“Do You Think That” by Robert Creeley

April is National Poetry Month. The Internet tells me the Academy of American Poets first organized this annual celebration more than twenty years ago.

As we enter the waning days of April, it seems like a good time to share my favorite poem of all time. I first encountered it more than thirty years ago, in an American Literature class in high school. It was written by Robert Creeley, a prolific poet whose Wikipedia bibliography scrolls on for a while.

I loved the poem so much that I transcribed it, sometime circa 1986. That piece of unlined paper has traveled with me since: to college, to Los Angeles after college, and back home to New Orleans after that.

Just a few days ago, I purchased a volume of Robert Creeley poems. I was thinking thirty years on, I might consider perusing some of the other things Robert Creeley wrote. (Better late than never). I also figured there was a good chance I would find “Do You Think That” in a volume encompassing the years 1975-2005.

It didn’t turn out that way. So, thanks to LorenWebster.net and that now quite yellowed unlined piece of paper, I can still share the verses of “Do You Think That.”

Before I do, a few words on why this poem resonates with me. When I first read it, my answer to most of the questions it poses was a resounding yes(!). It seems to strike at the very nature of human consciousness. How we have to rely on our own very subjective, very unreliable, senses and perceptions to distill a reality from all the inputs that surround us. And I loved its rhythm, and still do today. Finally, I kinda like that it’s not well-known. Like it’s something I’ve been carrying around all these years as a one-of-a-kind personal anthem. I do think that I take great meaning from that uniqueness.

DO YOU THINK THAT

Do you think that if
you once do what you want
to do you will want not to do it.

Do you think that if
there’s an apple on the table
and somebody eats it, it
won’t be there anymore.

Do you think that if
two people are in love with one another,
one or the other has got to be
less in love than the other at
some point in the otherwise happy relationship.

Do you think that if
you once took a breath, you’re by
that committed to taking the next one
and so on until the very process of
breathing’s an endlessly expanding need
almost of its own necessity forever.

Do you think that if
no one knows then whatever
it is, no one will know and
that will be the case, like
they say, for an indefinite
period of time if such time
can have a qualification of such time.

Do you know anyone,
really. Have you been, really,
much alone. Are you lonely,
now, for example. Does anything
really matter to you, really, or
has anything mattered. Does each
thing tend to be there, and then not
to be there, just as if that were it.

Do you think that if
I said, I love you, or anyone
said it, or you did. Do you
think that if you had all
such decisions to make and could
make them. Do you think that
if you did. That you really
would have to think it all into
reality, that world, each time, new.

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