Percivial Everett’s Use of Metaphors and Juxtapostion in the Poem “Logic”

Pervical Everett’s poem titled “Logic,” in the greater anthology of re:f(gesture) uses extremely ambiguous metaphors and juxtapositions to express the idea that concepts, such as numbers, are timeless and unbreakable. Moreover, he details the insignificance of naming, and the ineffectiveness of words to alter anything other than a human being’s understanding of the world. 

Starting with stanza two, Everett writes: “Let us assume X. Even such signs have some place, some language X. Constituent parts compose this reality — molecules, atoms, simple X.” The metaphor comparing X, to the fundamental building blocks of the universe, emphasizes the idea that no matter the name given to a thing (which is itself a name given), it does little to change the composition of that thing. As Everett deems a language X, and atoms and molecules X, he exposes the consistency of existence. Meaning, language X still exists without “X,” while atoms and molecules exist without “X.” Furthermore, take a language — English for example. Without the word “English,” the English language does not decompose. Take molecules and atoms and remove the “molecules and atoms,” and they are still there, composing every part of everything ever been given a name. With this being said, one may as well call them “X,” as their existence can not be defined by a name. 

In stanza four, there is a line that reads: “There are samples of colors somewhere in a case, standards like weights and measures, preserved in Paris maybe, like the meter, sealed in a case where no one can see them.” The metaphor comparing the interminability of ideas to samples of colors and weights being locked in a case somewhere in Paris, emphasizes their timelessness. Color, weight and length are constants in the universe. Color is the visible perception of the electromagnetic spectrum. Weight is the mass of an object, multiplied by the acceleration due to gravity. Length is one of the three dimensions (excluding time). They are constants in the universe, and have been for millennium. Ironically however, the names we give them are not. They change over time, or cease to exist completely if we meet our demise. The aforementioned metaphor exposes the irony of attempting to fetter to a name that which as existed nameless for time uncountable. Furthermore, the segment that says: “…in a case where no man can see them,” continues to accentuate this point, because that is why we as a species, named these abstract principles to begin with. We named them to attempt to touch them, or get close to them. When in reality, they are safely locked away, where no name or phrase will prove to be the proper key. As the names we provide these perpetual things such as “color,” or “meter,” eventually wither and crumble like they will, the things will still stand stubbornly on, until they are given a new name to disregard. 

Stanza five in its entirety continues to express this theme, as Everett pens: “Seven men can be obliterated, burned or hanged or drowned in a lake and forgotten. Men gone, but not seven. Seven men lost, but not seven. Seven is, will be. All men will die, but not seven.” The juxtaposition between the mortality of men, and immortality of “seven,” furthers the notion that there are concepts that unbreakable. The three direct juxtapositions that Everett presents in this quote are: “Men gone, but not seven,” “Seven lost, but not seven,” and “All men will die, but not seven.” These serve to illuminate the fragility of man, when compared to the intangible constructs they create. Although “seven,” was formed by man and represented by him (as does the group of men “obliterated”), seven still far exceeds the lifespan of its creator; as even when seven men are not present, seven still exists, and will continue to exist in the debris, ash, gallows and the lake in which those men drowned.

The notion of existence versus nonexistence, and the futility of names to influence such, is a theme that Everett discusses on multiple occasions. Similarly in his novel I Am Not Sidney Poitier, he demonstrates the irony of the protagonist’s name, Not Sidney Poitier, having no effect on his life course, as he lived Sidney Poitier’s life almost exclusively. However, in re:f(gesture) the stated theme is articulated through the use of metaphors, such as comparing infinite existence to being locked in a case in Paris. It is also articulated through the use of juxtapositions, as perceived by deeming a complex system of microscopic moving parts (atoms and molecules) as the singular letter “X.” It are these devices which allow “Logic,” ironically, to honor its name and present a concept that is as timeless as the ones given in the poem. 

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