Well-Written Literature

Any well-written piece of literature can be compared to a living being; if, then, the dialogue is comparable to a living being, and a living being has only one purpose, the Good (for the sake of which it has been created), the dialogue must also have one purpose, that is, one theme.

Anonymous Prolegomena to Platonic Philosophy, IX.1, trans. Westerink

In London, a bookstore, slim upon the shelf —
Works and Days, Theogony, Homeric Hymns, Battle of Frogs and Mice
brought into one volume by Hine —
we glimpsed one another.
The pages containing you four
were smooth as silk beneath my fingers,
slippery in my mind.

That semester, I analyzed
Hesiod’s frustration,
the weave of divine relationships
tumbling through my head,
on weekends when I took the train
to the British Museum
to write in the galleries where
ceilings pooled with steady seas of human voices.

I sat unmoved and moving,
looking through the train’s window
while the suburbs fled past,
each verse running toward Pandora
when my knowledge grew
like flowers blooming in autumn
unaware of the coming frost.

I remember you were there
that night when someone jumped
— a suicide —
in front of a South Western Train
and we waited for hours,
so many hours,
in Waterloo Station until the workers purified
the soiled tracks somewhere
towns and towns away.

What would have happened
if, like the others, I’d read you
confined to classroom walls
and uncomfortable chairs, bound?

Certainly not affinity and affection
tinged by the bone-cold winter damp
that made coats useless in Egham,
each Homeric hymn spoken
with offerings of cheap wine
bought with a study abroad stipend.

Certainly not Hesiod’s words
beckoning my mind beyond, deeper.
It is good we meet in that shop
when my fingers traced the shelves,
brushed your slippery cover,
and cracked open the pages to linger
like a swan floating on bright water.

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