Mr. Dawes’s post got me to thinking about truth and fact, mainly because I think he misses the point. Facts and truths, it seems to me, are in no way opposed to one another. Facts, I think, are like notes, and truth is like music: it’s the relationship between different notes that make music, and it’s the relationship between different facts that make truths. Music is a species of truth, poetry is another species of it, fiction another, and so on. All these truths are partial. If there is a capital-T Truth, one that is not partial, we don’t and can’t know it, because everything about us is partial: our senses and our reason are limited; the only glimpses we get of Truth come through intuition as Henri Bergson defined it—through “integral experience,” entering into facts rather than perceiving them from the outside. When facts are grasped by intuition and carried over into forms (melodies, sentences, visual shapes and colors), they carry or encode these Truth glimpses. Only glimpses, though, because everything about us is partial. This is why we constantly feel the need to combine facts in new ways. Even as the world (of which we are part) produces new facts, we produce new songs, new poems, new novels, new paintings, new philosophies, new religions, new forms of government—all of it beautifully, painfully partial. This is why people who feel they know “the Truth” are so monstrous. They are fear-stricken fanatics who can’t live with the notion that they will be forever partial. Of course, even this argument of mine can only be partially true. Good luck working out what all’s missing!
It’s not enough to move. One must
move on. Forward is the command
for us as for the shark; the lark
climbs to where we cannot (under
our own power) go, the worm creeps
down into the mother we fear.
Onward’s it for us, the horizontal
dream of speed and distance
erasing above and below.
full moon bright-fringed—
first Queen Liz in a collar
of white ruffled silk
We lived in the best of times, she said,
meaning the Great Depression,
the Good War and after.
People had common sense,
took care of each other—
not like now. Not like now,
she said again, her empty look
straying to the turned-down TV flickering
in the corner.
Two from A. R. Ammons:
Firm ground is not available ground.
I spent the day
and wound up
whole to keep
Cowardly, I could not go
where you’d got off to
with a flaring shiver like
a meadowlark darting
into river willows, a blurt
of yellow amid the shadows.
And now there’s no following.
You are long long gone.
Light cold rain wets wood,
hesitates to choose between
early spring’s a dithering
Would you need to strip this wood
to paint it? Or could priming be
enough to make it paintable?
Maybe just rip it out! It’s just
decoration, old-time wainscoting,
not a real wall; the real wall’s
behind it: sheetrock and 2×4
studs, cotton candy insulation,
mouse turds, spiders’ nests, grit,
outlet and light-switch wires. Hell,
don’t even paint the damn thing!
The old varnished oak’s good enough,
its dirty brown, its tight fine grain
reminding you it came from a tree:
all those stain-darkened veins
water used to use to climb
from earth to open air.