Styx and Stones

Plato found a teacher who taught him                                                          how to learn.                                                                                                   Joan found the preachers who taught her                                                     how to burn.                                                                                                   “And I will find a resting place inside a                                                        a useless urn.”

These are the opening lines from a poem of mine. It’s on page 45 of the paper back edition of The Hunched Man and other Poems, my second book of poetry. The title, Styx and Stones refers to the river that carries our souls to the underworld and the stones are those we fling at each other. As a child I learned to sing: “sticks and stones may break my bones, but names can never harm me.” Cute, but incomplete.

It is, of course, the names that we claim for ourselves, and use against each other that serve as a warm up ritual to the eventual stoning of our victims. What is it about those we want to fight that frightens?

At this moment in history, it seems to me that it is Yesterday very much afraid of Tomorrow. Perhaps that has always been the case. I agree with what I’ve heard attributed to Mark Twain: history doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme.

More and more I find myself fascinated by the idea of patterns, of significant coincidences that seem to point to a process as relevant to our understanding as it is difficult to trust. Difficult to trust, I suspect because it resembles the distorted patterns of belief that provide structure for the process of paranoia. Sunshine provides both light and the opportunity for shadows.

For myself, I take pleasure in discovering and playing with the games that words summon me to play. And just as some of the games of childhood prepare us for adulthood, I pretend and I guess, believe that those games are worth playing.

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