of incubation.
Let us be clear: they are 'providers.'
We heavy-footed, earthbound creatures know this role,
we call it 'Dad'
and it well describes my own good father, and maybe your Dad too,
but (frankly, babe) it sure ain't me.
Am I the only bird out there
who never liked this deal?
So, no patch on the nightingale perhaps, though in my time
I spread my wings over our nest
and kept a wiffle bat handy to fend off home-invaders
and occasional stray bats of the winged rodent variety
and though I regularly feed my mate,
not only when new life is on the way,
but when she comes home late from work, plus
that strained after-hours flocking busy execs must fly to,
unerringly, bits of straw in their mouths in token
of their loyalty to some clawed presence in the catbird seat
... with rice and stir-fry waiting on the stove
and a ready ear for the tired post-mortem,
an open wing, and a bit of a song for smoothing feathers.
But 'provider' is a role I gladly yield
to the stalwart singer of the nightingale songs
those lambent jug-a-jugs, those dying falls and grace notes,
those arias of longing and entreaty
I do my singing,
for whose ears I never know
(my own? some other unknown presence
in the night?)
But as for 'providing,' darling,
a wise bird looks after herself.
Holes at the Heart of Things
("Cosmologists Discover How Black Holes Can Leak....
Extra dimensions should allow information to escape from black holes,
according to a new model of cosmology" — MIT Technology Review)
We stare into the skies
We ask our questions of the stars
We learn that life is the product of newly discovered nano-particles called ribosomes,
25 million of which can fit into the period at the end of this sentence.
We've been asking the wrong people,
Talking to heavenly bodies, objects we can, in some sense of the term, 'see'
We're barking up the wrong tree-diagram
We should ask the dripping dark holes of matter who we are
We should ask them,
utterly other, laughing up their subatomic sleeves,
waiting for us to catch on
We find our predicament fascinating,
(hard to see, sometimes, why else we go on with it)
But we will never escape it
We cannot stop asking questions that, reason tells us, we will never answer,
said the dummy to the wooden man
Pinocchio knows as much as we do, ultimately speaking
We study the things of this world,
the birds, and the trees, the creatures we love
(and some we do not love; not going there)
(mosquitoes, cancer cells: went there after all)
And lo, to our stunned and stupefied inspection
they grow ever more astonishing as our eyes get bigger,
our lenses drill ever more deeply into the interstices of the void,
but still they live in our world,
part of nature, part of us
We've been looking for truth in all the wrong places
Ask the electrons who we are
Ask the particles, slipping sub-microscopically through dripping dark holes,
exactly who we are
©2015 Robert C. Knox