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Mr. Emerson Tries to Complete an Essay

At his hard desk, no longer wholly conscious
        Of the pen in his right hand, no longer confined
               By the dimensions of the floor and the four walls
But ascending through the ceiling toward the threshold
        Of Transcendental Understanding, he heard
               Ker-luck-a-put, cluck, the chickens, his own
Chickens outside the window, one of which
        Would be reduced to portions of itself
               And stewed for dinner, and though he had lost
The thrust of his hierarchic argument
        For a moment, he took the chicken to be an example
               Of the universally disguised emblems
Of Earthly Duty, and when the door flew open
        To reveal the offerings, on one hand and the other,
               Of carpet samples, one dearer, one less lasting,
He took it as his share in the design
        Of the Awesome Now on which the gods themselves
               Would weave the threads of an instrumental order
From the Raw Mundane to the Ineffable,
      Both necessarily now being postponed
               For his best black mourning suit and a mourning band
Firmly clasped on his biceps and his hat
      Just as firmly set so the narrow brim
               Was central to the brow and the occiput
And crossed both temples equally on the way
      To the carriage, up the step to his plush cushion
               And the funeral of a newly translated cousin.

This poem originally ran in the June 24, 2002, issue of the magazine.