Among the Intellectuals
They were a restless tribe.
They did not sit in sunlight, eating grapes together in the afternoon.
Cloud-watching among them was considered a disgusting waste of time.
They passed the days in an activity they called “thought-provoking,”
as if thought were an animal, and they used long sticks
to poke through the bars of its cage,
tormenting and arousing thinking into strange behaviors.
This was their religion.
That and the light shining through the stained-glass ancestors.
They preferred the name of the tree
to the taste of the apple.
I was young and I wanted to prove myself,
but the words I learned from them transmuted me.
By the time I noticed, the change had already occurred.
It is impossible to say if this was bad.
Inevitably, you find out you are lost, really lost;
blind, really blind;
stupid, really stupid;
dry, really dry;
hungry, really hungry;
and you go on from there.
But then you also find
you can’t stop thinking, thinking, thinking;
tormenting, and talking to yourself.
—Tony Hoagland (1953-2018)