[“If selves are thoughts…]

Isabel Sobral Campos

“If selves are thoughts and the logic through which they interact is semiotic, then relation is representation.”


It curves its lips. It must be a mouth.


It closes its lids and wriggles its opening. It rocks its bottom.


There are eyes and nostrils on its “face”
And a round protruding coccyx


It circles around the meadow with a noticeable limp.


And meets an untimely end when mistaking deer for mountain lions.


The idealized world distilled into the contents of a shell found on the beach. (The child wraps her fingers on the spirals of brown and grey). The shell’s content is both mind and matter. (The child asks the shell how far the ocean reached the edge of the sand-fields last night). What does the shell represent, if not the pattern of loss and retrieval undergirding the living and non-living? What passes for pattern on the body of the shell? (The child notices a resemblance between spirals in the shell and the tropical cyclone from the weatherman last night). There’s something immoral there like the smokestacks guarding every city. Bateson would say: an understanding of our common patterns would yield a relation of love between humanity and its environment. Like knowing the broken link—the snapped umbilicus cord—continues to act in its finiteness and invisibility.


The sign on the poplar tree
A traffic sign blown by the wind
Hanging like a ripe fruit
Spiraling down with dew
The mammal impediment


Sometimes when misreading the signs
Of recognizable life
I see the action of a sign


The internalized pasture
The moving spark
The shark’s fin means something to the wandering man
The cloud says something to the lark
And I’m left hesitant by barking dogs
Whose nostrils respond to my moving uphill


Mental levels as spectrum of the real
The circular frequency of interaction between points
The return of the signal, the emitting response
The difference the sign makes


“One stone can alter the whole ocean”
I imagine his head bowing to the limits of the earth


The ocean is full of petals
Ungraspable tentacles and dreams
Convex and concave reflections
Multidirectional refractions
Oceans of abbreviated selfhood
Blobs of being in rock fissures
Centrifugal and centripetal forces
Conglomerates of competing intentions
Reproduction and feeding as purpose
Bioluminescent fishes in chromatic waters


The child in the feedback caress sparring with the shell’s concreteness asks about the relationship of
today and tomorrow’s shell. The shell remembered and revisited.
She knows the first shell was not the first realized shell.




Originally from Portugal, Isabel Sobral Campos spent the last decade on the east coast and recently moved to Butte from Brooklyn. Her poetry has appeared in Horseless Press, Bone Bouquet, Gauss PDF, and Gobbet, to name a few. No, Dear and Small Anchor Press recently published her debut chapbook: Material.