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The Transparent Man Analysis

Author: poem of Anthony Hecht Type: poem Views: 12

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I'm mighty glad to see you, Mrs. Curtis,

And thank you very kindly for this visit--

Especially now when all the others here

Are having holiday visitors, and I feel

A little conspicuous and in the way.

It's mainly because of Thanksgiving.  All these mothers

And wives and husbands gaze at me soulfully

And feel they should break up their box of chocolates

For a donation, or hand me a chunk of fruitcake.  

What they don't understand and never guess

Is that it's better for me without a family;

It's a great blessing.  Though I mean no harm.

And as for visitors, why, I have you,

All cheerful, brisk and punctual every Sunday,

Like church, even if the aisles smell of phenol.

And you always bring even better gifts than any

On your book-trolley. Though they mean only good,

Families can become a sort of burden.

I've only got my father, and he won't come,

Poor man, because it would be too much for him.

And for me, too, so it's best the way it is.

He knows, you see, that I will predecease him,

Which is hard enough.  It would take a callous man

To come and stand around and watch me failing.

(Now don't you fuss; we both know the plain facts.)

But for him it's even harder.  He loved my mother.

They say she looked like me; I suppose she may have.

Or rather, as I grew older I came to look

More and more like she must one time have looked,

And so the prospect for my father now

Of losing me is like having to lose her twice.

I know he frets about me.  Dr. Frazer

Tells me he phones in every single day,

Hoping that things will take a turn for the better.

But with leukemia things don't improve.

It's like a sort of blizzard in the bloodstream,

A deep, severe, unseasonable winter,

Burying everything.  The white blood cells

Multiply crazily and storm around,

Out of control.  The chemotherapy

Hasn't helped much, and it makes my hair fall out.

I know I look a sight, but I don't care.

I care about fewer things; I'm more selective.

It's got so I can't even bring myself

To read through any of your books these days.

It's partly weariness, and partly the fact

That I seem not to care much about the endings,

How things work out, or whether they even do.

What I do instead is sit here by this window

And look out at the trees across the way.

You wouldn't think that was much, but let me tell you,

It keeps me quite intent and occupied.

Now all the leaves are down, you can see the spare,

Delicate structures of the sycamores,

The fine articulation of the beeches.

I have sat here for days studying them,

And I have only just begun to see

What it is that they resemble.  One by one,

They stand there like magnificent enlargements

Of the vascular system of the human brain.

I see them there like huge discarnate minds,

Lost in their meditative silences.

The trunks, branches and twigs compose the vessels

That feed and nourish vast immortal thoughts.

So I've assigned them names.  There, near the path,

Is the great brain of Beethoven, and Kepler

Haunts the wide spaces of that mountain ash.

This view, you see, has become my Hall of Fame,

It came to me one day when I remembered

Mary Beth Finley who used to play with me

When we were girls.  One year her parents gave her

A birthday toy called "The Transparent Man."

It was made of plastic, with different colored organs,

And the circulatory system all mapped out

In rivers of red and blue.  She'd ask me over

And the two of us would sit and study him

Together, and do a powerful lot of giggling.

I figure he's most likely the only man

Either of us would ever get to know

Intimately, because Mary Beth became

A Sister of Mercy when she was old enough.

She must be thirty-one; she was a year

Older than I, and about four inches taller.

I used to envy both those advantages

Back in those days.  Anyway, I was struck

Right from the start by the sea-weed intricacy,

The fine-haired, silken-threaded filiations

That wove, like Belgian lace, throughout the head.

But this last week it seems I have found myself

Looking beyond, or through, individual trees

At the dense, clustered woodland just behind them,

Where those great, nameless crowds patiently stand.

It's become a sort of complex, ultimate puzzle

And keeps me fascinated.  My eyes are twenty-twenty,

Or used to be, but of course I can't unravel

The tousled snarl of intersecting limbs,

That mackled, cinder grayness.  It's a riddle

Beyond the eye's solution.  Impenetrable.

If there is order in all that anarchy

Of granite mezzotint, that wilderness,

It takes a better eye than mine to see it.

It set me on to wondering how to deal

With such a thickness of particulars,

Deal with it faithfully, you understand,

Without blurring the issue. Of course I know

That within a month the sleeving snows will come

With cold, selective emphases, with massings

And arbitrary contrasts, rendering things

Deceptively simple, thickening the twigs

To frosty veins, bestowing epaulets

And decorations on every birch and aspen.

And the eye, self-satisfied, will be misled,

Thinking the puzzle solved, supposing at last

It can look forth and comprehend the world.

That's when you have to really watch yourself.

So I hope that you won't think me plain ungrateful

For not selecting one of your fine books,

And I take it very kindly that you came

And sat here and let me rattle on this way.


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