Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Of Thoughts Impossible in Poems

We can describe our bodies now.
We can lay out our politics,
Our childhoods, sorrows great and small.

We can raid the pop lexicon
Of tech and fashion and science,
Maybe mix in Greek allusions.

No generations of poets
Have ever been more free than are
We who breathe in this century.

We have forgotten how to think.
Did poets ever know that art?
We express. Which pressed thoughts were ours,

Uniquely ours, those ideas found
First in poets, exclusively
Associated with poets?

Lucretius was summarizing.
The mystics were memorizing,
Squeezing divine rules into verse.

What poet wasn’t packaging
Found profound ideas, making them
More memorable, portable?

What poet thought through poetry,
By means of poetry alone,
To suggest some fresh solution?

Again, maybe mix in the Greeks.
Parmenides, Xenophanes—
They still get credit for ideas

That appeared first in their verses.
Ideas are not impossible.
But even for them, one suspects

Versifying was handicap,
A kind of costly signaling,
Feats of thinking while bound in chains.

Can lines be used as climbing ropes,
As kite strings vanishing in mist,
As ways to get to the unknown,

As proofs are and syllogisms,
As lenses and simulations?
Are there ideas impossible

To reach, except by way of poems,
Thoughts never thought until expressed?
Why can’t a poem pose a question

Which only a poem can answer?
Caver, I braid lines to dangle
Into the lair of that monster.

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