Two Poems by Andrew Osborne

An image in three parts


Then, feeling there was no other way

to go through life, I wrote a confession


From myself having been hidden by nerves,

a voice took up, made a dwelling in me.

I wrote until I saw and felt ashamed.


But just as often I would give way to

some image offered by nostalgia,

which in its fading seemed suffused with light.


The next day, feeling entirely false,

I would have to begin writing again,

would catch myself there with gaze turned elsewhere.


What is out there would appear in transcripts

of private impressions— there, myself,

always being put at a distance so


that touch, which brought to me in its own light

a category of the natural,

could be true— as it is already


in the contours of life as it is lived.

All that plate glass through which the world to life

is brought close— out there what is meant by will.



I am moved by Renoir’s Alfred Sisley:

The right shoulder estranged from bright nature

(being out beyond the open window),

but the left offering hope of dissolve.


A way of living already in place,

I have kept myself close to where I am—

never allowing it to approach me,

touch me and thereby reconfigure me;



What place in me could contain there


I have lately made a career reading

about the problem of self-consciousness.

Sitting down early to work, it becomes

doubtless that I will die without knowing,

still waiting for me to come to myself.

There have been depths constituted in me

by turning from my surface, that mere ground—

having long been afraid of what spirit

dwells in me, what kind of soul takes shape from

an irregular flow of sensations.

When it visits, I am overtaken—

having had too much coffee or having

been sedentary, unmoved, for too long

—until it departs of its own accord.

Then I feel it is some concept, some thought,

that forms life: the world as is, what is there

without understanding, terrifies me.

When I can exhaust my body in work

and it is merely felt, without cover,

I—in that moment of revelation;

of feeling my hand move in the darkness,

like soil being turned over again

—long to have been there always, opened out.


I was shown an autobiography

and have been reading it for nearly four

years now: This work, in which I find the truth,

pulls me from myself into a clearing.

I have waited for each volume, and have

read the most recent one impatiently

in my backyard, at a splintered table,

sometimes losing my place because a gust

of cold air reminds me that I cannot

forget to plan for Christmas holiday.

My dog moves through the yard with her nose to

the ground, sensing the coming of a new

year in the smell of matter passing on—

a smell, I find myself hoping, distinct

from the carcasses of birds, which she hears

as well. What speaks in them I do not know.

Near the end of undergraduate work,

when something new in me had begun, I

read Schelling’s treatise on human freedom:

—We will struggle to remain in the light

once we feel the depths from which we have been

lifted into existence, he writes there.

More than all I have read, this remains true.

Schelling wrote this in the context of an

ongoing metaphysical debate:

In the sense Spinoza meant, is God here?

Schelling posits an original will,

made objective, open, in works of art.

In art our will, desire, confronts us;

in what we make, the divine is with us.

Augustine, when young, took into himself

different heresies moving throughout

God’s creation. One day, in a garden,

he heard the Lord in the words of Saint Paul,

to whom the divine appeared as a light.

Between Paul and Augustine the divine

had been reduced to the words of the Saints,

and in the time of Luther it will speak

only in the quiet of our conscience;

a voice without a throat in the stillness.

The will of God becoming—change—weighs on

the future Saint: If the Lord is perfect

and the world merely his manifesting

his will, why do things develop in time?

Augustine believes the mystery will

be resolved if he can focus his thoughts,

withdraw them from here below. He writes, as

an act of prostration, the Confessions.


Often there are weeks (once an entire

February) in which, out in its midst,

I find I am only myself, morning

bringing relief in the work to be done.

Whatever is physical about the

world—whatever is equally expressed

in the equation and the feeling of

cold when I push myself out into the

morning—persists in spite of what I think.

Should I give way to the force of life or

should I disavow it as unholy,

it will be there still; as though life moves in

a shoal, land having given way to drift.

A few weeks ago, I woke to vomit.

It continued for a few hours, and

then it finally eased. I made my way

to bed and put on music to calm me,

but it made me weep like some old mystic.

This thing which I am—the atom, the string,

a bit of matter turned back on itself—

had come apart and would remain apart.

Longing, I called out of work and ordered

the Upanishads; they now reside on

a shelf my eyes pass over when I sit

down to work unread, before I focus

my gaze on the laptop in front of me.

It makes me ashamed when I see it there.

A reminder that I will struggle to

find myself again in light and that I

won’t care for the light once I am in it:

a recess where the soul takes itself up.