(At the beginning of spring term, 1994, in my graduate poetry writing workshop, I handed out to all the students a copy of the little statement below. I had manufactured it because I thought the work of one student—work I liked but that was somewhat difficult to discuss in the "normal" ways one talks about such things—wasn't getting the proper attention or encouragement it merited, I thought its progression was different in concept from more usual practices. I think the class was somewhat nonplussed by my statement—perhaps rightly— and I later said so to my friend Charles Simic the next time we talked on the telephone. He immediately said, "Send it to me. I'll let you know what I think." His first "Dear Professor W" letter is what he thought. My first "Commendatore" letter was my response to him, and we continued on through the spring until we had insulted each other sufficiently.)

If it is true (and I think it is) that an image is, as Pound put it, an intellectual and emotional complex in an instant of time, and if the "logic of metaphor" is, as Crane put it, constructed on a series of associational meanings and thought-extension, then the narrative of image and the narrative of metaphor are different, if not generically then surely perceptively, and poems employing them will act and react differently. The narrative (or logic) of metaphor will be more of a time-release agent, giving the reader a slower, longer contemplation; more time to think about the associations. The poem is perhaps more susceptible to a flow-through story line inside the poem. The narrative (logic) of image, on the other hand is more explosive, gives the reader less time to ruminate' opens itself to impressionistic perceptions. The How, such as it is, is intermittent, interrupted, and tends to exist outside the poem, as though a series of things glimpsed quickly, but indelibly, from a fast train. A difference not in kind (as both are defined as "figures of speech") but in degree. But a difference nevertheless, although this is not written down in any book.


Dear Professor W.

Here are some comments (ideas) for your mulling over:

—Image (eye) versus Metaphor (imagination, intellect).
—What kind of Image? With eyes open or with eyes closed?
Imagism or Surrealism? Please explain.
—Image (in its Imagist version) is the frozen present, its "narrative" doesn't take place in time. Image leads to Vision which is a mystic concept. Vision is close to wordlessness. One uses certain kinds of images to escape or transcend language. Like pointing a finger.
—Metaphor unravels the imaginative (narrative) possibilities of juxtaposed images. If the final goal of Image is Vision, the final goal of Metaphor is Myth which, of course, is a narrative derived from taking the figurative literally.

The function of image is descriptive while the strategy of metaphor is to divest itself of its function of direct description in order to reach the mythic level where its function of discovery is set free. Lots of words ensue from that.

Image is about austerity; metaphor about plenitude ...
                      (to be continued)



It's true the image is less and metaphor is more. As the Master said, for knowledge, add, for wisdom, take away. The Image is Zen, Metaphor is Christian.

If the image, indeed, is descriptive, then the narrative of image is traceable, though traceable as footprints are in a rapidly warming snow, distinct but always on the edge of disappearance. Thus, one could, I suppose, make the case for an imagistic story line inside the poem, but one always on the verge of vanishing once it had been discovered. Still, the story line outside the poem remains, I think, the stronger one imagistically.

As St. John of the Cross said, to know your road, you must close your eyes and walk in the dark. I would say the same thing about the image. The true image rises out of the darkness—sometimes it stays there and only its luminous outline is traceable; sometimes it is out in the open, and only its luminous outline is traceable, a pentimento against tbe seen world. The true image belongs to neither Imagism nor Surrealism. It belongs to the Emptiness. Which is to say its power is otherworldly and ultimately apophatic, a luminous outline above the tongue. (The false image, of course, is all too readily apparent and glad-handing.) All of this merely to agree with your assertion that the progression is image to vision to wordlessness. But to disagree that there is a separation, at the ultimate level, imagistically between Surrealism and Imagism. That distinction exists only in time, not in space, or in that third dimension, outside these two, the image rises from.

Since the narrative of the image doesn't take place in time, as you say, then it seems even more likely that any such narrative will take place outside the temporal borders of the poem itself, and will exist more as a continuous and continuing series of overlays which eventually form the story line by accretion. The inner eye, palimpsesting, covering and uncovering Simultaneously.

If myth is the ultimate goal of metaphor, iconolatry is the final resting place of the image.

In all this, metaphor is the old, image the new. Metaphor is memory, the image is prescience...

Gnostics are gnarled and gnomic, gnashing their teeth, gnathically gnawing the gnarring gnocchi of truth, which is gnat-like and gneissic. Is their gnomon a gnu? No.

                      Yours in hypgnosis—

                            March 3, 1994


Dear Professor W.

