The Edge of Chaos (a stroll through a few cortices and other landmarks)

There is no atlas for this
country I  travel.  There are roads
drawn through imaging and scalpels
but none of them named Cherry, Peach, Plum,
or those numbered state and county routes.

Instead we have the foramen semiovale,
not the semi-o valley fruiting between hills of sulci,
and hippocampi are no toothed monsters
drawn in a bestiary who raise their young
into memory sleeping within ventricles;
those caves of flesh, the open spaces
in the brain where we run dreams, but all of it dark
and if there is an express(way) to understand
the flickered, electric dance between synapses
that shapes poetry I don’t know it.

The place poetry flies from
shouting in tongues
is invisible,hidden in a space smaller
than a ganglion tucked in vegetative flesh,
dense as the cauliflower
I pick for dinner and less pretty.
If I held the organic seat in my hands,
the two of them cupped;
mine would look no different than the one I did hold
in anatomy lab.

Hubris is hard to own
when the seat of it is so common, so small
and whispers in that place I hear
but is earless that poetry
is less a quality of brain
and more one of mind; that meld
of body, spirit, and thought
catching something new
in a process old as being

and as hard to define.

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About Susan L Daniels

I am a firm believer that politics are personal, that faith is expressed through action, and that life is something that must be loved and lived authentically--or why bother with any of it?
This entry was posted in New Free Verse and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

67 Responses to The Edge of Chaos (a stroll through a few cortices and other landmarks)

  1. brian miller says:

    ha…love your word play…an express(way)…nice…and all the references as well through out…Hubris is hard to own
    when the seat of it is so common…is a really cool line as well…it is def not easy to define, but i think you did a fine job….smiles.

  2. archcardinal says:

    The poet’s mind is the workshop of humanity… The product are words with intense profoundity that moves and reshapes affections…

  3. Grace says:

    I agree, poetry is a challenge to define ~ More of the spirit, and leaping thoughts for me though ~ Have a good day Susan ~

  4. Miriam E. says:

    oh wow, Susan. this is definitely something! what a clever way to investigate the poet’s mind.
    loved the hippocampi – line… very witty!

  5. ManicDdaily says:

    Super clever and great take on prompt. k.

  6. heh-heh ~ a scary place to be …

  7. Mary says:

    I liked your statement that poetry is less a quality of brain and more a quality of mind….but then I wonder (to myself) what is the difference between ‘brain’ and ‘mind’? I will come back in some time and read your thought on this, if you have one.

    • Mary–glad you brought that up. The difference is more of a philosophical one. The brain is the physical engine that runs us, or better put, interacts with our bodies, filters everything, and responds accordingly. The mind, on the other hand, is comprised of the brain inclusive of the body; the world, and our selves as a whole as we interact with it, including the social self or selves. The mind includes the brain, but is much, much more than that little graying cauliflower.

  8. Laurie Kolp says:

    Wow… amazing piece, Susan. I especially like the last 2 stanzas.

  9. shanyns says:

    I really enjoyed this. Well done.

  10. deanabo says:

    Terrific writing!

  11. davidtrudel says:

    EXCELLENT! I don’t believe I’ve ever seen that many medical terms used in a poem that absolutely sings. The second stanza is a tour de force.

    • David, thank you. This was one of those days I was rolling in terminology (work-related), and I spiced up the stew with a lecture on the neuroscience of creativity. I had fun on my somewhat guided tour, and glad you did too.

  12. “those caves of flesh, the open spaces
    in the brain where we run dreams, but all of it dark
    and if there is an express(way) to understand
    the flickered, electric dance between synapses
    that shapes poetry I don’t know it.”

    I feel like that could be a poem in itself. Brilliant. the opening is so thought provoking to “There are no maps to this
    country I travel. There are roads
    drawn through imaging and scalpels
    but none of them named Cherry, Peach, Plum,”

  13. nico says:

    Wow, this is pretty cool! I like the flashy show of words–they make the simple lines stand out. Like these:
    If I held the organic seat in my hands,
    the two of them cupped;
    There is a subtle power in that, the two of them cupped. Wonderful!

  14. I loved your tour of the brain, the contrast with mind, a richer concept. Neuroscience is endlessly fascinating to me. The creativity currently on display in science is perhaps more innovative than what we can achieve in art yet the reductionism may be anathematic to creativity in a way. Great work!

    • Oh, I so agree. I think we will find part of where creativity resides in our brains, and maybe some of how it all works, but the “mind” is of itself more complex than what the brain can hold (I think), and much more tricky to study than the brain, which is tricky enough on it’s own. But, then we move from neuroscience to philosophy 😉

      Glad you liked!

  15. claudia says:

    no atlas for this country i travel…i like…and i def. like where it took you…what an interesting journey…the paths in our mind…

  16. vidyatiru says:

    very brainy take on the prompt:) totally enjoyed it…
    http://myrandrspace.blogspot.com/

  17. Sabio Lantz says:

    What fun your beasty brain
    a zoological map of menace
    and playful platipi
    undefined!

  18. lucychili says:

    wonderful poem, lyrical anatomy

  19. welcome to uncharted and unchartable territory!
    Hubris is hard to own….and even harder to identify!
    well spun and sung, Susan!

    • Thanks, N. You would think, since it has driven so much, there would be a little seat in each of our brains (or minds) with a sign on it saying–this seat reserved for hubris. No such luck 😉

  20. mobius faith says:

    Another good one. Love the “ganglion tucked in vegetative flesh” – made me smile.

  21. Tony says:

    Define poetry – impossible. Know poetry when you see it – now that I can do, sometimes 🙂 Might I suggest a minor alteration which, in my view, would improve an already strong piece? If this were my poem, I would change “mine would look no different than the one I did hold
    in anatomy lab,” to “mine would look no different to the one I held in the anatomy lab.” (alterations in italics) I think this would improve the flow of these lines 😉

  22. Brilliant, my wordsmith 🙂

  23. ruleofstupid says:

    Nice work Susan: Source of inspiration? How about a sequel that looks at how thought is shaped by culture – (and so too is the actual physical make-up on the brain).

    • Thanks, Mike. There are actually only three things I like in this free write and it is going to have a major reworking in it’s future. Interesting idea for a sequel, after I get this into some sort of respectability 😉

  24. cloudfactor5 says:

    Wow, this poem really stands out so many gems entwined,”Hubris is hard to own” that says so much and really grabbed me ! I enjoyed this!

  25. janehewey says:

    ganglions and hubris. yes. I am reading under the skin here. way to go beneath the surface and expose, Susan!

  26. Firstly– LOVE the cauliflower reference! I always think I am doing a brain bisection when I cut one in half! Yep… that’s where my mind goes! But your last stanza could be a stand alone. It is spot on and lovely all at once.

    • Thank you, Kim! This one is wandering all over the place. It was suggested to me that I start with the first line of the last stanza and go from there, which is what I am going to do 😉

  27. nelle says:

    But fun to explore, and I sense you enjoyed the ride, as I did. Well done.

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