Still listening to Essential American Poets put out by The Poetry Foundation. I just listened to the latest episode on Charles Simic. He ends the episode by reciting his "The Friends of Heraclitus". It is about the loss of beloved friend and companion with whom the referenced subject has had many philosophical discourses, walking around and getting lost, both literally and in thought.
The loss of a partner in dialogue made me think of Plato (and Xenophon), what a true sense of sorrow he must have in losing such a companion in Socrates. The Apology, the starting point for our Partially Examined journey, is itself a poem, an ode to a lost friend.
Simic's character goes out for a walk playing both roles, himself and the lost companion. His sorrow, however, blurs his philosophical sensibilities
The world we see in our headsAnd the world we see daily,So difficult to tell apartWhen grief and sorrow bow us over.
What was that fragment of HeraclitusYou were trying to rememberAs you stepped on the butcher’s cat?Meantime, you yourself were lostBetween someone’s new black shoeLeft on the sidewalkAnd the sudden terror and exhilarationAt the sight of a girlDressed up for a night of dancingSpeeding by on roller skates.
Nice catch with the allusion to Thales, I didn’t notice it at first! Also, I might speculate that this poem in part alludes to a piece by the Greek poet Callimachus, which goes:
They told me, Heraclitus, they told me you were dead,
They brought me bitter news to hear and bitter tears to shed.
I wept as I remember’d how often you and I
Had tired the sun with talking and sent him down the sky.
And now that thou art lying, my dear old Carian guest,
A handful of grey ashes, long, long ago at rest,
Still are thy pleasant voices, thy nightingales, awake;
For Death, he taketh all away, but them he cannot take.
Seth Paskin says
Thanks JKE! No doubt this is in the background.
No doubt there’s a lot going on in the background. Substantially much of this poem seems to allude to the digression in the Theaetetus, and much of the dialogue leading up to that section dealt with Heraclitus’ ideas on change and perception. Now, I’m not really sure how much to read in to this, but I do wonder what the author is getting at with this set of allusions.
Noah Dunn says
I can’t believe Charles Bukowski isn’t included among “America’s Essential Poets.”
Tell me this isn’t genius: