Amorphous is the mind

Amorphous is the mind; its quality

Is in its fibre, not its form;

If it desire to fly it puts on wings,

Awkwardly, not like a bird

At first (though later); the rustle of a thing half-heard

Can twist it as iron at times is twisted by a wind-storm or word

after word

Can pummel it for hours yet leave it like a leaf on a still day

unstirred.

But a man’s habit clings

And he will wear tomorrow what today he wears.

The mind is happy in the air, happy to be up there with

Learning feathers, but the man loathes it.

The mind cries “Up! Oh, up! Oh, let me try to fly!

Look! I can lift you!” but he smothers its cry;

Out of thrift, and fear of next year’s feathers, he clothes it in

last year’s things

And tries his best to button across a keel-shaped breast a coat

knobbed out by new wings.

-Edna St. Vincent Millay

About the author

Ben Ehrlich

Ben Ehrlich's new book "The Dreams of Santiago Ramón y Cajal" will be published by Oxford University Press in 2016. Ben is a 2015 Salzburg Global Seminar fellow in Neuroscience and Art.

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