Assault on a Simile

January 25, 2013

All whiskers are like a cat’s whiskers.
They tend to frame the face the way a frame
Does a mirror, which is something like a pond,
In that both are in essence reflection—
But consider, my friend, how different the
Reflection when the pool of water is empty
And the sky is clear, and when M. Descartes,
About to bathe, is standing  there,
And Christina, who is not at all like
A tiny Christ, sits watching in a chair
Brought from the royal palace, where René
And she would discuss his philosophy—
Which is like the mouse the cat must finally kill,
And unlike poor Descartes, come down with such a chill!

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3 Responses to “Assault on a Simile”

  1. John Stevens Says:

    I would never has guessed that you started with the two words assault and a simile! It’s like the mystery of the origin of the universe – a big bang from which everything flows …

  2. extrasimile Says:

    You know, John, I actually know the answer to this question. If asked (I never have), I think I would be inclined to hem and haw: ‘Yeah, maybe it was Descartes. Maybe the cat.’ But in this case there is no question in my mind: it was the title. Something about the way A-ssault and A-simile matched up. So, how would you assault a simile? With the sentence: ‘the whiskers are like side whiskers.’ (short lived) Then I got into the framing thing, then the mirror and the pond, (they are like each other in that they reflect). I piled up the similes next, with Descartes (who better to do the reflecting?) and Queen Christina bringing up the rear. Descartes actually did die in Sweden and, so the story goes, it was caused by the Queen making him get up early so he could teach her philosophy. Of course we are back the 17th century now, facing what Stanley Cavell calls ‘the skeptical programmatic’… but enough for now. Thanks John.

  3. John Stevens Says:

    I wonder what the genesis of this poem was, Jim: did you begin with that procession of similes in the opening lines and then jump to Descartes, perhaps via the thought that he challenged the veracity of sensory perception, or was Descartes your starting point and you ended by framing the poem with similes? Or did you see a cat? Or have you (if you are the narrator) caught a chill?
    I’m inclined to believe that the philosopher was there in your sights from the outset, and that you were really playing with the significance of his thought to you, when the cat jumped in.
    Could he have said, I have caught a chill therefore I am?


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