Poetry Day 11 – Who am I?

Today I’m thinking of “I Am Not I” by Juan Ramon Jimenez.

I am not I.

I am this one

Walking beside me whom I do not see.

Whom at times I manage to visit,

And at other times I forget.

The one who remains silent when I talk,

The one who forgives, sweet, when I hate,

the one who takes a walk when I’m indoors,

The one who will remain standing when I die.

(translated by Robert Bly)

Magritte TheSonOfMan.jpg

The poem talks about the separation of body and mind – the idea that the spirit and soul linger even after the body is gone.  Or perhaps the “the one who will remain standing” is the legacy that will be left behind after death. This legacy is not necessarily “better” than the self – except for the forgiving nature of the legacy in contrast to the self that feels “hate.” Mainly this legacy is just different – sometimes opposite. In a sense, the speaker in the poem, “I,” does not seem to have control over “the one,” the legacy. And if legacy is not accurate – a kind of a false remembrance – are we to be alarmed or comforted by this knowledge?

For some reason (not sure exactly why), I am reminded of this painting by Rene Magritte, “The Son of Man,” which is described as Magritte’s self-portrait.

About the painting, Magritte said:”At least it hides the face partly. Well, so you have the apparent face, the apple, hiding the visible but hidden, the face of the person. It’s something that happens constantly. Everything we see hides another thing, we always want to see what is hidden by what we see. There is an interest in that which is hidden and which the visible does not show us. This interest can take the form of a quite intense feeling, a sort of conflict, one might say, between the visible that is hidden and the visible that is present.” (http://www.renemagritte.org/the-son-of-man.jsp)

 

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