Login   Sign Up 


“Facts Are Stubborn Things” -- Revised 3

by seanfarragher 

Posted: 08 April 2005
Word Count: 917
Summary: Poem came from exercise by Wenonah Lyon at Zoetrope: Write a flash or poem based on one of these proverbs (or one of your own choosing): "There's more to marriage than four bare legs in a bed." "Many a mickle makes a muckle." "Facts are stubborn things.." "A deaf husband and a blind wife are always a happy couple."
Related Works: Fountain of Youth • Hurrah, Hooray, Huzzah • 

Font Size

Printable Version
Print Double spaced

“Facts Are Stubborn Things”

Facts shift – hummingbirds lisp as their vocabulary grows
with delicate insubstantial vague effect; -- it is art without history,
out of center, no dictionary for contempt, the lexicon of drizzle
an accidental stampede when rain peers over the broken slat fence
weather washing makeup off her eyes, letting the black eye shadow
stain, but nothing is indelible, not even the beauty of deep red lips
sucking a green lollipop or the hours we rode subways in 2001
carrying a knapsack filled with plastique waiting for signs
of the cross to certify lambs in a casual order

at least we wished to make more certain
the calculus, the proof table of sine and cosine
identities solved to approximate circular function,
to compute differential equations as principle—

Her dark hands extend to judge my hands as they arrange
her diaphanous petals, sculptures that do not mock
the starting gate of words as levers, as layers
of Japanese Noh plays translated by Fennolosa.

--truth, not possible lets down
as mother milk with abandon
we are creatures so small there is
no breast, but nipple, flat equatorial planes, the earth milked
as sweet snakes that cannot determine the exact placement--
terror ripples into the slope of monumental waves

eyes peer, and the subtle twist of clocks
or plunge of a lever brings down, sweet self included,
the dark death of irresponsible explosions,
true loss of spirit, and nothing
learned helps,
yet there is an inquisition.
no fixed mark laser or otherwise
satisfies, --nothing can be predicted
for certain except the deep explosion,
its crater and the monster
clouds of cement powder, burnt steel,
that annoying plastic
layers of tribute, dollar bills,
thousands and millions of gold
preserved but the words,
never precise, translucent
cannot be understood, as the sense they lift drags down light,
melts it lifts the theory of matter into a judicial code that Hammurabi
who codified the "facts" of Sumer as paradigm,
and copyists dribbled
slanted into the clay cups of our hands when we measure
the love of honor and sex as vision making certain
what we bare, naked arms, tan, deceit lined

drift as lap dancers do over the race track and the gamble fails
no words are measured when facts shift package
under the meandering thighs and buttocks
are precise but always cloth covers intent
with a translucent glaze that says it is not sincere, always
there is the chance of drawing the inside straight
pushing the horse into paradise
with a win so certain the theory of numbers is questioned

Perpetrators and addicts line up for interrogation by the next
serial word scrambled as the index of the vortex blinds
one more layer of soldiers fighting with bayonets in France
before the Arch Duke Ferdinand revived,
of course lies draped as mysterious sacraments divine God
as necessary, imprecise
flesh scribbled on the margin of a 9th grade English paper
that classmate Colin stole, tore up mine, and wrote his name in blood
hating the ride of my words, but stealing them,

I was held accountable at thirteen
for all historical blemishes and fake grandiosity that made
his life a miserable swarm of words dug out of skin
like .22’s shot into the moon unhinged and delivered
with the face of teacher Miss Johnson.

She knew the truth of deliverance
did not deny it caught up in the style of words
and insubstantial glare of the unknown
image of truth conceived by truth doctors marking
down law out shifting facts that lead to invisible
truth and fake honor of our unhappy civilization.

There are no words, no maps, and no signs
of the cross to set down facts as permanent wings
of petrified flies held in violent amber by accident
of meaning or subversion of logic drawn on her
beautiful marathon as sculpture of heroic dimensions
here to fore not listed in Robert LeRoy’s
“Ripleys Believe It or Not”
a half-way foolish list of what cannot be known
unless you ride up the trail with empty guns
to link your arms in the unknown, unknown
as a theory of history revised in 1964
by Professors Gaster, Pernicone and Diamond.


