Thursday, August 14, 2014

Lesle Lewis, Two Poems

The principle of the “AND gate” is this: when you have two digital signals, each measured at either a “1” state or a “0” state, inputting these to an “AND gate” will produce the following outputs: two “0” inputs results in a “0” output; one “0” input plus one “1” input results in a “0” output; two “1” inputs results in a “1” output. Thus the AND gate acts as a switch producing a “1”-level output only as a result of two “1”-level inputs. There are also gates called “OR,” “NOR,” “NAND,” “XOR,” and “XNOR”; these manage the way Boolean logic works in a binary system.
Or so I vaguely recall from the training I received as a young man—you’re probably better off checking the Wikipedia articles on “Logic Gates” and “Boolean logic” if you want the precise lowdown. My point here has to do with my response to Lesle Lewis’s enigmatic, surface-simple poems—not just the ones she’s sent to Truck, but basically everything I’ve seen in her five excellent books.
You could approach this rhetorically, through what Aristotle called the “enthymeme” or “incomplete syllogism”—his idea that the sentences of ordinary (or rhetorical) language enunciate an approximate, allusive, tropological, and elliptical logic. To extend this to what Donald Davidson says in the twentieth century, our relationship with language is always such that we must register hypotheses about meaning: meaning is rarely (at least when it rises to the level of “interest”) transparent. People engaged in communication have no choice but to be actively engaged in interpretation, of filling in gaps.
And not all gaps are alike. Some tease us to see the obvious, while others require great leaps with no assurances. Poetry, the arts in general, have thrived on this, manipulating the gaps of interpretation in an ongoing process of challenge, frustration, and gratification. Lesle’s poems—just considering, now, the ones I’ve uploaded—play between the logic of the AND gate and the enigmatic conjunction of frustration and gratification—the place, or one of the places, where “and” breaks down. I don’t know if this has anything to do with our digitally-mediated present, but I suspect it does. Or, more to the point, this may describe a kind of tension between the simplicities we depend on in our everyday existence and the complexities we are always trying to avoid or deny—the things the arts insist on. Our gadgets make things so simple that, at some level, we know we must invoke a deeper suspicion. Our lives remain frustratingly analog, and every AND gate’s logic is fuzzy. (JM)


I am up and done with complaining about you.

You dress strangely and encompass two oceans.

You are out dancing and in danger.

You can and cannot direct your thinking down either the dark channel or the light one.

Are two and a half pills significantly better than two and a good way to get closer to
really good?

It’s a beautiful day to be a child.

You might give it all away in English or in cash.

     I don’t know what to do with this machine.

I walked to your party through the crusty crash-through snow the color of pig dung.
The party was way too feel-goodish.
I had to come back over bad roads.
Then the power went off.
If “scraps” is the answer, what’s the question?
Is it the art of wanting?

We walked your puppy in the field and you confessed your feelings.
This time of year can be the worst for feelings.
Competing streams of information hit each other.
Situations outside ourselves pull down our shades of happiness.
What really happens, happened.
We play this game in steps.

Absoluteness sits on me.
I’m not great.
My brain is a bad boy.

Lesle Lewis's newest book is A Boot's a Boot. Lesle lives in New Hampshire and teaches at Landmark College. Her website is

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