Friday, April 19, 2013

Paterson: Book II, Chapter I, p. 61

To Be Good Dogs; or, the Need for Resistance of Memory

Listen: we see seconds of our futures.
It’s true: two Stanford doctors proved it.
Their experiment involved a woman
watching a computer screen as images
flickered past every two seconds or so.
Some were cheerful: puppies, rainbows, ice cream. 
Others were horrible: just death, death, death.
What happened next surprised everybody
except the two doctors: the woman’s brain,
monitored from another room, began
to flicker—once before the horrors, not
at all before the joys.  She had sensed them
more than two seconds before they were seen.

Conclusions, for the doctors, are easy,
but less so for us.  What does it mean, that
we can see two seconds of our futures? 
Not long enough to hit the brakes; not far
enough to stay away from the rotten
branch, the alley, the sophisticated
lover and his Gauloises.  Not fast
enough to keep us from wishing to go
backward, dreaming of different outcomes,
and the steps that would have arrived at them. 
These two seconds have never arrested
the accumulation of our singular
story, drop by drop, a cave formation
of ourselves, out of ourselves, from ourselves.

We are seeing in the wrong direction.
Let me know what has been, singularly.
Do not let us see ourselves as desired.
Arrest not time, but my thinking of it.
What, then, is the truth of those few seconds?
Time, as if it were a mother, places
its hands on our cheeks, turns our faces
away from our first and our truest love:
the want of keeping, want of memory.
We, like bad children, pull away, hide
our faces, avoid contact with her eyes,
and refuse to see; instead, only sense—
and those few seconds, in ones and twos, lose
out, and are delayed.  They are resisted.

KMC 4/19/13

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