Raymond McDaniel



Sclera, the collagen of the eye, thickens with time. It is the ciliary muscle that must move the lens but the lens if given enough time would harden into a geode. Rock iris, too dense for any muscle to move. And if it ceased to move the eye would cease to see, for it evolved to detect motion, or difference, one form of which is the relationship between darkness and light. Eyes are born in the dark but not all of the dark. They are born in dusk, in dimness. The collagens of the cornea are arranged with such perfect geometrical regularity that it admits light, but the retina is what sees. The retina is brain. Wanting to be close, we built a blackout room as an experiment in the summer an eclipse threw crescent shadows on the ground and reminded us we had no idea how our eyes worked, because we depended on them to do so much work for us. Two bodies in a black room, dependent on proprioception, erase all concept of distance, since distance depends on shadow, perspective on occlusion. Some forms of sight are only mapping, so that whatever moves, disappears; in other forms, anything stable projected on the retina vanishes. It was a dark room, the room that contained our bodies, but not perfectly black. The closest to perfect is a substance of vertically aligned carbon nanotubes that absorb 99.965% of visible radiation. The sight of it confuses the mind, but light can be deferred in many ways. Some fall into fevers, and when they wake they are blind.






If you would like to recreate the conditions of this poem, you will need more Vantablack  than you can probably afford; maybe you can convince [Anish Kapoor], the only artist Surrey NanoSystems has authorized to work with the substance, to collaborate with you. Alternately, you can try blackout blinds and matte tape, but it will take a lot of work: even in the womb, up to .1 percent of ambient light seeps in.