The Philosopher

Poetry as a metaphorical art is all about connections, about synthesizing seemingly disparate things to show how they are at once like and unlike. Although I am a lover of structure and thus often gravitate toward sonnets (as in “Lack to Love”), I find that free verse lends itself to some delightful and, perhaps, insightful comparisons (as in “The Philanthropist”).

I wrote the following poem during a particularly fascinating (though distinctly mind-boggling) seminar about a year ago. As I struggled to wrap my head around the lecturer’s argument, I found that the swirling pattern of the old, battered rug beneath my feet reflected my mental state more poignantly than my insufficient notes. And so, contemplating both carpet and cosmos, poetry replaced my notes and, I think, may have revealed something of the struggle of the purely-philosophical life.

He weaves his argument above our heads
Yet its eloquence spreads
Beneath our feet even as it catches at
Our flying thoughts
And wraps them in its rhetorical rug.

We stand upon the strands and strains he strings
Into an arabesque of colour and cosmos.
It is impossible to grasp: gossamer, abstract
From up close, but understood
At a disinterested distance.

Penelope did not work with such care—
Nor such happy despair.
When a pattern emerges from his loom,
The philosopher barely sees its fullness before
Pulling it apart again and again.
A loose end here,
A curious tug,
And the morbid joy of unraveling
To begin the old art anew.

But he rolls up the rug suddenly,
Snatching the carpet from under us.
Undaunted, he picks 
A richer red, a deeper blue,
And re-tangles these in ink-dyed fingers
To knot and work back to life,
To warm the cold, unknowable ground—
The ground beneath feet that pace in place
As lofty minds their steps retrace
To forge at once ahead and back
In the joy of this circular Odyssey.

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