Collecting Fragments : The Engineer of Himself

Posting an ongoing project, a long(ish) poem(-tic) reflexive effort to at least hear myself if not understand.

The Engineer of Himself

The Engineer of Himself: A Poem

“Thinking is willing you are wild

to the weave not to material itself”

Susan Howe

“a new music of verse stretching out into the future…”

William Carlos Williams on Louis Zukofsky



I have tried to tell this story time and time again.

I’ve set out to tell this story.

This one story.  This one, apparently, mine.


This story takes all of my life, as do all of the stories that go deep in the mines.

Mole’s holes without boundaries – forward and back equal speed – ever the hunting, never the full.

We develop our routes in this way.

Creating patterns.

We forget so many channels and tunnels and homes.


Will I ever find the subject

When asked what I am writing?

Writing here

Subjects are subjected to such tiny worlds

There are objects too

That also serve as subjects

All we’re subject to.


I have this body,  this is mine,

It covers and fills me entire

And then it reaches, reaches,

Forages out and it moves,

Colliding and grasping and pushing away

I have this body, this mine.


With a mind

With a mind to

With a penchant toward action

Toward distress

De-stress, this dress

Toward persons, places and things

Toward world

From within, without

So without makes it in.


I mine there

Mining without

Without tools or fuels or jewels

So I fashion, construct

Supplying from within what’s without

And I’m borrowing here,

Collaging weapons and stories and finds

In this purely without of a mind.


Forging no need was illusion

Drawing on nothing as air

Fantasy, drama and dream

Phantom limbs, phantom words, phantom truths

and structures

and patterns

that never add up or complete

only fail

only lie

without the whole story

what’s left in the mines

what’s already become

something else

without, me




“Each syllable an instance

of ourselves bodied forth in the


…the voice which occurs all the time

while everything else is happening”

-Ron Loewinsohn-


Here I am drawing on Zukofsky

on Wittgenstein, Blanchot

all the others too

because language

is that pre-fab tool

that we fabricate

for ourselves

as it manufactures us


Help outside

no help

coming through, as it does

inside, after all,

helping to shape

and discover,

lending forms

and definition

to experiences

otherwise improbable




remaining still

outside words’ purview

but almost communicative

almost expressed

anyway, all ways

that come down to

into, as possibles.




Bakhtin, semiotic Ecos,

Sebeok, Halliday, Firth and Peirce

not forgetting Uexkull

nor leaving him aside

in his thousands of worlds

circling our own

so Susan Howe and Lyn

Hejinian, Arakawa and Gins

add their genes

to my braiding strand

Creeley Olson Williams

that Wallace Stevens says.


Engineering himself

with parts ready made

collage and cross-breeding

in chaos of happenstance



What with friendship

and love

those I-Vs

as in injections

through slap

and its waking

like alien probes

something happens

and goes on

no controlling the architect

who is many

and not yet done

will be never

without any plans

just a tinkering

of billions

of metaphorical hands


like sky

and crows

and water

and cells



stew pot

of whatever’s


and quite probable,

then some


we call “context”


the world enough

and time

we go down in

and on






If asked to say myself, what would it be that I might say?

I’d say “selfless” but not as altruism, rather stuck

at a crossroad of enough sensation to feel responsible

but not enough to seem of value yet.

I.e. I’ve never known the underwritten sense of being “good enough”

or “good just as I am”

rather ever the hunch that something’s missing.

or someone.

entity that might provide worth.  Inherently.

A.k.a. “identity.”


It seemed safer to keep to myself,

which I have never found,

perhaps stumbled across from time to time

with no one to confirm.

From early on it’s been piano and pen –

attempts to confirm for myself

I have effects.

Or that I am and at least possess matter

whether that “matters” or not

I can draw lines and shape letters

that others might read…really,

or punch holes in the air against keys

resulting in sound as a response to such grasping


It’s a striving for verification, really.

an undeniable act of “to be.”


that if I could see it, or hear,

perceptively in some way,

there must be a someone behind it,

in fact, a name that I’ve employed

for myself – simply “Someone”

among so many others, hardly

distinguishable, but not without

the grave desire so “to be.”



Which brings me to now

and surrounding effects –

there are spouses and children

and pages and friends

sounds and writings and pictures

various artifacts,

even skin I count now

and its pains

as evidence that I might

be here


And have matter

that matters

to some.


never certain.


