Jenn Habel

Thoreau Entered His Cabin Fifty Years Before Freud’s First Mention of Transference

          Think of the consummate folly of attempting to go away from here!
          When the constant endeavor should be to get nearer and nearer here.
                            —Thoreau’s Journal, Nov. 1, 1858


How is one question and why another,
though I understand when I placed
my finger beside the ladybug lost
in the white tub then carried her
to the window—when I saved her—
it was the best thing I’d done all day.
I remember noticing she had five
almost black spots before thinking
her humped shape something like
a turtle’s, and though that sort of
comparison can be a route to perception,
whenever I watched my childhood
pet Mr. Tortoise cross the carpet,
he was only, perfectly, himself.
I think of Thoreau finding no little
in baking his bread—
yeastless and thus requiring no trade
or barter—as if he’d already learned
to speak is to speak to someone,
and from an early age that someone
is often a composite of someone
elses. For two years I lived with
a man whose disciplined philosophic
inquiry led him to declare emulation
of drifting fish as his primary goal.
Since Studies on Hysteria, we’ve known
that if I apply myself diligently I might
discover which voices I heard when
he said this and why it seemed to me
one of the most aggressive things I’d ever been told.



“Thoreau Entered His Cabin Fifty Years Before Freud’s First Mention of Transference” first appeared in Gulf Coast, 17.2.