Friday, October 12, 2007

506. The All-Encompassing - Pattiann Rogers

Philosopher in Meditation by Rembrandt

The philosopher is the old, bearded
man in the red beanie, dozing,
it seems, in the sun by the window.
Before him on the table lies his ponderous
volume open to the indirect
light of the day.

But the philosopher could be
the bent firekeeper by the wall
behind the stairs. He stirs, rouses
the coals, studies the combustion.
He's hunched and crotchety there,
concentrating obviously as he constructs
his viable conflagration.

The sold spiral, helix staircase,
curving down the middle of the room,
could be the philosophy, each step leading
naturally and logically to the next.
It's the physical form of ordered thought
reaching a grand staircase conclusion.
The carpenter, then, is the missing seer.

Yet the small round door (dwarf-size)
behind the old man, rightly accepts,
by portal philosophy, that it must meditate
on its closed and locked condition
until a key appears, at which time
it must assimilate the revelation of open.

Does the blind black in the corners
beyond the reach of the window radiance,
as well as the cavern maw at the top
curve of the stairs, match the oblivion
in the sleep of the thinker? If so,
then the sun works a philosophy itself
by realizing the window ledge, the pottery
on the still and idle book, the folded hands,
the dropped chin. And the old scholar
sleeps in the light of the known.

O philosopher's meditation, don't you understand,
even the baskets and barrels and pots
and smoke of this hovel that split
and bang and cling, and the firekeeper
cracking his throat and the bucket
of ashes and clinkers on the hearth,
and each separate mediation in its place
and time, all these must take their positions
in the rhetoric of the system?

If I hear the ancient housewife rattling
and creaking now down the curve of the stairs
(old gene, spiral of conception, old twist),
dogs scrambling at her heels, broom
and dustpan knocking, if she enters here
with her raucous retinue, cursing and barking,
jolts the sleeper, sweeping under the old man's
stool, cuffs the firekeeper, sets the pans
and spoons swinging, then all previous
suppositions fail, and we must begin again.

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