Two Poems

On Leaving Socrates Alone With His Jailor

(for my students of The Symposium, The Apology, Crito and Phaedo)
What started out as a sex wine party turned into a major
Mind concussion for my students, but still, we waded
Through the prose, hopeful they’d find out why
He insisted on so many questions, so many questions,
So many disillusioned Athenians. Yet toward the end, 
We could only face the charges, something about impiety
And influencing the youth, both trumped up, of course,
Mostly as a ruse to run him out of town, if he would go. 
But we knew he would not go. We voted to acquit,
Even invoking Johnny Cochran’s “if it doesn’t fit,”
But sadly they were only seven at the time, more up
On Paris’s short sojourn than old football stars facing
Bogus trials. Late in the day, we even considered assisting
Our friend out into the dark, but as you must know,
He trusted in the Laws even if the Laws never assumed
It would go this far. We talked about “Prison Break,”
But few even had time to watch that, so busy chewing
The dense prose of friend/reporter Plato late on the scene. 
Most of us were quite done in by all the “soul talk”
Of those last pages, and then, we had to leave, some students
Actually having lost their speech, some needing crutches,
Some on life support, leaving our friend wandering
Through the underground calling out for Homer or Orpheus
Or anyone who wouldn’t mind sitting down for a very long
Conversation about nearly everything, since time is now
Beyond even Infinity. That’s when I left, too, our poor
Cave-like classroom a faux jail cell, wondering if any of us
Could have comforted our gadfly, our inquirer, who is
Just now lifting his cup, resigned, cheery even. Au revoir,
Old friend, let’s hope your students do well on their final.

At the End of the War

(after “The End and the Beginning,” Wislawa Syzmborska, 1993)

We need to do something about all the lost limbs.
Would anybody please volunteer to search
For who have lost legs, arms, faces?

We’re all thirsty, yes, but does anybody know
Where we can find a brook, a creek that
Doesn’t have our floating cousins? 

Yes, yes, we need a morgue, but first
We must find a few dogs to tell us
Who is beneath the stones.

We know Gertrude and Maurice and maybe
Alfonse, maybe more, all have to be found.
Bandages, surely someone has some bandages.

We want to rebuild. Does anyone have a ladder?
Let’s leave God out of this for awhile.
Let’s start in the square, and slowly remove

What was thrown down from the sky.
Who knows how to get a weather report?
Will there be good weather for tomorrow?

Yes, that’s a good idea, but we can always
Talk, there’s always a lot of time for talk.
We’ve got such a mess.

Brooms. Everybody, find all the brooms.
Can anyone send a letter, we need to let
Someone know this has happened.

Tomorrow we can start burning our families.
Surely someone will see the smoke.
Surely someone will come.

—DeWitt Clinton, Shorewood, WI