"There is a science which investigates being as being and the attributes which belong to this in virtue of its own nature." -- Aristotle, The Metaphysics

"No one can justly or successfully discover the nature of any one thing in that thing itself, or without numerous experiments which lead to farther inquiries." -- Francis Bacon, The Great Instauration

Ichthyological Metaphysics
(For Dan Zimmerman and "E-Prime as a Revision Strategy")

When I need a word that rhymes with "fizz,"
A term that brings to mind an empty bubble,
I can always call on good old "is,"
And save myself the slightest bit of trouble.

When I want a noise that sounds like “fuzz,’
To symbolize a meaning I’ve forgotten,
I can do with nothing less than “was,”
Which changes “new” to “old” -- from fresh to rotten.

When I need the past for him-and-her
Or the subjunctive mood in doubtful cases,
Postulating that, and if, they “were,”
Joins fact and logic, and them both debases.

When I feel like heading to the bar,
But don't wish to examine my intention,
I can say my cravings simply "are":
For lazy drunks, the neatest word-invention.

When I wish to take off on the lam
To dodge the karma earned from lousy choices,
I can vaguely note the way I “am,”
Which tends to silence any nagging voices.

When I want to never look and see,
But jump instead at any mere suggestion,
I can ask: “To ‘be’ or not to ‘be’?”
Avoiding action through this pseudo-question.

When I need to shift from “now” to “then”
Because I’ve screwed the pooch for all to witness,
I can point to how things might have “been,”
And hope this covers up my own unfitness.

When I cannot face the sordid taint
Of life as it confronts the normal peasant,
I – like Tweedledee – say “isn’t” “ain’t.”
Conflating timeless absence with the present.

When I gather these inflections few
Into a “verb” that sums up disagreeing,
I speak bubbles as the others do,
And chalk-up ignorance to magic “being.”

When I can’t distinguish friend from foe,
I stall for time with “maybe” and “albeit,”
To mask the meaning of “perhaps” and “though.”
No danger if I just refuse to see it.

When I need short words to fit and chime,
Collapsing syllables with vowel elision,
The following will serve: “he’s,” “they’re” and “I’m,”
Like Sanskrit sandhi, blurring my own vision.

When I swim in school I seldom sink,
But waste my time, like any son or daughter.
I just feed and float and breathe and drink,
While never taking thought about the water.

Michael Murry, "The Misfortune Teller," Copyright © 2009-2019