desert wilderness with hills in the distance

Going into Wilderness

If I set up on an unwitnessed rock
my showman soul would not do well.
Fresh air and privacy
would help in taking stock,
but I need someone looking in to see
how well I do, who going back can tell
which way my struggle with the angel goes.
Is such a witnessed privacy a pose?

Simeon Stylites on his post
could not get far enough above the host
that mortified him with acclaim:
mad to be rid of a mad-dog world
the block-and-tackle saint, creaking heavenward,
saw to his shame his name
become a household word,
and on a higher post than his his fame.

But think of a man whose privacy succeeds:
who quits the world uncompromised,
the corner grocer never guessing; who lives,
by an integrity that bleeds,
to be enunciated, formalized;
who dies, whose work—which argues genius—
is thrown out by impatient relatives.
How many of these men have been lost to us?

None, I suspect. We have a way
of leaving ways by which to be disclosed,
buried in backyards, tucked away
for lucky finders to exhume.
Even Jesus in the dry arroyos
could not suffer his work to stay with stone.
Go to the wilderness of your room
to get away, but not to be unknown.

John Barr, The Hundred Fathom Curve: New & Collected Poems

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