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Self-Portrait on YouTube

ISSUE:  Spring 2012

His reasoning was specious, and did much to reassure me.
—P.G. Wodehouse

Like a casement opening out upon a world
He chooses not to see, the prisoner of a point of view
Remains complacent in that choice, until a slight
Alteration of perspective, a trick of light, reveals a small
Illuminated window in a corner of the factory’s dull façade.
I don’t like looking at myself (I like to watch myself,
Says the countervoice)—how can that odd, uncomprehending
Object looming right in front of me be me (and there I am)?
I was wandering through the Internet last week
(As if I’d nothing better to do) in a dilatory state of mind,
Revisiting my usual sites, checking my email now and then
For news of something interesting or new or strange,
And then I came across myself. I was standing at a podium
In a bookstore, reciting a poem I wrote last summer
About the sixties, about how the world you believed you knew
Changes in ways you couldn’t have foreseen; about disappointment.
It all seemed tentative, yet tentative in a way I wanted it to be,
For thought itself is tentative. As the reader plodded along
A sense of peace came over me, as though the person I was watching
Were the real me, relieved of the burdens of self-consciousness
And spelling out the words as I had meant them all along. Perhaps
Life is best looked at from a single window (I saw Gatz last week too,
Another objectification of self-consciousness, of perfect sentences),
But a perspective boxes you in. To see yourself the way others see you
Is a wonderful kind of freedom, the freedom of starting over again
Without preconceptions, the freedom of looking at your heart.
I’m at the age when death becomes a fact, however long deferred,
Instead of just an abstract possibility, which is why I crave distractions.
The mirror is too intimate. What I want is the cool detachment
Of another person’s vantage point, free from the distorting
Self-conceptions consciousness imposes on itself, when the mind
Is caught in the brief interval between thought and action
And it finds a way of moving forward, and it’s time to start.


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