One Man Caught in a Multitude of Self

by Samuel Derrick Rosen


Outside a cafe at a solitary table on a solitary chair
sits a solitary man, thinking thoughts thought before,
by some other of himself, a 20th century duplicate
or maybe a 19th
or even going all the way back
to when there was the illusion of beginning.

In the main street of his home town (mostly non-descript)
from what is present he considers
the possibility there was a time
in which the guilt was not so much.
He sees the tenements that once were there, he sees
strange hybrids of the old and new, a church made into

a temple of state
(although church was always state and state was always church)
the arcade where things are sold, not bought,
the absence of balconies from where one might see
that there is more than distance.
The idea that anything is possible

only in the moment that it isn't, runs throughout his Isness
as he wanders by the bandstand where dead men once played
and the leaves now fall.
The park, amazing in its shades of a beautiful aloneness,
seems a metaphor for a place inside oblivion,
not so much a shelter as a space for recognition.

Descendants on the streets of their descendants
continue still the certainty they are all that ever live,
continue still, these people among the insects of their time,
resembling obscurations that consult November's moon,
these people made oblivious to an endless undulation.

A watchman for an instance, to a quietude of veils,
a reverence of eyes, surveilled as he surveils.
The cars pass; no one seems within them,
on the sides of buses not so subtle subliminals,
opposites of opposites, the town hall clock
tells a time in which nothing is male or female,

a multiplicity dictates, condemning grandfathers
for having once obeyed it, it still demands submission.
Around him seems a sound of industry and trade,
of equality and nakedness, in fact it is
a silence barely broken by an apostasy of sighs,
a silence that appears to ask a question,
the answer itself the question, a question like no other.

One man caught in a multitude of self.
One man caught beside himself,
his eyes swearing to see beyond the sandstone vistas,
beyond graves over which pacts were signed,
beyond precious bric-a-brac,
beyond doorways where Antonios deal with Shylocks,
beyond markets where the key is cheapness,

beyond fountains inscribed with the names of queens,
beyond the dogs that walk their owners,
beyond the pageantry of pigeons.
The permanence of change upsets him,
it sets him up for moments in which things remain the same.
A voice says everything that should be brief is brief,
it speaks of itself and it lies.

O how I wonder, wonder of the fate of us all.