Frank Ebersole:

 

CONVERSATION WITH A DEAD PHILOSOPHER

When I was dead
one day I met
a visiting philosopher.
I found him walking on the curb
at a busy street
looking into the gutter.
We stood and talked--
and he told me right off
that he was not the one who once
talked so long with Emily Dickinson;
and most certainly
he was not the one who died for truth.
He was killed by a car
while in the street
looking for french-fries
and other greasy bits thrown by people
who ate while they were driving.
   For this was a crow who was talking here,
a philosopher crow,
and I had never even heard
of such a thing before;
twenty inches long or so
from beak tip to tail's end,
and entirely black.
   Well, I said, if you did not die for truth,
you must have lived for it:
you surely searched the world for truth
while you were at your occupation.
   No such thing as that, he said.
When I was young I looked a while for truth,
but soon I learned to look for bugs
and tasty things along the curb.
   That's the sort of thing you did
because you are a crow.
I meant to ask what had you done
in being a philosopher.
Did you stand for something
in that work?
   Oh yes, I found that I could
show a thing that needed showing
by just appearing as myself, a crow.
A good way to teach the world, I found,
was just to be myself--
to be, that is, a plain philosophizing crow.
It made the human people stop
and wonder what to think,
wonder
could they understand
a thing I said to them.
   People know that crows can talk
as they know that parrots, too,
can talk.
When people hear me then
they wonder
do I talk the way a parrot does.
Is my talk no more than
polly-want-a-cracker?
   Or do I talk
the way a crow says "caw" sometimes.
Just to make
a raucous noise?
   Or is it that I say my say
the way the clock says
half past two?
The clock can't tell you what it says
the way a human tells you.
Maybe I am just a mess of gears and wheels,
and everything I say
is just like
half past two--
where I can't tell you
what I say at all.
   People stopped and puzzled when I talked,
wondered what to make of
anything I said.
And if I made them ask themselves
What of heads or tails to make
of a philosopher's talking,
that was a good thing I did,
I would say.
Yes, I would say that.
   Then he flew away,
calling "caw-caw."

From: Frank Ebersole: Many Times a Year (Acheron Press, 1983);
slightly revised by the author in 2003.

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Frank Ebersole: "What Killed Ordinary Language Philosophy?"

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