What I Want By Alicia Ostriker

Photo credit: Melanie Davies

Photo credit: Melanie Davies

O lente, lente, currite noctis equi—

Yes, that’s what I want right now,

Just that sensation

Of my mind’s gradual

Deceleration, as if I

Took my foot off the gas

And the Buick rolled to a stop.

Shadows tenderly

Flutter on the tree trunks

At the wood’s edge where I spred

My blanket—go

Slower, slower, you spinning spokes, you hot

Rubber. Hold your horses, easy there –

Every one of you missiles rushing

Through my neural nets, you eithgteen-wheelers

On the brain’s interstate highways, you sharp

Dealers on the trading floor of rhetorics,

Hush now, slide over

Let somebody else speak for a change!

Let’s try to listen to the announcements

Of the inner mind

And its committee of guides.

They require silence,

They demand respect, like teachers

In a rowdy classroom – the kids

Are in the cloakroom throwing galoshes

But the teacher wants to introduce

A visitor, a foreign child who waits

With downcast eyes, lashes like brown feathers

On his flushed silk cheeks.

What does my inner mind have on its mind?

Hush. Slower. If I say, I’ll use this solitude

To discover my true feeling about my mastectomy,

To do the mourning I’ve been postponing,

Or if I think, I’ll surrender myself

To the adoration I feel for X,

Which I prudently control when he’s nearby,

Then that’s not it!

Whatever I can consciously intend,

By definition isn’t it.

Hush. Quiet the mind.

The Tao that can be spoken

Is not the true Tao.

Perhaps I must surrender

The need to write. “To metabolize experience

Into poems.” Dear friends,

Presences, do you think that’s impossible?

Do you think it is desirable?

I’m not going to decide this by myself.

What I want

Is to listen, what I want

Is to follow instructions.


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