“Obama Adds Troops, but Maps Exit Plan” (Bill Kenney)



troop buildup
the mountains know
no timeline





“Obama Adds Troops, but Maps Exit Plan” (New York Times)


Poem by Bill Kenney (see poet biographies). Read more by this poet.




  1. Chen-ou LIu

    William, an enlightening read. I like your poem infused with deep thoughts.
    .the mountains know
    no timeline

    will stay with me. Thanks!


  2. Dick Whyte

    I agree Chen-ou, this one will stay with me for a long time. A stunner of the poem Bill. It speaks volumes.

  3. Robyn E. Kenealy

    Yeah, I’m going to have to add my voice to that chorus, because this poem is wonderful. I was a geology major for a while, and I remember being struck by how the more I examined the earth, the more I knew how much I didn’t know about the way it… I’m going to say “thought” about things. How it remembered. Because in a way it was as if the earth thought completely different things were important.

  4. Ikiru

    Wow, this one is stunning– the timelessness of the Afghan landscape which has done no favours for soldiers their now, no more than for the Soviets. Makes me think a bit of Robinson Jeffers…

  5. Chris White

    Fantastic poem, like Chen-ou I find those words will stick with me. Robyn, I find your comment about the way the earth “thought” or “remembers” fascinating. Can you say any more about this?

  6. Editor

    This relates to some of Gilles Deleuze’s ideas. Take the name of one of the chapters in A Thousand Plateaus: “The Geology of Morals: Who does the earth think it is?” I think the earth remembers firstly through the scars which we leave on it. Similarly to ourselves – when we experience a scar, the scar is attached to the memory of when it happened.

    But in terms of the earth thinking in the way Robyn is talking about, I understand intuitively what she means, but it is difficult to put into words. Like, I have no trouble feeling that the earth “knows” we are here and that it “remembers” us having been here for some time. How it “judges” this information is the bit that I think is radically different to our mode of understanding. Hence, the “awareness” of things (ie. that it “knows” we are here) is similar to us, but its mode of thinking this through (or judging what the information means) is incomprehensible to us.

    I once had this odd idea: we move around with our bodies, but our thinking is localised in space to one place (ie. in our minds). Then I thought, well, plants stay in one place physically, so maybe their minds travel (so they are a reversal of the human structure). And the earth is, in some senses, one big plant. Hmmmm…. I don’t know where I am going with this.

    Any thoughts?

  7. Janet

    hi, bill. strong, poignant. glad to see you here.

  8. Chris White

    Hey Dick, thanks for the interesting reply. I’d just like to be sure we’re on the same wavelength with what we’re discussing here though -

    In your first point, when you relate what was said to Deleuze, can I ask in what sense you mean that the earth remembers? Do you think the earth experiences its memory in a manner comparable to humans? Or does the earth experience its memory at all?

    I’d also like to delve into the second point further, when you discuss thinking in the way Robyn talked about it. When you say the earth “knows” and “remembers”, in what sense do you think it does these – are we talking about consciousness in some sense? And why do you think that its way of thinking things through (and judging them – also, in what sense “judge”?) must be so greatly different to our way of doing such a thing when its way of “knowing” is similar to our own? I realise these are complex questions, and I’m not trying to pull your statements apart to construct an argument or critique (I realise it could seem that way when I draw the differences you make between knowing and judging together and highlight the contrasting thoughts you hold about them), I’m purely very interested in the reasons for these thoughts and I’d like to open up a bit of discussion about them with the hope of learning something.

    Your odd idea is very interesting, though I’m not sure where to go with it either. One thing I wonder is whether our thought really is localised in space, or whether its just trapped there, or whether its place in space is an illusion, or a myriad other possibilities?

    Just to give a couple of my own ideas, I have wondered if the earth thinks too, and wouldn’t feel that it was unreasonable to say that it does, but my main angle is something like: our brains generate thought, and our brains are basically the same matter as a tree or a rock or a steel girder. Obviously the matter is arranged in a different structure in our brains, but that is not to say that it is the only structure capable of thought. Indeed, it’s possible to ask whether the structure of matter is the foundation of thought or not, or also perhaps whether differing structures might just give rise to certain qualities of thought.

    I have had a few interesting experiences, moments where I have been sharply struck by thoughts that seem intuitively correct, that relate to this kind of thing (I won’t go into them here). I’ve also often looked at the clouds and thought (it’s kind of cheesey): what if the clouds are just massive synaptic networks of some form? I stare at the edges of them, the bits that you can see fraying, breaking away, rejoining other parts, and so on, and I just wonder if its also wondering. This is just one particularly science-oriented way of looking at it, and I realise that if the clouds could be synaptic then so could any other kind of matter, but its just that they demonstrate the idea to me in a visually intuitive way so my first thought links to them in this particular instance.

    I’m aware I’ve used scientific foundations for much of what I have said there, and wonder also what you’ll say about that, if anything. I am wary of science’s limitations.

    Anyway, all this fascinates me. I know I’ve not articulated myself all that well here, but if its incomprehensible I’ll clarify myself further down the line.

    Speak soon.

  9. Bill Kenney

    Thanks for those encouraging and welcoming comments. I’ll just eavesdrop on Whyte and White.

  10. Editor

    Interesting points Chris. Deleuze talks about other modes of knowing. He argues, like many postmodern theorists, that the dominant model of thought in contemporary society is masculine (ala. Laura Mulvey). He calls for a return to minoritan modes of thought: from the feminine, to the child, to the animal, to the plant, to the mineral, to the imperceptible (and many other things besides). In order to think like these things one must “become” them. This involves a process of emptying the self (so that you can become filled with new speeds and intensities). To experience the world one as another one must first change the bodies experience. I’ll give an example: when I first thought of that idea about the plant consciousness roaming in time, I also started thinking about the way physics describes simple movements. By dividing distance (measured space) by duration (measured time) we get speed. This can be represented by S/T = Sp. Note that the “T” is below the “S” (ie. subject to it). If we reverse this we get T/S, which still gives us a ratio. We would say we travel 1 minute in 1 meters, rather than we travel 1 meter in 1 minute (if that makes sense). As I thought about this my body became very very still. Then I felt a movement – a drift of my body in a certain direction. I wasn’t moving, but I felt as if I was moving in a constant direction very slowly. When Robyn got home I asked her which direction the earth rotated in, and it turned out to be the same direction that I felt the movement. This I would suggest is a moment in which I became “rock” or “mineral” and like a rock I perceived no difference between the earth’s body and my own, hence I felt the earth’s movement.

    This, for me, is an illustration of the ways in which different modes of thought may be associated with different kinds of beings (or becomings). However, neither mode actually changes what is happening – that is, they are only ways of “thinking of” something. Human thought is dominated by isolating “difference” but I feel an earth thought would not produce difference in the same way (and difference is the basis of judgment).

    I absolutely agree with your thoughts – I have often thought similar things. I feel that atoms may be the structure of thought (rather than matter – although they amount to the same thing in some senses). Energy is thought at its base. Our mode of thinking (qualitative and relative difference) is one way of putting this energy into thoughtful form. I love the idea of clouds being thoughts as they appear and disappear in the earth’s mind. That is awesome!!!! I love seeing clouds that appear and disappear in a few moments. They amaze me.

    You know, I heard about a scientist which was studying the patterns of galaxies. They figured out how to model whole galaxies in three-dimensions and from certain angles they seemed to mimic cloud structures on earth. What is above is below. The macrocosm is the microcosm.

    Any thoughts?

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