Sunday, April 13, 2008
The Thinking Life
For Tom it all began, as trouble may,
at school, or on the corner near school.
Although he’d never been one to disobey,
one morning Tom defiled the rule:
he let a thought crackle through his head.
It ravished him. Out of that small spark
a small sunrise flared and spread
in one mad moment from the dark,
sent a blue flood of kilowatts
through his every synapse, a holy light
his naïve neurons never quite forgot.
He shambled off to class, confused, contrite,
frightened by its elemental power,
vowed he’d never yield to sin again.
Right. That resolve cost him an hour
before he was back at it, sizzling his brain
without the slightest sense of doing wrong,
glad to tempt the devil in his lair.
But, all considered, Tommy got along
surprisingly well; no one seemed to care
about his secret vice, no one saw
sign or symptom; no one even looked.
Glassy eyes and all, slack jawed,
he fit in. But Tom knew he was hooked.
Strung out. Forever transformed,
the innocent boy he’d been forever gone,
washed away, a matchstick in a storm.
At what point he’d crossed the Rubicon
he didn’t know, just that he’d left behind
the straight life for haunted libraries,
smuggling musty books home to find
clues to metastasizing mysteries.
He tried to stop. A hundred times he tried.
He married, found himself a job, bought
a new television, double-wide,
but Tom remained a prisoner of thought.
And one day his boss called him in,
wearing the look that bosses sometimes wear.
“I like you, Tom. Don’t know where to begin.
You may think it’s none of our affair,
“but let me assure you it certainly is. We know.
You’ve been thinking, Tom. On our time,
playing holy hell with the status-quo.
You’ll have to do it on your own dime.”
Shocked, Tom did. How could he not?
Thinking on the job was serious,
and they had him dead to rights; he’d been caught
with a smoking premise, a red hypothesis.
What to do? First, you tell your wife,
which promised to be no fun at all,
then you try to straighten out your life,
maybe find a therapist to call.
That evening, in television glow,
he broached the subject. “Honey, I’ve been thinking—”
She flinched. “Did you really think I didn’t know?
Every night you sit there with your stinking
“thoughts and you think you have to tell me? Now?”
She threw her hands up to hide her tears.
“Did you ever stop to think about your vows?”
He stood. “For the love of Christ. I’m out of here.”
Tom slammed the door, jumped in the car,
gunned it toward the nearest library,
thinking and driving, yes, but it wasn’t far.
He’d done it a hundred times successfully.
But this time was apparently the charm.
He was sitting at a light, lost,
of course, in thought, doing no one harm,
waiting for pedestrians to cross,
when someone rapped the glass at his ear.
A woman. Tom ran the window down.
“It’s not going to get any greener, Dear,
no matter how often it goes around.”
She smiled in sadness more than fun.
“Having a little thinky-poo, then,
are we? Someone needs a meeting, Son.
I’m on my way to one. You’ll fit right in.”
Why he followed her he never knew.
Who can fathom miracles like these?
Tom trailed that thoughtful woman to
a room full of thought’s refugees.
“My name is, um, Tom. I think.”
“Hi, Tom,” some scattered voices said.
“It started out as just a little kink,
but now I can’t control my own head.”
“Tell it Tom, just let it all go blank.”
He saw some smiles, but heard no laughter.
It took a year, but Tom became a plank,
and they all lived happily ever after.