Arguing with Something Plato Said

By Jack Collom b. 1931 Jack Collom

       (for Phil Garrison and Peter Lamborn Wilson)

      As ashes are the shadow of smoke,
      panic is the shadow of light,
      beef the shadow of grass,
      love the shadow of attention,
      psychology the shadow of plastic
      the shadow of oil the shadow
      of giant ferns the shadow of
      bacteria the shadow of light’s grandmother,
      rosy finch the shadow of loon,
      jealousy & myth twin shadows of desire,
      Europe shadow of a desert river,
      idea the shadow of pain,
      sleep the shadow of bread,
      liquid the shadow of lust,
      time the shadow of
      et cetera,
logos is the shadow of what happens.

      Take some broad-shouldered little fart, at las-
t, fresh from the 5 o’clock (morn) shadow of barbarism,
squatting over barley-paste, hot goat, dried fig
      (meal the shadow —
              since the shadows were removed
              from rocky Grecian hills, trees cut away,
              soil reduced to olive grounds —
                   down to shadow of surroundings —
      of Homeric
      heaps of meat that cast deadanimal-shaped shadows
      by the tents on the sandy shores of Ilium)
      squatting over his shapeless shadow in the shadow of the Parthenon —
                                 shadow form from wood, “in the light of”
                                 stone. Well now, there’s been some
                                 organized ruckus in his medium, rare town, which,
                                 God knows, nobody there “thought” would
                                 survive, a golden paradigm, for thousands of
                                 Apollonian twirls. Who knows what they thought
                                 of what they thought? It must’ve
      been intensely local; that
      the universe crept into
      valley code was just
      brain refreshment. Dirt was all
      around. Some bright body shambled
      the streets — in mud & heat — barely
      shook his bald, Why is the sky
      blues into registration, virgin
      ears & experienced buttholes,
as the shadow of estrangement from
a bloody dream’s red tape, & got chemicaled,
but Mr. Broad Wit seized
evaporation from the street to isolate
spirit of
spearmint from what had always gone before.
Summer was a-comin’ in still (Lawdy!
sing coo-coo!), facts & symbols
be-danced & babblin’
beat of a million bovine feet
upon the tender luxury
      sidewinding from the brain.
            So he thought “Thought!” Why not?
Natural! in a sense. Never before
had such perfect innocence been explored
like new property.
Well, such a new idea as “idea”
looks pretty good till you can check out how it settles into the ground.
Blood’s biodegradable but logos
piled up like a plastic eyesore, fore-
shadowed a bloodless dry reign,
precipitation of pedestrain pedantry,
pedestrian mind for millenia, postulating
its pustulations of post- & pre-, professing
everything, subjugating us all in the tick-tech
burned-out success of a nob objectivity,
turning babble to a soapy
bubble up up & away until pop!
goes the wizard.

Aw c’mon, the alchemy that pilfers
from golden sundance volumes of German silver
sucks tongue of essence —
ah yes, essence, with its can-do incandescence,
like “Lovelight’s our leverage to spring some uptight average
from alla this quotidian sewage
& italicize it, boot it through the uprights
to an airy footnote.”

So anyway this guy imagined up God outa the play-dough
of his panicked exclusions
& then compounded the felony by trying to imitate the damn thing,
double-indemnity solipsism in the fool’s guise of cool & wise
utopian Republic! Razional! Sozialismus!
Computerized zoosphere! Hologram rain forest — a more direct
use of light.
But despite all right & crystal wings, thinking
that — “The-variability-of-the-world-has-no-more-reality-than-the-shadows-on-a-cave-wall”—
has no more reality than
Plato’s reflection in the waters
of a Theater-of-Dionysus Port-O-Let.

Well, he thought he was correting a mess
& left a mess of
shadows for our meat.
If unity really strung out from above,
not shot up from below, we’d have
no babies to throw out with
anybody’s rationalized bathwater.

Islands in the stream
of biosphere placidly gavotte
drinking play-tonic sprinkled geo-
metrically, until the teleology
becomes archaic — & eats it too.
The world pole-flips one more time, mechanically geo-
mantric, shakes the pants off of objective
dance to reveal gradual chance, just
numbers having a ball, as the rationale
of it all.

Back up a hemidemisecond! My better half
says — “In the winter the house is all shadow.”
But the long hot summer of essentialism
“was” a system of no resistance —
& all the psychological shit that makes a
toilet contemplative, inner-directed: a pure good-bye.

Yet it was hard (abstract thought),
difficult to invent, like anything you can’t
immediately step on, phrase or foot —

      (& 4 is the shadow of 3 is the shadow of 2 is the shadow of 1
      & old is the shadow of Jung
      & red is the shadow of orange
      & dots the shadow of dot
      & hand is the shadow of and
      however the shadow of breath
      & season the shadow of winter
      the step the shadow of the gesture
      & soprano is the shadow of the star
      & ring’s shadow is “orange”
      & window shadow of the shadow.)

—after all, Empedocles
& Anaximander had
illuminated life as shadows of whatever, up from sea-slime,
dissolving to the harmony of a sphere.

Logos, in the light, is only haze,
a honey-head, that the shape
be kept as “beautiful.”

(& the shadow structure
is the real — it’s not being looked at
nor still distorted by leftover rays in the shadowee,
nor in such relation to light as shadowing implies:
once you’ve taken in the light,
you’re artificially simple for good — bedazzled.
Chiaroscuro conjures up dichotomy — Step 1,
then, as it loses all idea to total presence,
becomes invisible enough.
& we’re home.
Lightning strikes — OK.
Half-known moves around the kitchen.
The cereal box is food for thought.
Is it easier to be right when you’re already wrong?
Hmm, cool today; better pull on my dark-blue paradigm.
The quality of nothing is not strained,
but saying so’s tense like a cartoon zebra.
“The variability of the world”
— incidental winks of it start to party into view —
absolutely hot & cool, at the moment,
is, & likely to remain so.)

      Eat a fig. Drink some coffee. Went driving
      today ’73 bug mid-Sunday plus live-in sweetie
      over littered subtle prairie out to Erie where we
      coffee smoke four baconstrips & country fries breathed in the
      work like hell old dirt streets & east to Firestone Screwball pool coke
      & ice Route 52 two dozen silver queen Indian corn
      Valmont Road yellow plum tomatoes cloudy light above
      Kiowa Peak stoplight bickyard pond by Public Service.

Jack Collom, “Arguing with Something Plato Said” from Red Car Goes By: Selected Poems 1955-2000, published by Tuumba Press. Copyright © 2001 by Jack Collom. Reprinted by permission of the author.

Source: Red Car Goes By: Selected Poems 1955-2000 (Tuumba Press, 2001)

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Poet Jack Collom b. 1931

POET’S REGION U.S., Northwestern

Subjects Arts & Sciences, Philosophy, Religion, Social Commentaries

 Jack  Collom


Jack Collom was born in Chicago. He joined the US Air Force and was posted in Libya and Germany before returning to the United States. He earned a BA in forestry and English and an MA in English literature from the University of Colorado. Collom started publishing his poetry in the 1960s; his more recent publications are Entering the City (1997), Dog Sonnets (1998), the 500-plus page collection Red Car Goes By (2001), and . . .

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SUBJECT Arts & Sciences, Philosophy, Religion, Social Commentaries

POET’S REGION U.S., Northwestern

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