The Poem of the Mind
The poem of the mind starts with a question,
But which one? It fears the “loss of problems”
Wittgenstein feared, it finds its pleasure in the
Trance that suddenly comes over one, the dawning
Of a new romance, the promise offered one last time.
Come here, it seems to say (a plea addressed to no one),
Come with me down this course. No one answers
Of course, because the way is solitary and the end
Uncertain, but it doesn’t matter in the end. Like someone
Walking in his sleep who dreams of walking in his sleep,
It gradually becomes the thing that it envisions, simultaneously
Inhabiting and moving towards an unknown destination.
You think you’ve read it all before, and of course you have,
For the poem of the mind is inexhaustible. It never ends,
As the mind never ends, yet sometimes disappears from view
Before emerging in a new form, one resembling the old form
As one day resembles another, or the mild afternoon light
Resembles that of its first morning, the site of its first illusion.
It treasures its illusions, for they’re what it is and where it lives:
Wandering through the gallery of lost illusions, it pauses
Before one or two, before the catastrophe of reality intrudes—
Bone smashed on asphalt, gunshot blowing out the head—
And then continues on. It isn’t a question of belief or disbelief,
But of a freedom from belief, an acquiescence in appearance.
To be satisfied with appearance is to be perpetually unsatisfied
A small voice says, and yet its reservation goes unheeded.
Who could actually live that way? How else? goes the reply.
I’m just like you, if you don’t ask me what that means.
The poem of the mind portrays an almost vacant mind
Whose thoughts remain unfinished, like the unfinished paintings
Hanging on the studio wall above the blood-splattered floor.
When does it turn, the way a sonnet turns? When do questions
Take on a grammar of their own, answering themselves
Day after day, until the inwardness becomes as unbearable
As an encroaching blindness? This is what eternal life must be:
To live completely in the present, locked in a self-absorption
So intense its end is unimaginable, where nothing can be real
Outside its own arena of awareness, like the shot it can’t hear,
The crash it can’t feel. Feelings are supposed to be its heart,
But they’re imaginary feelings, based on an imaginary life.
It posits an indifferent life behind the real one, an indifferent
World that wanes and waxes as a whole, yet never really
Changes: happy for a day, and then unhappy on the next,
But what’s the difference? Parts are real too, and even
Fragments have to come to something in the end. At length
It starts to settle and subside: the morning light is gradual
In the window, as the contours of a vague presence
That wasn’t there before emerge. Here you are,
It says to itself. I’m glad you’ve finally come home.
The impulse that engendered its convulsive exercise
Pulls back and takes a breath, recasting its answer
In the form of a new question, as the poem of the mind
Returns at last to its beginning, and is satisfied.