Poet’s Notebook: My poem, “Who is I” and reflection

Who is I?
Is I a “who”
an “it” or a “they”
a “he” or a “she”
or a “we” or a “way”
of putting our stamp
on a dibble of clay?
Or the crumb of a crumpet
that descended
the day
that the gods were away
from the feast,
except for one little one
(in my fable)
who, bored with the feast,
had crawled under the table.
And he looked at the crumb
and he asked it it’s name
and it said,
I am I, he, she, we, way,
crumb of the crumpet
and dibble of clay,
and if you make me a world
I’ll stay out of your way.
Well of course it was lying!
But the little god listened
and gave it a world
that was perfect and glistened
and when the gods asked
what the little god did
(for he looked very proud
like a mutinous kid
like somebody’s hero,
but nobody’s child)
he smiled
that’s all,
just smiled and smiled.

This is a light poem, a fable about how the world and the human race were created. One of the things that supposedly makes the human race unique is the ego or “I” at the core of the whole mystery of consciousness, that defines us and divides us and challenges us to find our path in life. I say “supposedly” because any one who loves animals and makes a practice of closely observing them out of love and admiration for their natural genius and personality will tell you that they are plenty aware of themselves as individuals, and for me this genius includes insects. (The real experts on animals are those who love them whether they be scientists or poets or you or me.) But in this modest little poem I am just having fun with the presumption that the human race is somehow special, or at least special to its creator, who is this little god who is bored with the feast and slips under the table where he has a chance encounter with the crumb of a crumpet — the original human being. And this first self-aware being, who isn’t quite sure what he is, realizes that all he really needs is a world. I wasn’t planning on any of this happening when I started this poem. It just took off but I found it very entertaining that the first human is a crumb that falls off the gods’ table and, being a capitalist at heart, it immediately starts bargaining for a world, and the little god is happy to oblige without delay and without consulting the other larger gods. In fact, being a bit of a rebel or an introvert or low in the pecking order, he wants to get it done before the other gods return. This fable depicts the first human as a trickster, a good-natured deceiver who is willing to lie to get something. He promises to “stay out of the way”, which, if he is our ancestor, has turned out to be far from the case. We have managed to royally get in the way. Maybe that is because we have forgotten our humble origins — that we are, at our core, “the crumb of a crumpet, a dibble of clay.”

There is a little of Dr. Seuss in the rhymes . . . and I tried for some of that grown-up-childlike humor, steeped in wisdom that was the genius of the Seuss books.


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