Catherine Barnett

I found this poem under Aging, which is interesting as I’m not sure it’s even about that, but rather the pursuit of knowledge. The author is a modern American poet, who according to the American Academy of Poets, “works as an independent editor and as Writer-in-Residence at the Children’s Museum of Manhattan where she teaches writing to mothers in the shelter system. Barnett has been the Visiting Poet at Barnard College and teaches at the New School and New York University.” The title refers to the branch of philosophy that investigates the origin, nature, methods, 

and limits of human knowledge and justified belief.

Epistemology

Catherine Barnett, 2017

Mostly I’d like to feel a little less, know a little more.
Knots are on the top of my list of what I want to know.
Who was it who taught me to burn the end of the cord 
to keep it from fraying?
Not the man who called my life a debacle, 
a word whose sound I love.
In a debacle things are unleashed.
Roots of words are like knots I think when I read the dictionary.
I read other books, sure. Recently I learned how trees communicate, 
the way they send sugar through their roots to the trees that are ailing. 
They don’t use words, but they can be said to love. 
They might lean in one direction to leave a little extra light for another tree.
And I admire the way they grow right through fences, nothing
stops them, it’s called inosculation: to unite by openings, to connect 
or join so as to become or make continuous, from osculare
to provide with a mouth, from osculum, little mouth.
Sometimes when I’m alone I go outside with my big little mouth
and speak to the trees as if I were a birch among birches.

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