With gratitude to W.H. Auden, “In Memory of Sigmund Freud”, 1940
Slung precariously across the world’s deep,
thought stretches illusion and desire between two poles.
Being, that densest media!
But if drawn taut, and with a certain ruthlessness,
it becomes a translucent membrane,
rendering visible the ligaments affixing eons to memory.
Freud was a bridge pulled taut across a mountain gorge;
its ownmost bottom was entombed in mist.
He was suspended by the thinnest thread,
himself a span stretched over – yet beyond – nature’s yawning deep below him.
Sacrificial figure that he was,
a corridor from which to dwell upon the aspect of our common fate.
He heard the primal oaths to kith and kin
wafting upward from the canyon below.
These he preserved in the fragile filmy wafers of books,
his travelogues, their pages tensile and diaphanous,
so as to allow light on vital lies.
Anthropos reimagined –
a thickset, doltish mass no more,
but a milieu irradiated,
transfigured by a startling poetic.
Freud’s drummer’s-skin torso rendered the scribbled score,
the measured cadences
of our membranous membership in zeit und geist.
His corpus the living record of a body politic,
a rhythmic beating upon the secrets of the world’s womb.
They told grand tales, those cantors,
and embossed these on the flesh of multitudes,
meticulously inked with the blood of virginity lost.
The Jew mixed uneasily with the cat-footed liars of his time,
the mickey-mockers and naysayers meekly catching mice along reality’s brim.
Though he owed them nothing but his hatred,
still he gazed with a certain love on their fog-bound empyreal.
If he was a gangway across the shrouded deep, then so too a book.
The story, its grand sweep, its gestures to God, became inscribed on his flesh,
tattooed on its pliant surfaces,
cruelly stretched between birth and demise.
His report of Being’s harsh enchantments now an encomium,
though poorly refashioned as common property;
a twenty-times-told tale dutifully recited,
if minus comprehension,
and often with contempt,
in cafes crowded with the intelligentsia,
clinics populated by the mad,
and a bedroom where a woman sleeps fitfully,
uncomprehending of a lover whose body has become a wall,
a drawbridge lifted and locked.
Freud’s labor is done, now grafted to the herd,
a brand-name of sorts;
a journey recorded, then placed on dusty bookshelves,
its hieroglyph barely visible in the low light of average everydayness;
but readable, perhaps, through the unsparing eyes
of guileless journeymen,
the perverse between-the-liners, translators, and trackers,
drawn, against common sense, to the mountain home.