Still Life with Skulls and Ba­con

New England Review - - Literary Lives - Richard Siken

A thing and a thing and a thing held still— you have to hold some­thing still to find the other things. This is spec­u­la­tion. You will die in your sleep and leave ev­ery­thing un­fin­ished. This is also spec­u­la­tion. I had obli­ga­tions: hope, but hope negates the ex­pe­ri­ence. I owe my­self noth­ing. I cut off my head and threw it on the ground. I walked away. This is how we mea­sure, walk­ing away. We carve up the world into feet and min­utes, to know how far from home, how many hogs in the yard. My head just sat there. Fair enough. A map with­out land­marks is use­less. Science dreams its dreams of knowl­edge—names it, pokes it with equa­tions. The cru­cial thing is not fifty times what­ever but how we got these no­tions: how much, how many, how far, how long. It’s good to give ex­plicit an­swers, show­ing all the steps, nec­es­sary and suf­fi­cient. Find­ing the dots, con­nect­ing the dots. An in­ter­ro­ga­tion of the dots. A pip, a point, a seed, a stone. This is phi­los­o­phy. These are sup­po­si­tions. If one has no ap­ples, one has zero ap­ples. There is, you see, no short­age of open prob­lems. We carve up the world and crown it with num­bers—lu­mens, ounces, deci­bels. All these things and what to do with them. We carve up the world all the time.

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