Professor of Philosophy

July 12, 2013

Our thoughts might be as raindrops that fall
and cling to a land so vast and so asleep,
they could be either [A] a sentence about the world
or [B] the world itself in the form of a rain shower.
But such thoughts are dreams. For while it remains night
and darkness lies desperately in our throats,
neither sentence A will tell you
what is true of the storm,
nor will sentence B suggest
what may be true  when the storm is over.
How horrible. Such ideas threaten every night,
but  seem invisible and inadmissible by daylight.
It’s as though they might be on a mission from the bottom
of the ocean, a submarine, say, silent as a seal,
a weapon so fierce that it can rise and destroy
the earth’s forests with a single strike
—like a match—
only to sink back again and stay submerged
while everything on land burns clean.

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7 Responses to “Professor of Philosophy”

  1. bebrowed Says:

    Jim,

    You’ve excelled yourself, this manages to be a Big Poem that’s also a beautiful poem. I have now stolen the darkness in our throats. Wonderful.

  2. John Stevens Says:

    Such striking and unsettling imagery in this, Jim. Where on earth did this one come from I wonder – or from where in the ocean, in the psyche?

  3. extrasimile Says:

    John and John: Somehow your comments got shunted into the span file. I’m glad I thought to check it this morning. A big poem that’s also a beautiful poem? I’m going to have to get a new hat for my swelling head. But thanks. I appreciate the support. (Interesting dichotomy: big / beautiful. Have to think about that one.)
    I guess you both realize that I have no idea where these poems are coming from—except to say that it seems related to the Parkinson’s disease. Thomas Davis has an idea that all poetry comes from the Substantia Nigra, buried, as it is, deep in the reptile part of the brain. This could be the case; I don’t know; intriguing though, isn’t it?
    As I have resolved lately to ‘think harder’ about these poems,(see ‘Catch and Release; not so much ‘In a Meadow Such as This’) it is rather gratifying to think it is having some positive outcome.
    Thanks again.
    Jim

  4. John Stevens Says:

    My own feeling is that poetry arises from both the subconscious and the conscious mind, or from the imagination and the intellect. I don’t know whether that distinction resonates with you, Jim. When you say you have resolved to ‘think harder’ about these poems, I wonder whether you’d say that this corresponds to bringing the thinking brain more into play as a counter-balance to the imagination?

  5. extrasimile Says:

    But surely, John, to speak of the subconscious/ conscious distinction is to give the flag away without a fight. What’s at issue here is: if the basal ganglia cells in the Substantia Negra in the brain are able to communicate with us (and think about it, what a crazy idea that is), in what way could they do it? They do influence behavior, and against our (my) will. Surely the don’t have access to our higher level ‘languages’—like English—so, to borrow from the computer model, are they working on a lower level language? Are they perhaps strictly binary creatures—firing or not firing—and have to work in concert with other neurons to make a message. A message they themselves can’t understand. Proust says that asking our sick bodies to take pity on us is like ‘discoursing before an octopus’, and one that is paying more attention to the tides that our tale. That puts the problem rather succinctly, no? it just might be the case that we have to understand this issue before the subconscious begins to really make sense. I think.

  6. Anna Mark Says:

    The ending of this poem is just beautiful. Ideas that threaten us by night…as though they might be from the bottom of the ocean, but then — silent as a seal — this image kills me! Yes, how they are that black, slippery and seductive, and wild. I assume you’ve seen them under the water, how they swim and twist and glide so slick?
    And this, too: everything on land burns clean as they sink (submarines now, the match) back down and assume their invisibility. This poem appeals to my mind, my thoughts, my dreams. Again, your poems can be frightening, disturbing, but good and so true.

  7. extrasimile Says:

    Thanks, Anna. Actually I think a lot of the resonance comes from that last word, ‘clean’. Common sense would have made ‘clear’ the obvious choice. ‘Clean’ has associations with purification by fire (like with heretics and witches) and rather complicates things, doesn’t it?


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