Paul Hartal

The River of Permanence

It is not possible to step
Into the same river twice,
Said Heraclitus of Ephesus.
Since other and yet other waters
Keep flowing on,
The river is never the same.
And like the river,
Everything in the world
Is in constant change and flux.

Nonsense! Retorted Parmenides
Of Elea. Nothing is in flux.
Things never change, he said,
The world is permanent.
Objects of thought and speech
Must exist all the time.
They cannot change
Because change consists in
Things coming into being,
Or ceasing to exist;
Whereas words have
An immutable meaning.

Of course a table differs from a chair
Parmenides continued,
And so does the nightingale
From the elephant.
Or the land from the sky.
We live in an illusionary world.
Things only appear to be different.

And mind you,
There are no opposites in the world.
For warm means merely not cold
And dark means no light.

More than a century later,
Aristotle scratched his head rumbling:
Is not this talk a next door to madness?
After all even a lunatic
Would not confuse fire with ice.
How can one argue,
From thought and language
As a frame of reference
To the world at large?
How can one reconcile
The existential with the copulative?
The past with the future?
Tell us Parmenides,
How can Socrates be alive
If he is dead?

Yet Parmenides
Remained unperturbed and smiled.
Your logic, Aristotle, is not flawless.
It does not hold water.

On a deeper level of reality
Things are always the same,
Belonging to an ultimately
Homogeneous cosmos.
In the final analysis
There is neither past nor future
Only an eternal present.
When you refer to Socrates
Your memory unfolds
Not in the past but in the present.
Your recollection happens now,
Right in this moment,
Immortalizing him.

Submitted: Friday, April 27, 2012


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Poet's Notes about The Poem

First published in "A Lampada", Instituto Neo-Pitagorico, Curitiba: Parana, Brazil,1997; LXVI, No.224-227

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