James Frederick William Rowe
The starless, moonless night is deep dark
But deeper still is the dark of the mind
So dark, so deep I've not once seen myself
Blind, yet I have heard my thoughts, have felt my thinking
With a phenomenological faith in things unseen
But known more truly, with deduced demonstration
No demon can deceive
Poet’s Notes: “Introspection” came to me on the subway when I realized I had never seen myself. It is as if the darkness of my mindscape is so profound that I cannot raise my hand to see the fingers before my face. Of course, my self is actually a non-extended, thinking thing, a res cogitans, but there is some degree of sensation attached to my phenomenology, given that I can hear my own thoughts in my mind right now, or picture them, and certainly I know the feeling of thinking, and yet I can never see myself—my actual existence as an individuated, thinking substance, my spiritual essence, the Cartesian ego.
The theme of darkness, of depth, and of blindness aesthetically allow this poem a certain spiraling descent, hastened by the short length, and the rhythm, to the existential certainty of my selfhood paradoxically unified to a "faith" that borrows the words of St. Paul, but which seems so fitting given that this is truly knowledge of things unseen, or better still, unseeable. The poem is compact, and involves no diversions to another theme. The Cartesian fixation of the poem is made explicit with reference to the deceiving demon, the malin genie, of the thought experiment culminating in the famous cogito ergo sum.