Saturday, August 20, 2016

Jack Scott writes

Part III

What is the difference
between maze and labyrinth?
They are much the same:
aids to contemplation.
Given third dimension
they loom into mystery
rooted deep in folklore.
Those we, physically,
might get lost within.
There is the risk as well,
beyond imagination
in extended possibility,
that we might also lose
the landmarks in our mind.


I am strolling peacefully benign
across idyllic meadow,
when along comes stomping,
frothing at the mouth,
a giant Johnny Appleseed of thorny hedges,
apparently pissed off at me;
there’s no one else around.

He carries in one arm a bundle
of scrawny desiccated sticks
and in the other, a stouter pointed one.
He pokes holes, inserts his sticks
and before the next is planted
the one before has sprouted,
such is the magic of his art.
Humming as he works -
sound of distant wasps -
he doesn’t speak or look at me,

I’m quick to notice,
and, in a way, admire
how good he is at what he does,
but not swift enough
to realize the shape it’s taking.

He sows his spiny crop
in what seems at first a semicircle
which gradually draws ‘round me,
purse seine closing from all sides,
while I am frozen in astonishment

Shortly he is out of sight,
beyond sound as well.
I find semantics moot;
whether labyrinth or maze,
I am in a pickle.

To make it worse,
the prickly thicket is quickly
growing every way at once
and here am I, stark still,
transfixed by my predicament..
How fast disbelief
can become belief.

I walk and find I can’t
take more than
five steps in a row
within what was a simple circle
without detour around
some leafy barrier..

Here be devil’s alphabet,
familiar and maybe Martian:
Ys and Cs and Ws
along with Us and Es and Zs,
contorted consonants and vowels
writ high with bristly trees
obstructing my passage.

The path is constricting inward,
burred walls intruding further
on what was never ample;

(Are we but larger rats,
I can’t help but wonder,
in some grotesque experiment
to measure and determine
an elusive ratio
of intelligence and fortitude?
Might there might be Observer
taking notes and making sketches
to improve the model?)

Now where was I?
Oh, yes,
right where I am

imprisoned in this maze
(or labyrinth).
I escaped it briefly in my mind.

I could go on
(In what direction?)
until entangling tendrils
marry overhead,
encasing me like mummy
in vegetable cocoon,
divorcing me from light..

the short list:
Shall I go on or not?
That was easy.

Can I?
That is harder.
I will until I can’t.
That was easy, too.

I’m hungry, Johnny.
Why not just one apple tree
in this infernal briarpatch,
or, lacking that,
just one fucking apple!


Some marriages 
are laboratory experiments
in which two occupants
move from separate cages
to coinhabit with a stranger
in a slightly larger one.

While the dew is on two lilies
bathing in a common vase,
vacationing from loneliness,
elopement was, for them, escape.
The existence each has shed,
in hindsight, felt too tight.
The world is now their oyster
which they may someday need,
though neither can imagine that.
They’ll have a lasting honeymoon,
a trick that hormones play on space,
Hollywood of the ordinary.

It may take some time
for them to notice
their cage becoming smaller
without them gaining size.. 
Dreck, demonstrated:
ten pounds of shit
in five pound bag.



  1. In English, the terms “labyrinth” and “maze” are generally synonymous. However, in some usages, a mazeis is a complex, branching, multicursal puzzle with choices of path and direction, while a labyrinth is unicursal, with only a single path to the center. Although Cretan coins sometimes depicted multicursal labyrinths, the unicursal seven-course design, without branching or dead ends, appeared as early as 430 BCE. Even as the designs became more elaborate, visual depictions from Roman times onward were almost always unicursal; branching mazes were reintroduced only when garden mazes became popular during the Renaissance. “Labyrinth” was derived by the Minoans from the Lydian “labrys” (double-edged axe), a symbol of royal power and perhaps of the beginning of Creation. A goddess of the double-axe probably presided over Minoan palaces, and the Greeks used the word as the name for the one in Knossos in particular. 'Labrys' was. In Labraunda of Caria, the double-axe was associated with the storm-god Zeus Labrandeus, and also with Teshub the Hurrian god of sky and storm (his Hittite and Luwian name was Tarhun). In the “Iliad,” Hómeros seems to have suggested that Knossos was where Daedalus made a dancing-ground made for Minos’daughter Ariadne, where young men and women danced, in representation of the youths sent as tribute payments to be sacrificed to bull-headed Asterion (whom the Greeks called Minotaurus, the “Bull of Minos”), the offspring of Minos’ wife Pasiphaë and a white bull that Minos had kept instead of sacrificing it to Poseidon. (She accomplished this by having Daedalus devise a hollow wooden cow for her to enter.) Since Asterion had no natural source of nourishment, he devoured humans. The Labyrinthos itself was an elaborate maze designed by Daedalus and his son Icarus for King Minos of Crete to contain the Minotaur; Daedalus had made it so cunningly that he himself could barely escape it after building it. Minos’ son Androgeos was killed, either by Pasiphaë’s taurine lover which king Aegeus of Athens had sent him to slay, or at Marathon by the Athenians, jealous of his victories at the Panathenaic festival. Either way, Minos held Athens responsible, made war against them, and won; as reparation, Minos demanded 14 Athenian youths to be sent to Crete every 7 years to be fed to Asterion. (The 1st-century BCE satiric poet Gaius Valerius Catullus claimed that the death of Androgeos led to a divine plague, which forced Aegeus to placate the gods by sending the sacrifices.) As the third offering festival approached, Aegeus’ son Theseus volunteered to slay the monster. When he arrived in Cree, Ariadne fell in love with him, and, although married to Dionysus, she gave him a sword and a clue (ball of thread) which allowed him to retrace his path and thus successfully navigate the Labyrinthos. He killed the man-bull, led his fellow Athenians out of the maze, and eloped with Ariadne. But he abandoned her while she slept on the island of Naxos on the way home. (In some versions, Dionysos appeared to Theseus as he left Crete and demanded that he leave her there so he could reclaim her. In others, when Theseus's ship was swept off course, the pregnant Ariadne put ashore, but Theseus, was swept out to sea.) Ariadne remarried Dionysus and had many children, but she hanged herself or was killed at Argos by Perseus; Dionysus descended into Hades and recovered her, along with his mortal mother Semele.

