How the Nictitating Membrane Mitigates Against Explication of the Milky Way

Which is not to say that galaxy appellation
is useless but to warn that fixed staring
at glossaries may lead to blindness.

On your back on the beach on a moonless night,
in one hand a black stone marked with white lines
in the other a white stone, black flecked.
You might become a little child again if
no adult earnest teacher hovers
and you allow Loon to be your teacher.

Because the art of noticing is not the same
as the art of naming,
Loon parts your eyelids:
the right lid of scrutiny
left lid of explication
and inserts another membrane
transparent as cold water.

Hoots wails tremolos and yodels
imprint on your retina
as dots and dashes, diamonds and pearls.

You’ve stepped through the veil, now
you can only gesture to that
from which names are withheld
milk droplets spattered with feathers
on a shattered mirror.

Questions and Answers

About “How the Nictitating Membrane Mitigates Against Explication of the Milky Way”

This Loon poem is one in a series of loon poems which I was writing a decade ago and which were eventually collected in ACCORDING TO LOON BAY, St Thomas Poetry Series, Toronto, 2004.

Loon is a totemic figure for me. From where do these fascinations come? From far away. I spend a lot of time on West coast beaches. At first the poems were descriptive but later they became more like mystic utterances. Sitting, I often make collections of black and white marked rocks, Loon rocks. The nictitating membrane could be functioning as a metaphor for the third eye, which sees inward. I cannot explicate the poem or comment further on its techniques without doing violence to the poem.

This poem “How the Nictitating Membrane Mitigates Against Explication of the Milky Way” originally appeared in Canadian Literature 177 (Summer 2003): 79-79.

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