Jun. 6, 2010
I'm sixty-five and find I know
nothing. Not the nothing
that Aristotle said was the beginning
of wisdom, not that intellectual
modesty that masks the philosopher's
chutzpah, but really and truly nothing.
When the bright cocktail party of
conversation turns to something
(as it sometimes does), I find I can
chime in with nothing. I can't
chime in. What do I know from
chiming? If there is music in the spheres
of politics, religion, sports, you
name it, no note exits my lips,
there is no note to exit. I'm empty
as a stadium at 2 AM, after the big game,
the ground crew done with their clean-up;
the church after the morning service,
the worshipers cleansed and home; the
great hall devoid of delegates, the
points and counterpoints forgotten.
You might think there'd be an old
program somewhere, a hymnal, a bulletin,
a stray bit of rhetoric persuading,
an echo in the air, but there's nothing.
Not a cheer, not a nod, not a prayer.
I am Mr. Know-Nothing, Mr. Mouth-Shut,
Mr. Reticent, Mr. Not-Strong-But-Silent.
And if you think you've caught me here
talking on and on about something--
a trick, a contradiction—it’s nothing.
I’m really talking about nothing.
Ron Wallace's twelve books of poetry, fiction, and criticism include, most recently, LONG FOR THIS WORLD: NEW AND SELECTED POEMS and FOR A LIMITED TIME ONLY, both from the University of Pittsburgh Press. Co-director of the Creative Writing Program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and Editor of the University of Wisconsin Press poetry series, he divides his time between Madison and a forty-acre farm in Bear Valley, Wisconsin.