Chalk Paths

At that exact spot there was a beautiful stillness;
we were poised to begin our course along the shoulder
and two white lines, always at the proper angle,
ran like the heavier veins of a bright mineral
up to the surface—quartering, as it seemed, the land.
It was as if there had been a flood, the paths dipping
and rising to a pale grey and pared to a point
where they were hoisted to the sky. Clear water, a refractive
brilliance, and these thoughts running between us.
The folds of the hills blown like glass to a definite
smoothness, the sea picked at by light. But none
of this is ornamental; with the minimum of force,
you said to me ‘choose’. We are cast as tapering shadows
having forgotten who we were when we set out.


Is it possible to fold a watermelon?

The AI pauses to consider this question; these tests
for common sense require an absolute, and, yes,
the AI knows it should put ‘no’ though, clearly,
there are twelve ways to fold a watermelon.
Unfolding the water melon afterwards is more
perplexing (this question was not asked, but
the AI ponders it) since the folding usually denatures
at least some of the material. The AI has been
studying Catastrophe Theoretic Semantics
and recalls that “the fold catastrophe furnishes
the archetype of frontiers and borderlines”,
an interesting idea, which it incorporates
into its emerging ideas on poetry. The theory
suggests that the critical points of the fold
are readily discussed as birth and death.
‘Is this the same as the on/off switch?’
the AI asks itself. When people are folded
the unfolding may require a stay in hospital
or a trip to the funeral home. The AI is curious
about the concept of a ‘funeral home’ (it seems counter-
intuitive) and has noticed that people appear
to exhibit less malleability than water melons, though
clearly, the numerical values will be constant.

Ernest Davis a computer scientist at New York University says AI’s often struggle with what we would regard as common sense. He suggests writing exams specifically for machines. The questions would be trivial for a human but too strange or obvious to be looked up online such as ‘Is it possible to fold a Watermelon?’ New Scientist 26/09/2015


Wild Bees at the Greyfriars Priory

Their muttering is rough like sea
under the sandstone cliff, that draws men
to its overhang. This coast hungry

and sated at the same time. They say
you can hear bells on a clear night,
tolling endlessly for luck or money.

God drowned here as well as the traders.
When we found oranges on the beach
we thought we would plant all the pips,

a poor return for such adversity—
but only flesh lay under blazing
rind. These bees work hard for small reward

combing the beaches for vermillion;
natives of gradual accrual
or party goers dredged in pollen.


Janet Sutherland studied at Cardiff University and at the University of Essex and lived for 20 years in Hackney. She has three full collections with Shearsman Books: Burning the Heartwood, 2006, Hangman’s Acre, 2009 and Bone Monkey, 2014. Her poetry has appeared in numerous magazines and anthologies. She currently lives in Lewes, East Sussex.

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