Autobiography: Urn Burial


I could say

will have been about trying
to overtake the past,

inhabit it
long enough to look around,

say “Oh,”

but the past is tricky,

holds off.

So are we really moving?

Or is this something
like the way

form appears
to chase function?


I might hazard that my life’s course
has been somewhat unusual.
When I say that, I hear both
an eager claim
and a sentence that attempts to distance itself
by adopting the style
of a 19th century English gentleman.
The failed authority
of such sentences is soothing,
like watching Masterpiece theater.

When I recount my experiences,
whatever they may have been,
I’m aware of piping tunes
I’ve heard before.
Or jumbled snatches of familiar tunes.

The fancy cannot cheat4
for very long, can it?
In the moment of experience,
one may drown
while another looks on.

(From Money Shot, Wesleyan University Press, 2010, pages 30-31).

4 The complete quotation is “the fancy cannot cheat so well”, from Keats’ “Ode to a Nightingale.” Notice that the beginning of part 2 of the poem is deliberately written in an old-fashioned style: thus is the problem of inherited discourses (and therefore thoughts) within oneself pointed out.