The Universe Can Never Be Complete: An Overview of A Madman's Newly Released Book of Poetry

"The Universe Can Never Be Complete" covers many topics, but it is primarily a retrospect on life and the universe that created it. Take the book's first short poem:

Mental creep
Recycled light shadows
Sky of perfect quiet
Thank you for the air

Upon close examination of this seemingly simple poem, we find that "Recycled light shadows" refers to the secondary light received by celestial bodies other than stars, such as planets and moons. The "Sky of perfect quiet" refers to the soundless vacuum of outer space and "the air" is Earth's atmosphere. The very next poem "Dark Spot" helps to reinforce the theme. Consider a portion of the poem which reads:

Tin cans investigate the
Cold outside, spheres of influence
Circling one another as
Hardened minds and spirits
Grapple at the luxurious garden
Full of weeds

The "Tin cans" are spacecraft that investigate the "Cold outside" (outer space) and the "spheres of influence" that are "Circling one another" are stars, planets, moons and other celestial objects. The "luxurious garden" is the Earth and "the weeds" are the human beings who inhabit her. The last four lines of the same poem read:

Temples and kingdoms and armies
Rise and fall
Moving forward, this kinetic state
Has bubbled from the slime.

The "slime" is the primordial soup that created all life on Earth. The following excerpt combines several of the themes I've already discussed:

Stones grow cold
Breath duels
Beneath the shield

In this excerpt, the Earth cools, followed by human beings warring with each other beneath the shield of the planet's atmosphere. There are some profoundly simple truths contained in this book. One example:

Unending quest
For the purpose of life
When the answer is obvious:
To live.

There are numerous references to the large scale structure of the universe and man's place in it. Take the first verse of "In Hiding":

Cool evening starlight pierces
Blackened skies. Crickets
Sing the song of darkness, night
Falls on blinded eyes. Spiral
Magnificence goes unnoticed.

The "Spiral magnificence" refers to spiral galaxies. There are even a few poems that refer to time dilation. One example is:

We want fire, acceleration and
Lightspeed starships to slide interstellarly
Tripcraft that cleverly weasel their way
Through time. Space is merely an envelope.

There are even some humorous poems such as "Ode to the Electron":

Microscopic planets of energy
Orbiting their positive counterparts, one for one
In the beginning there was atom.

Oh mighty electron, maker of all things
Your negative attitude brings life to the universe
Power to the cities of Earth and cling to clothes.

Your magnificent lightning bolts drive
Nitrogen into the soil and continue to pelt
The old man from the Guinness Book.

You give light and heat and hot water to homes
Toasters burn bread and offer sacrifices of
Unsuspecting kitcheners with butter knives.

You even control my thoughts, synapse by synapse
Allowing me to sense all that surrounds
And make fun of you by your own hand.

References to LSD and tripping are prevalent throughout the book. Here are a few samples from "The Laboratory of Scarce Delights":

Hallucinations. Geometry becomes child's play…

…To hallucinate, at level ten, is by far one of the richest
Possible human experiences…

…To probe the forbidden realm of the mind's mind becomes a
God-like gesture connecting us to the eternal power grid…

…The earth;
A laboratory of delights, the universe; a mad scientist.

But not all the references to tripping are about profound revelation and insight. An excerpt from "Cold Inferno" tells a different story:

High school trips bred an obsession that rose and
Released my mind into the vast crawlway, the
Gap that separates life and dark. Frustration and
Ecstasy fused into a tangled web of disobedience
A mess that will take a lifetime to untie.

Here is another example from "Shattered Glass Pillow":

Dawn squeaked through my bedroom window
Bats fluttered beneath the streetlight
Leaves simmered in the cool breeze
Witches brew and comforting hallucinations rose
From the deep pit of the mind.

The human mind is a much recurring theme in this book. The following poem is titled "Dream":

Sweet, precious sleep
Travels to the deep
Recesses of the imagination
The mind's own creation.

Dreamer dreaming a play
Performed its nonsense way
Keeps us sane
Built-in release valve of the brain.

Wordplay and minimalism also occur throughout the book. There are many poems that contain very few words and lines. Most of these poems are unnamed. One such example:

Blurred precision
to pursue

Although this book is primarily a collection of free verse poetry, it does contain some structured, even metered poems. But even these traditional forms often contain very non-traditional content. Take, for example, "Renewable Resource," the only Sonnet in the book:

I wished for money one day and it came
From five different places; A year old
Phone deposit and a roommate debt of the same
Amount, a grandma check and a loan they told
Me would be five times my paycheck which
All added up to exactly what I wished for
In the first place. I can't say that I was rich
But a thousand dollars meant I was no longer poor.
I was so depressed because I was so broke
When my best friend asked me how much money
It would take to make me happy. When I spoke,
An overwhelming sense of power made me feel funny.
My sense of faith had been renewed
After an entire year of getting screwed.

This poem complies with strict Sonnet format but it is not metered to emphasize the rhyme scheme until the last two lines. Although many of the poems in this book could be said to be dark in their nature, there are some wonderful tidbits of inspiration sprinkled throughout the book. For example:

Dreams do not get lost
They just wander around
Until you're ready to apologize

The following is another tidbit from a poem titled "Fusion":

We are the cosmic heart which
Beats, which oscillates in rhythm
In sync with the whole of the universe
And all that it continues to become.

There are also poems that are political in nature. Take the politically charged, internally rhymed "Foreign Polity" for example:

War rages on, militias seek
More from the weak masses
Unable to stabilize a region
With entire legions of fire.

Skies are filled with shells and planes
And smoke that rises from choking
Villages; pillaged hells torn violently
Painfully from the silent born.

Governments collapse into the rubble
Like basement pacts between troublemakers
That have lost control and threaten
To unfold their influence at great cost.

White House mignon is served on silver
Platters, doused in the blood of minions
While rivers of mud fight to shatter
Alliances and then curve back around defiantly.

"The Universe Can Never Be Complete" contains over 90 poems ranging in length from two lines to three pages.  This collection of poetry was written and arranged by John Joseph Burhop who has also authored the Science Fiction Novel "Rise of The Kek" (as seen in Asimov's Science Fiction magazine, Analog Science Fiction and Fact magazine, and Fantasy & Science Fiction magazine).  Both titles are available as eBooks from Amazon, Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Sony, Kobo, Diesel and other distributors.
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