Excursion into Philosophy
James R. Whitley

(after Edward Hopper)
It seems the opened book has led him
to question what he thought he knew as truth.
As if something between its sturdy covers
has presented itself as an alternative road,
as a more attractive path toward.  
In well-mannered rectangles on the floor
and wall, the unobstructed light is like
a mathematical proposition—an accessible thing,
despite its manifold extrapolations,
of a certain depth and quantity.  
And note the, evidently, weighty concern
furrowing the man’s brow:
clearly he now sees something in the light
that is more than just light, something
that is more than just not darkness.  
No longer is it a mere luxury to be basked in,
rather it seems to have become a nexus
between two distinct worlds—
the known and the potentially knowable.
Still, he stays seated on the edge of the bed—
only daring a tentative half-step into  
the something glittering before him like progress—
as if to remain unswayed, at least
until some certainty crests forth.
Perhaps he is thinking: If I could just
measure the size of this nagging doubt.
If only I could quantify its rate of expansion...
And how he wants to accept the light for
what it seems to be—a cogent argument or
numinous answer, or, if neither, then
perhaps a perfectly phrased question that
might then prompt such a response.
And what if everything the man needs
is there in the room with him already?
What then could the open window mean?
Agape mouth through which what?
Perhaps if the sleeping woman and the curled
meaning of her body were fully revealed to him...
And still the questions hop about
like rabid sparks, like random integers
the equation will need to be adjusted for.
(Is this then laudable?
Or should it be deemed a flaw?
This regular considering and reconsidering,
this habit we call seeking understanding?)
And so we are left with the palpable drama
raging in this seemingly still picture:
the soft knowledge of flesh
brushing near some other flesh
as if a potential validation,
the ever-shifting perspectives of
confused men and confusing women
barely touching within the shrinking
context of already-cramped rooms,
the imposition of eager light setting ablaze
the uneasy geometry of longing.