[ 9 1 8 2 7 3 6 4 5 ]

This is not the same nine. There’s a correlation, a connection, at least in name, or in the way we chance to make “one love” our universe. Granted, the possible existence of a set or collection of nine objects is a physical thing that quite possibly exists without us. But the number nine as an abstract object? As part of a system? That nine is a human creation and cannot survive without us. Ask yourself, honestly, does inflation in the early stages of the universe mean that the universe must be expanding at close to the critical rate at which it would just avoid re-collapse, and thus will not re-collapse for a very long time?

For the sake of squabble, let us use the Relationship-As-Third-Party model, and give a/the/our relationship its own named identity, thereby allowing us to submit it to tests we might normally reserve for a prospective house-painter or special-needs child. (According to Harris & Akhtar’s Not So Secret History, in the mid 1990s two Bennington students—referred to only as “Tim & Terry”—went so far as to reverse-engineer their personalities. Working backward from their union, which they chose to christen “Sam,” Tim & Terry would refer to their individual selves only as “½Sam.”) A Non-Criterion-Referenced Test, for example, does not compare a relationship’s performance to a preset standard of satisfactory outcomes, but rather measures it against the performance of other relationships (e.g. scores are not used to answer the question Is it a fulfilling relationship? but Is it more fulfilling than Couple X’s relationship?). We should employ a camera to augment our awareness of our third party’s physical form and the opportunities for studying mutations in its form. This may involve surveillance from several agonizing angles, but remember: a clear picture in our files not only recalls pleasant memories but is a scientific and legal record of what was witnessed. Let us be sure to reserve time every day to thoroughly investigate our new images.

Neo-Intuitionist poet John Berryman, analyzing the third-party product of he and his Muse, was startled by the offspring’s resemblance to Uranus, and pondered why the axes of both were abnormally tilted. Was it due to a massive collision? If so, with what? Said Berryman in an address to the graduating class of Brooklyn’s Lafayette High School, “Faced with this deformity—nay, this monstrosity—I persevered. I sought inspiration, fortification, inebriation anew in Monet and Renoir’s images of Argenteuil, done between 1871 and 1874, when the painting of intuition bore its bravest brood. Ah, works that show an un-equivocal elation with the visible world, and the unequivocal conviction that their new technique alone can convey it!”

[Here Berryman shifted his weight to the left buttock and cleared his throat. His left leg bent slightly and his upper body leaned forward. Visibly shaken, he resumed his address.] “These emotions occur in situations in which men would use paregoric. [Clears throat.] Excuse me. Imperatives. Men would use imperatives. And so we may speculate that what we call animal cries may be directives or appeals. Since many emotional cries are clearly conditioned by . . . [unintelligible], we may, in a sense, say that animal cries express recognition. All the rest seems to be the province of human . . . what’s the word? Speech. Alone. Human speech alone.” [End transcript.]

And so, as the day was done and its innumerable children murmured and scuttled down the long concrete halls of academe, the more sympathetic among us couldn’t help but light cigarettes and seek distraction. It was as if—to take a case where such a muddle is impossible—an individual enveloped in a cloak had been exhibited as indicating the character of despair, while so many other aspects of the individual’s demeanor had been prominent that what we might call the “intended” relationship was never noticed. Thusly we concluded, as I conclude this evening, that the double-barreled symbolism of metaphor permits underscoring those features of an idol which might not appear foremost in the staging of the idol itself, whether the idol is you or me.


© 2003 Christian Peet. Published in the chapbook, The Nines (Book 1), from Palm Press. Originally appeared in SleepingFish.

The nine movements of Book 1 include mutations born of an Edge.org interview with mathematician and philosopher Reuben Hersh, as well as a variety of appropriated critical, scientific, and instructional texts chosen randomly from the back of the author’s car after a cross-country exodus: including George F. Adams’ and Jerome Wykoff’s Landforms (A Golden Guide); Kenneth Clark’s Landscape Into Art; Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time; Eric N. Franklin’s and William H. Watkins’ Breakdance!; Anne Waldman’s and Marilyn Webb’s collection of lectures by visiting authors, Talking Poetics from Naropa Institute; and James Webb’s The Occult Establishment.