plateau’s problems: tenth rendering

Quite apart from becoming blind
I have my problems
Which I now wish you to consider
Without prejudice or sympathy

Number one:
We reach a plateau
There is a giant edifice
An imposing structure
We break off tiny pieces,
As much as we can carry,

We take them home
And wash away the dirt
Of superstition, with which
The centuries have encrusted us.
Good for something, then, you say
This soap!

Your opinions will no doubt differ
As to what the building on the plateau is
Whether the temple to a knowable
Or an unknown god
But for our purposes it’s a depot
For the distribution of soap

One of a number found after the war
You see, this soap, that was manufactured
Elsewhere and only later transported here,
Has some special properties
To which its users are mostly blind and which
I’d like to make a modest effort to reveal

I’m no magician
I can only share with you
What I’ve picked up, and that
Is the literal truth of my condition!

Well, most people are hoaxed all their lives
However much they use of the stuff in question
Even when quite spent
it slips from their perfumed hands
We can’t expect them of themselves
To come to a moment of revelation

No, my point is,
Eschewing knowledge,
The importance they attach to belief

Because I’m convinced all of us here recognise
In the industrial warehouse to which I’ve referred
A Temple to Scientia, a Temple to the sum of all
That can humanly be observed and verified,
According to the scientific method,
Ergo, a machine for making truth

My problem is, what truth will suffice?
But what truth does will suffice for each one
Who believes it, being neither opposed
To the mistake or to the lie but to another truth
So how do we reconstruct from these fragments
Of our Temple that one truth, Gospel of hygiene?

Why soap again? My friends, why not? Look
At the effects it has! Take a lump, lather up
And lave now your body! Who taught you how
To clean yourself? And who is it
Who washes with you?
Who is there? Only the skin.

For my demonstration I shall require a piece
The honours, Ian! Are you there?
Number two (for my problem is twofold
It is knowledge and ignorance, science
And the blindness of the experimental method
Which reaches to the divine by an ascent, to grasp

Just and bring back no more than tiny relics):
Thankyou, sir, madam – although I suppose
By the kindness of your donation you are
Madam, am I right? … Before I continue
Might I be so bold as to enquire
Who is this? …

No matter, madam, least of all one of magic
I’m no magician and what meagre insight I possess
Into the beauty of the female sex I owe
To feeling only, a mere sensorial limitation
Need not blind one to immediate matters
Or to the matter in hand

Indeed, where univeral nature accords
With human nature is in feeling
And experiment, a space of which
The smallest possible surface area
May be calculated to lie within
The bounds of a bent wire

And exist as a resonant field
A membrane or an M brane
Between the two spheres
Resonant because communicative
It finds its ideal and therefore minimal
Therefore most elegant form

In the skin of a soap-bubble, like so!
This then is knowledge! Good for something, yes?
But what? To connect
Over the curve

But what filled with? Breath, you say
The mysterious perfection
Of a divine aspiration
But if perfect, why limited?
The mystery, the problem is
The mathematical shape of a breath

That fills the interstitial, interstellar
Void of the Universe and Man
Because I offer nought but the image
Because the wire I’ve bent for you is nothing
But a trap for a twofold subject, both knowable
And unknown, at once cosmic and terrestrial,

Like a painting’s stretcher and support, like
A stage setting crossed by a Christ-figure,
A subject who enters up on to the nervous
System as if up on to a plateau, over the curve
Of the horizon, precisely where it connects
To every other, in fact, the minimal surface

Of connection. And all that we can carry
Is it more than we can bear?
In a place we’ve seen before
Without seeing? Number three:

What has happened to belief
When every effort is made to clean it off?
And lift the animal grease and hide its stench?

The skin becomes the article
With which we keep faith, the organ
On which it’s staked

It spreads out and extends as the horizon
Of our human being, like a theatrical curtain
Before which all sensations are played out

Or like, indeed, a skin of bubbles
Lit from within, iridescent
And hardly uniform, constituting
A great and complex geometry of emotion
Of the feeling of one skin
Against another.