Tuesday, December 10, 2013

feature poem of the week (reprint from defunct blog)


You'll know you've reached the top,
the peak, the moment your bootsoles
go out of sight, since you can only
get there by following yourself up.

Craning your neck to see that trail,
you'll plummet past the hope to scale
any summit if you overtake a guide
whose shadow is you, whose spoor

you are.  Know him as the truer you,
the perfected precursor emitted by
this act of aspiration alone, this try—

stay in his tracks, obey the protocol
of all such quest-stakes, the miracle
no tree-line mars, the height it takes.


A quote from Boris Pasternak (source?) has stuck with me for decades: "Everything in the world must excel itself in order to be itself."

Such a difficult daunting commandment.  You aren't yourself when you're yourself.  No: that self must excel itself in order to be itself.  Which means that most of the time I'm not myself, since most of the time I'm not excelling myself, nor do I really desire to excel myself.  I'm fine as I am, thanks.  Besides, the myself that excels myself is not me, surely: it's some alien creature I can barely recognize especially since I can only glimpse his back features from behind as he emerges from me in order to excel me.  I'm just the cringing shell of that real me; the shed shadow of that supernumerary who excels where I fail—

the fact that he isn't real is no alleviation from the agony of having to project his imaginary imago— there's no downtime from the daily drudgery of propping up and pushing this fantasy figure out in front of me like a puppet copular, a paper hero.  The schizophrenia that always accompanies achievement, even if that achievement is nothing more than the pauper's act of finishing a poem, when you know it wasn't really you that did it, it wasn't you yourself that brushed your teeth and combed your hair, it was your excelself.   Your excelself, that betterhalf who does everything while you lie on the couch watching reruns of off the shelf.


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