What Do You Think of Sartre and the Existentialists?

All great art––and great art is rare––is too good to be true. Indeed, all truth and beauty in the Shakespearean/Keatsian sense is too good to be true. The ability to perceive truth is the ability to look into the darkness and describe what cannot be seen. “I cannot see what flowers are at my feet,” said Junkets.

Philosophy Lesson


After driving all night

I stopped for coffee and eggs

at a diner halfway to

New York City. The waitress

behind the counter looked up

from her magazine and said,

“Look who’s here!” clapped her hands

together and broke into

a huge smile. “Have I been here

before?” I asked. “Beats the shit

out of me,” she said and put

a glass of cloudy water

in front of me. “What’ll it be?”

One war was closing down

in Asia to be followed

by another. No longer

a kid, I wondered who was

I that a gray-haired woman

up all night in a road-side

hole would greet me like a star.

“What do you think of Sartre

and the Existentialists?”

I asked. “We get the eggs fresh

from down the road, my old man

bakes the bread and sweet rolls.

It’s all good.” It’s not often

you get the perfect answer

to such a profound question.

On the way back to the truck

I listened to the pebbles

crunching under my wing-tips,

watched two huge crows watching me

from a sad maple, smelled

the fishy air blowing in

from Lake Eire, and thought, “Some

things are too good to be true.”

––Philip Levine

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