Thou knowest trees wherefore they rise, wherefore their piping veins
saturate the undersky, wherefore they lap at lakes’ unbounded shores,
wherefore they crest upon the canopy, entangled brothers, sons; wherefore they
shutter in the night and filter out the morning’s rays; wherefore like sisters they concur
and vie for nature’s warmest hand—
But I know them, these proud, unassailing citizens, done no wrong, nor harmed me mite—and from their homely pulp, I made a gallows for myself of my own house. Thy very stalk, O Nature, made me man.
I ask you: Am I poet, am I worth my marks and stars?
No, sir, I am not a poet, for a poet sews the garments that he wears and reaps the illness from its skin, the consequence his bloodline;
I am not a poet, for a poet milks a creature of his hands and calls it child, however vain and thin;
I am no poet, for I spell ideas aged and on the point of death, calculations borne upon the battlefield, oaths purchased by the heart, and then—
No more. No, I ask you, sire: Am I anything at all, save what I am not?
I am no friend: How fast I love when lovèd am!
Nor enemy, for the curse of bearing hate is made of being hated.
Then am I subject, or a lord? I do not polish shoes unless am asked.
I do not feed or cleanse though I am ordered.
Not even living, mine, is me: There are too many Jeffries!
What solid, incalculable thing am I, not writ before by story’s voice
Not carved on mountain stone, not therefore commanded or decreed—
Whatever at all am I?
But a mangy tree; my neck is to the ground.
Oh! I have found my singularity, my place of pride:
To be as all are else, is not to be me—
How else not to live? I have, tomorrow, died.