SYSTEMS OF SYMBOLS
Jennifer K. Dick
of that fishtank dinner.
England, I'd hear, had been left off some tangled backroad
be unconscious, you said, processing me atop the mattress.
Every nook and '50s artifice tries to simulate wiring.
As silly as feathered rings. As important. This neurobiology.
were we thinking of thought?
It was not about the number of intelligentsia or engrams using obscure info.
You put us on display, then subdivided.
You walk us swiftly, harmoniously through the chain
I was intuition-calling, sifting through how we began
weaving without underscoring the
Which was the atom's spiraling symbiology? Inventions.
How was the cranny of the memory made?
In vodka, you revised.
arguing in brain-tangles, airplanes with flapping arms
In "Systems of Symbols" a transcription of a personal memory of times spent with a past lover has been filtered through the language of the history of scientific investigation (based out of George Johnson's pop sci book, In the Palaces of Memory (Vintage, 1991)), into how memory is made and where it is located in the brain. The poem is a reading/writing collaboration inspired by Johnson's section headings which I used as the poem's title. I wrote memories it evoked, selected paragraphs or lines from his chapter of the same title, and sketched them out as they related for me to what I had written. Then, in the tradition of Tzara, Burroughs or contemporary poet Mei-mei Brussenbrugge, these materials were cut apart, rearranged, interspersed and in many ways eliminated and erased into and through each other. Scattered about like odd bits and pieces gathered together in the neurons of our brain, crisscrossing and short-circuiting, the language of this memory-text encounter was then re-ordered sonorically. In revisions I wrote new sections and eliminated others, thus the past becomes interpreted, mis-interpreted. The recollection of the lover (and the researcher) is lost or perhaps differently located in the new language where syntax gets spiny or knotted like a neuron. The two worlds (science-love) are opposed, yet strangely the scientific language brings the recalled to its greatest truths (and vice-versa), though the inter-relation itself becomes flippant, coy, sarcastic, removed, and damaging, just as leaving or being left by the lover injures us, or trying merely to understand each other is the most puzzling and infuriating aspect of a relationship (and of research).