Collected poems of Gregg Glory [Gregg G. Brown]
Questioning Is Questing
Western civilization is in a cul-de-sac. At the end of that cul-de-sac is a guillotine. Beside that guillotine stands the hulking executioner in his greasy black hood. Through that hood peer two red, maddened eyes. Below those eyes, as through a lazy tear, shows a long, slavering wolf-thin grin. Lightning stitches knots in the dead, leaden skies. Thunder interrupts the prayers for the dead. Doom. DOOM. DOOM.
Even so, my life is filled with primroses and wishes. I sit here–or lie, rather, languid as an American Oblamov rolled in his snoozy comforter– building my empire of words.
I’ve spent long, sad years loving people I never could come to know. Strangers whose alien minds lived other lives, pattering after petty pursuits I never really could come to understand. Now I fear that my own kindness and lack of company has led me, in an easy dream of desperation, to see Helen in every barmaid’s face.
Cold are the coals I have gathered, betrayed by a generous impulse that led me to love first and question second. Over evil rapids I have roved, slouching to the salt dissolution of the sea, who should have been climbing heavenward with Manfred–my eye upon some solitary cloud-wracked peak where every subtle shifting shape suggests a new, unborn greatness (or an old noble greatness renewed) to the seeker’s keen and lonely imagination. Instead, I have sunk my mind among warm elbows at a crowded table, seeking fellowship in banal company and dissipating what genius drifts to me in shrunken rounds of tavern talk. Few have been the companions time has tested true. I recall my Mom, downed in her home hospital bed and not the bed of her marriage, pointing at my nose with a red, imperious finger, demanding first and foremost (loved son or no) that I “tell it true.”
To that improbable pipsqueak queen, crippled yet proud as the devil in her flowered hospital gown–and to her regal charge–I keep my pledge.
I do not condemn others for my misjudgments, but, looking at the litter of years, I begin to perceive that there was something of method in my mismeasure. Questioning is questing. Leaving a question open encourages all comers to the query to have the experience of exploration; each hypothesis is happy to go unconfirmed, as long as the hypotenuse is mutually traveled by writer and reader in the coracle of a quatrain. There is something of Emerson in this energy of questioning, but none of his faith in God’s final ground, the rock of reality.
May such dubious wisdom as my pain has gathered serve me well henceforward. May the narrowing of possibilities sharpen my focus, as when a saltine’s pinhole, brought close to the eye, removes the blur of distant things, clarifying every tiny difference and shutting out peripheral static.
It is only now, as this labor of years surrounds me on every desktop, that I am coming to feel that the best strength of my youth has been wasted elaborating a maze of quizzes instead of attempting to soar, however falteringly, into the omniscient sun. Was it a deficit of pride that had me prefer puzzles to plumage? Or some more insidious hidden desire to be touted and touched instead of respected and feared? Well, here I am again, ending each sentence with my shepherd’s crook (?) instead of the thunder god’s triumphant stab and pang! So much of our humanity is mist and mystery; so many of our hours slide by in incapable ignorance. But what makes our lives worth the sinning that created them is the moment the mirror comes clear, as if in a revelation, and every face confronts the tragedy of its character.