A Fan-Based Romance

–lift me in your arms and lower me into a pile of pharmacy–
I fell in love when

I saw a breeze turning a humungous fan-blade. Clockwise. The fan itself

was encased in a transformer sub-station behind the King of Prussia Mall

Ezra Pound said “an ‘image’ is that which presents an intellectual and emotional complex in an instant of time”

What I felt when I saw the fan-blade turning was intimacy

First, my experience with the fan-blade was private. I was alone. Secondly, it was cozy

I felt between us a lack of intrinsic antagonism

A fullness of intuitive duration

Henri Bergson: “But when I speak of an absolute movement, I am attributing to the moving object an interior, and so to speak, states of mind”

My experience with the fan-blade was peaceful and being of similar material and occupying the same world I felt

We share

The truth is this: I can’t believe an object exist without me. Especially behind a mall

And when I fell in love with the fan-blade, I fell in love because I knew we had been existing apart, which is pain

One thing cozy about the twirling fan-blade was that it was the only visible (and small) part moving (slowly) in a perfectly still (and massive) structure. In addition to presence, playing with scale makes an image cozy for the

Contrasting entities, when arranged in a particular design, are neurologically

A fan-blade of this nature is not boxed and stacked repetitiously in the stockroom of your grocery store

Can a person have an intimate encounter with something without that something experiencing it? I was on an access road

So, out of frustration, we turned to the dictionary for help. The definition we found was simple and it summed up intimacy as either a sexual act between two people or “close familiarity or friendship; closeness”. This definition reflected an important fault-line that emerged in our debate: for intimacy to exist, at least according to my friends, it must be between two people (but not always – someone brought up their pet dog), but more importantly for intimacy to be experienced there must be a conscious reciprocity in play; intimacy results from intentional exchange

God is felt or not, two absolute textures

And that’s what makes an image especially intimate, particularly when rendered in literature and art, but also when moving into an object. Cozy is ambiguous, but its ambiguity provides room to explore my argument which is that I had an intimate experience with a fan-blade

I was beautiful behind the mall / as the fan-blade replied / to the breeze

If the fan-blade was still would I still have fallen in love

Steven Shaviro: “The alluring object explicitly calls attention to the fact that it is something more than, and other than, the bundle of qualities that it presents to me.”

My greatest debt is to a breeze behind the mall

My friends still weren’t buying it and our conversation went on for quite some time and while we never reached consensus, each of us agreed the failure to do so was in large part due to our different understandings of what intimacy is and is not

In The Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics “imagery” is defined this way: “imagery refers to images produced in the mind by language…” When we think of intimacy that occurs within the parameters of personal relationships, it is often derived from the dissolution of boundaries between two people. Whether it’s a physical boundary or an emotional boundary, a kind of borderlessness occurs. A poem occurs, but its source is not language

A poet well-known for the aphoristic is of course Stevens who said, as most poets know, that “the poem must resist the intelligence/almost successfully.” Many critics have theorized exactly what Stevens meant by this and without going on about subjective experience mediated by the fog of language and how that causes reality itself to be active, I’d rather interpret this claim by Stevens much more simply: he’s talking about coziness

I told my friends what happened. They said intimacy is a shared experience. The fan-blade, they said, being an object and having no consciousness, could not have been aware of my existence, let alone how I was feeling towards it, and therefore authentic intimacy would have been impossible and besides

And yet there was another definition for intimacy I found today that I thought relevant to my experience with the fan-blade and it was this: “a private cozy atmosphere”

For example, does a gardener share an intimacy with the soil? They spend a lot of time together. The gardener’s life has been transformed by the existence of the soil and the soil transformed by the gardener’s interaction with it. And yet it’s obvious that the soil is unaware of the gardener

Hyper-familiarity is intimacy just as intimacy is difficult to milk from words

But for intimacy to be experienced in poetry, must imagery be the only vehicle to its establishment? In other words, can abstract or philosophical language in poetry achieve intimacy? If, for instance, one reads an aphorism that occurs in a poem, an aphorism that strikes the reader as a statement of truth, doesn’t that aphorism act upon and enter the reader’s mind in a similar way as an image

Can wisdom behave in the mind like an image. It can

But it requires that the aphorism be reasonably difficult (resist the reader) – the mind must mix its labor with the idea – and it requires that the reader, after apprehending the aphorism’s meaning, believe in the statement’s truthfulness. Without those two elements, does the aphorism fail at achieving intimacy

Can falsehood be intimate

Believing the cliché shit happens is true is not intimacy

Ambiguity is limited by limitlessness

William Empson: “I propose to use the word [ambiguity] in an extended sense, and shall think relevant to my subject any verbal nuance, however slight, which gives room for alternative reactions to the same piece of language…. In a sufficiently extended sense any prose statement could be called ambiguous.”

Stevens’s music behaves like a photograph

If a poet depicts to near perfection an egret perched atop the knee of a cypress tree as the sun fulfills its redness at dusk, it achieves intimacy in that the depiction is near perfection

Mimesis is a sublime smudge

Isn’t sustained interaction one of the hallmarks of intimacy, so what does it mean that my time with the fan-blade lasted only a few moments

My friend: You had a one-night stand with a fan-blade

One night can feel like forever

Ezra Pound said “an ‘image’ is that which presents an intellectual and emotional complex in an instant of time.”

Two subjects enter each other’s private spheres. They become privately public. Whether through touching or as in friendship, or when two individuals self-disclose, each individual crosses into the other; intimacy is achieved. The poetic image and aphorism provide this same experience of intimacy for the reader, vis-à-vis language, by fashioning within the reader’s mind a picture

Music is the pleasure of silence

Wisdom is an invisible image

On a park bench
A silhouette of rhetoric and art
Face the horizon
We hold our breath:

Will they kiss

Interior sympathy!



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John Ebersole’s writing has appeared or is forthcoming in The Brooklyn Rail, Powder Keg, inter|rupture, BOAAT, The Battersea Review, Southern Humanities Review, and elsewhere. He is poetry editor of The Philadelphia Review of Books.


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