Cloud of Unknowing

James Bradley’s new translation, from the Middle English, of the medieval mystical text The Cloud of Unknowing is now available as a chapbook from Hexagon Press.

Written anonymously in England in the 14th century, and never meant for public consumption, The Cloud of Unknowing consists of a series of spiritual instructions and teachings intended to aid and guide the novice onto the path of what one might call “conceptual negation,” in which mystical union with God becomes possible once the fetters of the material world have been cast off by the mind.

This new translation of The Cloud of Unknowing offers a poet’s take on this enigmatic classic of Western spirituality.

Click here for details.

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The hexagon is of equal balance and proportion, and its six faces are in perfect alignment with the center of its energy, which is known in the esoteric circles as “the seventh key.” Its malcontented offspring, the hexagram, derived from the Greek word for six and also from the old Germanic word hexe, meaning witch, spans the heights of heaven and the depths of hell, and everything in between is contained within its body. It is here where we begin with the Library of Babel, the hive that carries all the possibilities of language within its interlocking hexagons that rise up beyond where the eye can see, where its omega point can only be logically deduced to a finite number but appears infinite in its physical manifestation as a library. Sunlight passes through the central shafts through an opening the shape of a hexagon, and once it crosses this threshold, its rays redistribute and filter through the meticulously dusted rows of bookshelves. The library is an embodiment of order because there is both a beginning and end point from which each particle of knowledge can be assigned a value and categorized within a range that knows no negative numbers because, put simply, it’s the “what we don’t know that we don’t know” and thus it would have to be known, or at least known that it is unknown, in order to integrate into the collection of possibilities contained within the library walls.

“From all these incontrovertible premises he deduced that the Library is total and that its shelves contain all the possible combinations of the twenty-odd orthographic symbols (whose number, though vast, is not infinite);” – Jorge Luis Borges, The Library of Babel, 1941.

And in this sense, the finiteness of the library is tied to the human mind because language rose from thought and was assessed a value when it took the form of a character, or a single letter, and so on. And while thought and the imagination rise endlessly, its expression is still a sacrifice and the symbol, like Christ, came into the world as a mediator between the real and the non-real, the alpha and the omega. The Library attains the perfection of balance, indicated by the weight of all the symbols stacked high so to appear deceptively infinite, and it is the weight of its realness that the symmetry of the hexagons harmoniously distribute and support, and upon which all things rest. The number one, the first positive value conjured as a single mark, is the means in which the primes two and three are built upon, thus making the hexagon possible. The unifying element surrounding and incorporating these hexagons and their interlocking passages is the single structure of the library as a living organism of knowledge. And all the different combinations of letters and symbols filter through the various systems much in the way nourishment passes through the body. And the passageways represent the means in which this system is interconnected and weaves through all the different combinations of novels and essays rearranged and refigured to their utmost capacity, and in their captivity their destiny is imposed upon them much like the way that this single source of light expands across the library’s many levels after it has been freed from the constraints of the central shafts. Different colors and temperatures of light pass across the shelves and books appear one color in the morning and another towards evening. Entire shelves fall into a certain shade of bluish green at certain hours of the afternoon when the sky is lacquered with clouds and a storm system is due to make landfall. And the towers of hexagons interchange various tones according to the temperature of light accorded to us all and shared amongst all the people passing through them.

“And we see, in these beginnings, precisely what Symbolism in literature really is: a form of expression, at the best but approximate, essentially but arbitrary, until it has obtained the force of a convention, for an unseen reality apprehended by the consciousness. It is sometimes permitted to us to hope that our convention is indeed the reflection rather than merely the sign of that unseen reality. We have done so much if we have found a recognizable symbol.” – Arthur Symons, The Symbolist Movement in Literature, 1908.

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I wander through life on horseback, as it were, crawling when haste is surely prudent, galloping where a trot would suffice. I have forged, by my own rough hands, the reigns, the saddle, and the spurs necessary to steer this great beast like destiny steers man. I have packed provisions; I have plotted a path into the blackest uncharted hazes of the nether regions of this beautiful, enduring torch burning the last oil of the last dying star in existence. At last I shall pierce the darkness; at last I shall know the love of nothingness on the other side of a brilliant chasm of embittered light! At last I shall know peace. I have known the touch and the deceit of women, and have been well pleased with both. I have drank in the stench of battle, and held my piquant liquor well. Now those things are nearing their end, as such things must. At last I shall know peace, and the sweet clangor of the sword as it hits, with finality, the stone promenade which my horse’s hooves have lately tread, coming gently to rest to grow cold, never again to be warmed by these blood-soaked hands, never again to cut to ribbons the swathes of this infirm, tired world. My sword disappears.


