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Friday, March 10, 2006

Friday poetry blogging: John Hollander

Science and Human Behavior

(for B. F. Skinner)

Feeling that it is vaguely undignified
To win someone else's bet for him by choosing
The quiet girl in the corner, not refusing
But simply not preferring the other one;
Abashed by having it known that we decide
To save the icing on the chocolate bun
Until the last, that we prefer to ride
Next to the window always; more than afraid
Of knowing that They know what sends us screaming
Out of the movie; even shocked by the dreaming
Our friends do about us, we vainly hope
That certain predictions never can be made,
That the mind can never spin the Golden Rope
By which we feel bound, determined, and betrayed;

But rather, if such a thing exists at all,
Three nasty Thingummies should hold it, twisting
Strand onto endless strand, always resisting
Our own old impulse to pull the string and see
Just what would happen, or to feel the small
But tingling tug upon the line, to free
The captives so that we might watch them crawl
Back into deeper water again. It is well
To leave such matters in their power, trusting
To the blase discretion of disgusting
Things like the Two who spin and measure, and
The Third and surely The Most Horrible,
Whom we'd best forget, within whose bony hand
Lies crumpled the Secret she will never tell.

Which Secret concerns the nature of the string
That all Three tend, and whether it be the wire
Designed to receive the message or to fire
The tiny initial relay. In the end,
The question is whether merely Determining
Or really Knowing is what we most pretend
To honor because it seems most frightening
Or worship because we hold it most to blame.
I once saw Dr. Johnson in a vision:
His hat was on his hand, and a decision
Of import on his lips. "Our will," he said,
"Is free, and there's an end on't." All the same,
Atropos and her sisters, overhead,
Grinned at this invocation of their name.

link | posted by La Lecturess at 11:09 PM |


Blogger kermitthefrog commented at 5:19 PM~  

That's pretty great. I'll have to check out some more Hollander.

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