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Poem of the Week - ‘The Same Complex System Can Contain Both Predictable and Unpredictable Behaviour; or, Two Views of a Squirrel’ by Beverley Bie Brahic

Trapeze artist, tumbler, high-wire act - 
it never falters long enough for air 
or leaf to let it down, never miscalculates
the velocity over the distance
a body must travel to bridge the gap, it
is the pippin that flouts Newton’s laws,
the arrow whose trajectory 
is divided and divided again, the messenger
dispatched from the scene of the battle
whose body count never hits the front page - 

this one lay under the mailbox next door.
Reposed on its side, cheek on a cushion
of mulch. It was a glossy, well-exercised
Silicon Valley squirrel. My stomach
lurched. Tell me it’s taking a break 
the way birds stunned by their reflections do;
say it found this sweet spot to lie down and 
listen to the background noises of every day:
sprinkler systems sprinkling as programmed; gears
crushing trash; next door that voice insisting 
it be allowed to stay outside and play
for half an hour, just one minute more.


Beverley Bie Brahic’s White Sheets (CB editions, 2012) was a 2012 Poetry Book Society Recommendation. It is filled with many of the themes and concerns that can be seen here in ‘The Same Complex System...’: the interaction between the human and the natural world, a sadness underlying the features of everyday life, and acute observation of the world around us. Brahic skillfully blends all these things into a collection that is a moving and compelling read all the way through. 

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