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

Jenn Habel

  Think of the consummate folly of attempting to go away from here!
  When the constant endeavor should be to get nearer and nearerhere
                                            —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 
amusement 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.