In What Sense I Am I

By Carl Rakosi 1903–2004 Carl Rakosi
In what sense
                           I am I
a minor observer
                                 as in a dream
absorbed in the interior,

a beardless youth
remote yet present
                                      at the action
reminding me faintly
                                          of Prufrock. . . .
a diminutive figure
                                     barely discernible
seemingly ageless
                                  escapes me.

The original impulse
                                        to sing
                        into one exultant note
breaks out
                      of the chest-space,
vibrating along
                             the shoulders
in the presence
                             of full-bodied
                          the eyes dark
in the inner scene,
                                   the hair long
and black,
                        our dark lady,
inmate of courtship.

She does not speak.
                                       She is nameless.
The reason for her
                                     presence there
is unknown.

A shepherd,
                        vaguely associated,
             at a distance
            a birch tree,
                 playing a flute.
                     streams across. . . .
            from the balance
and the position
                                of each,
it issues.

Neither moves.
                               The scene
is not matter
                                that can pall
or diminish.
                                Its secret holds
as fast as I.

As in Giorgione
                                the suspense
is eternal.

Carl Rakosi, "In What Sense I Am I" from The Collected Poems, published by the National Poetry Foundation. Copyright © 1986 by Carl Rakosi.  Reprinted by permission of the Estate of Carl Rakosi.

Source: The Collected Poems (National Poetry Foundation, 1986)

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Poet Carl Rakosi 1903–2004

SCHOOL / PERIOD Objectivist

Subjects Religion, The Spiritual, Arts & Sciences, Philosophy

Poetic Terms Free Verse

 Carl  Rakosi


The son of German Jewish parents, Carl Rakosi was born in Berlin in 1903, moving soon to Hungary following his parents’ separation in 1904. Immigrating with his father and stepmother to Kenosha, Wisconsin, in 1910, he eventually graduated from the University of Wisconsin (where he edited the literary magazine) and later earned a master’s degree in social work from the University of Pennsylvania. Rakosi’s involvement in the . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Religion, The Spiritual, Arts & Sciences, Philosophy

SCHOOL / PERIOD Objectivist

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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