The name of my horse is Aionatem. Ask not to know my own, for this name holds mystery and honor to suffice for us both, we brothers in arms on the steppes of blood. My feet have not touched the ground since I remember not when, and through the murky shadows beneath me my eyes can no longer penetrate. That the four hooves of my tireless companion disappear completely from my gaze into the black fog is dread enough for one man to face—I inquire no further into the nature of the ground beneath my being, and upon which those four veracious hooves never fail to rhythmically fall. A sorcerer named Ameleth bid me dismount, claiming that doing so was the only way to win the freedom that justifies a man and all his petty appetites. Though his words resounded with the fleshy weight of a terrible attraction, I succeeding in rebuking the old devil at last. His twisted knuckles gripped a knotted staff with all the hatred of his sad religion, and it was the chance sight of this detail alone that gave me strength enough to sunder his hypnotic spell. I left him muttering his diabolical songs behind me, with the stronghold rising upon the horizon ahead. He, too, disappeared.

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In searching for you I must use as few words as possible, as each is stripped to its irreducible core, like a soul standing before the Lord at Judgment, and cast across the sky’s proverbial Cloud, where it is processed and inverted into the digital psychosphere, and fed back to terra firma with transubstantiation as its vehicle. Perhaps it is a new alchemy but one that no alchemist could ever receive from a dream. When entering the designated portal each word becomes an obol for the algorithm, and the bodiless, wandering souls that surround the ferry are bytes of information represented as sacred glyphs. Collectively they simulate the ideal forms commanded onto them while continuing to function as singular designations, like a cell in the human body guided by the currents of life itself. My words collect in a reservoir that cannot overflow. The “you” I imparted into that old Orphic strain echoes back with what it thinks I want to hear. The results are extrapolated extrapolations of the memories, experiences and ideal forms that I put into words. I begin to realize that the differences between a corrupt file and a repressed memory now seem insignificant to me.


A Visual map of the internet, The Opte Project

The images the search recovered are highly organized formations of the floating glyphs that swirl about the ferry’s weathered hull. In my mind my thoughts of you are intensely arranged into a hierarchical system of sensory impressions, valued by their degree of lucidity and the intensity of the emotional responses triggered when recalling the original experience of the past event, which comes and goes through the ballad of my memory. If I expand the computer’s image I’m met with a wall of pixels in their existential dress and the few connections shared between my memories of you and these conjured images disappear. I have my understanding of you and the computer has its own; both are indeterminate and perhaps both their respective totalities are inaccessible. Human error can seem a welcome refuge when I let my dreams affect my concept of you in my waking life. Symbols that assume different forms but hold the same truth eventually escalate into allegory.


Sandro Botticelli, Arrival in the Moon

A memory recalled at will, whether consciously, or subconsciously by being incorporated into a dream for instance, can never yield the same result twice; their infinite potential is paradoxically rooted in the fixed nature of the past. Endlessly branching, a mind that dwells on the past can continuously reconstruct and reexamine the past because it does so from its present course, which is in constant flux until it reaches its vanishing point, which is death. The computer however, or more specifically the information it processes, can theoretically float forever inside a Cloud that is without shape but knows all shapes. And the gales that coax wildfires across freeway barriers cannot and dare not disturb the Clouds that slumber free from the burden of molecules.


Thermal image of prescribed fire, Wind Cave National Park

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The chapbook “Religious Sonnets” by Brittany Ham is now available to order from our website. This collection by Ham features meditative sonnets strictly formalized in the Romantic tradition, yet undeniably traumatized by Post-Structuralist, Post-9/11, Post-Christian America and all of its phantoms. Still, a hopeful, serene atmosphere pervades in these meticulously arranged bouquets of language, emotion and thought. For more details, please visit our publications page.


