Grether Web Services

The Dissertation

Posted on: 2/17/1999

The work runs on and on, a steady stream,
A constant feel of flowing and of force,
The strength to fight the current. It
Reminds me of that Chinese legend
Of the man who trapped a dragon
In a waterfall. It took him 30 years
Without a rest.
                  The dissertation fights
Me like that dragon. Neither it nor I
Can rest. We tire to exhaustion, but
Our struggle lumbers on to nothing I
Can see.
                  In rivers, lakes, and waterfalls
Of work I’m swimming night and day. The air
Is damp with work’s humidity, which rests
Atop the bookshelves, endless, endless shelves
That wrap around the house and block the world
Outside, a language wall of bookbricks crammed
With long forgotten voices, brittle words
All yellowed by the choking damp.
                  My soul
Is lost in esoteric texts, the tail
The dragon whips at me to blind my eyes.
My dreams are shaken to a frenzy. Hope
Of daylight lights my plodding steps through night
To morning’s dragon-nightmare lull.
No rest, no rest….
                  The Rosicrucians once
Compiled 1,000 books on alchemy,
10,000 miracles producing gold
From dirt, from iron, even from the dew
Collected off the church roofs after dawn.
I look at them and ask: Can’t I complete
This one book of a lesser alchemy,
Turning pages into pages? I
Am ready for the fight to end.
                    It brings
To mind one version of the Chinese tale
In which the man who trapped the dragon, he
Returns from fighting only to discover that
A tiger has destroyed his house and now
Prepares to kill his family. He has
No weapon but the dragon’s tooth. The fight
Goes on for 40 years.
                    I think of this
Amazing tale with laughter, tears, and sighs
That only weary souls can make who know
No rest will soon be found. I’ve almost trapped
My dragon, but my tiger still is waiting
At my hearth, with heaving chest, with panting
Mouth of fangs. He purrs for my return.