That you, Father, are “in my mind,”
some will argue, who cherish the present
but flee the past. They haven’t my need
to ask, What was I? Asking instead,
What am I?, they see themselves bejeweled
and wingèd. Because they would fly and have value,
their answers are pretty but false:
the fixings of facile alchemists,
preferring their stones to brains.
The brain, remember, is not foolproof
either, and does and does until it can’t.
Sodden, quivering, crossed and recrossed,
the mind can become a headstone
or be malice stuffed with fish.
Everything changes so quickly. You who were
are no longer and what I was I’m not.
Am I to know myself, except as I was?
The rest is catchy, self-promising, false.
Oh please write to me, and tell me.
I just want to be happy again. That’s
what I was, happy, maybe am, you would know.
Marvin Bell, “You Would Know” from Nightworks: Poems 1962-2000. Copyright © 2000 by Marvin Bell. Reprinted with the permission of Copper Canyon Press, P. O. Box 271, Port Townsend, WA 98368-0271, www.coppercanyonpress.org
Source: Nightworks: Poems 1962-2000
(Copper Canyon Press, 2000)