Passing Down

While commenting on quotations a few days ago, I said that my head was working out a poem about Platonism, Late Antique schools, and the prevailing circumstances. This poem happened last night while I should have been cleaning citation data. The next thing I knew, it was time for bed.

Originally, I didn’t want to share it because the narrator (the “I” in the poem) is a fictional character, and since most people think poetry is default-autobiographical, I wasn’t sure how to go about the disclaimer. However, after reading PSVL’s post describing the suppression of polytheism, I figured I might as well post this because it could add to the conversation. We were obviously on harmonious wavelengths when we were writing our respective things. 😅

About two and a half hours of work — so, while I wouldn’t call it done, I’d say good enough. Enjoy.

Passing Down

I.

The summer wind blows heavy,
our dialogue readings murmuring
competition, rough as sand
wearing down the pieces of us
unfit for light, unfit for death.
Hêlios above bears true signs.
You said this even as we walked,
day giving way to firelit night,
the sweetness of sleep opening
into solar orations, incense,
his rise, and light’s cascade
like a cataract of the Nile
churning the mud until it flows.
Even the less studious of us
know the danger in this now from
that plague that does not touch
bodies, but fevers the mind.
I was never the studious one;
my thoughts are sharp meanders —
the water-selling woman smiling,
the fragrance of fresh figs,
the shimmer of grilling sardines,
a thousand pleasures at hand —
yet now, I sweat at the events
that falter your own step; I wonder.
I was never the studious one.
We shared shade beneath a palm
one afternoon; direct, curt,
I asked if we would meet again.
In the dance of souls, passing
low only to return again — how
for those of us yet bound here,
without the flower of intellect
illumined by the words of Plato
and passed down to the present?
The summer wind, hot, merciless,
blew at your cloak, at my robe.
I was never the studious one.

II.

in this well-worn metropolis
plagues have often passed
wars have ruined the walls
byways filled in cut off
and yet the way through
surprises our gaunt memory
the heart yet knows the path
we light incense and rest
quiet in Gods’ radiances
we are brought beyond towers
to hills that stand strong
grounded in luminous deep sky

III.

The words he speaks have nothing within them,
I say in my heart, a thought I condemn.
Black-robed as deep night, yet holding nothing,
he stands within the church, hands beckoning.
If I could stand, sit, and swallow it down,
I would not fear the next faithful crackdown.
The millennium passed last year, you know,
and the end of the world never did show.
Something lies forgotten underneath this.
If complete, I would have nothing to miss.

IV.

a signal propagates in time
an approximation degraded by noise

the Goddess who holds the sphere
bears the echo of an egg once swallowed

in the beginning the Harmonizer
tuned oscillations into rivers to hold us

a text propagates in time
a jumble of what existed, the luckiest of copies

the Goddess who spins the sphere
opens the way down black as night, cold as sea

there in the deep everythingness
his eternal note unfurled, sound itself descending

a truth always remains
undamaged by noise, uncut by tired scribes

the Goddess who etches patterns
upon the sphere itself knows the record of all becoming

matter danced itself open fast;
the universe bears the sign of this sacred sound

V.

Circles they are — around a common center.
We dance around the bright fire, awakened,
and Heaven’s perfection no longer holds us.
Even Jupiter has bodies around him, starry,
and what more can we discover? Liberation —
an opening of the mind that swallows down
each secret like vitality-giving quicksilver.

VI.

on an unknown world now
a flower blooms curious
her homestar light lovingly
peels back the fading night
someone pulls it — she breaks —
flower-dyes bleed rich red
this sacrificial adoration
mysteries alien to any other
trapped in opinon and strife
familiar to those who know
water that tastes of steel
truth the Gods forever give

VII.

When the Earth turned green,
in a meadow on the high hills,
she and I poured the libation out.
Giddy — hardly practical — a waste we’d
yearned for since reading Chapman,
Jove and Juno nectar on our lips.
Dreams drove us on, hot infernos,
each myth we read vivid fuel
ivying through our soft places
that ached sore as birth pains.
Something between curiosity and
compulsion took over in us two.
Now among the grasses, beside her,
the jug in my hands, her now silent,
the sky overhead — a healing balm,
a goodness. I will come back here
again, she says, and our hands
grow firm, intertwined, together.

🌅

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