I know fear; I want to know it more.
I have looked it in the eye.
I have not shrunk away from it.
Fear follows me.
It often walks beside me
Or lurks behind my back.
Sometimes it wraps itself around me
Like a python trying to squeeze me,
But I do not give in.
Well-meaning friends call that courage.
Hah! I laugh heartily about that.
I'm laughing at me, not at them.
They mean to compliment me;
If they only knew the thoughts
That really filled my head!
It's merely survival, no less,
Nothing more. That's all--
No particularly brave deed here.
For how can a man live his
Whole life in fear? What kind of life
Would I have were I always afraid?
Yes, I know fear and fear knows me.
We do a strange dance and observe
An uneasy truce just to keep going.
Just to survive, I play this game that endures
In uneasy stalemate. If I can stay and observe
Fear's tricks, I can deal with it.
Were I to run, I would worry about being
Sucker-punched at each turn. So it's easy, you see:
I want to know fear because fear knows me.
* The title was inspired by a quote attributed to the American novelist Patricia Cornwell. The quote was uttered during a conversation that the writer of an article about Cornwell had with the novelist. The writer made a comment indicating that she believed in evil. Cornwell is said to have replied, "That's good because evil believes in you." See Mary Cantwell, "How to Make a Corpse Talk," The New York Times
(July 14, 1996), available online at http://www.nytimes.com/books/97/07/27/reviews/cornwell-cantwell.html.