In this poem from my book “Poems from the Northeast,” I consider one of my favorite moments in literary classes (and simultaneously an application of textual analysis to psychology): that moment when the professor frowns, pushes his/her/their glasses up on their nose, coughs, then says: “in this passage, there is a problem with the text.”
IN THIS PASSAGE, THERE IS A PROBLEM WITH THE TEXT
I am a problem in the text That has never been resolved A hint, a monstrous suggestion Which cannot be confirmed I trouble the mind that wants To settle like a hen over eggs I ruffle her up, she clucks uneasily And pecks at where she thinks I am. In August, I am an unexpected wind That hints of winter I do not answer, I ask. Always I bring them to the question With troubled faces, angry expressions; People clumsily resolve me To this or that Proving their points with good evidence Which they have misinterpreted. The pages around me Pose no problems-- My commentary Is relegated to a footnote here or there, A short section in the appendix. With so much else decided, One word or phrase cannot trouble overlong-- They forget me. They are happy with the story being told. But still, inconveniently, I come back, I perplex, I mock without mockery; There may be some treasure in me. They think I have a purpose But they don't know what it is, Feeling, suspecting, That if they did it would make All the difference. And I ask, What difference would it make? I am the corner you didn't turn When you could And couldn't turn when you would, Because I too exist, And not only for the greed and delight Your mind has in pictures. I have the right to live Not simply as a point in space But as myself at that point. Yet attack the point how you will, When you come there I am gone and you know nothing. I evaporate, I drift away And you can stand all day Like a lovelorn schoolboy For the date who didn't show up. You let me be at peace And I am with you; You gain confidence, You think this means That now you will know all-- You chase and I evade. You punish and I bow to punishment. You walk away in anger And I go back to what I was doing. You have lured me to interpretation And I have been lured, But more and more I see the trap And am impatient with such stupidities. You always think you know me, And even when it seems so, I slide from your mind, And you grope And reach for the light, And wonder what I meant.
Shadowoperator (Victoria Leigh Bennett)