a photograph by Sonja Bingen, our daughter
by Thomas Davis
The string's untuned! Degree, priority
And place, insisture, course, proportion, form,
Season, office, custom–all are made
Disordered, mutinous, as unified
As raging seas and shaking earth. Stability is shaked.
Commotion in the winds and changes, frights
Divert and crack, rend and deracinate.
The Clockwork Universe is dead! And God,
Our Father who art in heaven, does play dice.
Planck’s constant proves that Heisenberg’s
Uncertainty is fundamental in the universe.
We look at light as if it’s made of waves,
Then see it’s made of particles that smear.
Quarks live! And yet, they’re probability, a sea
That crests and falls, appears and disappears
Until, at last, improbably, uncertain, mad
With change that computations photograph,
Light is, we are, the universe exists.
I walk in Purgatory looking up
Toward the shining Earthly Paradise.
I long to see the Griffon bathed in light
Inside the Garden where the Tree of Good
And Evil grows. I long to feel the weights
Imposed upon me by the Angel Guardian
Before the Gate of Purgatory lifted off
My spirit as I rise toward a Purity of Heart. [i]
I long to be a Greek, like Kazantzakis, wild,
Sun on my head so that its Song of Light
Can spray the earth, the global grape, with life.
I am Odysseus with my long coarse hair
And body hardened by black brine, the great
Mind archer, the forty-footed dragon wreathed
With steaming blood, reflected light, and flame![ii]
I follow Virgil as he presses on apace
With darkness-wrapped Aeneas and his friend
Achates through the rough-hewn citadel
Of Carthage being built by Dido, Queen.
The cloud that swirls before my eyes is magical.
I walk down city streets among a crowd
Unseen, amazed that none perceive me there.
Then, later on, I hear the voice
Of Mercury who bids me leave the joy
Of Carthage and my love for Dido’s eyes
And go to found the Trojan city, Rome.[iii]
But gravity bends space and time, and though
I am a poet, “redy to wenden on
My pilgrymage, “[iv] and though I sit inside
This summer’s heat and pray my muse: Sing me. . .
”And through me tell the story of that man. . .,” [v]
and though I wish to find a hero large enough
To roam the wide world after he has sacked
The holy citadel of Troy, I am American,[vi]
A polyglot whose being is becoming, he
Whose language was confused at Babel, he
Whose light was scattered on the face of earth,
Mankind whose particles act just like waves.
What mutiny runs through the song I sing!
Community and brotherhood contend
For order, shatters, builds, then bends to change.
As Sitting Crow kneels in his cold garage
He dreams that glory can be forged from pain.
He is the first American, black hair, black eyes.
Beside him, on the concrete floor, are stolen tires.
A part of living, reproducing, dying earth,
He sits inside the cold garage and dreams.
He laughs at death and wraps into its dark,
Holds fires of glory in his hands and throws
Out globes of flame into the darknesses
That plague his people’s lives:
And drug addiction, poverty, and squalidness
That wraps its cloak about the Reservation towns,
Each dawn so hopeless that it spreads a dull,
Blank dread inside the streaming morning light.
He dreams, and like a planet throned and sphered
By gravity, he bends time, government, and space
Into the universe that whorls out from his dream.
He strives to rent the fabric of America,
But makes, instead, a symbol of the way
That chaos builds complexity, which leads,
According to a probability distribution not
Yet computated, to a glory that might yet become.
O, listen to the winds inside my mind,
O muse, O Calliope, Moon Woman, water mixed
Into the Hippocrene’s deep well where Pegasus
Once struck his hoof and made a drinking place
For poets mad enough to court their frenzied dreams.
Stir up my words inside the winds and make
A tempest strong enough to bear this tale.
I am a man and not a god. I wear the cloak
Humility has fashioned for my race
Of kindred hearts and spirits. Only you,
O muse, O Calliope, can let my song
Run wild among the stars and worlds found there.
I sing of war and of men at war. . .
 Sir Isaac Newton, the great physicist and mathematician, saw the universe as having the regularity and celestial mechanisms of a clock.
 Albert Einstein, in response to the quantum physics, exclaimed that God does not play dice with the universe. Einstein believed in saying this that the universe is governed by unified laws and principles.
 Planck’s discovery unifies the seemingly contradictory observations that energy sometimes acts like a wave and at other times acts as if it is made up of particles.
 A principle in quantum mechanics holding that increasing the accuracy of measurement of one observable quantity increases the uncertainty with which another conjugate quantity may be known.
 A physical particle that forms one of the two basic constituents of matter, the other being the lepton.
[i] Alegieri, Dante, The Purgatorio, translated by John Ciardi (New York: New American Library, 1957).
[ii] Kazantzakis, Nikos, The Odyssey, A Modern Sequel, translated by Kimon Friar (New York: Simon and Schuster, Inc., 1958).
[iii] Virgil, The Aeneid, translated by Robert Fitzgerald (New York: Vintage Classics, Random House, Inc., 1990).
[iv] Chaucer, Geoffrey, “Prologue,” The Canterbury Tales (Ruggiers, Paul G., General Editor, facsimile of the Hengwrt Manuscript (Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press and Wm. Dawson and Sons, Ltd., Folkestone, 1979).
[v] Homer, The Odyssey, translated by Robert Fitzgerald (New York: Vintage Classics, Random House, Inc., 1990).
[vi] Modified from Virgil, The Aeneid, translated by Robert Fitzgerald (New York: Vintage Classics, Random House, Inc., 1990.
Note: I have written two epics. This “Invocation to the Epic Muse” introduces one I wrote decades ago, An American Spirit, An American Epic. It is considerably longer than “The Dragon Epic.”
by Ethel Mortenson Davis
I saw them
making the shape of V’s,
flying high enough
to use the lake’s edge
as their guide:
with white foam
at the edges,
over rushes with dark red plumes
on their trek
For our world will
not as full of life
as the wet summer
while we wait
for the silent season
and for the quiet winter
of our life,
a more diminished one,
a lesser world.