BOOKS FEBRUARY 27, 2008
Ortega y Gasset makes much fuss somewhere speculating that Goethe,
glorious Goethe, mismanaged the project of realizing his selfhood,
that he was one of those "I"'s who aren't truly at one with themselves,
who in construing themselves betray the "I" they could/should have been.
This is as I recall it, though possibly I, who for the greater part of my life
have been involved in an adversarial relation with myself, berating, accusing,
demanding I be someone I'm not, shouldn't be wholly trusted in this:
Ortega may well have meant something entirely else (what, though?).
Anyway, put things in perspective, go back past where it all starts,
past Heraclitus, Hephaestus, Baal, the bacteria-kings, to the inception,
when there were only some dream-strings, then a cosmos stuffed like a couch--
is it likely cosmos could have ever conceived of a butter-inner like "I"?
Or that some maundering "I" would come up with mind, and then words?--
(oh, the prickling serifs, the barbs)--and that words would be used to test cosmos,
make certain it worked correctly? Could a self-swallowed black-hole
skidding and slipping on gravity's dance-floor have ever dreamt that?
No surprise then that reality, having to know how sadly contingent it was,
would plot vengeance: a "thinker," yes, who'd contrive a cunning conundrum:
an "I" not good enough for its "I", inflicted on the vastest "I" in the stacks.
How could a barely competent, underachieving universe not applaud that?
... Although, as I say and probably should repeat, this might well be all me ...
This poem originally ran in the February 27, 2008, issue of the magazine.