  2. In Karl Kerenyi’s discussion of Platon's dialogue “Euthydemus,” Socrates described the labyrinthine line of a logical argument: "’Then it seemed like falling into a labyrinth: we thought we were at the finish, but our way bent round and we found ourselves as it were back at the beginning, and just as far from that which we were seeking at first.’ ... Thus the present-day notion of a labyrinth as a place where one can lose [his] way must be set aside. It is a confusing path, hard to follow without a thread, but, provided [the traverser] is not devoured at the midpoint, it leads surely, despite twists and turns, back to the beginning.”

  3. Johnny Appleseed was the nickname of John Chapman, an American pioneer nurseryman who introduced apple trees to large parts of Pennsylvania, Ontario, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and the northern counties of West Virginia in the early 19th century. Although the legendary “Johnny Appleseed” spread apple seeds at random wherever he traveled, the real John Chapman established nurseries, left them in the care of a local resident, who sold trees on shares, and returned every year or so to tend them. According to Michael Pollan (“The Botany of Desire: A Plant's-Eye View of the World”), since he was opposed to grafting, his apples were not edible and could be used only for cider: “Really, what Johnny Appleseed was doing and the reason he was welcome in every cabin in Ohio and Indiana was he was bringing the gift of alcohol to the frontier.” Even while he was alive, stories of his eccentricities and love of animals became legion. Once, noticing that mosquitoes flew into his campfire, he filled the tin utensil he used as a hat and mush pot with water and put out the fire, saying later, "God forbid that I should build a fire for my comfort, that should be the means of destroying any of His creatures." Meanwhile, he was also an itinerant missionary for The New Church (Swedenborgian)
    [Emanuel Swedenborg was an 18th-century scientist and mystic who died a couple years before Chapman’s birth; he claimed to have received a new revelation from Jesus through continuous heavenly visions a period of at least 25 years and predicted that God would replace the traditional Christian church with a “New Church,” though he never tried to found one himself. Based on his “Arcana Cœlestia” (Heavenly Mysteries) published in eight Latin volumes from 1749 to 1756, along with voluminous other writings, The New Church movement was founded in England, where he had died 15 years earlier; the General Convention of the New Church was established in the US in 1817. A 20th century writer, Olof Lagercrantz, called his theological writing "a poem about a foreign country with peculiar laws and customs."] Chapman wis often associated with his traveling song, the Swedenborgian hymn ("The Lord is good to me..."), which is sung before meals in some American households: "Oooooh, the Lord is good to me, and so I thank the Lord, for giving me the things I need, the sun and the rain and the appleseed. The Lord is good to me. Amen, Amen, Amen, Amen, Amen." The 22 March 1845 issue of the “Fort Wayne [Indiana] Sentinel” published his obituary, claiming he had died on 18 March: “He is supposed to have considerable property, yet denied himself almost the common necessities of life -- not so much perhaps for avarice as from his peculiar notions on religious subjects. In the most inclement weather he might be seen barefooted and almost naked except when he chanced to pick up articles of old clothing. Notwithstanding the privations and exposure he endured, he lived to an extreme old age, not less than 80 years at the time of his death -- though no person would have judged from his appearance that he was 60.” [In actuality he was 70.]. Similarly, the 27 March “Goshen Democrat” claimed, “Many of our citizens will remember this eccentric individual, as he sauntered through town eating his dry rust and cold meat, and freely conversing on the mysteries of his religious faith.”


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