The Distinction Between Pure and Empirical Knowledge

by Jim Benz

I take another walk to the airport coffee machine,
put four quarters in the slot, and perceive a measure
of intricate sound. Every transition of the quarter roll
is a determination of time through the generation
of perception. A paper cup rattles, falls to its cradle

and fills with coffee. Our flight has been delayed
for another hour. They've moved our immediate point
of departure back and forth between gates
several times. The staff in charge of this migration
is mostly absent. They don't tell us anything,

so we sit and watch the Wilson/Rove affair on CNN.
In my black vinyl airport chair, I presuppose the active
participation of human minds. My brow furrows.
The invisible nukes of Iraq have become the anti-thesis
of empirical knowledge, rendering pure reason

inaccessible. A woman in the seat across from me
grinds her teeth. She's been sitting for hours
and her ass is growing numb. John Sandford's latest
murder novel is open in my hands. I read, distracted.
Innocent people are being flayed. It's gruesome.

The quantification of fictitious, brutal concepts
cannot agree with my own experience of cosmological
ideals. I should be reading Mother Jones.
All this time I know three things to be certain:
I'll spend the night in an airport waiting

for a connection; eat Burger King, because
there's no other food available; and I'll ponder
the empiric logic of Wilson's original disclosure
concerning the pure and infinite magnitude
of specious lies. I don't imagine I'll be sleeping.

It appears that time has only one dimension
and the moment I speak of now exists outside
that dimension, simultaneous with the pure reality
of objects found in space, but not simultaneous
with the normal experience of time or empirical

reason. People begin to snarl. We are unhappy
as the day is long. Hours drain from our faces,
dripping on the foundations of imposed metaphysical
constraints. There is no mathematical principal
to ascribe a pure understanding to this sense of ennui.

A bald man in a business suit paces back and forth
talking angrily on his cell phone. He makes wild gestures
whenever he curses. Another man tries to see
down the loose shirt of a pretty woman bending over.
No luck. Empirical universality is arbitrary.

When he smiles at the pretty woman, she smiles back.


Posted on 08/12/2005
Copyright © 2024 Jim Benz

Member Comments on this Poem
Posted by Charlie Morgan on 08/12/05 at 01:33 PM

...uhhh, what the other peeps said, dan and michelle...soooo ditto, pero, to me you touched[caressed] a philosophical nerve that lies dormant until i [get to] disturb it by my own thinking, i.e. the universe in the same sentence as some guy trying to see a boob...that IS the world, terrorist shoulder to shoulder with mother teresa, yin[g] yang...sooo, not only do i love your "dance with concepts", but you can be accused of writing with a delightful flair...so there! great poetics...peace, chaz

Posted by Elizabeth Jill on 12/27/05 at 05:35 AM

This is why I fall to my knees in gratitude for writers. Just this. You are above thought, raining words on us. Thank you. Keep yourself up! —Jill

Posted by Gregory O'Neill on 04/01/06 at 04:37 PM

Congrats on potd, Jim. This is a wonderful poem, I've enjoyed it numerous times.

Posted by Elizabeth Jill on 04/01/06 at 07:17 PM

It was so cool to find your poem on the front page this morning — I was leaping for joy! (uhm, naturally...I still note that
"It appears that time has only one dimension
and the moment I speak of now exists outside
that dimension, simultaneous with the pure reality
of objects found in space, but not simultaneous
with the normal experience of time or empirical")


Posted by Kathleen Wilson on 08/27/07 at 03:52 AM

The airport atmosphere and it's strange, distracted, unmanageable sense of time and space here superceeded and transformed to poetry. From the mundane to the philosophical it's intricately woven as simultaneous and timely, each motion of mind, machine and emotion like the cup jiggling into place, being filled. Excellent form and transformation of ordinary to extraordinary. The ending is very good, and gives a bit of personal anonymous human glow that lightens such strained waiting situations.

Posted by Vikki Owens on 02/24/09 at 03:48 AM

just absolutely, really amazing.

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