2. Identity

I simply cannot laugh today.
I am without any rigorous proof of identity
or delusion except there is no one flaw,
truth or deliberate lie that can be trapped
unless we melt time and make into a stew
that has no flavor, decorations
and terror doesn’t hide in vowels
exposed as beautiful women
when you touch their ache
with your fingers to find how best
you can satisfy your longing
and hers with the twist and pulse submerged
in a river of modern flaws,
broken chairs and ships
sinking too swiftly
in the flood tide
before story ends.


3. Movies that Bang

I speak with the authority of a dirty time lose without
a lead, no rope tied to the neck,
no hand cuffs, but her hide carved
not by love, which I gave, but by power
without measure, substantial and false like Gods grovel
in the white canvas bag,
dirty after being carried so many
thousands of years, and now filled
with broken facts
and the scribbling
tales of charming lambs
without title
to fixed facts
of physical nature --
dreams revealed
that is one small hopeful pitch
for black and white movies
that was never made
or cinema lost when
cellulose nitrate film exploded.


Web Sites for my poetry and prose

Favourite this work Favourite This Author

Comments by other Members

lieslj at 05:22 on 09 April 2005  Report this post
Greetings Sean,

There are some astonishing images you present that are truly deserving of attention and publication.

My personal sense, is - as it so often is when I try to process and understand your work - of being overwhelmed by the sheer volume and the variety of different concepts.

The last two paragraphs stand out for me as two seperate, yet related poems. Perhaps because of their very presentation, where white space enables the reader to breathe, to wait, to absorb?

I feel your first long verse needs more focus and delineation.

Good luck placing it.


Elsie at 09:38 on 09 April 2005  Report this post
Hi Sean, I read this yesterday, and this morning it was one of the first things in my head. But I realised I couldn't remember what it was about, because of the mass of ideas that are linked together without a breath. I can get as far as "lambs in casual order", when I feel I need to stop to think over what you've already said. (I have read on...) It's a bit like that saying about throw a hundred balls at someone and tell them to catch and they probably won't catch any - throw them one at a time..
Would you consider perhaps some punctuation, or white space? There are some lovely images, as ever, but to me I find it hard to grasp them all, to appreciate them properly. It's something that we have all need to bear in mind I think, that people's minds are naturally lazy, and people don't have to read our work, so we need to make it a bit easier for them. Unless you feel poetry should be difficult, of course.

seanfarragher at 19:12 on 09 April 2005  Report this post
I agree with both of you, Liesl and Elise, that this work is three related poems, and that a stronger separation needs to be established. I do not believe that the three poems can be published separately.

Yes, the first part needs focus and separation. Yes, perhaps, it needs its own grammar.

My intention: I am adapting a visual idea (tempera art and montage) to a verbal one. Layering of images is possible in visual art and photography. It cannot be exactly duplicated with words without creating something unreadable. I am writing an essay on the poet John Ashbery, and finding clues to how what I intend might be accomplished. Ashbery takes us half way. There is more to be done with this poetics and the evolution of my voice in particular. Images juxtapose and then other key words are present to keep the narrative line. I am working on that, and of course, the particular poem is a work in progress.

I do believe, however, that poetry can be complex, force the reader to look where he/she has not. I do not believe that academic poetry can be popular with those uneducated in poetry.

I write honestly what I am. I do not want to be perceived as a snob or an elitist. I work at making what I intend accessible. I appreciate your read, yes, and your struggle with my work.

Thank you,


I appreciate all your comments

seanfarragher at 21:23 on 09 April 2005  Report this post
I have revised the poem. I would love for both of you to read the new version that reflects some of your suggestions

Elsie at 11:11 on 10 April 2005  Report this post
Hi Sean, well, it's much more accessible to me, I can follow it much better. See what others think, what do you think? But then, maybe I'm just "uneducated in poetry." ; )

fevvers at 13:11 on 10 April 2005  Report this post
Hello everyone

Another one of my worries I'm afraid, this time with "we have all need to bear in mind I think, that people's minds are naturally lazy, and people don't have to read our work, so we need to make it a bit easier for them. Unless you feel poetry should be difficult, of course."

