I’m in a house that’s standing upside-down,
its shingled roof wedged weirdly in the ground.
I’ve seen this house on many other nights.
My love is there. We’re in some kind of fight.
I lose myself, I’m dizzy, my eyes fail —
then, when I’m finally returned to sight,
despair descends on me; I see his chest
blooming blood, his face pale, glazed with sweat—
in silent horror I behold my hand
still wrapped around the hilt & understand
with my own narrow, ruthless, phallic sword,
I’ve slain the one I most deeply adored.
I’m in a windowless, uncanny room.
My back is to the door. I am a child.
A wizened wise man, bright despite old age,
is staring silently into my eyes.
Now, I’m inexplicably aware
of some impending doom. I’m very scared.
Something is coming, something I can’t fight—
the door has been demolished! In its place
I see the pallid, terrifying face
of a young woman I somehow know is dead
but not dead—resurrected? Then, her head
deforms, her monstrous jaw unhinges, &
her throat, wet, pink & palpitating,
hears me scream before I jolt
I think the purpose of taboo
is sort of as a last resort:
When people cut their love lives short
& isolation walls them off,
like a collective urge to cough,
taboos are broken, & people open
up to the nakedest of things—
love, which is why the caged bird sings.
If words transcended time I’d say
thanks, Socrates, for still today
you set a golden standard & example,
stand in sanity when truth is trampled,
lead leaders to love being wise
& remind me there are always times to fly by
the seat of your conscience.
Can one profess an intellectual profession
without a solemnly professed
commitment to upholding truth?
To questioning, above all?
How did this vicious
thirst for power force its way
into our sacred halls of learning?
With what does one rebuild the walls?
“Give me liberty or give me death,”
a great man, long dead, once said.
Oedipus was not superior in wit or intellect
to any other man in his class.
However, he was wise enough to defeat
the Sphinx at her game of impossible
truth — being ashamed neither of
the immaturity of past youth nor of
Only after your time will Time decide
how well you’ve served our species as a guide,
but, since a leader’s life’s the life you lead,
here’s how I hope (& think) we both agree:
a good teacher won’t preach what he thinks;
instead, he shows the thirsty where he drinks.
the more he grows, the less he thinks he knows.
friends are those who keep him on his toes.
blazing no new trail from which to stray,
at best, he sheds some light that lights the way.
finally (to not drag out this poem)
he understands this story as his own:
a wisdom-seeker lived inside a cave
for many moons. He neither spoke nor shaved,
but scribbled nonstop nonsense on the walls
until, clearly enlightened,
out he crawled. The only drawing left, of all he’d done,
was one big disk—a circle, like a sun.
Many disciples followed in his wake,
except they kept on making this mistake:
they drew circles, just like his, everywhere,
never discovering how his got there.
On my island, Utopia, philosophy is king:
we all get off on copious, prolonged examining;
we all know we know nothing
(which is all we need to know)
& more than anything, we want to grow.
Of course, like every paradise,
it’s bound to self-destruct:
something’s always sacrificed;
someone’s always fucked.
Whether in the bowels or atop the tippy top,
some unfair share of power
will make the bottom drop—
& if I’m pressed to name my island’s key to tyranny?
I guess I’ll have to blame our lack of growth equality.
though close friends often know it before you,
no one can tell you what you’re born to do.
there is no Oracle who sees your fate.
there is no guarantee it’s not too late.
there are no pre-made maps to travel with;
there is only a vast stone labyrinth
whose pathways wind & wander to its heart,
& somehow through the walls, the center calls
you, & you know—you’ve always known—
there is a center, & you’re not alone.