Do You Remember What You Wanted To Know?
It was always about knowing,
wasn’t it? Those first days
with Mammy holding you the
night a man came to the house
and everyone was excited —
you wanted to know what this
was all about (dad just home
from a tour of duty) and from then on
always just wanting to know
to know if repeatedly throwing a “shockproof”
watch against a brick wall would break it. You
surmised that, if it was shockproof
it wouldn’t break. When it broke,
around the time they killed John Kennedy
with rockets taking off, it was an
abysmal disappointment almost as
deep as when, the house after
the frozen river flooded the previous house,
a rented house with a swinging chair
on the front porch (what were you, 3?)
and you all came home from visiting
Mammy and Pop-pop, the first thing you noticed
was that the porch swing loveseat was gone.
Your father explained that it was owned
by the people who owned the house
and they took it because they decided
that they wanted it.
Imipolex told me that you told
him that from one moment, riding in the
back seat of a station wagon,
passing a train just
off to the left and a
tractor-trailer to the right
on a 2-lane road, you were
transfixed by thoughts
of where the components of the door
came from, how they were made, how
assembled, mined, smelted.
Refineries and factories were
mysterious omphaloi of the country.
You decided that you wanted to know.
But what was it that you wanted to know?
Do you remember?
He also said what it was
morphed decade to decade,
blended with new information
and new needs: to understand,
to directly experience, the lives of
others more and more, from early on
knowing how privileged you were, wanting
to know how those less well placed felt,
to look into the things that
enslave people and also to become free
of those things; to know hopelessness
for the future, to be trapped
in a social stratum, not to know,
not to believe, that there would ever be
an escape — to know it would require
becoming it. Nothing short of that would do.
And nothing short of getting out
of that would do to realize
how to get out of it.
Possibly you simply lacked imagination.
But no, really, it was
a form of imagination, one directed
outward, believing that there’s actually
somewhere to go, something to see
some way to be
that could exceed in beauty
a direct encounter
with your own mind.