Monday, September 19, 2005

Poem: A Journalist's Death of Socrates

Yo lo vi

And so we saw
The fragile sinews
Of his neck grow taut
The muscles there
Flicker and contract

Did he sip or gulp
Would sipping
Extend the life light

What would you have written

White colonnades
White clad figures jostling
Cries and silence

I’ve watched your carefulness
Your tenderness to others
You would have welcomed
His idea of an examined life

Of politics you would
Have recorded nothing
No mention of Critias or Alcibiades

But your instincts would
Have acknowledged
A moment of history
In the making and
How it would echo
Down the long corridors of years

You would have known
Journalism you say
Is your vocation
It bears witness
Echoes evocations.

Xenophon didn’t write
Man died by his own hand suicide
Socrates dead city youth saved
Questioner silenced for infinity
Sophists prevail
Heretic drinks hemlock

What would you have written

You walk the world
Your shoulders are bowed.

What would you have written

Death from hemlock
Starts in the feet
Paralysis slays the heart eventually.

What would you have written?

Now we are in the room
And Socrates has washed
To be no bother to the women after

How shall we bury you

As you will but I shall
Have slipped through
Your fingers
As softly
As silently,
As watered silk

Now come his children
Two little boys running
Running one bigger
Almost grown crying
Plato’s pages ring
With silence but
We hear their weeping
And the keening of the women

It is time
Says the man
With the poison cup
It is time

We say look how the sunlight
Lingers on the mountains
Wait until evening
When the shadows come.

Drink says the man
With the poison cup
Walk until your legs
Grow numb then lie
On your back and wait
For the creeping slow
Nothingness to come

Socrates drains the cup
In one gulp in one breath
Be peaceful at my death

We don’t cry out
Or sweep the
Poisoned chalice
From his willing lips

He hides his face
With a cloth
Pinch pinch
Go the fingers
Hard hard slowly,
So slowly slowly
Up Socrates’ legs.

No se puede mirar

At dead cold waist point
Socrates raises the cloth
Offer a cock to Asclepius
In case you forget that
Death really does heal life

Then all breath stops
His eyes are fixed
On the distant mountains

Socrates is dead
Has he eluded our love

What would you have written

Yo lo vi
Linda Heyworth
First publication

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