The Mind Mantis

May 31, 2011

It’s like she’s a partition of the earth
itself, the earth as it oxidizes
and grows too old to think.

Life is mocked by this wash
of water and magnesium—
it’s more a part of the story
of oxygen than the
story of the mind.

She could be praying that
the brain of the world
will become the mind of the world,
the only one she ever knew.

She could be an illusion in
a vast assault on illusions,
for her camouflage
creates the impression that
she is not present, not constitutive,
as if her beauty takes her
away from the earth.

The mind mantis, her minerals
crystallize and form into
forms of life that seem to grow into
the cracks and fissures, as the rocks erode.
Seem to, but don’t.

Bring them to the surface,
Mantis, that we may judge
all the ancient dendrites,
all the blush of another world.

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4 Responses to “The Mind Mantis”

  1. extrasimile Says:

    So, you think you can’t show off to yourself?
    Actually, I think Gertrude Stein’s idea, that she writes for herself and strangers, is about right.
    Yes, consciousness is a big subject. And it is unlikely that a poem is going to go about solving any serious questions about it—like, what it is; like, how do the physical processes of the brain produce it; little things like this—on the other hand, though, poetry has in some sense got to be about consciousness. There’s some old Sanskrit writing out there that argue that through man the universe is becoming conscious. (I can’t even begin to reference this.) ‘Poetry is the growth of the mind of the world,’ says Wallace Stevens. ‘The heroic effort to live, expressed as victory.’ (I can reference this, but not off the top of my head. I have to go to work.) So, I think I won’t give up (showing off?) just yet.

  2. John Stevens Says:

    No, not pretentious because you’re writing here for yourself, not to show off to others. But of course another person is not going to follow your paths of thought very far.
    Consciousness is a huge theme to tackle. If we thought about it too much we’d never get out of bed. But where is consciousness, and how, and why does it exist?
    You might consider tackling this theme in a poem 3 times as long: if you allowed yourself many more lines to present the images of dendrites (I for one had to go to the dictionary) and to expatiate on ‘panpsychism’ you would help others over the fence. But perhaps you don’t feel the need to do this, or are working on another subject.

  3. extrasimile Says:

    Yes, thanks John, for a generous reading—but I have to say I am dissatisfied with this poem, and I post it more in the hope of getting some perspective on it, than to say that I think it is a good—or even finished—poem. You put your finger on something by noting ‘questions half defined’. Steven King has a novel called ‘X’ (It’s pretty good.) In its way it is quite a portrait of human cruelty. But as a diagnosis of this situation, as an explanation as to why people treat others so harshly, the book blames this on a giant spider living in the sewer system. And, let’s face it, evil is not caused by giant spiders.
    The mind thing comes about with my flirting around with panpsychism. (See Postcards, Unsigned https://extrasimile.wordpress.com/2010/04/02/postcards-unsigned/ for a much more satisfying treatment of this.) That neurons form dendrites and certain mineral deposits when crystallized form dendrites proved to be too tempting an analogy for me to pass up. What if, I wondered, what if these dendrites in the earth fulfilled a similar function? (They clearly don’t.) Toss in to the mix that ‘mantis’ comes from an ancient Greek work for prophet, and the ‘praying mantis’ is of course, ‘praying’/ ‘preying’ and you do come up with a ‘mind mantis’—sort of.
    Still and all, there is a fine line between ambition and pretension, and, alas, I think it cross it here. (Pretentious? Moi? Alas, yes.)
    I do like the muted music and the ‘sound of the words’ here. Too bad words and sentences keep wanting to ‘mean’. They are so mean, aren’t they?

  4. John Stevens Says:

    I’ve read this several times over the past couple of days. There’s a deeply mysterious sense of some primeval creature emanating from the chemistry of the world, and the words themselves swell and flow as if they too are evolving, from something, towards somewhere. Where is ‘mind’ in all this I wonder. It prompts questions about where ‘mind’ might be in matter and nature, and leaves the reader – not with any precise thoughts – but with brooding sense of great questions half defined, answerable.


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