I don't understand what you mean by making it 'easier for a reader'. When we talk about poetry, (we being a general 'we' not just this group or thread) there is a tendency to think about it as an all encompassing art form - that ALL poetry should be available to everyone. I wonder why that is. I don't see this charge in any other art form: not in fiction, where we're quite happy to allow different audiences different kinds of literature; not in visual art -especially after the modernists - not in music, where subdivisions are probably the most numerous of the art-forms; nor in dance nor theatre. And yet poetry, especially contemporary poetry, has to speak to everyone! Why is that? If we all wrote a poetic that everyone could understand, then we'd all be writing the same poems, or at least versions of the same. It's also patronizing to readers. A reader that loves Geoffrey Hill or John Ashbery, might not like Clare Pollard or John Stammers - this is good, there's nothing wrong with it. If your reader is lazy, then get a different reader. If you want to make the reader more lazy, then pitch your own work exactly at that reader's limits - it's much easier to lower your expectations of poetry than raise them; raising them means more hard work - for the writer and the reader.

I would advise anyone writing to pitch their poetry at a reader like themselves. If you're excited by Jorie Graham, Jeremy Prynne, Derek Walcott etc, then aim your writing ambitions equally as high. You may fail at first but that's fine, because they're likely to have done so as well. It's easy to keep on pitching lower if we find success there, but if we're capable of much more, we should at least try to reach it.

I think Sean, you have a strong idea of your poetic. You are trying to challenge our (and your own) understanding of the languages we use in art and the everyday. I find this exciting. What you are suggesting is very ambitious and calls to mind Blake, Appolinnaire, Ginsberg, Wyndham-Lewis. There is a huge tradition there to mine. When I started writing poetry, I did similar work and approached the language from both sides - visual and textual. I 'wrote' haiku in small photographs; I wrote a complex, long biographical poem layering and splicing different languages (German and English) with dialect and technical jargon and each section was framed on the page as photographs (taking up the visual construction of photographs). For me, it didn't work in the way I felt it could, and that was partly because of my inexperience. But it did train my eye and ear to space and sounds. It meant I read hugely, thank God, and not just poetry.

What I'd say about your poetry at present is that you tell too much to the reader - the best paintings, the best photographs never give everything to the viewer, they allow the viewer a huge amount of space to make the rest of it up in. Readers and viewers like tobe creative too. You need to create some of that space for the reader and stop telling them what they should be understanding in the poem. Pare it back and let the reader in. Your first two verses are explaining far too much. Allow the poetry its sounds and think what your syntax is doing. I'd suggest you have a look at Geoffrey Hill and even Galway Kinnell (people sometimes think Kinnell writes simple narratives but he's much more complex than that).

I'll read your poem again and try and get back with more comments.


Elsie at 22:37 on 10 April 2005  Report this post
Fevvers, I wasn't suggesting Sean should 'dumb down', I was just suggesting a little space, air, in layout , in order to be able to take it all in. My art director past, Sorry if I offend.

seanfarragher at 00:03 on 11 April 2005  Report this post
I appreciate all the comments, and all have been very supportive for these recent poems. Thank you

fevvers at 11:01 on 11 April 2005  Report this post
Hi Elsie

This isn't about offending me and it isn't an issue of Sean 'dumbing down' it's really not that personal. What it is is a concern about the general approach people have to poetry, especially writing it. I know I'm not alone in feeling this concern. There's a tendency to aim low in our ambitions which I can't understand - I think partly it's about pampering to editors in order to get the work published, but I find that especially worrying, and I think it's also about lack of confidence in the writing and our own reading skills. I am also guilty of this and am constantly having to check myself - is this the poem I feel could be written or am I writing this in order to get into that magazine, win that competition? This kind of thing.

Sorry if it felt like I was attacking you but I really wasn't, you just happened to have said something that triggered something very important to poetry I think.


laurafraser at 07:32 on 12 April 2005  Report this post
I'd just like to say that my hands were clapping every word in estatic aplause with what you said about poetry-I agree with you from every atom of my body.


I think your poetry is exciting and innovative. it is a challenge to read, but then some of the most beautiful books I have read have been a challenge, i that you read a page and you feel that you've read a dozn books, Proust always has this effect on me. your poems are not for 'everybody' but then as fevvers says whose are?

Your train of thought is fascinating and quite stunning. As i said with the first of your poems I ever read, I would like to print this and sit by the fire and re-read it again and again, like a diver goes into the ocean searching for pearls, each 'trip' brings forth new rewards.

You are an awsome poet.


seanfarragher at 17:08 on 12 April 2005  Report this post
Laura, I feel the same way about Proust. He makes me wish I could read French with greater ease. Thank You for you read and kind words.


To post comments you need to become a member. If you are already a member, please log in .