by Frederick Pollack
The human being is this Night, this empty nothing … [In] phantasmagoric representations it is night everywhere: here a bloody head suddenly shoots up and there another white shape, only to disappear as suddenly.
Hegel, Jena Lectures, 1805-6
Whoever has seen Jon Goodman run
with a shotgun, screaming
I’ll show you the life of the mind!
through the hallway of the Hotel Earle,
knows what’s what. Rooms he passes
(the residents implied but never seen)
burst into flames. The explosions resemble
energy paradoxically released
in polar jets by black holes.
For the guests too have collapsed
out of this universe: into despair,
or that lucidity which can’t be told
(the sideways glance that sees things plain
and colorless), or the drugs of that era.
Remember, it’s a period piece:
the detectives Goodman shoots seem mostly
concerned with their ability to talk tough,
which shows naiveté.
And Goodman is playing Charlie Meadows,
salesman, man of the people.
It is intimated that he is also
Madman Mundt, serial killer
and beheader. He takes a shine
to the inept deluded writer hero,
helps him out when he finds
a dead girl in his bed, and leaves him
a charge, a present, a legacy:
a box that must never be opened.
They discuss, though feebly, life and mind.
With the detectives dispatched, the hero
will no longer be arrested
for Charlie’s crimes; he is left
for his studio head to humiliate
so that mind can die in the service of life.
Meanwhile Charlie, clearly tired, returns to his room,
before the fire claims it, to get some sleep.