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The Philosopher

 


The Philosopher 

for Cheng-Wei Chin (Magnolia Bakery, NYC, March 18, 2019)

- Jee Leong Koh (Singapore)   

Capitalism will wither away,

my friend assures me, as technology

reduces the cost of making anything

to nothing and we will work as we please.

After quitting Wall Street a year ago,

he had time to think. The universal,

what is true at all times and in all places,

occupies him. And capitalism

has a beginning and, no doubt, an end,

unlike the desire for equality.

He looks at me with meaning and I am

once more the LGBT activist.

I almost ask about the struggle for status,

is that not universal too. I don’t.

Here is someone I knew in my lost youth,

in long-ago Officer Cadet School

and luckily recovered in New York.

How is the laughing boy soldier related

to this, the sober philosopher? He looks the same,

hair black, the narrow face, big eyes,

still handles himself with robotic grace.

As if he read my thoughts, my friend goes on,

he does not think we have a self, if by

a self we mean a thing that stays the same.

Our cells, beliefs, our memories, they change

throughout our lives and arbitrarily,

and what we call our self is what remains

when death discontinues the changing change.

We talk about several other things

but these things stay with me after we say

goodbye outside Magnolia Bakery.

In the spring air a chill not there before

marches me smartly to my uptown train.