Posted by: De Waal | February 18, 2010

In orbit


Dessert was vanilla ice cream
and litchis with a dash
of amber-coloured Italian liqueur.

Outside, under the shade
of the huge acacia
our talk turned to electrons
that, when they switch from one orbit to another,
cease to exist, but are recreated instantaneously.

That reminded us of Xeno
and his sophistic argument
that an arrow could never reach a target,
having first to cover half the distance,
and before that, half of that distance … ad infinitum.

Lightning flashed into our conversation
and  we wondered why it burned
spiral wounds into some trees.
We theorised that a tree’s phloem
tends to develop a spiral nature
in response to the sun’s trajectory.

That path never changed in all our history,
never changed in our country’s past,
and the sun will, we think,
continue the same in the future.

We thought about the people
who did the things
we regard as history,
people who had all flicked out of existence;
and we wondered
on which orbits
they have been recreated.



  1. Hi De Waal,

    I like the idea, of two acquaintances discussing philosophical issues outdoors, after a good lunch and posing theories about the re-incarnation of historical figures. Sounds a bit like resurrection.anyhow. Let me give you some of my impressions on the poem:

    “Dessert was vanilla ice cream
    and litchis with a dash
    of amber-coloured Italian liqueur.”

    Perhaps consider commencing with “Our dessert”, to create more balance between the “personal” and the “scientific” within the context of the poem.

    “Outside, under the shade
    of the huge acacia”

    I’d think about applying present tense here, for more immediacy, breaking L5 at but… and also switching around “recreated instantaneously” to “instantaneously recreated” (for the rhythm)

    “That reminded us of Xeno
    and his sophistic argument”

    Again, to balance the personal with the science and avoid the didactic, I’d consider pruning this strophe and presenting in present tense…possibly as an italicized statement, something like: “So, Xeno says an arrow never reaches its target!”. I wouldn’t spell it all out here, add some mystery, let the reader google Xeno, if he demands more information…just something for you to consider.

    “Lightning flashed into our conversation
    and we wondered why it burned”

    give it a really strong visual close.

    As I said, I think this is a great topic and this could become a very strong poem. Were, it mine I’d certainly be prepared to spend time honing it.

    I also hope you’re not offended by my crit …just telling you the way I see it and this represents my honest reaction to the poem, which I hope might be of some use to you.

    Kind regards,

    Chris van der Walt

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