Maurice Manning: A Thread Worth Pulling

You have to wonder, why go on
with tale after tale of highly doubtful
people who find themselves ensnared
in a knot of unlikely events,
many of which defy reason,
offend polite taste, and invite
belief in the utterly ludicrous?
I suppose one answer would be satire,
or at least a stab at it, to see
if you can give the wickedness
and folly people bring to the world
a just reward.  Invention, too,
implies reality is broken,
or insufficient to fix the mess.
The mess I mean is in the spirit,
something is wrong, and this is a way
to pick the lock on the prison door
and swing it open, that together
we may stroll into the light of freedom,
or simply to get out of the prison,
and the prison I mean is in the mind,
a mind conceived in loneliness,
though with the longing for otherwise.
If someone boasts about a chicken,
we see how hollow it is to boast.
Yet if someone says, I’ll now present
my imitation of a chicken—
and sits there silent and stone-faced
for a couple of beats then says, that’s hit,
I was thinking of a quiet chicken,
a chicken lost in reverie—
the imitation invites belief,
but just as soon, we wonder why
a person who’s imagining
anything would start with a chicken
and take it further to imagine
a chicken could have a reverie.
But then the impossible arrives—
it might be true, maybe a chicken
is capable of reverie,
maybe it has an inner vision
so clear and mesmerizing the chicken
briefly departs the conscious world,
and when it returns a well of wisdom
appears behind the creature’s eyes.
I wouldn’t want to rule it out
that a chicken could have a reverie.
To give high-minded thought to a subject
that wouldn’t ordinarily
command such attention is always a thread
worth pulling, because you never know
what else will come out when you pull.
It could be a surprisingly cogent chicken,
or a toothless man who nevertheless
was the best whistler anywhere,
or a blind woman who lived alone
because she knew where everything was,
or an owl commanding the night from a tree,
a sound to hear from unknown distance—
so you begin in unknown distance
and wander home to see who’s there,
and if the scarecrow’s where you left it.


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