Two Poems by George Kalogeris
El Greco: Fireworks
Strange. The Index of Forbidden Books
Doesn’t list his name. And yet whatever he wrote
On Greek metaphysics and Roman art no trace
Of it survives, except for a note on shading.
Some experts chalk it up to a lack of pulp,
But no shortage of dry, erudite texts—good stuff
For igniting the fireworks…Imagine Toledo
Incandescent on Christmas Eve. As if
The fasting city feasted its eyes on an aura
Worthy of The Adoration, that pulsating
Ikon in which the agéd painter kneels
To the birth of light as just another shepherd.
Outlandish tints. Elongated saints. The tricks
Of levitation made gravid, and truly bizarre.
A pyrotechnic, yet no less Catholic,
Sublime-surreal display. But didn’t it all
Come down to that anyway, Doménikos? Reams
Of convoluted theories expounding upon
The Serpentinata Figura, the crux of the Cross
Beyond their tortuous grasp, and all the dense bits
Of overblown Neoplatonic sententiae,
The practiced art of Sudden Illumination,
The diasporadic soul as divine spark
Of the Stoic Cosmos—exploded like confetti.
Until the festival fizzled out, in the glorious
Via Negativa of a Spanish night:
For once each upturned, inquisitive face aglow
With just the right shade of empty euphoria.
Beyond Gravity and Grace
Simone Weil laughed. Out loud. In front of the class.
It happened at the lectern. Poised to challenge
The premise of the Discourse on Method, but seeing
Her homespun sweater was inside-out, she laughed.
And sheepishly she took it off, and turning it
Right-side out she pushed and pulled with all her
Sagacious might until her blunt tenacious
Head had squeezed back through the shagginess.
And then, fixing her tortoiseshell specs, but not
Her frizzy hair, began dissecting Descartes.
Simone Weil: the sublime abstruse incarnate.
Unflummoxed by the metaphysics of flux.
Insufferable conscience, its constant chafing
The martyr’s shirt of fire she never sloughed off.
But also just the dorky human being,
Still caught in the static, inextricable cling
Contingent with inchoate, everyday stuff.
Hair-raising and hilarious the daily
Peril of apprehending Aporia.
Le professeur riait! Avec une voie forte!
We know it only because some diligent student
Of the Absurd once scribbled it out in a binder.
One more vision of dense impenetrable
Necessity pulling the wool over Reason’s eyes.
So many lessons to learn at Laughter’s Lycée.
For next week: Pascal’s Void and Kierkegaard’s Leap.
About the Author:
George Kalogeris is the author of a book of paired poems in translation, Dialogos (Antilever, 2012), and of a book of poems based on the notebooks of Albert Camus, Camus: Carnets (Pressed Wafer, 2006). His poems and translations were anthologized in Joining Music with Reason, chosen by Christopher Ricks (Oxford, 2010). His book of poems, Guide to Greece, is forthcoming from Louisiana State University Press (2018). He teaches English Literature and Classics in Translation at Suffolk University.