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Richard Kenney



I Placed a Jar 


“So when Roosevelt reiterated, ‘Can you hide $2 billion for a secret project

that we hope will end the war?’ Senator McKellar deftly replied, ‘Well, Mr.

President, of course I can. And where in Tennessee do you want me to hide it?’” 


Itself the invention of the philosopher Nick Bostrom,

the Urn of Invention is a chalice full of marbles.

It cradles the full fund of what’s possible,

within the reach of the human mind. The wheel 

was plucked from there, and fire from flint and tinder

long before. Then later, whale oil lamps,

the codex, Kleenex, coin, vaccines. You see.

These gumballs mostly come in shades of gray.

A few are almost white: the ones whose boon

is pure, whose unintended consequences

do no harm. Pure white is rare, we grant,

but many, many, in the main, are good,

or neutral, anyway. And some are not.

And maybe—we don’t know—a few are black.


In case you hadn’t guessed—worse come to worst—

black means curtains for the genus Homo.

And have we drawn a black one yet? Who knows?

Ideas often work the way wine works,

stepchildren, too, of silence and slow time.

A slouch well short of Bethlehem; a sliver’s

incipient journey to the cardiac arch… Will,

we say, as though the Future ought to rhyme

with human inclination. Future tense!

The climacteric of Necessity?

Like light in gravity, the Future bends

around the urn, resembling Tennessee

in this respect. The century is young.

A slick of licorice leaks across the tongue.




David Toomey

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