What is this "true image" stuff? Have you been bearing voices from those fundamentalist churches in your neighborhood? More likely you've been cracking open stale Zen fortune cookies from your California days?

You speak of metaphysical and transcendental unity between Imagist and Surrealist images, and I say, very nice, but you got to show me. Here in the Calvinist North we don't go for that kind of ecstatic mumbo jumbo just because it sounds good. Consider the following:

A crescent moon in the sky—

This is what Ezra called phanopoeia, your primary image and the one, by the way, easiest to translate.

But, and this is a big BUT, if like the riddle-maker, I detect an unexpected resemblance up there and blurt out:

Father's scythe is lying across Mother's Sunday skirt!

It seems to me that here we have something different. Or as Meister Eckhart said long ago: "An image takes its being immediately and solely from that of which it is an image of." So, Chief ...

In image 1, one wishes to convey what is already there. An image like that keeps the demon of analogy at bay. Its purpose is transparency, homage to clear sight.

In image 2, I have redescribed the world. I have conveyed not what it looks like, but what it feels like! I've let the demon, as it were, to play with my marbles. (And, as you well know, he's capable of even wilder stunts.)

Ergo, you say the two images meet in EMPTINESS. How? I don't understand how you reconcile the two? I'm wondering whether such reconciliation is really a betrayal of their lovely distinctness—like saying the eye and ear are really the same organ? I say, come out of the closet all you secret Neoplatonists! Tell us how you see Sharon Stone, Holly Hunter, and Faye Dunaway as one ideal woman! The ass and legs from the first, the tits from the second, and the eyes and hair from the third, and there you have it! Every philosopher's dream date!

In the meantime, I await your clarifications, your further gnostic unscramblings and hosannas with the impatience of a peep-show customer. I even got my tambourine ready!





Okay, okay, I see how this is going to go—you get to be Larkin, I have to be grumpy old Yeats, you get to be Pound, I have to be solemn old Rilke, you get to be Cornell, I have to be morbid old Rothko, you get to be Robin Williams, I have to be Rodney Dangerfield. So be it.

Look, here's a little equation without an equals sign:

Invention—inspiration/the present/the image/words written on ice...
Discovery—memory/the past/metaphor/language (the whole pool of the history of...)

Let's try the translations:

1. La mezzaluna in cielo...
2. La falee del padre (di papà) sta sdriata sulla (per la) gonna domenicale della madre (di mamma)!

This is tricky because it really doesn't work—there are, of course, other languages, there are other translations. Still, you can say that the first is easier to see and the second is easier to imagine. Neither, however, takes the third step—art is the image of an image of an image. The third step, the third image, is the narrative of metaphor. The image (the first image) just starts the story. Thus, you haven't "redescribed the world," you've merely redescribed the image. You'd have to redescribe the rediscription to move on to changing the world.

The narrative of the image is a sprinter, the narrative of metaphor a long-distance runner—the beauty of adagio and the beauty of sostenuto. It is harder to see yourself at one side of the mirror than directly in front of it. Yet you're there as unmistakably, and the mirror knows it even if it can't see you. And you know it too.

The word "transcendental" never escaped my lips. Neither did "metaphysical." Though they could have (unnatural questions, supernatural elements) had I not been wary. There are some things you can't hear unless you're listening for them. Still, they are, those two, in my vocabulary.

These are the Aphorisms of the Dead:

1. Lie low and keep your own counsel.
2. Never bite with your tongue out.
3. In the Kingdom of the Deaf, nobody hears a thing.
4. The language from one life is untranslatable in the next.
5. Out of the dark into the dark...
6. Time never stops, it only stands still.
7. Out of the pigshit into the pigshit.
8. No matter how much the snow falls, we never get white.
9. An apple for inference, an orange for pride.
10. God's light is all powerful, but it can't find us.

In spite of what M. Eckhart says, an image has no being. It is, as I say, as all art becomes, the image of an image of an image. So it doesn't have being until the third step, when it has become a part of the narrative of metaphor, and metaphor does have being. That's why the narrative of image is outside the poem and the picture, and the narrative of metaphor is inside both.

