Ockham in the Subway
I’m heading uptown on the 2,
gasping in the unconditioned,
unconditional summer sweat.
Reading a hard book. Trying to.
John cut some down at Avignon,
named them heretics. They fled.
His dread of papal power slipping,
unnamed them. But, we are not unnamed.
John cut their vows of poverty,
their ban on private owning.
Franciscans all, fugitives all:
William of Ockham, Bonagratia and Michael.
For William, species naming was a problem.
Can’t be real. Can’t be universals in the sky.
I am William, come from Ockham.
I am I. I am. I.
I ride and puzzle species names.
Its Zabar’s coffee, that I drink, not Drink.
Its you Babes whom I love, not You.
My essence is here, not Here.
I point. That’s the point.
I am like you, but not you.
There’s no likeness – just I, just you.
In the naming is the making.
Train stops at 72nd. I shove up the stairs,
melt the jam, escape the sweat air.
That cat contemplates along the wall;
Really, what if one had no name at all?
I face the street. I fret – my issue unresolved.
Razor, I could use you now to shave the crowd.
I’m up, I can breathe.
I am I. I am. I.
Wait. Look out! The din.
Barbed human takes the margin.
Stomping, arms awry, yelling –
Do anybody know yo name?
William of Ockham and fellow Franciscans were excommunicated by John for refusing bequests to the Church and challenging papal power. Philosophically, he opposed the view that names for universals denoted real entities. His Razor is the principle that less is more. Emerging from the subway to the street, I saw a crazed and pitiful man, unshaven, running wildly in the street, yelling “Do anybody know yo name?”