the poetry that matters

Francis Raven

Francis Raven lives in Washington, DC. His books include two volumes of poetry, Shifting the Question More Complicated (Otoliths, 2007) and Taste: Gastronomic Poems (Blazevox, 2005) as well as a novel, Inverted Curvatures (Spuyten Duyvil, 2005). Poety has been published in Bath House, Chain, Big Bridge, Bird Dog, Mudlark, Caffeine Destiny, and Spindrift among others. Critical work can be found in Jacket, Logos, Clamor, The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, The Electronic Book Review, The Emergency Almanac, The Morning News, The Brooklyn Rail, Media and Culture, In These Times, The Fulcrum Annual, Rain Taxi, and Flak.

Diagnostic Weapons



say I say hi

say it’s an example

not you

but I’m

passing information


or nothing

in the case


of a simple


holds a tone


a face you

can read

off the surface


we find it natural to differentiate tables from faces

to say that’s a sad man


but not in our own case


no amount of evidence

will tip

our own scale


we just feel


therefore, diagnostic tools don’t work so well:


we can always perform a swerve: lying to the psychiatrist


a spy knows

on the ground;

has seen


but seeing

is a product of knowing

and knowing


is a product of

all of what

we say


“does dramatic information turned up by an overseas spy square with his access, or does it exceed his plausible reach?”





that funeral


she died

waiting in vain


for HIM to come home [HIM] was a code word

I imagine


a codeword has an imagination of its own


it is thinking of connecting

two dissimilars


for the record


you remember

who says

the correct




the National Institute of Standards and Technology was given a daunting challenge – providing the necessary guidance to federal agencies to enable them to provide adequate security for the technologies that store and manipulate the wealth of information our government collects.  To this end, they’ve dedicated themselves to the unenviable task of developing security configuration checklists for every system or application that runs on a federal agency system.


“manipulate” (and any subsequent words) was ignored because we limit queries to 32 words.





a verdict has been reached


what piece information would be required to force us to the next level?


the philosophical point is that the basic parts of systems are normally value-neutral so that values and “taste” can develop as an emergent property of sets of the basic parts; but this is not always so; for example, this is not true in this case




      MORGUE            BLACK TAG


      IMMEDIATE         RED TAG


      DELAYED           YELLOW


      MINOR             GREEN




                        green is like life

                        a symbol for


                        if you know what it is

                        you will know where to go






      if you rearrange



I haven’t waited to acknowledge that some things have been destroyed

they just began again

over which there was another shard of…

and now unclean

our own diagnostic roots

from which

history must recover.


do you know what the meaning of that word in the middle should be?

that is, do you know what a fish out of water means?

differentially bouncing out over other scales

there is just this one disease left


for incurable.  destruction will matter

until creation is impossible.


it’s the scalded milk

the skein forming

the lifted off


what I’m asking is: how did that piece

get lifted off

and not that one?



the answers are in the body and are set to remain there if the body dies, but the questions are also questions of the body and must be answered with some sort of key, a key called medicine



diagnosis is bifurcated


            between understanding symptoms and causes;


between what and what


we are trying to get to the bottom of

and then tip the barrel

to read the insignia


and see who stamped it




often in the same sentence we do not know what we’re talking about


but we know how to fix it; medicine is just engineering for the body


the French seem to agree (thank god!): “jogging is [JUST] management of the body.”




isolated vertical



removes smoke


where does it go?


the lack of proper signification


layer upon layer

moving up the levels is just a description



first he arrived in Germany

thus the Germans (federal intelligence service, BND)

had access first

and the Germans hate the CIA

because the CIA is a better agency

and is always scooping their spies

so the Germans won’t provide access

merely reports, thus what questions do they ask

and will only cooperate with


but to believe that interagency jockeying for cash

is any less real, viable

than the war on terror

in general

is absurd


money is always required and there is always too little to treat everything


horizontal motion is never





pill out and mull us the diagnosis shoot



in each



from the formula of

Washington’s most eminent specialists

in the art of sending the blood coursing


which drew from the critics the high praise above



one of the loosely applied medical terms

which may mean a great deal

or nothing at all


in practice, whenever a disease arises

that the average physician can not

diagnose, he calls it “malaria”


fill in the blank

for your own era


but when asked what it is

he is unable to define it

exactly, to state its origin nil:


limitations; beyond his power

according to this authority


can depend with confidence

commonly employed

in some parts of our own country


charts were sent over

from the opposition's office


to the death

piled to the next level

of overcoming doubt:

                  beyond a reasonable


evidence is like


of water


by a body, the heavier

the more

ends up on the floor


but the

urge to diagnose

might in fact

be a symptom

[to stare]: to get it right


was the source of all our misery


a body bloated


the charts of which

can be presented to

any international body you like;

that is, representations can’t make it so

so much as force you to stare at

her greening fingertips

latched to a gun;


captions was the word

I was looking for


engaging the services of

a specialist in place of

an ordinary teacher



as an idea was attached

eventually disposed of


the bite of connection

was enough to will


an absence: doubt in the diagnosis

will engender regret


only if it was

your decision to begin with


a way of reading a definition


from the coverage: throw to our guys;


avoid throwing


to theirs


(7) pain is often improperly assessed, misdiagnosed, mistreated, or undertreated;



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