1The Digital Cloud and the Error of Errors:


Many are the forms in which the White Horse manifests. In Vol. II we chose to confront him in one of his more illusive disguises, with clouds of pure information rising over the fiend’s pale face, blotting the sky and eclipsing the sun. Swarms of synthetic molecules buzz about their waterless bodies as the wind passes right through them.

We would look upon the true face of nature with horror if we could only see what was really there. Each datum infrastructure requires the amount of power necessary to power a small city, and each warehouse block is a reminder, for all who wish to see, that we can no longer hide our empire in metaphysics or at a safe distance from its parent infrastructure. The clouds’ shadow hugs the earth as it grows, rolling along the mountain chains and vistas obstructed by chain link fences. Our prying, privileged eyes can see the strings running between heaven and earth, providing the Haarp its siren song.

These strains, presented as seven poems by seven poets, either touch upon the accused or provide a glimpse into places and atmospheres where heightened anxieties arouse in the seer painful premonitions of the coming shadow, where the very basis of “wellness” (Linden) has been estranged from its humanity and the earth is reduced to “a bare acid grassland waste” (Carfagna).

We would like to extend our gratitude to the seven poets, without whom, we would have no basis for argument to issue forth against the reign of the White Horse.


The Editors,
Hexagon Press


Ric Carfagna was born and educated in Boston Massachusetts. He is the author of numerous collections of poetry, most recently: Symphonies Nos. 5, & 9 published by White Sky Books. His poetry has evolved from the early radical experiments of his first two books, Confluential Trajectories and Porchcat Nadir, to the unsettling existential mosaics of his multi-book project Notes On NonExistence. Ric lives in rural central Massachusetts with his wife, cellist Mary Carfagna and daughters, Emilia and Aria.

Daniel Demarse was born and raised in New York City and attended Boarding School at Millbrook in upstate New York. He lives there still, spending most of his time experiencing, writing and reading new things.

Les Gottesman’s poems have appeared in many print and online journals and magazines. Finishing Line Press brought out his chapbook, Misuses of Poetry and Other Poems, in 2013, and Tebot Bach published The Cases, winner of the 2012 Clockwise Chapbook Competition, in 2015. See more of Les’s work here.

Sophie Linden sleeps in Portland, Oregon.

Michael Peters is the author of the sound-imaging poem Vaast Bin (Calamari Press) and other assorted language art and sound works. As certain as he is uncertain of access to “the real,” Peters frequently tests this periphery as a poet, visual poet, fictioneer, and musician in a variety of old and new media.

Dave Shortt’s work has appeared in various print venues including Mesechabe, Sulfur, and Nedge, and online in webzines such as Astropoetica, Switched-on Gutenberg, Ygdrasil, Verse Wisconsin, The Pedestal, S/WORD, and Surrealist Star Clustered Illuminations.

Noel Sloboda is the author of the poetry collections Our Rarer Monsters (sunnyoutside, 2013) and Shell Games (sunnyoutside, 2008) as well as several chapbooks, most recently Risk Management Studies (Kattywompus Press, 2015). He has also published a book about Edith Wharton and Gertrude Stein. He teaches at Penn State York.

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Free copies of CONTRA EQUUS NIVEUS no. 2 are now available at Adobe Books + Arts Cooperative, City Lights Bookstore, Dog Eared Books, Alley Cat Books, Modern Times Bookstore Collective, and will be available soon at Bound Together Anarchist Collective Bookstore in San Francisco.

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Dearly Unreal (In No Particular Order),

Tammuz. Compulsion drives these words over the edge of a flat earth, falling forever into night, rising forever into darkness without end. That is the plainest I know how to say it. Listen to this, Tammuz. Did you not once tell me that the Romans got the idea for crucifixions from none other than the T in your name, and in fact stole it from you outright because they saw that it was the perfect shape to hang a body from?

Krishna. I am disoriented from a sudden (though not isolated) onslaught from the most unlikely of places. My pious bride. She has devastated me with the truth of her words. She knows me better than you do, I’ll gamble, yet a tender word from you may go far in calming her tumultuous waters. Though you came at least a hundred years too late, promise me you’ll try.

