Socrates’ Cock (2007)
“Crito, we owe a cock to Asclepios: see that it is done.”
It didn’t help him that he resembled Socrates
(who, according to contemporaries, strutted and had beady eyes)—
No: despite this family connection
he was rudely taken, torn from his hens,
and thrown on the altar
where, with utter disregard for his love of life
he was parted from it,
to pay a debt to (of all things) the god of healing.
What debt? None of his owing—
none at all, really—
just Socrates, that bag of air
making a point to his toadies
that he had been “healed” of bodily being.
Afterward, walking the Westward Road,
did Socrates meet the cock?
Was all peaceful? Or did the cock give chase
and employ his well feared barbs
on flabby calves?
One of Meno’s Slaveboys attends a Lecture on the Pythagorean
Theorem Delivered Using the Socratic Method (2008)
I am fascinated by his toes.
They are broad and stubby, with thick yellow nails,
and grimy—any houseboy of my master with such feet
would feel the stick—such a stick as the stranger fondles,
which at first made me anxious, until I saw
that he intends only to scratch with it in the dust.
He and my master jabber, and my mind wanders to the stable,
where I was tossing coins behind the wall with the other boys
until called away by my master for some purpose I do not yet understand.
Wait! I think the stranger is addressing me…
I put on an attentive look until I can determine what he wants of me.
What is twice four? Ah, eight—that was easy enough!
No? He gives my master a sly smile, and I see that I have been
caught in some
trick… but what answer does he want?
I gaze at his face, looking for a clue… is the next answer a simple yes?
It seems so. Yes! And now I see the pattern:
another yes…and YES… and yes!
I am on a roll, as we boys say when our coin-toss goes well!
And now it seems I am dismissed, to return to that very game,
and the stranger, and my master, seem gratified.
But still, the toes…
they will stay in my memory
of this very strange day.
I, Diotima (2007)
I, Diotima, am speaking now. Listen!
I am real, not a literary device
to convey a fake modesty on the part of Socrates
who knew his listeners would think he originated my ideas
in his plagiarized speech on love.
I was older—there he told the truth;
and he was just a boy, mired in boy-play.
I led him into a shallow cave
where the late afternoon sun had warmed the rocks.
I undressed him.
All that chatter about Poverty and Plenty—he added that later.
When I touched him, he was silent--
hard to believe of that windbag, I know--
and he trembled as I swept him
up those steps that lead to Beauty
to the topmost slab, where I laid him out as on an altar
and made him a burnt offering to myself,
leaving him ever after so wordless
that all he could do was spout the contrivances you read now.