Looking Into

by Tanis MacDonald

Tanis MacDonald is the author of three books of poetry, including Rue the Day (Turnstone Press). Recent poetry has appeared in Iron Horse Review, The Goose, Prairie Fire, PRISM InternationalCanthius, and Poetry is Dead as well as the anthologies My Cruel Invention (Meerkat Press) and Best Canadian Poetry 2015 (Tightrope Books). She is Associate Professor in the Department of English and Film Studies at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ontario.

 

[Audio by John Roscoe]

I plagiarized on my philosophy exam. I looked into the soul of the boy next to me.
—Woody Allen

They are writing exams and I am
thinking of old Woody Allen jokes.

Woody Allen is an old Woody Allen
joke. Woody Allen is an old rape story.

Do we tell old rape stories so we don’t
have to tell new ones?  Zeus has a lot

to answer for. Maybe Woody Allen should
have looked into the soul next to him

longer. What if plagiarism
is the solution? Maybe you don’t want

to read this poem. Maybe I won’t write it.
Who am I fooling? You can see

I already have. But maybe I’ve written a different
poem, one with birds. One starling can

swallow another so quickly. I watch
my students bend their heads and write.

Some wear toques moulded to their heads in
tubes of wool rising from craniums: forced draft

cooling towers. Aristotle called
the heart the seat of intelligence and the brain

a mechanism to cool the blood, but when it’s below
freezing, a toque is stripped of

irony: one grey, one taupe, one red,
one maroon, one black. I count three trucker

caps, two baseball caps, a black and white
bandanna. Eight ponytails, two buns, one pixie

cut. One bird can snatch another
from the air with a beak hooked to rip intestines.

It’s snowing and the goldfinches at the feeder
tough it out. No one in this room is thinking about

goldfinches but me. And now you. The goldfinch
painting by Fabritius is the goldfinch pointing

to the soul next to you. A long look into the abyss
will prove pathology is not the study of paths.

Abyss is just abyss. A lie is still a lie. The clock chews
minutes, pens run out like time runs out like I want

to run out of the room like I’m giving it up for
Lent, for the good of all. One student wears

a Chewbacca hoodie, silk-screened fur and
a bandolier. No open carry here. I was

sad to see Han Solo die but it wasn’t my first
father-son murder. Sigmund Freud dreamed

us asleep. What can we do with fifty minutes?
Philology could be the study of Phil. Depends

what side you’re ontology. What are we testing?
The abyss is hoarse from telling

you over and over that nothing matters. Don’t
believe it. If you’ve read this far, you are already a bird.


Tanis MacDonald is the author of three books of poetry, including Rue the Day (Turnstone Press). Recent poetry has appeared in Iron Horse Review, The Goose, Prairie Fire, PRISM InternationalCanthius, and Poetry is Dead as well as the anthologies My Cruel Invention (Meerkat Press) and Best Canadian Poetry 2015 (Tightrope Books). She is Associate Professor in the Department of English and Film Studies at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ontario.

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