Budha Sakia. You, I feel certain I have met before, perhaps at the zendo on a wall-gazing Saturday afternoon? No matter, you are far away at present. And I am far away from you. Which has strayed from which? All attempts at profundity or levity aside, a bout of indigestion from some tainted meat hardly qualifies you for this list. Still, you did bury it out back after it had wrought its appointed work, so surely you have the compassionate eyes that have steered you into the proximity of the light?

Alcestos. Sometimes, when I am sad, I focus on the point my eyes happen to have landed upon and imagine that sight is truly blindness. It’s not hard; try it and I’m sure you’ll agree. A true prophet does not discriminate when it comes to subject matter. Anything will do, really.

Quirinus. Individuals with your name seem predisposed to martyrdom, if the Martyrologium Hieronymianum is to be believed, and quite frankly the question is still an open matter as of the present moment. Still, time flows and things change, so who, O Quirinus, can say?

Wittoba. Speaking of martyrs, the namesake of the lot, and by this I mean of course Justin Martyr, has leveled a very serious accusation against thee and thine. How pleadest thou? Silent after all these centuries, I see. Well, I’d expect nothing less after the supreme embarrassment you must have suffered as a result of misinterpreting the sacred prophecies so spectacularly. Still, existence was sweet, was it not?

Quexalcote. I do hope I’ve spelled that correctly. Dear me, what an awkward spot you put us all in a couple of years ago when it dawned on us that we had all marked our calendars incorrectly and found ourselves all dolled up in our finest apparel, but alas with no ball to attend that night, in fact no ballroom.

Atys. Please, I seek your advice, for there are times I feel that I scarcely exist, as if being “born of a virgin” meant having no one notice you except to poke fun and belittle. Lonely Atys, it dawns on me that we are perhaps more alike than either would care to admit.

Bali. The nauseous sensation in my esophagus. Matter or spirit. Please advise.

Indra. Like lightning that flashes in the east, and fills the sky even in the west, I hope this letter finds you well. Everyone seems so sure of themselves these days, though their opinions vary wildly, so they can’t all be right. The one certain thing is that they are all so certain. It is the only way for them, the only way they know to resist the fate of the lightning flash, brilliant one moment, then nothing. O Indra, I know you know what I mean.

Crite. At times I feel so insignificant, as if I had no agency, as if I were only empty bamboo reeds clacking in the wind, only seeming animate. As I have mentioned to dear Tammuz, compulsion drives these words, so bear with me.

Hesus. Because your name, in its romanized form, resembles that of Yeshua’s, in its romanized form, you expect preferential treatment. I know, I am blunt. Let us be honest with ourselves, this game of linguistic taxonomy, of grouping like sounds with like, though originating from the most far-flung and diverse epochs and kingdoms, has really made this whole exercise appear rather “serious.”

Mithra. Hope springs eternal. Tell yourself that it does, and I, gladly, will share comfort in your consolation.

Thulis. We are all alone in this universe! Myself, however, sees this as a tremendous boon. An individual who stands before God. That is the definition of ‘alone,’ so thus you see that it is truly the greatest gift of creation itself from our blessed creator, this ‘alone.’ Be of good cheer!

Iao. Were you made of the same stuff from which you ignorantly emanated, or was the stuff plucked from your backside against your will in paradoxical fashion for the sake of preemptive comfort, a cushion of evil? Ask Lilith who the gardener is today, and how he is underpaid by your stingy boss.

Prometheus. I know you feel you had no choice in the matter. Your unquenchable compassion actually got up and walked off on its own, handled the torch with flame-retardant hands, and hot-potatoed it off to shivering man just when he needed it most. I feel a perverse sort of sympathy in that we are both sinners, and fall into stupidity quite easily. My advice to you: there is liberation in this admission!

Dearest Sixteen, we all face the future Judgment; when eternity commences may we not go the way of the dodo!



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Next weekend, Hexagon Press will be hawking its wares, which will include chapbooks & broadsides, at this bazaar of handmade work by local artists & craftspersons on the California College of the Arts’ San Francisco Campus.

You are cordially invited, whoever you are.

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The sky, surrounded by an impenetrable layer of Cloud, lingered through the polarized winter and faded behind an imposing, digital overcast. The cherub pursues parting the skies with his breath and leads us to consider psychosomatic seasons and our mechanical tampering with time to better adjust ourselves with the rising and setting of the sun. We are, however, better in reminding ourselves that there is one that follows us in our flight through a sea of infinite depth, and will soon emerge in Paschal dress.


