THE ANCIENTS AND US
Thinking about post-truth today, Socrates
came to my mind, barefoot, of course,
not like a beggar, still eyed with the arrogance
barely cut by faux humility, by that ignorance
he made famous in his take-downs
of other men until they told him to split town
and he refused. What was he to do?
With no smartly Athens he was through.
Now with Trump in front we have our Gorgias,
just more dumb, with the demeanor of an ass.
Socratic dialogue can’t find the smallest ledge
to stand on, and speech itself has lost its edge
when everything said is like a thick, blunt club
to beat the heads of those who haven’t joined the club.
Some sibilant sibyllic virus has infected language use,
and nothing much we say these days still rhymes with muse.
Take my toddler recently who gazed at Christmas lights
and with ingenuous wonder declared, “Those lights are nice!”
He pronounced that final word now how I cannot:
no hyperbole, no irony, nothing of what is not.
Parmenides held that what is not is nothing at all,
and so our agéd tongues do skitter, slide over falls
to float dead in a pool with oil, plastic and refuse—
dead bodies decorated with lights, poisoned, no use
for us to help enunciate the unseen sight of what persists,
or touch the realm (corrupted kingdom!) of what really exists,
and as I couple these last lines, I wonder whether they have pith
or merely slide into the self-propelled simulacra of present myth.
—from Poets Respond
December 30, 2018
Rimas Uzgiris: “My poem was written after reading an academic article about Socrates that got me thinking about our “post-truth” moment, Trump’s tweets and Ancient Greek rhetoricians, and then when Christmas made an appearance as well, I thought, yes, Rattle, yes.” (web)