Have I said that the narrative of image is figure skating—double axels and Suchows and spin leaps and death spirals? And the narrative of metaphor is deep sea fishing...It's odd, I think. When Pound moved from Imagisme to Vorticism, he said it was because Amy Lowell had co-opted his Imagism movement (made it into Amygism). I also think there was a deeper reason—he knew he was on the surface and wanted to dive under, to make the succession of image the succession of metaphor, from the momentary dazzle of flying fish down to the deep pull of the giant marlin, as it were. As he said, he didn't want something "stationary." It was about that time he began the actual writing of the Cantos, for instance. The undertow of the narrative of image is light and lightning; that of metaphor is darkness and blood.

We've wandered—which is to say, I've wandered. The narrative of image is the mouth of the cave. The narrative of metaphor is the cave. It always seems to be a question of outside and inside. Both are seductive and have their own beatitudes. Image is the crucifixion, metaphor is the ascension. This can go on and on. Well, not really. There are endings to things. And they are metaphors, not images. Beginnings are images.

Listen, just because the bear's mouth is open doesn't mean he's going to eat you. Maybe he's getting ready to sing. Have faith. Breathe deeply.

Ah, la Donna, the Lady Ideal, Ideale, Na Audiart, as Bertran de Born had her, Lady Maent, he with his own head in his hand, lighting his way along the dike of the 8th Bolgia—to put them together like that, to make the most beautiful woman in Provence, a tit here, an eye for this and an ear for that, sweet cheeks. Well, sure, dream on. There is no reconciliation, none at all. That's why they meet in the generating emptiness of the fantasy of imagination. Where else? Sacrum, sacrum, inlummatio coitu, as Pound had it in one of the Cantos (36): "The rite, the rite, illumination in coition." If not there, where? Uncloset me here. Father's scythe may be lying across Mother's Sunday skirt, but his whetstone is back on the moon's edge, and that's still Saturday night. Play a song for me...

Here's one, the first stanza to Dead Pale Penis Person Blues.

Woke up this morning,
               my dick was white and lean,
Woke up this morning,
               my dick was white and lean,
Well, you know, pretty mama,
               you know what that must mean.

Give me a second stanza, Exquisite Corpse. Ti salulo, Commendatore, e ti auguro una buona Primavera domam

                            March 26, 1994


Dear Professor W.

Hegel was a breeze. I never even broke sweat following the most intricate scholastic arguments of Duns Scotus and Aquinas. That was before I met up with Professor W. and his "Third Step." Now I'm a "mezzaluna in cielo." I don't trust myself to tell the difference between my ass and my elbow. I ask myself, is this how he talks to his wife, the photographer! And how does she reply?

"The third step, the third image, is the narrative of metaphor," says he, and I think, that sounds like a pronouncement of some storefront Maharashi back in the 1960s. He expects to chant "OM" in reply. The problem for me, dear Lama, is that I don't know what you mean by "narrative of metaphor?" Are you talking about myth? Are you saying that a poem is an extension of a single metaphor like myth? And what about "narrative of images"? Is it like the movies?

Perhaps the beginning of my confusion lies with you placing "the present/the image" under INVENTION in your "little equation." How can the present be invented? What happened to consciousness and clear sight? Didn't they teach you an' thing in that flea-ridden lamaserai?

"It is the peculiarity of the true poet that his word creates actuality, calls forth and unveils something real," said one Anagarika Govinda. Where do we, mortal folk, locate that in your jewel-studded EQUATION, O Master? Once you tell us, "the Aphorisms of the Dead" should be a snap. The same goes for "light" and "lightning" and the Wagnerian "darkness" and "blood." (I kind of fancy "Image is the crucifixion, metaphor is the ascension," but we need to know how we got there, and we haven't done that yet.)

The temptation in any such discussion, as the one we are having, is to dangle a shiny rhetorical object before the eyes of vour listener, make him or her fall under a spell and follow you wherever you want to. You and your reader end up living inside your metaphors like apes in a forest. It's fun, of course! There's a lot of chest-pounding and yelling at the top of one's voice, but that's all. So, let's see if this brings us all down from the trees?

I made a tiny hole in the wall with a long nail so that I could watch them screw. Image is what I saw; metaphor is when my tongue caught fire. If it's the image I wish to employ it is because I want you to stand in my my shoes and make you see what I saw. Isn't that the purpose of all art, the hope that by and by you too will become I? Anyway, where you see continuity between image and metaphor, I see a gap. Yes, one sets off the other, but only to lose something and gain something else in the process. What is left behind in the image when one leaps on the first metaphor that comes along? Plenty, I think. I Would like to comprehend this stage of the game before I Venture into a beautific synthesis of the two, in which I also secretly believe, but am in no rush to get to yet.

