The Mantegna Oculus Rift


It’s crude to claim our technology

moralizes that of the past: inside the a/c

remains in fact the daughter

of the emperor I have conquered

blowing down my neck


and I am a man. When we reach the next level

there are too many guns to be good:

the avatar glows ever more colors

the more essences absorbed

till the diphthong grows unpronounceable.


The whole thing’s about mixing incommensurate scales.

When I tell you I’m working on measurement

remember universal means colonial,

please. Our only hope is being open to respect.

Mantegna painted his famous ceiling


oculus in Mantua in a bedroom

for people who are married, i.e.,

building on their difference.

So in my jpg of the oculus

I’m less into the Moor


or staring at a putto’s well-foreshortened

balls-and-peen and more

into imitating his neighborling

who bites a marble bow

and pierces the oculus rim.


I am thinking of the people who suffer

to make my electricity possible

not out of love, because it is crude

to fall in love with the fallen

emperor’s daughter, but because another


foreshortening is always possible to render another

space that dilates failure:

near the core of Mantegna’s oculus

a dark slit could actually hold an eye

and probably was for hanging something. I


don’t want to look it up. I love the dark navel

in the dark tear at the edge of a cloud,

fresh, I love the peacock watching it,

I love the dirty tape that crosses over it from old

conservators. When I play video games


my avatar is always a woman

and I never simulate our wars,

i.e., those of the United States: instead

on “the shattered world known as Outland” and in general

I prefer the aftermath of history


understood with fantastical consequence.

In many cities in Europe you have no choice

but even in the States I open

windows in the heat and work beside

birds, children, sirens, thunder.


Jennifer Nelson is the author of Aim at the Centaur Stealing Your Wife.

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Further Reading

 October 11

The clowns are not only fundamental to our social institutions; they're literally in charge of them.

 October 10

A masterful narrative of the Greek debt crisis, Varoufakis's Adults in the Room makes a case for the revival of a humane internationalism.