I am deep into “Brain on Fire” right now, a nonfiction account of a woman with a rare autoimmune disease that has her slowly descend into (then out of ) madness. It’s pretty awesome.
As she develops more symptoms, she ends up in the hospital, on an epilepsy floor. That section of the book starts with a poem by Franz Wright, who I had never heard of before. Clearly I need to read more poetry (who doesn’t?). (Plus he went to Oberlin College, which is like 20 minutes from where I grew up and automatically makes him super awesome even though I got wait-listed there, but I digress.)
I didn’t realize it was a poem at first, and it was so perfectly placed. I think I might be in love with it.
Here it is:
by Franz Wright
What is today’s date?
Who is the President?
How great a danger do you pose, on a scale of one to ten?
What does “people who live in glass houses” mean?
Every symphony is a suicide postponed, true or false?
Should each individual snowflake be held accountable for the
Name five rivers.
What do you see yourself doing in ten minutes?
How about some lovely soft Thorazine music?
If you could have half an hour with your father, what would you
say to him?
What should you do if I fall asleep?
Are you still following in his mastodon footsteps?
What is the moral of “Mary Had a Little Lamb”?
What about his Everest shadow?
Would you compare your education to a disease so rare no one
else has ever had it, or the deliberate extermination
of indigenous populations?
Which is more puzzling, the existence of suffering or its frequent
Should an odd number be sacrificed to the gods of the sky, and an
even to those of the underworld, or vice versa?
Would you visit a country where nobody talks?
What would you have done differently?
Why are you here?
Are you swooning yet?
It kind of reminds me of the end of “Beatrice and Virgil,” a book by Yann Martel (of “Life of Pi” fame), which ends with this series of haunting scruples questions. (Review here.) I thought about the end of that book for weeks. I still think about it.
Happy running, reading and pondering.