[i]”…but man he made to serve him, wittily, in the tangle of His mind.”

Robert Bolt, A Man for all Seasons [/i]

There is scientific evidence that objects on the mesoscopic scale (meaning sizes ranging from a few nanometers to a tenth of a micron) tend to be self-organizing when arranged in groups of two to three orders of magnitude. Inanimate particles begin to organize themselves into patterns that seem to respond to their surroundings in ways similar to life forms.

The driving force behind this tendency toward self-organization appears to be a combination of phenomena that scientists term “frustration” and “funneling.”

Frustration arises when systems contain components that compete against each other in two or more different ways, often with simultaneous attraction and repulsion. Such competition can force aggregates of matter into patterns that develop in unstable ways, and which, under the right conditions, suddenly materialize into a stable, low-energy state with new properties. The random competing processes of the frustration principle forces the system into the lowest energy state, much like a funnel directs water downward through its spout, which accounts for the term “funneling.”

An example of self-organizing, multiple-competing systems is a phospholipid cluster, which, in water solution, arranges itself into two layers, with the water soluble tails directed outward and the fat soluble heads directed inward. We call these clusters detergents.

Another example is an experiment for the reader to try. Dump a bunch of #7-1/2 or #8 steel bird shot in a single layer in a petri dish and place the dish on a rotating magnetic stirrer. Record what happens, then report the results on this forum.

You may be asking yourself what in the world does all this have to do with a literary web site.

It turns out that it may be possible to design an entirely artificial system that exhibits the adaptive behavior of living things. In fact, we may have already done so! The organizing principles that give matter emergent properties may not be limited to physical matter. They may apply to any complex and random system that emulates the mesoscopic environment.

The most enormously complex, most random, richest – and fastest growing – environment ever devised by man is right in front of us – the Web.

We can only conclude what we already know: Burning Word is coming alive!


What if we daisy-cut
Bin Laden to bloody mush
And stuff his corpse
Into the deepest cave in
The White Mountains
And bulldoze it into
A place so secret that
Even we can’t find it

What if we smash Al Qaeda
Into pieces so small
That Brownian motion
Will be enough to prevent
Even the hope of
Them ever talking to
Or even smelling
Each other

What if we cruise missle
The Taliban so precisely
That any possibility of
The consequences of the
Slightest act of defiance
Against us
On their part
Is so far beyond their
Comprehension that they
Can only hunker down
And go insane

What if we wage war
So technologically clever
That in three months the
Relative body count
(from enemy action only,
Mind you, not Friendly Fire)
Is Us ten thousand, Them zero
(Not counting Alliance
Casualties, of course)
And the couch potatoes
Back home
Can keep score cards via
Satellite phone and CNN
Like it was a football game
Or Desert Storm

What if they dream up a plan
So simple and beautiful
That with a thousand dollars
They massacre a couple
Of million of us with Weapons of
Mass Destruction
Sarin or Ebola or Ricin
Or a Parcel of dirty nukes
Aboard a holiday Boeing 757
Cruising over Manhattan

What if we devise
A Weapon of Mass Destruction
So diabolically complex
As to strip
From them
For our own use
Every non-renewable resource
Tucked by God into
the bowels of their desert
And preserved
For the hope of a future
That their nomadic
Stone-age little minds
Don’t even yet know exists –

What if they smack us
With a Pearl Harbor
So devastating
That our leaders are
Instantly smitten
With a perspicacity
Never possessed
By any such august body
Before or
Since Vietnam,
And will probably never

Here we go

For John Swenning on the Occasion of His Retirement

They say that to be a poet, or even to read poetry, one must be slightly insane.
Which is not to say that the poet, or the reader of poetry, is to blame
For his or her own circumstance, predicament, or condition
Because it is really a matter of fruition.

Many a man or woman have I fervently but distantly esteemed
For the cut of his or her jib or the mire of his/her mud or the bite of her/his spleen
But whose poetic facility ranks right up there with The Best of Dick and Jane
Or Who’s Who in the World of Business, or a matchless tract on how to explain

The inner workings of ovaries or some other obscure but highly important organ,
And to listen to their patter for longer than 0.5 minutes I consider to be very borgan.
But, ah! The others, those rare bards peeking shyly out from behind their little tin shields
Who are equally at home yelling, “Grab a hunk of curb, asshole!” or yodeling odes about Elysian Fields.

There is no doubt that you are one of those not-so-closet poets that color the midst of us mortals,
And you are blest or cursed with a rare perception of what is right and good perhaps more than you ortal.
The fact that you choose to spill it all over everybody’s personal landscape, and make a few pea pickers of our acquaintance a tad disconcerted,
Doesn’t make your lyrical notions wrong or unwelcome in the minds of those of us with whom you have poetically flirted.

For it is plain as the nose above that cookie duster you call a mustache,
That poets, like everyone else, like to make a splache.
Fruition, you see. The favored friends you have carefully chosen to share the wit and wisdom of your sonnet
Are no less burdened to the task than is your ode-spreading head with the powerful urge to create laid onnet.

In other words, Screw it!
You’re constitutionally compelled to do it.
And those of us, who that one little fact doth realize and comprehend,
Consume your canticles with gusto, even if them we don’t always fully understand.

Disparaging trolls may piffle at what they consider the mawkish cutes you and I artlessly dispense,
But we sagacious souls turn our gaze to the stars and away from fools sitting on a mud fence.
If simple minded gherkins call us banal,
The are welcome to osculate the bitter end of my alimentary canal.

I like your stuff as much as you like mine, and if there is one thing I will always treasure
It is watching a man who unquestionably and wholeheartedly thrives on the pleasure
Of expressing his entire ethic in verse so that planet earth may as a place be a little bit better.
Even if he thinks it is ok to say farewell by means of a form letter.

(This poem was written in 1998 and presented to John the day after I received his form letter announcing his retirement)

There is No One Such as I

There is no one such as I…
God’s own juices flow here.
The plain upon which I falter is my hell…
Peace is not an accord,
But a gift discourteously declined.
Why do you ask what I have done?
The past does not suit you, nor me.
Had I been purple at the proper instant,
I would not now be gray.
Seekers whisper wry imaginings
In front of my shoulder blades.
My only sin is distraction;
My only vice, reputation;
My only virtue, absence.
Empathy dances from spire to spire,
Futile cerulean St. Elmo’s fire.
Muse, muse, where are youse?
My lips are pinned I cannot bestir the frost.
My blood is black, my heart a cavern
I cannot fill even with a howl.
You do not feel my kiss on your lips;
I steal your shoes and you bless me.
Grace is a sham and
God is left-handed.
His embrace is less than endocrine,
More than smile.
The passing days are instant.
There is no one such as I….

Wall of Jars

a hospital in
ho chi minh city
has a wall of jars

with pickled
fetuses aborted
(they say)
by agent orange

i feel a flicker
of glee
quick as lust

still killing the
murderous little bastards…

today I discovered
the beauty
of a boy in a
round wicker boat

Dog Talk

When my dog talks to me
I know that he is discussing
Quantum Physics
From a different

When he dreams
I know that he does not exist
In this world
While he dreams…

His incisors
Are perfect utensils
For cutting meat…

He allows me
To take his temperature

When I sing
He harmonizes
In fellowship…

When I scratch his belly
He starts his motorcycle,
And I never ask,
“What’s in it for me?”…

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