from "Inserting the Mirror"
Is it possible to know where a word ends and my use of it begins? Or to locate the ledge of your promises to lean my head on? Even if I built a boundary out of five pounds of definition it could not be called the shock of a wall. Nor the pain the follows. Dusk cast the houses in shadow, flattening their projections. Blurred edges, like memory or soul, an event you turn away from. Yet I also believe that a sharp picture is not always preferable. Even when people come in pairs, their private odds should be made the most of. You went in search of more restful altitudes, of ideally clear language. But the bridge that spans the mind-body gap enjoys gazing downstream. All this time I was holding my umbrella open.
As long as I wanted to be a man I considered thought as a keen blade cutting through the uncertain brambles in my path. Later, I let it rust under the stairs. The image was useless, given the nature of my quest. Each day, I draw the distance to cover out of an anxiety as deep as the roots of language. I keep my eye on the compass while engaging the whole width of the field, and whereas, to others, I may look like a blur of speed from one point in time to another, I know I am not advancing an inch and will never arrive. Even if I could arrive the mirror would only show the other mirrors I have set up at every stop to catch the spirit of passage.
It rained so much that I began to confuse puddles with the life of the mind. Perhaps what I had taken for reflection was only soaking up the world, a cross of sponge and good will through the center of the eye. But to describe the inner world, you know, by definition, even the patient definitions of psychology, is impossible. Hard to know if it can be lived. Revoked edge of water and dry land. A falling fear. The sudden color of a word. But it's the sky, pale gray, abundantly thrown back from far enough behind the eye, as you imagine an image, seeing earth in every direction.
Reproduction of Profiles, © 1984, 1985, 1986, 1987 by Rosmarie Waldrop. Used by permission of New Directions Publishing Corp.
Date Published: 1987-01-01
Source URL: https://poets.org/poem/inserting-mirror