An Engineer's Literary Notebook

Exploring the real and surreal connections between poetry and engineering

Deja Vu Deconstructed

Posted by xbanguyen on September 13, 2009

Bavarian Gentians

Not every man has gentians in his house
in Soft September, at slow, Sad Michaelmas.

Bavarian gentians, big and dark, only dark
darkening the daytime torchlike with the smoking blueness of Pluto’s
ribbed and torchlike, with their blaze of darkness spread blue
down flattening into points, flattened under the sweep of white day
torch-flower of the blue-smoking darkness, Pluto’s dark-blue daze,
black lamps from the halls of Dis, burning dark blue,
giving off darkness, blue darkness, as Demeter’s pale lamps give off
lead me then, lead me the way …

Memory is amorphous.  I still remember the first times I read that D. H. Lawrence’s poem.  The first time, you will want to correct me.  But I still can’t be sure.  All I remember  is that when I opened that volume of poetry, a graduation present, the morning after the commencement and read that poem,  I know that I had lived that moment before,  had followed those very words while the sunlight cast a peculiar  sheen on my graduation gown hanging on the hook next to the bookcase and the room was heavy with the scent of L’air Du Temps — another gift from my mother that I promptly broke in the excitement of the night before.   But it was not possible.  How could it be?  Nevertheless  the double sensation remains firmly in my memory years later.

But perhaps I had experienced that moment just a moment before.  If human memory is like certain type of  semiconductor memory that needs a clock to register, perhaps  deja vu can be explained as being a glitch on the clock edge.  At the first clock edge, my consciousness registered the entire tableau — the poem, the sunlight,  the scent and all.  The glitch followed immediately and I relived the same experience.  Even though very small, actual time has elapsed between the two edges,  making the two experiences similar and yet separate.  The question remains to be answered is the cause of the glitch and whether it can be induced.  Regardless of how or when I first read the poem,  the word Michaelmas was full of melancholy even before I looked up its meanings.  It is September and I am trying to be reconciled with the changing of seasons.

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