I have thought that my paintings of gorillas
in some sense constituted an autobiography.
Your Life in Letters asks a rearrangement
Of that very thing—better look before you
Leap: this can’t be done in stages,
It’s yes or no, commitment or estrangement.
I mean if, say, a year from now you’re bored, who
Would even know where your cage is?
No one, is who. And only feats of patience
Will allow you access to those illuminations
For which you’ve left life, family and Heimat.
Sometimes a strange new character emerges
When you’ve disposed of all the clutter:
“Hello, it’s me! Yes, me! Where am I? I’m at
No.—, Rue Morgue.” The poor concierge is
Heard by M. Dupin to mutter,
“What an ape … ” It’s true that your decision
May lead to changes that none of us can envision;
Although each metamorphosis leaves traces
Of the old order, once across the sill, a
Transformation of your past is
Bound to kick in. This usually effaces
Whatever in you isn’t a gorilla
Dreaming of your mountain fastness.
The only issue after that is whether
The forefinger and thumb will learn to work together.
This article originally appeared in The New Criterion, Volume 28 Number 10, on page 26
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