The water is basic: it’s mist or makes clay freeze,
and God is the mind in the water, said Thales.

The soul will live on when the body is dead,
and math is our framework, Pythagoras said.

A human makes gods like the people he sees,
but God is not like us, said Xenophanes.

The tensions of opposites ever incite us,
and change is eternal, proclaimed Heraclitus.

I logically proved there cannot be degrees
in permanent oneness, said Parmenides.

The passing through infinite points cannot be, no,
if passing takes finite duration, said Zeno.

A questioning pest, I could never appease.
I knew I knew nothing, proclaimed Socrates.

Though earthly things change, like a rotting potato,
each has an ideal form that’s perfect, said Plato.

One conquers a foe, but it’s braver to throttle
one’s selfish desires, declared Aristotle.

Envoi
These ancient philosophers, typical Greeks,
exchanged their ideas with ardent critiques.

Like Socrates, none should be sure he is right
until there’s a time when the truth comes to light.


This poem consists of a series of “briefs,” a form of poetry that consists of one couplet in anapestic tetrameter. The couplet contains the name of a (famous) person, which rhymes with the first line. The stressed and unstressed syllables in each line more or less follow this pattern: uSuuSuuSuuS(u).

This poem was published by the poetry journal The Lyric (in the Winter 2022 issue).