The professor stabbed his chest with his hands curled like forks
before coughing up the question
that had dogged him since he first read Emerson:
Why am I "I"? We hunkered like musk ox
while his lecture drifted against us like snow.
If we could, we would have turned our backs into the wind.
I felt bad about his class’s being such a snoozefest, though peaceful too,
a quiet little interlude from everyone outside
rooting up the corpse of literature
for being too Caucasian. There was a simple answer
to my own question (how come no one loved me,
stomping on the pedals of my little bicycle):
I was insufferable. So too was Emerson I bet,
though I liked If the red slayer think he slays—
the professor drew a giant eyeball to depict the Oversoul.
Then he read a chapter from his own book:
He didn’t care if our heads tipped forward on their stalks.
When spring came, he even threw us a picnic in his yard
where dogwood bloomed depsite a few last
dirty bergs of snow. He was a wounded animal
chased across the tundra by those wolves,
the post-modernists. At any moment
you expected to see blood come dripping through his clothes.
And I am I who never understood his question,
though he let me cllimb to take a seat
aboard the wooden scow he’d been building in the shade
of thirty-odd years. Somehow I rowed it
out of his yard, into my life—it’s all a mystery.
The work is hard because the eyeball’s heavy, riding in the bow.