New Wine in Old Wineskins — Kevin Brown

I make lists:
books I’ve read
movies watched
a journal of who I have been
what I will do, hypothetically
poems I write and the journals that don’t want them

(ever the pessimist, though there’s
room at the bottom for those
that find a home).

But I’m not a life logger,
those who wear a watch or strap
that keeps count

of too many things to count—
every breath they take
to every move they make,
what song they listened to when
to the calories they took in

while listening. None of this is new;
a seventeenth-century man ate
in a self-designed weighing device,

lowered himself with every forkful,
dropping to below table height
when he should stop.
We always find ways to outsource

our will, unable to pay attention
to our selves.
But science cannot find our

consciousness, and no new watch
or phone can measure our soul or
spirit or breath of life or whatever
we want to call whatever it is

that makes us us. We have invented
the quantified self, an illusion, to answer
the oracle at Delphi

or ignore it altogether,
as blind as Oedipus,
stabbing ourselves in the eyes
with data points instead of a brooch.


Kevin Brown is a Professor at Lee University. He has published three books of poetry: Liturgical Calendar: Poems (Wipf and Stock); A Lexicon of Lost Words (winner of the Violet Reed Haas Prize for Poetry, Snake Nation Press); and Exit Lines (Plain View Press). He also has a memoir, Another Way: Finding Faith, Then Finding It Again, and a book of scholarship, They Love to Tell the Stories: Five Contemporary Novelists Take on the Gospels.