Saturday, November 14, 2020

The Leviathan of Carlos Argentino

He never had an Aleph,
But he had a winding sheet.
Years he spent unwinding it.

Who knew we had synthesized
An artificial life form
Centuries ago, a beast

So vast, an anthill ants took
For the byproduct of ants
But with a life of its own,

Built of behaviors and words,
Which together created one art,
A living being who was

Art, mind, life larger than ours?
Hobbes guessed. Hobbes got that part right.
Hobbes placed a grain in that mind

Of shifting sands, self-moving
Dunes, however carved in winds,
Dunes that grew, blown down or no—

Hobbes and Argentino, those,
And probably those alone.
The rest built miniatures,

Clockwork dolls they hoped would talk,
Being themselves clockwork germs
That walked on two legs and talked.

Long dragons spooled from the talk,
Never a miniature
Nor an omniscient Aleph

Capable of presenting
A living world for all time,
All at once and in the round—

O, no, no, no. This is speech,
These are words we are talking
As and about—even signed,

Even as signed, they take time.
They remain tied to sequence,
Patterned changes. They unwind.

Lives are short. Language grows long,
And repetitive and dull,
For the most part, and narrow,

And so is Leviathan,
By language made, by language
Endowed with many voices

Crying together, I am
Legion and Leviathan.
As our waves of flesh clear cliffs,

Waves of words race back inland,
Away from old possessions
And into the latest flesh.

I am. Again and again.
And Carlos Argentino
Took delight in writing words

Rushing through him day and night,
Neither him nor his to keep
From these ghosts who never sleep,

This artificial life form
That is mind, that haunted him,
Swam through him, through which we swim.

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