Saturday 27 October 2007

Uncollected Poems: 1992

History of Western Civilization, Part I: Final Exam

for Elliott Kai-Kee

In 399 B.C. Socrates drank hemlock
What significance does this have for you?
Because, like Petrarca, you pursue the sanctity
of your soul through a modified form of dialectics,
the questions more or less exacting on different days
dependent on an infinite number of variables
(i.e., lust, humidity, familial concerns)
Because you burn without consequence

In Alberti's On the Family, why were you humbled
and somewhat despondent when reading his discourse on idleness
and his claim that it is the fountain of all sin
when you are uniquely compelled to cultivate enlightenment
and how does this relate to the question on Socrates,
in particular to the aim of dialectics,
and your faceted identity as a student

In conclusion, write an essay on your identification
with Diogenes, with references to the wine cask
he slept in, his matted hair, and rapturous diatribes
Consider Hector's speech to Andromache in Homer
and her plea for mercy; and do not begin
without pondering the "covenant of the heart"
Jeremiah prophesies in the Old Testament
and its importance in the interpretation of your goals
Find your elusive desire in precise terms

written 17 August 1992
published in Poet & Critic

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