The mind wrestles with Hercules
as well as Hercules.
A phantom limb is as difficult
to wiggle free from the opponent's full nelson
as a wornout heart bent on romantic frolics.
A young man is old as his desire
and his favorite hero.
His love for a toy or a hand-me-down fairy tale,
the weapons against nightmares can be held together
in a bag or box, or moth-balled memory.
The person that can stand and sleep
sits upon his old school desk
in the lowly attic of his grandmother's house
dreaming of towers and albums of Mahler borrowed from the library.
The part of him that wants more from life
already has it.
All day at work he thinks toward night
where he can sit atop a little red flower
and scout for tigers, opening vistas
with his pop-gun and his writing-pad:
compiling notes for his adventures.
If only he could finance a trip to Calcutta or
the Virgin Islands with the royalties from his imagination.
But a Brahms symphony is a Brahms symphony
whether on the radio or in Vienna.
And a Marlene Dietrich body-double is as good as a Marlene Dietrich impostor.
Pluck Cinderella's fairy godmother from the second moon in March
and base your story on it.
There should be no resentment among your colleagues,
your own original thoughts are cherished as long
as you get them from someone else — Original,
immaculate beginning and the first idea are
hardly different.
The instrument makes both song and noise.
It is the pure perception of unconscious will
of a Jew unquestioning in a gulag.
The animal's domineering instinct, and the man's
isolated world of his intellect — where corporeal
demons and angels, muscular abstractions sit lonesomely, or fly.
From spiritual myths to the scientific struggle
for supremacy over nature, including his nature.
A mechanism of the creature to navigate the dangers,
Moses out of Egypt and the deserts, to overcome fear
and hazards of reality.
With these successive steps you will never
constitute movement.
In these context-conceptualizations
brother turtle can outpace the Greek.
While bluesmen bang harmonicas and beat guitars
finding rhythmic difference in each monotonous note.
The God of life is the God of death,
from Egypt to New Jerusalem.
Each ending has its own beginning
in apocalypse on top of apocalypse,
in successive steps all the way down.
Without haggling over a dollar
or finding time to ask for a measly extension on his rent,
the person that can both stand and sit
can tolerate torrential frogfalls in mere weather.
An animal conducts itself as though
nature coalesces in the view to its well-being,
while the subtle animal man finds
that every environment brings with it
its own self-interest.
A puckish god peeking out of every truck and stone.
Returning to reality is like coming across yourself in a picture
and holding it up to a mirror.
The mud between your toes is either wet or dry,
you have either been walking or sitting.
The person who sleeps in his own dreams
wakes to a dream double-edged
and is the only real strange thing.
What a lovely experience reading this - wish I could do it the first time again.

If there's a hidden joke (are the phrases so artfully joined chosen at random, or all from a well known author?) I just don't care.  Reflecting on self-reflection  - of what? - is sufficient, even if it's not the real point of the poem.  Or, if I haven't missed something important, if it is.

Thanks for posting - a very rewarding read.
feedback award Non-practicing atheist
You can't say anything without alluding to some common reference points, or no one can understand what you're talking about. So some is based on short prosy paraphrased statements, with poetic responses and elaborations. The starting point, in its funny way, was immaculate beginning and the first idea, nature and the perception of nature. Which is real: one, both, neither? And what difference does it make? Those two concepts, immaculate beginning, first idea, in this context, come down through Bergson, William James, Santayana and Stevens. Those are the main allusions beyond more obvious general ones.

There are only two paraphrased lines, or indirect quotes. The rest I made up. But the whole poem is struggling with natural, mental, literary, mythic, cultural influences and generic ideas.

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