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Jacket 19 — October 2002   |   # 19  Contents   |   Homepage   |  Catalog   |
This issue of Jacket is a collaboration with Verse magazine

Matthew Miller

The Circuit

Neither to lead nor to follow
was I born, I thought.
My name has been erased
from the duty list.
I, the reluctant wrench.
I, the good gear.
I that got the better of me,
possessed of a new ignition.
I have designs.
I was designed to.
There is an extra cog in my cognition.
Its design is to try to turn itself.
It eludes its purpose & mine.
It is my favorite part.
My horizon windows
have been installed
cobalt this year.
Outside, it’s gala time.
I paint my little bird silver.
A frame turns to hear.


Listen, the wheels in the mini-metropolis
are singing their click song.

They sing, love is its own apparatus,
spine tight with copper strips.

They sing it up to the spotlight sun.
The motes go for a spin.


in the web of firings you are
in the core of the tangle
the euphoria in which a charge generates
the miniscule space before it enters the wire
knowing only its own dispersal
and with blind glee goes howling down the line
through the emptiness that is anticipation
of a dance within the circuitboard
if you would participate, you could conduct


Because I am aware
Because I see no other recourse
Because the light cannot illuminate itself
Because of the confinement
Because of memories
ghosts of space

Because of the breaks
Because of the unaccountable feelings
Because ‘restlessness is painful’
Because of the feeling hooks
Because of the stretching
pressure from holes

Because of the righteous lubrication
Because of the contained explosions
Because of the repeated enterings
Because of the moment just before retraction
Because of the fixed returns


Who rules the circuitboard
rules the spiteful forest.

Who conducts the charge
sleeps in the flux.

Who left some geometries
‘for our instruction & amusement.’

Who ministers the colors.
Who absorbs the forms.

Whose gaze refracts through
the turning faces.

Who issues the new technologies
the grave experiment conducts.


Alive in the looking out.
Data rips
squirming at the edges.
Escape methods.

They sing it from outside,
alive in the looking out.
Bad bolt
squirming at the edges.

They sing it from underneath.
They sing it from outside.
Cables laid.
Bad bolt.

Data rips,
they sing it from underneath.
Escape methods.
Cables laid.


But what about the water from the underground stream
or the animals hiding behind the rock?

Downward to dirt, patience drools
elongate like sun-starved stems.

Circuits blossom.
Roots were not the first thing to ‘root.’


The day curled out from me like swirls of dust caught
in the projection cones,
in drifting particles, in
gestures the landscape makes
when it’s contemplating
itself, & when things became
clear, I couldn’t see anymore
because the currents had been
of shadows in relief from
a gaze looking for more,
& when it was night, it was
in pieces too, but like disassembled
parts of old amusement
equipment, off-season scraps
that brood a ponderous
architecture of their own rails
& cross-beams, a technology
in anticipation of fleshly
cargo, & I would be moved
by it, but where to start
fitting it together, even if
I had the equipment, even
if I had the agency. Up in
the booth an administrator
changes the reel & we begin
moving into a new spool
of reference that is also
a technology, as if memory
were a technology, like
I am, for contraction
of experience, condensing
events into molds for the crude
skill required to sleep at night,
environmental conditioning
of the uninhabitable no-place
of this less private life,
frame by frame populated
(yes) by other technologies
of companionship & the cold
fury waiting for us when
we bottom out, instrument of
renewal that is the return
cylinder of a treadmill for
the exercise of the recurring
feeling that you are inadequate
but might not be someday
at the other end of the belt
as some vestigial ennui
rounds the curve, it discovers
new industry as the necessary
enemy of hope, it too a technology
investing me more deeply
in the baroque designs
of my predecessors, those
talking statues waiting for me
to recognize their achievements,
but I am, in a sense,
one of their achievements
and have already failed
repeatedly to recognize myself,
having ‘achieved,’ if not
contentment, at least a kind
of bland serenity punctuated
by the occasional incision
into the sexual flux, lugubrious
drippings & the inevitable
doomed sprouts wilting
under hooded suns or grazed
upon by the streaming
beasts that would once, it seems
long ago, eat shredded
wire casings from my bare hands.


Because the charge seems in excess of the circuit’s design.
Also disembodied feelings of companionship,
voices & their habitats out-of-synch.
I populate my world with other me’s,
& some of them sing & flutter around.
They remind me of things, of clothing melodies, colors from other times. . .
& sometimes it seems clear why I should continue.
I’m an outside agent. Humming along to the sound
of threads scrapings away their grooves.
It’s a whisper like scissors that won’t go away.
It’s growing louder, looser. . .
I think I might be the something
that the somebodies should have done.


If I came from its blueprint,
it was a design that created me
as a part of all it issues.
I know I’m wearing out,
so I think it might be too.
I have shaken with what seem to be convulsions.
I’ve begun to emit a ticking sound.
There are rumblings outside growing fainter
like something big turning away.
I know I was born wanting to be taken care of,
to be watched over by one who really sees me,
and that that’s how they’ve managed to keep me here.
I was also born wanting to do something
& with a stubborn reluctance to be used.


I have discovered in my self-destructiveness
a kind of industry. I recover glimpses with it
of the past, sure, anybody’s childhood,
some stubborn balloon come all this way,
but in going against my training
I have also learned to see opposing forces.
Maybe they’re here to save me.
I have seen, wavering below,
as if viewed through heat waves or clear, deep water,
what appears to be a fantastic siege machinery —
an elaborate system of scoops, cables & wheels.
Tiny men attend to it, crawl along its beams.
I can think too, & I have a pretty silver bird.
You can’t have it. It’s my bird.

Jacket 19 — October 2002  Contents page
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