What’s called “passing fancy”

or “passing away”

like seasons and bodies and grass

so – how much?

Not very.

But still.

I am here

and I love

I reach out

and effect

readily verifiable

as pain.

Still undecided

as “good.”




There are things that ask themselves,

are asked of you

your selves

we, an assemblage of language,

of contexts invested, invented, infested,

with meanings,

with signs,

with billions of shorthands,

short-handed always

for something else,

it begs the question

asking itself

our selves

where we come from


as if a nexus of webbing

were stilled for a moment

could be located

but  isn’t

it can’t

so no answers are given

rather various strands

at sundry intervals


on the angling

of the web


we ask ourselves

it asks itself

through us

as if a part

of our machinations

were so simple

as to run

that way,

on questioning.


I ask myself,

engineering my selves

pretending to manage


like instructions




of the origins

of stones

and cells

and butterfly’s wings

whence also

my individuated (as in differing, deferring)



Do Not Answer


is what the question is


just another way

to leave

a particular mark

– ? –

always shared in common

but variously inked

or stroked

or spoken

while walking




positioning doesn’t matter

and makes all the difference

in the world

if you’re asking.


I am


V. in Appropriate Voicing


He works at the only solution…

what calculates being binary

operations in two hemispheres

He will attempt to inhabit between

to increase the materials colossally

And therefore to add

or perhaps even multiply

subtracting divisions en route


Working a solution

without equation

only a means of figuring

what it is that might be here

or there

the wherever of whatever

simply a matter

of when


He writes

scribbling a mannered matter

extracting doodles

impacting his geometries.

The earth is round

in an oblong way

like all ideas of perfection

so as not to fall


He slides

working his hands into cracks

in futile attempts to grab hold

He won’t

having already shifted

by the time

his digits arrive


He will go on measuring land

by feel

a task for stitching the meanings


unwound in the act of threading

ripped out

by his dreams in the night


which work toward the final solution,


a silencing of the two spheres

deformed so very anonymously

in the only way it ends

carrying on






If I am here,

it’s as dispersion.

I am here.

I open out

What exists

through contact

I learn my boundaries

are sometimes shared

as margins


I sense

a threshold

for encounter

to disperse

in borders

commingled present

here, and now,

a kind of always

where I will be


Like a shadow

or a field

a range of action

acted on

therefore distinct

and altogether

the one and the other(s)


what is




I declare

it makes no difference

I am here

is different from

the declaration

also here

and in relation



the one and the many


and uniquely so

in location

and extension,


and occurrence,

the only here

is we.


I create myself


as I’m created,

simultaneous construction(s);

what is not


what it is

and thus becomes

it as well


I am a spectrum

and dispersion

and an othering

at once –

shadows within shadows

of shadows in a field

we become

VII.  What We Do With Who We Are


Seems a likely story in the making (of either the doing or the being)

Given the limitations

speaking of time

thinking of space

or energy – matter – duration.

We repeated: the stars burned out

hundreds of thousands of them

years ago

and the news

has yet

to reach us

i.e. things are relative

like we, one to another,

and all the possible rest

in terms of potentia


capacity vs. reality

and also such part of it.



“I remember –“

we sometimes say

concocting a story

toward what is needed,

an age-old habit

of recurrence

thus the doing

effects the being


in its reversals

and translations


where do predilections


e.g. nothing is left

to its own devices

and if it were

(if it could be)

would we have being

in itself

without an object

to act against

(without its doing?)

I wouldn’t know

without a something

so I guess hardly.

As it were.


With a measurable body

(apparent limitation)

height and weight

shape and number

identify by more

& you have a name

not definition

the truth is like that

I often say,

explaining nothing

in vague depictions.


Even what’s specific

or precise

is mystical and vague

from variant positions

called perspective

another name

limited by what senses


And what else is there?

in the being and its actions

than these limits

of description?


One wants to wonder

but can’t go out

or further on

than where

or what

one is


Which equals how,


a resolution

of the doing

of the being

that interests me.


She’d call it “process”

in the “system”

of “relations” –

their between –

Gymnastic open language

that I like

but don’t really



part of it

during all

and never



Which gives pause

to cause reflection –

a kind of


toward the future –

what we do

with who we are.


5 thoughts on “Collecting Fragments : The Engineer of Himself

"A word is a bridge thrown between myself and an other - a territory shared by both" - M. Bakhtin

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