On Hatred of the Enlightenment – a poem by Brian Glaser

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.

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