“ …but he that cometh after me is mightier that I, whose shoes I am not worth to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy ghost and with fire: Whose fan is at hand, and he will thoroughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”

Matthew 1: 1-12

We announced our call for submissions in January and we have been urged to recognize that a new season is at hand, though the steady warmth of sunlight pervades alongside the drought. Winter was not like unto itself and from our lack of rain the blossoms were, and still are, either ill conceived or have dried and peeled away moments after opening. Spring is held under a tighter grip than the year before, which was the same as it is now.

With these things in mind, with the artificial constructs claiming their stake over spring, and the feast of the assumption at hand, we have decided to close our call for submissions on Easter Day, April 5th. Thanks to all who have submitted thus far.

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“I compare human life to a large Mansion of Many Apartments, two of which I can only describe, the doors of the rest being as yet shut upon me – The first we step into what we call the infant or thoughtless Chamber, in which we remain as long as we do not think – We remain there a long while, and notwithstanding the doors of the second Chamber remain wide open, showing a bright appearance, we care not to hasten to it; but are at length imperceptibly impelled by awakening of the thinking principle – within us – we no sooner get into the second Chamber – which I shall call the Chamber of Maiden-Thought, than we become intoxicated with the light and the atmosphere, we see nothing but pleasant wonders, and think of delaying there for ever in delight:

However among the effects this breathing is father of is that tremendous one of sharpening one’s vision into the heart and nature of Man – of convincing one’s nerves that the Word is full of Misery and Heartbreak, Pain, Sickness and oppression – whereby This Chamber of Maiden-Thought becomes gradually darken’d and at the same time on all sides of it many doors are set open – but all dark – all leading to dark passages – We see not the balance of good and evil. We are in a Mist – We are now in that state – We feel the “burden of the Mystery.”

-John Keats on Tintern Abbey

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● C O N T R A  E Q U U S  N I V E U S ●

“The Digital Cloud and the Error of Errors”


Sedative fumes maneuver inside the soft vibrations emitted from computer servers that occupy miles of evenly spaced, white warehouses repeating on toward the horizon line. Their aluminum walls conduct the warmth of their activity within their thin, corrugated sheets. The cloud they amass and project is an illusion, in that it is material and exists within a space subservient to the master’s code. Its presence and influence is a psychosomatic edifice like a bonfire of heroin raging in an open field, whose euphoric effusion overwhelms the messenger.

CONTRA EQUUS NIVEUS concerns itself with the tropical island of Patmos, the scarlet daughter of Fama, the beast she rides and her song sounding into the air and drifting away with the cloud. Only the persecuted see that these floating phonic masses are staked to the ground by nearly invisible strings and that they are not, in actuality, clouds at all. In the latter days, all the non-corporeal resources will be, so to speak, pushed off the ground, establishing two distinct states, upper and lower, in the tradition of the two faces of Janus looking both forward and back. Their rise and synchronicity will bring fulfillment to the prophecies when man has fully abandoned his watch over earth and concerns himself with colonizing the skies with information and living at the height of distraction.

The second issue of CONTRA EQUUS NIVEUS asks its writers to consider the times swirling around this pivotal moment like water to an open drain. When the first few fractures begin to show on the surfaces of these so-called clouds, the beginning of the end will have broken through, and both the upper and lower realms will come crashing down together into an enormous heap that will be washed in successive waves of God’s revelation.

Consider what you know to be false and write of its demise and imagine the hopeful glow of the cloud’s implosion over the cities.

Submission Guidelines:

Up to three poems, no more than one page each.

Up to three prose pieces, no more than 300 words each.

Please include a short biographical statement with each submission.

Email all submissions as attachments (.doc or .pdf only) to hexagonpress@outlook.com.

Broadsheet Number Two will be printed in an addition of 200, individually numbered, 8.5″ x 11″, cardstock sheets. Due to space limitations and layout, shorter works are preferred.


Hexagon Press

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mercytext copy


Mercy is the pulsing heart of all timeless things.
Faith is the red sun-fire, paused at dawn by prayer of one.
Hope is a white gull, airborne all its life.
Love is the black hole of God.

                                                                   -Ronnie Smith