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David Chalmers: Fragments of consciousness

The New York Review of Books

Poetry 180


Nothing Shines Like Back

Nothing Shines Like Black
play you play you
Circe’s bouncing boy
ol' man bring back
your leaping joy!

play you ol' man
wolfish grin to hide
moly moly
molly in her sty. 

playyou playyou
Circe’s whip and crack
nothing shines like black. 

Note: Circe is a dark lady for many reasons. Most readers will know her from The Odyssey. It is told there that Odysseus spent a year with her on the island of Aeaea on his way home to his beloved and faithful Penelope. Circe is the one who turned Odysseus' men into pigs, a consequence our hero avoided by using against her the magic of the herb 'moly', all white but for its black root. The herb had been an unlooked for resource provided by Hermes, that traveler between the worlds of light and dark, known thereby as Psychopompos. The herb worked! Later it would be Circe who sends Odysseus far west to where the Titan Helios does not shine (i.e. Homer's version of the Underworld, at least in The Odyssey). Helios does, however, sometimes threaten to bring his light to this dark region of the earth. And so, Odysseus is off to the far shore of Oceanus. Such is the fate of the moly-bearer. It is in the Far West that Odysseus learns from the prophet Tiresias, the only shade among the dead who yet keeps his nous (i.e. mind), how to navigate the dangerous journey home to Ithaca.
The 'Molly' here makes a guest appearance here from JJ's  Ulysses; she appears in that work as a thinly disguised Penelope. In Dante's version, however, Odysseus chooses upon his departure from Aeaea to sacrifice home and hearth for still more adventures at sea. Apparently, he does not want to give up his Oar, as Tiresias tells him he must. Ultimately, in Dante's version, he goes down with his ship, landing in The Inferno in the company of other great liars.
And so it goes. Sometimes it best to know when to say no more. Let others suppose, provided they do not know. (Let's see, the Latin for that would be: Alii cogitent dum nescient. Keep it handy. A little gift from your Hermes on your travels to the Far West.