And now, in my never-ending pursuit of the elusive spark of Illumination, I'm going to the town dump with my dog, Samson.




Commendatore— The simile, caro Commendatore, the right simile, is the key to the kingdom. As such, like all sacred things, it should be used sparingly and wisely and only when justified, if at all, and perhaps not even then. It should never be abused.

The equation is always darkness and light, of course, but our balance is wrong. We go from light to darkness; therefore the equation is light = darkness, not the other way round. Why is it we do not see this?

Re: inside and outside (narrative of metaphor, narrative of image) that we began this with: outside tends to drift away, it is less anchored, it tends toward width; inside tends toward depth, containment, and stability. Bachelard says, "This side and beyond are faint repetitions of the dialectics of inside and outside: everything takes form, even infinity." Now that's a Zen zone I could cotton to. It also, from my point of view, reinforces my preference for a narrative of metaphor over that of image. The implied vastness (as Bachelard terms it) of the outside—since the narrative of image generally has no denouement to its sequencing—becomes more of the surround than that which is surrounded, and thus more incapable of clarification and definition. Even if the infinite has form, it is more mythic than moral, i.e., more inhuman than human. For some, I suppose, this is a good thing. Here, there, this side, that side, inside, outside, trope upon trope...Perhaps, in the ultimate sequence and consequence, there is no denouement. In that case, the narrative of image is the language they speak there. But, for the moment, we are here, and words fill our earthly mouths...

To repeat: the narrative of image has no closure. It is never finished, only abandoned. (As Valéry said, incorrectly, of the poem.)

There is a photograph—a rather famous photograph, actually, which you probably know well—of the French artist Yves Klein jumping out of a high window to the street. The picture catches him in mid-jump, coat-and-tied, stretched out, his foot just clearing the stone wall behind him, a man on a bicycle disappearing down the street, nothing between him and the stone pavement but air. Now, I ask you, is this photograph, is the story of this "image," the narrative of image or the narrative of metaphor? As it turns out, the whole "happening" or "conceptual piece" was a total metaphor, as the photograph is a trick. There was a net set to catch Klein, which did so in the original jump. The photograph of the jump was then cut just above the net, and another bottom (which included the bicyclist not in the original) was collaged onto the jumping figure, the whole rephotographed and, voilà, we have Yves declining into the void, sans net, giving us a false narrative of image when, in fan, the whole story was a metaphor. Ah, photography, as no art is...Still, it's a great picture, and art is always subjunctive, subjective, secretive, and siderial. Yves! The void is just under our bodies, just under the net.

(Actually, there were two versions of the photograph, one with the bicyclist and one without, both collages. Still, if one did not know they were both—or either—collages, a real case could be made for the one without the bicyclist being read as a narrative of image, as it presupposes no closure or further story, and the one with the velocipede and rider as a narrative of metaphor, if only because the added element, human element, becomes a reactive agent. But...).

Now, what you saw through that hole in the wall was, politically correctly, image on top of metaphor. On top, but metaphor was still inside and image outside, no matter her position. A gap, yes, but it opens and closes. How far apart they are, how inseparable.

Ah, the lamaserai...The clear sound of the water drops, the slow urge of the stream as it made its way effortlessly under the banyan trees and out of sight. We each saw it only one lime. Tell me, Commendatore, if you know, are water drops an image in their ruin, and in their gathered stream a metaphor? How can we tell the droplet from the stream? It all appeared so apparent back then, the lamaserai so one and so individual at once, and we, too, the echo of one thing and the echo of all things at the same time. Ah, those were the days!

Up in the trees. Of course, that's where the poem always takes us—the "shiny rhetorical object" before our eyes is the poem. Where else do we live but in our own constructions? (As they used to tell us back in the lamaserai—"Look lovingly on some object. Do not go on to another object. Here, in the middle of this object—the blessing." They also used to say—"Objects and desires exist in me as in others. So accepting, let them be translated." That's what you said too.) What other architecture for apes like us? And of course the present is invented. One's whole existence is invented as one receives and transforms it. Then it goes through and around us into the past, which always stays as it is—as does the future. Only that which we can get our image-and-metaphor-making fingers on can be invented. You can reinvent the other two, but that's a different narrative, isn't it?

Listen, I don't know what the narrative of image and the narrative of metaphor are, either. But, then, I don't know what they're not, either. That's why we're doing this. Still, there are answers. Here's one:

1. Nothingness is not nothing.

Here's another:

2. All things that are the same are different.

So, for the time being, I'm waiting here with my cat, Delilah, hoping not to catch the wrong train, waiting for your reply—

                            April 20, 1994


Dear Professor W.

