Thigh and Digression

by Emily Walter Seitz

Wow, this poem just makes me want to scream. Run, run, as fast as you can from love! Hide your hearts and save your sanity.

I take it that the underlying conceit of the poem is that the adulterous male's refusal to admit (that he is having an affair, or something more or less equivalent to that admission) is of a kind with his refusal to admit that empirical round things are in fact circles, which in mathematical orthodoxy they are not, since they are not perfect as only abstractions can be. If he is a liar about love, why is he not a liar about math? The poem hints that his mathematical orthodoxy reflects a capacity for denying the obvious that serves his philandering, implying perhaps that the mental discipline of the discipline shelters the unruly heart, giving it excuses, while it also implies that there may be some truth to his (and other similar denials), if we only understand his thinking as well as we do the thought of his poor wife and girlfriend who both find him, each in her way, frustrating about what he is willing to say. (Perhaps he does not tell the girlfriend he loves his wife and denies the affair to his wife?) The background problem here seems to be that men and women see things differently when it comes to adultery, which we knew, while the possible side effect suggested of such deficiency in men may be a way of thinking linked to the understanding of mathematical truth. Go figure.

I appreciate the above comment, which takes me back to my undergraduated days and the "new criticism." What I like about this poem is its truly almost Zen resonances that permit a lower (deeper?) level of understanding without the requirement of logical interpretation, even though the poem can support that. Real art, in my view, not just artifice. I wish I'd written it!

A local poet from my neighborhood is fond of telling me that the Zen locksmith only works on doors to which there are no keys. "Fortunately," he reminds me, "they are already open to all."

"Sadly," I respond, "few enter."

"Don't be sad," he admonishes, licking at his ice cream. "Eat your cone."

A very sexy run of lines about who opens and who closes in and out of marriages. I love the name Euclid with or without the geometry. The fig, the odorous tulip, the pit, all evocative. The unbuttoning lilacs -- a little much, but not the man on his knees. The poem contains all the complexities, especially the turning away in a marriage.


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