Side A Poem: “Content” by Heikki Huotari


1. should a safe be dropped then so should a piano and to music and to money both should open     I say privatize the positive and socialize the negative and call it content     here a template there a template everywhere a template      in the same way that I hope for your sake that your traffic lights are synchronized I hope for your sake that your elevator buttons aren’t placebos     every isolated light an urchin     between each two saints a sinner     in anticipation of a payoff Kubla Kahn would shut the definition down     then I’d say hello phone I’ll be your live one     then declining I’d lie on the park bench and I’d call to joggers you can do it you can grow up to be what you want

2. there’s no ellipsoid without eccentricity     the marble which is not part of a torso is removed     there is a gun for every cold dead hand     my bible says that bats are birds     with energy and matter switched at birth and switched again at death all’s well     the cataclysm justifies the butterfly the butterfly the caterpillar     vested double-breasted buoyant bullet proof agape what sin of omission are you contemplating now     anomalies are measurement mistakes whereby the expectation stands     ingenious I’m setting up a roadblock and I vow to overlook no tourist bus     pro forma though my blandishment my blandishment is taken seriously by the kitchen god     the kitchen god says I can live with that     the aliases have been altered to protect the relatively innocent     the innocent whose excuse is that they feared for their life

3. to live by logic is to die by logic     may my window be a mirror to the preening miscreant within     through dedicated sets of repetitions preening miscreants have strong emotions     what were minor mental muscles bulge     direction vectors absently allotted paper trails are parametrically defined in perpetuity     an animal in increments I’m shedding dreadful skin     what to replace my vacuum with     what social graces lurk in hearts of humanoids what dreadful politesse     the truisms of isolation are twice filtered and pursuant to an all-encompassing digression resources are pooled     not taking yes for an answer I’m having my way and I’m turning blue     a broken eight-hour clock is right three times a day     it’s either phobia or choice or green fatigue     if e is time and m is place and c is rate of change then for each would-be clone there is an antidote to true to     exorcised some essences are intersecting     now they’re tables now they’re chairs     the single data cable passes through the octopus’ garden and the data are enabled     let’s just say the data have their ways

Mini-interview with Heikki Huotari

HFR: Can you share a moment that has shaped you as a writer (or continues to)?

HH: What shaped me, and continues to, was the stipulation of the time of death of an officer in a bed adjacent to mine in the Brooke Army Medical Center. I was there because as part of my campaign to be discharged as a conscientious objector I had fasted to collapse. The next morning I wrote my first sophomoric poem.

HFR: What are you reading?

HH: Today I’m reading John Ashbery, May Swenson, Julia Story, Horace, and words such as “LEFT TURN ONLY” written in thermoplastic tape on newly paved streets.

HFR: Can you tell us what prompted “Content”?

HH: Instead of continuing to adhere strictly to the Baba Ram Das command, “Be Here Now,” I decided to allow myself the freedom to be within twenty miles and/or twenty minutes. I think it was Walt Whitman who informed me that there are more things in heaven and earth than there are in philosophy—and in philosophy there are already a whole hell of a lot.

HFR: What’s next? What are you working on?

HH: I think I’m working toward translating some of my math papers to poetry. Since I was a lyric mathematician, it’s not that big of a task, but consistently respecting the new context is delicate.

HFR: Take the floor. Be political. Be fanatical. Be anything. What do you want to share?

HH: THE key to grinding an axe is having no axe to grind. The quickest way for me to end my writing career would be to deign to preach or even to teach. I deny that what I just said was preaching. I have faith that if what I write pleases me it at least has the potential to please others.

Heikki Huotari attended a one-room school and spent summers on a forest-fire lookout tower. Since retiring from academia/mathematics he has published poems in numerous literary journals, including Pleiades, Spillway, the American Journal of Poetry, and Willow Springs, and in five collections.

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