If you understand what you are trying to say, that is prose. If you are trying to understand something you are moved to say, that is poetry.
Most of the time I am not a poetic person. I have, however, been in states of mind where I’ve written poems. Some of them have bothered me for decades.
Four of these poems were visual. They were simple diagrams that gave me the exit to perplexities I’d entered. A perplexity can be described as an urgently unaskable question or problem. Not only the resolution, but the problem itself is inconceivable, despite the fact that it is felt with overwhelming intensity. Normally, perplexities are resolved with words, but each of these four diagrams were visual resolutions of perplexities. The words came after the diagrams did the essential work.
In early 2020, just before the pandemic struck, I printed these four diagrams along with poetic meditations and prose commentary.
One diagram I considered, but excluded, is one I call “gorging ouroboros”.
Part of the reason I excluded the gorging ouroboros is I see it as a negative “apotropaic” image, maybe a visual warning. Over the years, the danger has come into clearer focus. I associate it with a kind of ideological feedback loop, where we are consumed with thinking thoughts about our thoughts and feeling feelings about our own feelings — but these thoughts and feelings are unaware of how much they begin and end within the self, and how thick, and ever thickening, how insular and ever insulating these self-reflexive layers have grown against transcendent reality.
I also wrote a poem that corresponds with the visual, but it appears I have never actually put them together into a single chord, which is strange, because they are obviously pointing to the same notion.
In the end,
the trees will grow like snakes,
splitting and sloughing bark,
bending in coils of green heartwood;
and the snakes will grow like trees,
depositing skin under skin,
and in their turgid leather casings,
they will lie about on the ground
like broken branches.