“Not Knowing Myself, A Poem Is Written”

No other on earth knows me as I am.
Those who think they know me best
Know me least. Those who know
They don’t know me, at least know that.
No other will ever know me, as a whole, in this world.

This is written not with excess sorrow or pity or pride.
No other needs to know me, and I do not need
To be known by any other. I alone need to know
Myself, that other I am. I do not know
Why I do not know, but I do know it.

The knowledge that I know
Nothing is painful, difficult to bear. But before
Being can be known, Nothingness must be borne.
Only when I know myself do I exist, as myself.
If I have no knowledge, then I have

No being. I am not, for I know not
What I do or why I do it. I know
Nothing. I do not even know
Why I write these words, or
Why I wake up and find life

Only in these hours when the rest of
The world as we know it is lost in dreams,
Or dreamless sleep. I must wake up
At this time, or in time this distance
Between what I once knew and who I could be

Will grow too great for me to bridge.
I am not still, for I still do not know
What I do or why I do it.
Do you know what you do?
Why do you read these words?

What do you need to know?
Are we born not knowing, so we are
Forced to yearn till death make us whole?
Can we ever know? Can we even live
In this world of dreams if we unearth

The shattering reality of who we actually are?
The knowledge that I know
Nothing is painful, difficult to bear;
But if I knew myself, would that knowledge
Bring even more pain? Could I live with it?

I must wake up now, at this time, or in time
This distance will keep me tied down
To dreams, seeing only what seems
To be, forgetting what I need to do,
To remember who I am.

“Crouched Creature of the Plains”

Do I have it in me to write a poem tonight?
Some poems are written like an elk hide is tanned.
I fix my posture, sit up straight in this chair:
A straight-backed poem, coming right up.

Not strait-laced but shame-faced,
Dismayed that this need to write these words
Will not let me rest, will not let me alone.
What is it in me that will not let me alone?

Now that I’m sitting up straight, I wait
For the poem to come.
Some poems are written like a gazelle leaping over a fence,
Other poems are written like a lion devouring a gazelle.

Will the lion in my heart devour the lion in my mind?
No, more likely they will meet as estranged sister and brother,
And one will chase the other through the savannah in the noonday sun
As I sit here in the midnight darkness, waiting.

To chase yourself is to admit both your speed and your lack of speed:
The self you chase is fast, while the self who chases could not be slower.
Then again, the self who chases can run as fast as it is possible to run,
But it will be never be fast enough to catch the invisible self he pursues.

The problem here can be stated quite simply:
There is a self that chases and a self that is pursued.
And there are many more than these two.
Why this multiplicity of selves?

Why can there not be one self, one man?
If the man were one, he could let himself alone.
He could make great efforts and enjoy his work,
He could rest and enjoy his rest.

But there is a self that chases and a self that is pursued,
And these are only two of many.
One self gets out of bed in the mountains at midnight, sits up straight in a chair,
As the other self gets away, a crouched creature of the plains hidden in noonday sun.