Tuesday, April 03, 2012

The Beginning Of Philosophy

for Christian Thorne

We’ve reached that time of night when repetition
starts to look like the best kind of argument,
so I keep insisting it was wrong — meaning
what they did to the remake of Cat People.
No, my friend replies, just different,

more attentive to the worries of the moment.
But I prefer the old worries: rustling branches,
footsteps in the fog, the hiss of the bus
that wasn’t a panther, but will be.
Why do we need to see so much?

To know what we’re afraid of, he says,
and since it’s late I tell him this is like
the beginning of philosophy all over again—
one proposition, then another,
and after a few thousand years we’re back

to what’s true, or only seems to be:
flickering light on the wall, that confusion
of shadows. How still the room becomes.
A little rain touches the windows, and both of us
mention other movies in which not even love

could repair the past. Then the snow
mixes in. And yet, my friend says,
by morning all this could change.
No nagging doubts, no secret afflictions—
as if the light had burned them away.

And a man might find himself
wondering about the sky instead.
Why is it so blue? Why do we feel
different when the sun grabs hold of us?
Why do we need to be sure of anything?

- Lawrence Raab

From Spirituality and Health Magazine (January-February 2012)

This rather-recent poem by Lawrence Raab is reminiscent of Hass' much-revered "Meditation at Lagunitas" insofar as the narrative situation in the beginning lines is concerned. The poet shifts to a more familiar terrain quickly, in the initial turn of the second stanza. Raab comes back to the idea of film as re-presentation and, again, phenomenal concerns are foregrounded. Language is not the concern of the poet and the poem so much as the implications arising from the questioning of "what's true". Hence, the allusion to Philosophy, as an aspect of the quiet debate occurring within the persona, gleaned from the argument/propositions. The fixed, stanzaic pattern of the cinquains permits enjambments when needed, before arriving at that ultimate question that soothes most readers who prefer possibility over hard fact: "Why do we need to be sure of anything?" This is vintage Raab keeping to his Probable World.