Dynamics Imaged

O haggis, hunkered halfway up the hill,
uneven legs in fore-and-aft matched pairs,
each to the other skewed like stick in plaice
before the batter’s up in golden ducks,
attend right-thinking running, circle up
or down the slope until the golden mean
of altitude, corrected for spare crags,
prevails, and you proceed goat-like to graze
at ease and restfully, your haggis rules
OK, exemplifying strange attractors,
repelling border colleens, collies, kilts,
and robber burns on ceremonial night.
And, haggis, try to live as if you’ve got
the grit required to stomach Mandelbrot.

IF the weather is nice where you are, please by all means go out and play. But if, as here, the sea is too cold and petrol prices are STILL too high for happy Sunday motoring, perhaps you could help me with these footnotes.

FOOTNOTES (so far, so good, so what <s>):

1. ‘haggis’ — A delicate, delicious smallish creature hunted in the Highlands for its meet and for the hill of it. Pulled more successfully than birds by Dawkins shellfish jeans to the extent that its right legs (called Bermudas) are shorter than its left (called Levis).

2. ‘hunkered’ — Squatted down close to the ground, but not as in a squat. Unclear as to why this footnote is needed at all, except that one would have to renumber the rest (except one, ‘1’) were it taken out.

3. ‘skewed like stick in plaice’ — An impossible situation, like the impossible animal that exists (footnote 1), since a stick that is IN a plaice (large edible flat-bodied fish Pleuronectes platessa in European seas) can NOT be skewed (neither parallel nor intersecting) to said plaice. Cf. Macbeth: Act 1, Scene 7, Macbeth’s castle:
MACBETH: If we should fail?

But screw your courage to the
And we’ll not fail.

4. ‘before the batter’s up in golden ducks’ — Before all the batter (for the plaice) has been used up playing with our food, making little golden-fried ducks. Alternatively, for those who find the first explanation not cricket, before the batsman’s or batswoman’s turn is up by being out with a nil score (from a ‘duck’s egg,’ shaped like a zero). There is of course a third and very important possibility relating back to the skew framework of the poet’s mind [sick? sic?] of batter as a transitive verb for building a wall or similar so as to form an upwardly receding slope ‘The Haggis Hunting Ground,’ but by now this footnote itself is getting battered beyond all redemption.

5. ‘attend right-thinking running’ — Admonishing the haggis to pay attention to conventional ideas of morality, propriety, and decorum whilst ALSO running to the right (otherwise it would turn its short legs to the downside of the hill and fall into the hunters’ sacks) and whilst ALSO concentrating to avoid coming too close to the perpendicular (and falling into the hunters’ sacks).

6. ‘circle up / or down the slope until the golden mean / of altitude’ —Advising the haggis (so that it may avoid falling into the hunters’ sacks) to find and keep to that aesthetically pleasing and just-right height (which the haggis computes on the trot, the ratio of the whole line to the larger part being exactly the same as the ratio of the larger part to the smaller part) where its leg-length challenge matches the mountain’s slope-flat challenge.

7. ‘haggis rules / OK’ — Reminiscent of the wonder which led one seeker of truth to The Linguist List, Eastern Michigan University dash Wayne State University to ask, on Saturday, 11 September at 09:22:06, ‘I’ve seen several British spray-painted slogans of the form “X rules OK” on walls and other outdoor surfaces. Can someone explain the syntax to me?’ He didn’t seem to get an answer.

8. ‘exemplifying strange attractors, / repelling’ — Attractors and repellers are, of course, WHAT THE WHOLE POEM IS ABOUT <s>

9. ‘border colleens, collies, kilts,’ — Since this is simply about complexity and chaos, it follows that we mix up the Borders — Scots going to Ireland, Irish girls coming back to Scotland, etc.

10. ‘robber burns on ceremonial night.’ — In Dutch ‘robber’ means ‘seal’ which is a red herring of another colour. The line itself should have Robert Burns whirling in Dumfries, which is only fair seeing how many poor little haggis have been hunted down over the years to accompany the mashed turnip, mashed potato, and mashed whisky at Burns Suppers. O, Immortal Memory.

11. ‘the grit required to stomach Mandelbrot’ — Somewhat at ‘out of the mouth (stoma) of Benoit’ but not very. More at ‘Fractal, fractal on the wall.’ I rest my case of Jacques Denials.

4 thoughts on “Dynamics Imaged

  1. love the Haggis hunt as so much more romantic and appealing than a sheep’s stomach stuffed with oatmeal and offal and more than a wee dram but still only just edible at that! More likely me running away from a wild ” haggis on the Heath! But a colorful image however untrue!

    An unrepentant unromantic Scot

  2. Alan,
    “Dynamics Imaged” is a difficult poem, but the footnotes are exceedingly helpful-if not convoluted. Still, the overall impression is stunning.

    Lucky I remembered chaos theory, Julia, and his pupil, Benoit Mandelbrot, and their famous sets. I never met “almondbread”, but a name-dropper friend of mine did at Yale. Your poem brought back memories of my mathematical limitations concerning fractal geometry,the complex plane-and all the rest.

    Thanks for this constellation of zoology, math, biography, icthyology, history, Michigan, -and Scottish delicacies.

    Met vriendlijke groeten,

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