Okay, let me attempt a definition of the narrative of the image and see if you agree.

I see a man jumping out of a window, I gasp, my eyes open wide, the sight hits me like a bolt of lightning! As I become conscious of what I'm seeing and of myself noticing the details and explaining to myself the circumstances and the outcome of the fall, the narrative of the image truly starts. The image properly is not in time; the narrative is the unraveling in time of its ramifications and its plot.

Now here's the trick. The image (and this applies to the visual aspect of the metaphor too) must be powerful. You need the shock of consciousness to get the narrative going. Some images can write epics, others have barely enough in them for a haiku. An ideal image, like the sun, would be an almost endless generator of imaginative energy.

Narrative is a term, you'll agree Professor, that unfortunately does not convey the full range of activity that results from our encounter with an image or a metaphor. What makes things complex and confusing is that we experience images with our intellect as well as with our emotions and our senses. "No ideas but in things," said the famous baby doctor from New Jersey, and that applies here too. The narrative of the image will differ depending on what part of ourselves does the unraveling. If the intellect starts fucking with it, for instance, the outcome is a symbol. If our emotions and imagination are involved, a metaphor will be the result. There is also the additional possibility, as the Surrealists suspected, that we have nothing to do with the narrative. Words tell each other stories and we just sign the checks.

Whatever the case may be, I regard the image as the cause of all narratives. I also believe that the narrative in time must never betray its original moment. The goal of each narrative mUst be to recover the freshness of the first impact of the image. I'm thinking of the initial image as a kind of Eden and the narrative as the exile. This ought to appeal to your Old Testament, Kingsport, Tennessee, revival meeting ethos. My own authority in such cases is, as always, my insomnia. For what else is insomnia, but the narrative of the image?

Does this make sense? I hope so. I'm in a hurry to get to more important matters, Professor. What about the influence of a bottle of noble vintage on the narrative of the image? Can diet soda make the demon of analogy happy? Don't you think that reading most contemporary poets one would have to conclude that they have never been to the movies? I know for a fact that they have never heard a country fiddle or a banjo playing!

The only narrative of the image that does it justice is music.


                                  c. s.



You spoke, in your next-to-last letter, as though you thought poems have consequences in the world. Do you? I don't. I think of them as aesthetic possibilities, objects of beauty and contemplation, not rallying points or calls for action. Unless, of course: within their own spheres of influence, which is, naturally, themselves and their ancestors and progeny.

I often think, or today I think, of the narrative of image as a kind of asphalt-making paving machine that lays tbe surface down as it drives along: it creates its own surface as it slides across the skeleton of the poem. The narrative of metaphor, on the other hand, seems like a river that works its way under ground, creating its own space, enlarging that space as it deepens and cuts. Whole hidden architectures and subterranean structures start to develop. The logic of image seems to me more straightforward and easily observed, closer to "narrative" in the common, observable sense. It's more shiny and readily seen. Metaphor takes the darker side. It is the narrative of the dead. (It's not lost on me that one of my figures [for image] is man-made and the other [for metaphor] is natural.)

In a poem composed either in the narrative of image or in the narrative of metaphor, we are always one line short. Why is this?

Whether the poem is composed by narrative of image or narrative of metaphor, form must flow through the poem as wind flows through the air...

Second verse to Dead Pale Penis Person Blues:

I'm History's fool,
               you know I'm riptide bound,
               Well, I'm History's fool,
               you know I'm riptide bound,
So look for me, pretty mama,
               look for me out and down.

Sleep, our two-dimensional sidekick, without foreground or background, has no memory: flat dreamlight, light like aluminum foil, depthless...Its images two-dimensional, the narrative of them the same, no memory, one-sided, ungathered. Dreaming is image, waking is metaphor. O butterfly, O nightingale.

A narrative of the image is hydroponic—it exists and sustains itself on its own surface, or on that which provides its own surface. Or else it is Pothotic and exists on air and desire...

Here's a third, and last, verse:

Gone before my time,
               I'm all hogged down and tied,
Gone before my time,
               I'm all hogged down and tied,
So shamed and lorn, pretty mama,
               I like to up and died.

