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A few poems

Toby Newberry

Arranged in Rings

(April 8, response to Future Library)

I. Forest
Leaves breathe sunlight,
form strange ceilings,
swarm under storms
(like bees live in flowers),
shed water, bleed wood.

II. Library
Soon enough we’re
deconstructing woods
(ashes to sashes, leaves to eaves),
conjuring walls
and drawers curve
light like hollow stars.

III. Manuscript
I mean soon enough
we’re conjuring words,
deconstructing books
and building trees
(spines to pines, leaves to leaves);
those lines like flower-presses,
sheaves like memories.

IV. Future
Entire suns surrounded,
Dyson’s topiary
breathes sunlight and
turns strange constellations,
deconstructing worlds,
ancient light greets infinite dawns
like silver leaves throw
shadows over distant moons.



(April 14, sonnet)

Plato’s fire and Euclid’s foil,
the method lost to Babylon,
angels, terra, luna, sol,
Pelusia, Parthia, Rome –
the silhouetted toblerone,
Nile delta enveloping,
shard of universal, only
space between my interlacing
fingers recurs and alternately disappears
in the corners of crossed legs,
female nudes, and cut squares,
as children, ever, collecting twigs,
twice break them,
only three in twelve create them.


Dream Journal

(April 16)

I never dream of the ocean
or night sky, stars or waves
and unthinkable depths; instead
I’m in this cubicle,
sitting a test, or else, a game,
something complicated I need
to focus right now, OK? Or
I’m just in bed, lying blank like ice
to wake up, wishing I had flown
into the sea to touch the moon or
fallen into the sky to drown.


Contra Nagel

(April 20, partial found poem)

It’s dark, and loud, and small; it echoes
into the space between sleep and wakefulness,
like a seal moving from land to water, or
a snake, having only recently shed its skin;
and a fox at a frozen stream concluding
‘that which makes a noise, runs;
that which runs, is not frozen;
what is not frozen is liquid;
and that which is liquid,
yields to impressions.’


The quote in the second half of ‘Contra Nagel’ is from Montaigne, ‘L’Apologie de Raimond Sebond’.


Toby Newberry is a Research Scholar at Oxford’s Future of Humanity Institute. Last year he completed a BPhil in Philosophy.