Topography by Stacy Cartledge
Gate of Jaffa
the bible will always be enigmatic
about it, saying only
that David took the city.
is it like Joshua at
Jericho? does he circle
the city and blow
a trumpet, a joyful noise
unto the lord that pierces
and cracks his walls of Zion?
the choice of Jerusalem
is political; it is not yet the most
holy city, not
until David brings the ark
of the covenant inside
the walls from Kireath–Jearim and Solomon
builds the Temple Mount. still, it
is holy, as all cities used to be: building is
a sanctity, an imitation of god.
the forms were shaped — this was done
irrationally, curving the edges back
to infinity, matter in transcendence.
the arc of the curve equals
135.5º, that is, equal to circle minus
the shells of the sea
spiral along this
curve, and flowers bloom
with petals numbered
by Fibonacci’s sequence of addition:
1 2 3 5 8 13 21 and so on ad infinitum
where, as the numbers
approach infinity, they approach also
the golden ratio of
1.618 etcetera to .618 etcetera. the ratio of
the parthenon, the pyramids, Solomon’s
temple, your reaching body.
as the pine needles
fall in sweeping elliptic
curves I can say this is truth.
the chill and the cracked
stone wall remind me
of New England. my parents
taught me this kind of love by
raising me there, a place between green macintosh
and marble smooth snow, before
taking me to the heat and
heavy air of the bayous.
up in New England
the chill was everpresent;
a Puritan sorrow hung
across lonely commons, a place full of grave
yards and Indian legends,
where the chill affects the touch
of your hand, teaches you the
hardness of the ground
and the dirt,
where the power is in stones.
Gate of Damascus
the center of the world was
well known: Shalem, a forgotten god, had picked
the spot; halos littered the hills, glittering
and gleaming. the wide currents of concentric
circles emanated from
here, epicenter of holiness. the pilgrims crossed
them from profane lands,
absorbing radiated sacred space as
they approached its source.
after entering the gates they were sprinkled
with ash and bathed. ritual dominated
the city in dance and feast.
the stairway to the Temple
Mount was steep, a symbolic
ascension to god’s heaven.
the Devir, beyond altar and Heklal, was
empty now, the ark missing;
god’s throne gone perhaps to Ethiopia
or maybe Babylon, but
it was no matter —
he resided in the Torah, word soon made
Flesh. god was distilled
in bone, in teeth, in the hair of dead prophets
and carried temple to temple, town to town.
rivers, even, follow the symmetric flow
of Number: the ratio between the length
of one’s meandering course
and the straight distance from the source
to mouth equal pi. if not,
the water would flow too fast,
currents would cut too sharply
an angle, causing the river to bend in
on itself as the universe does, forming
a pool, a circle, a lake.
the pattern is spotted in any science.
the random data, when enough are compiled,
fall into constructs;
the constructs form patterns and they describe the
world as pi describes a sphere.
that first kiss was late;
i had already moved up to bucolic
Pennsylvania. bucolic: a word that means
pastoral but sounds bulimic. a sense of
landscape and coal. her mouth was colder than i
expected, but soft,
open. the texture of kissing is mercury milk.
i remember all the first
kisses, the pressure
circling; the way that small space
contains a whole world.
Gate of the Tribes
the pilgrims were of all three
faiths of Abraham;
it had been centuries since god spoke to them.
in the city now called al-Quds, the weapons
the worshipful wielded were philanthropy
and construction. they vied for
conversions and intimidating architecture.
the faith with most control would be most holy;
it would bring god back.
primordial accident: the Shekhinah
separated, broke into embers, entered
base matter. the Jews
felt the weeping Shekhinah within themselves,
raised her through prayer to contemplate god, create harmony.
the Muslims saw the divine
in all creation; even the chaotic
desert was divinely made and thus inspiring.
still, Mecca and Medina were holier
than Jerusalem. at the end of time, god’s
hand would carry the Ka’bah
and in its side the Black Stone, imbedded piece of heaven, to al-Quds.
through breath the soul ebbs:
the hollowness of a shape
is the area, to fill with vibrations,
waves like liquid, sound and light. the harmony
of music is wavelengths strummed
by simple fractions — the half,
the quarter, the eighth.
music makes matter also,
a procession of vibrations built upon
at frequencies fast enough
to form elementary
particles; both particles
and waves, clustering
among themselves, arresting,
shaping solidity — order made ready.
and the four forces of Nature become just
facets of one law.
the places where it happens
become hallowed. there is a
harmony in that.
slowly the sacred finds us
through out movements, rhythmic rites
and rituals: a blessing.
it is the collapse that does it, the closeness
and the opening
of eyes, gleamed and wide.
its form is of gravity:
a local phenomenon
without precise location.
Gate of Zion
touching the sand, sifting it,
contacts the past, pushes into the Ancient
sites and reflects; this is not
unmystic. the countenance
of god maps itself, numinously, onto
these dry ruins. the finding of fact is religion.
when the scientists come, another Crusade,
they also search for god, want
proof of his presence.
they find nothing is simple —
one found layer hides another,
answers beget questions; not a puzzle but
an enigma. the truth is
in the search, the metaphor.
they sift sand, lay hands on stones.
fractal — a pattern that persists no matter
the size of the sample. the number line is
an example, with its sure pattern of primes.
in the first trillion numbers the percentage
is 3.6 prime, matching the logarithm N
as the number of numbers
increases. they congregate at the beginning then
spread out like waves breaking, droplets splayed. the ease
of describing primes compared
to the difficulty in
proving those observations
has been thought testimony to their divinity.
Gödel’s rule of Undecidability refutes
complete understanding — everything cannot
be provable. some questions have no answer.
in this broken trinity
there are now two of us: father and son. your mother is
the ghost, the Shekhinah. she is come apart,
embers ashen. i know now
what it takes to complete a heart — the bonds that
tie you to me are not tight.
with my arms i could make a circle round you,
hold you in eternity.
but embraces are imperfect — hands unclasp.
integral to symbolized perfection are
numbers that do not reduce
to fractions, inscrutably do not repeat but go on forever,
flailed open like a shroud; the sacrosanct depths
of those doused spaces do not sum evenly;
they flow, submerged in the un-
known. this is mystery — this
unfurled veil can be shrunk, shifted, even tightly trussed,
but never removed.