On Hatred of the Enlightenment
from Five Cantos on Enlightenment
My first word as a child was light.
My mother brought me into dark rooms
And spoke the word as she flipped the switch
And one day at around twelve months
I said the word before she did.
I had a concept and its sound: marked by history.
And months before that I had been taken
Away from her and put through
A spinal tap as a neonate
Because I had spinal meningitis.
Twenty hours separated as a newborn
And subjected to excruciating pain alone.
So when I talk to you, when I pose a question
To you, I have come to understand why
I do not wholly expect that you will answer.
During the Second World War it became
Thinkable to hate the Enlightenment,
As Horkheimer and Adorno did.
What do I have left if I join them—
If I try to return to the dark room
And instead of choosing the concept—
Discovering it again as we may perpetually do—
I sit in silence, rejecting the shared word,
The half-credible evidence of a bond restored?
Brian Glaser teaches at Chapman University in Orange, California. His first book of poetry, The Sacred Heart, is forthcoming at the end of 2018 from Aldrich Press.