The Philosopher Did Not Say

What secret had Nietzsche discovered
when he walked the Turin streets
before he flung his arms around
a horse being beaten and collapsed
into a decade-long coma? Clinging
to the cowering brown beast, he said
Mother, I am stupid. Wild hair and a three-
piece tweed suit constrained the body
that held the mind that knew too much.
Why am I mining dead men for answers
when they were all as mad as I am?
The horse, his eyes hollow as those
of the Burmese elephant that Orwell shot
decades later, had the look of every
betrayed creature. Perhaps Nietzsche
saw the shock in the animal’s eyes—
how every human contains the capacity
to inflict cruelty. The look that turns
to recognition, to resignation, to an eye
reflecting a field full of fallen horses.


Copyright © 2016 Jennifer Franklin. Used with permission of the author.

About this Poem

“As a sophomore at Brown, I took Martha Nussbaum’s course on Nietzsche, in which we read most of his texts. Nussbaum’s brilliant mind and her expertise of the classics, ethics, and feminism greatly impressed me that autumn. My current poetry manuscript grapples with classical stoical and modern existential philosophy. The work is particularly influenced by Nietzsche’s concept of amor fati, love of fate, even—no, especially—in the face of tragedy. The poem is a meditation on what might have prompted Nietzsche’s last words—a possible dismissal of all that he had believed and all that he had written.”
—Jennifer Franklin