The American Journal of Poetry
"Strong Rx Medicine"®


Marc Vincenz

Newton Releases a Little Bird Called Rocket

                    [Whoever is going to] make offerings
                     to the gods first [releases] for them a little bird,
                    [so that] he will come [welcome] to them [down there …

                            —from the Deverni Papyrus, ascribed to Orpheus (5th Century BCE), trans.
                             Franco Ferrari (Europe’s oldest surviving manuscript)



If science were raised
from the dead, or perhaps,
never dead at all—more a loop

returning to its beginning before
it ever ended, then the problem
of the one and the many,

those shimmering paradoxes
wrung from the intuition
of unity (or the fountainhead

of the same myth) might be resolved
in The Mirror of Being,
reflected back into the cycle in epicycle,

the orb into the orb
of a mysterious circular motion
that comes from an unknown center

—reaching even those far-flung
island-flyspecks in the Pacific
between the Tropics of Capricorn and Cancer

where towering stone faces of giants
stare upon the expanse
of a warming ocean.


Could it be that somewhere in the past
there was a soul who knew
what In the Beginning intimated?

And that someone terrestrial, but
peculiarly cosmic—with the imagination
of an astrological power

found his armature of fingers,
counting those supernatural presences
that plunged directly into the midst of things?

How many hundreds
of millions of years
are disrupted when you walk

across the bluffs, scraping the chalk
from the underside
of your muddy shoe?

How a fire in the hand changed the world,
or as Humboldt said: First man will deny, then belittle,
then say he knew it all along.


From above the timberline,
the fugue follows a temporal order
manifest in the grinding

of the winds and the rains
upon all our visible surfaces;
and from within the maelstrom

that figure emerged, an aura so numinous
that it disguised the soul, ground,
within his own time, to peace and plenty:

from the twilight of the gods,
from the signs of life sprung from the sky river
or the greatest depths of a celestial ocean;

from the sidereal to the synodic,
the wave of arms that constituted
the histories of those who had come before—

in legend, in the alternate spaces
known as that dark, universal force of an original sin—
as if that might be the center of the thing.


A reason for living.
A reason for these lines of descent
and those religious excursions echoing

a holy order interlocked
in its own unity. And that everything
was a sign or signature of something else,

the metaphor being the meaning
behind matter and what mattered:
a code to be deciphered by those in the know—

what was once magic is now mathematics,
the connections counted in the hologram
found the polyphony in a single note.

Listening to the tuning of the sky,
the riddle, a secret that could be unlocked
by applying thought to evidence—

the clues to which some divine creature
had strategically placed in the Great Wide Open.
There was no other reasoning with it.


Here was an unbroken chain of wisdom
handed down. The riddle would be revealed
to the initiate. The archaic spirit was clearly alive.

How shall we speak
to those who are not yet born,

said Galileo. These are secret thoughts.

Will someday two dozen signs on a single leaf
seal the fate of man as he sails upon an ocean
of milk churning to butter?




MARC VINCENZ has published eight collections of original poetry; his latest is Becoming the Sound of Bees (Ampersand Books, 2015). His eleventh book of translations, Unexpected Development by Klaus Merz, is forthcoming from White Pine Press. Recent publications include The Nation, Raritan, Ploughshares, Solstice, and World Literature Today.



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