They look at you, the gods, knowing what you think before you do,
and like a god, you mustn’t show your ignorance: be perceptive,
because what matters is that you know the names of songs, of stars.
They see into the ancient tablet the melody it hums, they see into the lens
the red-shifted implication. They would interpret your blank stare
as they look at you, knowing what you don’t know before you can learn it.
They know the patterns of social recognition, the embattled aspiration
of your natural narcissism towards furtiveness or denial:
“As if what matters is that I know the names of songs or stars!”
True, the facts matter less than the larger picture, even if the larger picture
is a refuge to which you withdraw, as into a dark cave without shadows,
far from the eyes of those who look at you, knowing you before you do.
The gods would strike you down for your ignorance, however culpable,
however aleatory, because everything you don’t know is evidence
of disbelief, the narrowness that ignores the origins of songs and stars.
I’m not smarter than you. How can you judge such things? You know things
I don’t know, and vice versa. They’re as insecure as you, the solipsists
who stare like false idols, miming prescience of what you think and do,
lisping arcana—Ugarit tablet, GN-z11—to belittle your songs and stars.
A version of this poem first appeared in Poetry Northwest.