In memory of Ray Bradbury, this week’s Sunday poem is “To Know What Isn’t Known, That’s Mine”, from his 2002 collection I Live By the Invisible, published by Salmon Poetry (buy the book*, support poetry and small indie publishers).
From my perspective as a scientist, the title of the poem alludes to science, but it also alludes to the process of writing. Bradbury begins by explicitly suggesting that writing has the same aim as science. The rest of the poem, while clearly referring to the struggle of the imagination engaged in by writers, also aptly describes the mental wrestling of scientists.
Read this poem and remember why Bradbury was acknowledged as the lyricist of science fiction.
To know what isn't known, that's mine, My job, refining blood To find what's good and bad in it, What in the quick cell lies, What dies or lives or lingering Provides the key where all the good stuff hides. I do not know it, cannot find it, so I try With words to jump the pheasants forth And ere they fly To reckon them with further words, describe their wings, All simmers, sings. What word for hummingbird, What lie for dragonfly For simple sea and sand and wind and sky What Alexandrian couplet couples all, first try? Or do I meadow-cast and stone, to clone myself as wheat Or wandering overhill in mind, sink deep in clover-sea That soundly sounding flounders soul and me? My mind all ricochet where flinting words bombard To flower the day and lard the night with sparks, Yet merest breath is death if I but sneeze And lose all dreams that nest in trees and bush Unless I hush myself and tread the path. All's dead or dying. One quick self-conscious bark, Away all's flying. So softly does it, Brer Fox says: listen, son, for it is so! Sweet wanderer of words, lie low, lie low!
*This is an Irish press, so if you live in the US, you can easily buy the book on Amazon.