Finite Number, Oni Buchanan

Craig Goodworth, Select Artifact (dipped manuscript), 2010



Finite Number


The endgame is                               unflattering My phone’s

not waterproof not                         ringing I’m treading

heavy water                                     growing more and more

numb Counting out                        the sea birds this far

from land Petrels                            Puffins You arrive at a

finite number a conclusive            number You extrapolate

the coming moment                       while losing your means

to make something                         of that hard-won data

My blood stream                             slowing How can I

distinguish water from                  sky? The silver boundaries

mix Now is                                      the time novice pilots

plunge into the ocean                    I didn’t mean to

wake up here bobbing                  with harbor seals

staring as usual with                     no discretion They keep

the data in their                              silver brains insulated

like a coin collection                      5th– and 6th-century

Byzantine I have to                        believe I’m the person

I’ve been seeking                            It’s easier and harder

to imagine under the                     severity of pressure I’ll

soon black out Float                       away from this failing

sky before it hits                             the pitch Now to re-set

all my declines                                before the water ages

silver under all this                        barometric pressure

No hard feelings No                      difficult feelings

Oni Buchanan


Review by Alan Gold

The construction of this poem is wonderful. The “silver boundary” between ascent and decline, the passage into “silvered” old age, is a hard line here. It’s not subtle. You crash into it, and then you must deal with your own slow sinking. That hard line shows up metaphorically (it is indeed difficult for novice pilots to negotiate that horizon line). But it also shows up literally, in the hard vertical line between the two halves of the poem. I’m not always a fan of shape or pattern poetry but this really works.

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