Sestina Tanikawa

And if meaning were a roll of toilet paper
then each perforated sheet would read:
"We see nothing that is underneath."
On the seventh day, when God made juice
and perched there on the surface
of his bed, perhaps he dreamed

that all of his creation was a dream,
that he had spent the whole week plagued by paper
cuts.  Could anybody recognize the surface
of the earth if our blood dripped down to make
the land into a question mark?  We have squeezed the juice
from rocks like God, never looking underneath;

it often feels that underneath
it all, our words themselves are dreamed,
and meaning is a frozen juice
container leaving circles on the morning paper.
So we act like God: we mutter
and we try to scratch the surface

with our nails, and we manipulate the surface.
But not the structure underneath.
We are wrapped up in the meaning of each phrase
we speak.  We dream
of reading poems in the paper,
and sipping from an orange juice.

"Painting nothing, they slurp apple juice,"
God whispers as his fingers feel the surface
of formica wiped clean by a paper
towel.  He picks the dirt from underneath
his fingernails, and never dreams
that there is something left to read.

We manipulate this reader,
but could never squeeze fresh juice
from painted apples -- even in a dream.
So, we wrap ourselves up in the surface,
hoping there is nothing underneath
the bed except for empty sheets of paper.

-Neal Miller, 1994



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