An optometry of ice cream

O.D.: Let the lamp affix its beam.

As the pioneer photographer Lewis Carroll understood, when a lens approaches a reflective surface

the surface can fold vision back on itself and make the act of seeing a complement to the state of being seen. Under that condition

(O.S.), there may seem to be seen (for instance) an orbit filled with a globe. In that globe, let there be partially visible below its half-reflective surface an image of a camera held by a man seeing through its lens.

You can visualize that. “Let be be finale of seem,” says the lamplighted poem to you, calling your attention to its flashy display. But of all the elements in that display, the lens, of all things, can’t be used for seeing. As soon as it started sinking into the globe, it stopped being an apparatus to serve you and became part of globe’s image, in globe’s orbit. And there you cannot enter. You are out in the black, where the light of O.D. shines past but not into. Empirical confirmation: you couldn’t see the man in the act of his being until you had read these words instructing you what his reflection was supposed to seem to be.

Partial spectrum

There is no more sound. The archived document doesn’t include sound’s range of frequencies along the electromagnetic spectrum. There is no more color, there is no more third dimension. The document’s way of being seen is only planar. There is no more motion, which means that the document can be seen in only one state of time, without a before or after.

There is still a Czar.

In the archive, a fraction of a second in time has been preserved as a record whose dimensions don’t include time. There, Stevensian order is reversed. In the archive, seem is finale of be.

Source: “A captain, Russian navy,” photographed in Newport News, Virginia, during the International Columbian Naval Rendezvous of 1893. Detroit Publishing Company Collection, Library of Congress, Photoshopped.

The poem by Wallace Stevens is “The Emperor of Ice-Cream.”