Your last letter to hand, and it is a well-considered and apt one, indeed. Do some images grow up to be metaphors and some not (Mamas, don't let your Images grow up to be Metaphors...)? I am partial to your thinking of the original image as Eden and the narrative as the exile. And since the narrative is both, in this case, that of image and metaphor, who could ask for more? Chuck Heston hot-footing it down from the mountain, one stone book in either hand, getting ready to move on? There's an old country song, gospel song, "Memories of the Bush on Fire" that should fit in somewhere with your last sentence. Or with the Surrealists—we may just sign the checks, but we also, perhaps, just check the signs.

So, caro Commendatore, I will close out for good now. This was, possibly, all along an atom that did not need splitting, but it's been an interesting little bang, and music, as they say, to my ears. Here's looking at you, C. I'm much appreciative of the Carter Family stamp on your last envelope, a sign I've checked, a check I've signed.

                            May 16, 1994


Dear Professor W.

Your last epistle has a certain triumphant air about it. As far as you are concerned, we've caught the black cat of poetry in the dark by its tail. You want to put a pencil behind your ear, and so do I, believe me, but the nagging sense of unfinished business won't let me rest.

I don't think, for instance, that we have done justice to an important aspect of image and metaphor, an aspect that still worries everyone who sits down to write a poem:

—Where do these images and metaphors come from, Professor?
—Why are some caught in the eye and remembered while others are obviously not?
—How come there are moments when one has the eye for the similar and the significant, when for the rest of our days, poets like everyone else stare at the world in incomprehension?
—What role does memory play?
—And what about archetypes?
—If the image concerns sight and the metaphor imagination, for what lofty and base reasons do we go back and forth between literal and figurative?

Poetry is an utterance that no paraphrase can exhaust because poetry is not about ideas but about the music of chance. Poetry proclaims that there's something more real than ideas, something that remains, as it were, always stubbornly unformulated, but which we as readers of poetry have no trouble experiencing and savoring in poems we love. For me, images and metaphors, what we see and what we imagine, their perpetual undermining of each other, their paradox, their ambiguity, their slyness, their mind boggling wisdom and comedy gets at the core of our existence because our existence, too, cannot be paraphrased.

A very drunk professor of philosophy once asked me angrily: What do you poets really want?

I was stumped at the time, told him we want to destroy all the fixed formulas, baked and rebaked little turds of ideas, as Celine would say, but today I would pause to order another round of drinks and say the following:

The secret desire of poetry is to seduce. It uses images and metaphors to lure, entrap, and enslave the unsuspecting. The ancients knew the dangers. If it were only "virgin youths" the poets were putting under a spell, it would be bad enough already, but their outrage aims even higher. They want to seduce gods and devils by way of something they don't even understand themselves. Admit, Professor, you often secretly hoped that one of your dazzling images and metaphors would summon the Lord! That you would feel the breath of his astonishment and of his envy on your smirking face! You probably did, since you're a true poet washed in the blood of the lamb. Otherwise, what would this endeavor be really worth? The ambition of each image and metaphor is to redescribe the world, or, more accurately, to blaspheme. Stevens knew that and Dickinson suspected it. That's why they kept a low profile. The truth of poetry is a scandal. A thousand naked fornicating couples with their moans and contortions are nothing compared to a good metaphor.

I'm blowing the siren! Ringing the church bells! Good people of Virginia, start gathering kindling for the stake! Professor Wright is bringing his own matches!





Since it was my ball originally, I suppose I want the last at-bat, even if I only look at three pitches. I certainly intended nothing "triumphant" about my last letter—I admitted in my first statement to not really knowing the difference between the two types of "narrative" (but intuiting that, somehow, there was a difference in how the two types were put together, if not perceived) and confessing at the end I still didn't know the difference (this is not DNA, of course, this is not a mathematical theorem we are talking about. Hence no "solution"). So, no triumph there. Still, it was fun, and often enlightening, to worry the "problem" around a bit.

We have not done justice to the examples the Commendatore has raised in his last letter. But, then, we weren't supposed to. He ends the argument/discussion as all good arguments/discussions should end—with an opening, not a dosing. I would only add a couple of observations to match:

—Poetry is at least as important for what is not said as for what is.
—The secret of poetry is silence, the unheard echoes of utterances that wash through us with their solitary innuendos.
—As the good Commendatore so acutely observes, the ultimate ambition of every good poem is blasphemy, or, surely, a blasphemy. And, I would add, its attendant, speechless undertow, against which image and metaphor act as our gondola and oar, pushing against the unforgiving tide.