Looking through Both Ends of the Telescope
If there is a "you" at the other end of a poem, the poem is a telescope I'm too afraid to look through. Each poem pointing in a different direction, varying focuses, different depths of zoom. Perhaps they holds a view of the future, some revelatory face looking back that I can't bring myself to lock eyes with. The desire to perceive paired with the fear of being perceived. Perhaps the "you" is a future self that will no longer exist by the time the poem reaches them, or the me that wrote the poem will be the one that is gone, leaving behind just the poem, small evidence of a small existence. The way a telescope can see so deeply into space that it's actually looking into past, something that no longer exists though it's there clear as day, star clusters and cosmic dusts swirled into mind-boggling shapes, the light of reality not yet having reached the Earth. The way something can exist and not exist simultaneously. The way a poem of mine can be read without my knowing. Some small salvage of my world, or what it used to be, or what it will used to have been. Or a world in and of itself. I don't know. I can't bring myself to look.
How do we account for the impossibility of a universe? Or is it a multiverse? Is each poem a universe on its own or only a snippet of one? A planet or a moon or a comet streaking by? Perhaps the poems collectively create a cosmos, a night sky for a reader to gaze up at and connect the dots, recognize constellations and name new ones, identify a planet by its brightness, distinguish between a star and satellite, gawk at a UFO. Or maybe there's too much light pollution to see anything except the moon and the occasional airplane. The impossibility for me lies in trying to imagine a poem's reception, the way it's read, the "you" at the other end. I can't pinpoint why. Certainly I am often that "you" when reading the work of others. Certainly I've been at the other end of the telescope, the thing being looked at looking back. Certainly I've gazed in awe at many night skies. But I seem incapable of putting myself in my own shoes, occupying both places at once. It feels possible and yet it displaces me when I try to imagine it.
I imagine myself playing a game from my childhood (usually at the barbershop): looking into a mirror with a mirror behind me as well, infinite selves, facing myself countless times. I stare into the mirror and lock eyes with myself. I look away and look back as quickly as I can, trying to catch my reflection in the act of looking away, to see myself not looking back, a perspective I can't fathom. First to the right and then to the left. Up. Down. But there I am every time, looking back. I close my eyes then peak out just a bit only to see myself peaking back. I think I am not quick enough or not smart enough to deceive myself. But of course, I was trying to accomplish something impossible. Not in creation but in reception. Trying to see myself in a new way. In retrospect, this seems like a terrifying possibility. We can't avoid ourselves. The "you" at the other end of the poem may be someone else, may be some reader I'll never see. But it is also me. Every time. There's no getting around that.