Poem of the Week | August 28, 2017

This week, we are excited to present a new poem by Christine Gosnay. Gosnay’s first book of poetry, Even Years, was selected as the winner of the 2016 Stan & Tom Wick Poetry Prize and was published by Kent State University Press in August 2017. Her poetry has appeared most recently in POETRY, Redivider, Third Coast, The Collagist, Sugar House Review, and TYPO Magazine. She is the founding editor of The Cossack Review and lives, this year, in Israel.

Compassionate Theory of Mind


Because of the early season I am captaining in a basic way.
Consuming anything that will hold still for my wet hand,
Annex of a brain that thinks always about its wet hand.


I am holding a scentsharp apple and biting myself mouthsick,
Thinking the nature of sightedness is that something else looks back.
Later, I will remove myself, and say sight,


Seed, inside a clean, wet apple, little bright bead
Fullbrown as an eye paint, is not hard enough to perform desire.
It is small enough, brilliant holdbough, to hide inside and stay like itself.


Interrogatively, I will place the seed on the floor
Where anyone would have to enter the room.
I think no one will arrive and a thing will not grow—


That is some other seed, one I forgot, from long ago.
I will hear the people who say they are lonely staying away.
There are sad things I know because of how often they were taught to me.


I once was looking and thinking without touching about myself.
It sounded like an immense white lamp had been turned on above me.
I heard the sensational click and the string’s soft recoil on the bulb.


Nothing inside me, not the wet innocence or the hawkish hand, turned away.
I sensed and quickly a playful impatience to record what was being seen.


Author’s Note:

I’ve always been fascinated by the implications of self-awareness and theory of mind, and curious about what it would be like if I didn’t have it, if I stopped introspecting and projecting: Would it be like anything at all? Would it be peaceful, terrifying? The question of whether non-humans possess “theory of mind” (the ability to understand that other beings have desires, feelings, and motives—minds—of their own) is open, and the experiments having to do with self-awareness and theory of mind in animals are captivating and often moving to watch.

I began to wonder about how theory of mind might apply to my “sense of self,” the actual idea I have of my own consciousness, which accompanies everything I do when I’m thinking. Does my sense of self have theory of mind, self-awareness? Subjected to psychological scrutiny, could she pass the mirror self-recognition test? Would she cooperate or refuse the experiment?