The following poem I composed in the last year, and takes up in an over-educated time the persona or character of Zbigniew Herbert, Mr Cogito.
I have a printed page of Herbert’s “Envoy of Mr Cogito” on the pinboard beside my desk, and it is one of the poems I have committed to memory, and which gives me a sense of purpose. I have little time. I must testify. I am composing several poems featuring this character, Dr Cogito, and aim to collect these and some other new poems in a collection, named after the poem that follows.
Dr Cogito’s Rebellion
Dr Cogito wailed to the wall:
Banished I am. Banished from the sun.
Yet in exile is freedom, where beauty is won.
Rise, strange city, with me, in revolt.
But the wall did not fall.
The prowling police only smiled askance,
as they waved on the disturbance;
Just one stranger cried for no apparent reason at all.
So, Dr Cogito roamed the city by day,
A lone man, with misshapen hair,
His beard dull white, his trackies urine stained.
He dictated revolt into his device.
His mind let go all hierarchy,
Swooned upwards into the swirl of dream,
And from the ashen scarred sky
He dictated the fleeing angel’s decrees.
Flail the pleasure-seekers. Let blood mingle with come.
Hang the merchants by the weight of their debts.
Empty the archives, and make a wild pyre
There to burn the courtiers whose brand I wear here.
To his arm he then pointed:
A blackened and bruised star,
The mark of the accursed,
The outcast’s pride jewel, he cried.
Then in waiting for savagery again to roam the earth
At last, in fear, the crowd attended
To this homeless man’s address.
But no words came a-preaching, as he fell to his knees,
Only tears and crumbling muscle,
As he looked afar, to the angel blown away by the fire.
Farewell, he sobbed, in this city we never will belong,
Before a patient nurse came to hurry him along.