FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Pythagoras in Queens

From certain spots in Brooklyn but
the top can be seen
of that high rise in Queens
Its top, just like a ziggurat
Observing — no, reminding you
of all of your debt
and your servitude
And ziggurat’s from zaqaru
Akkadian for “to be high”
To be high — to be low — below
the bridge which —
as in Babylon –
really ought to be a park
a river-spanning park –
a hanging garden — yes
And there should be a ziggurat
As ziggurats are flat on top
Which you can climb
and sit and watch
The dawn break over Brooklyn
Or the sun stain the horizon pink
the moon — like a balloon — rise
When some distance is needed
from toad-minded neighbors
(Some neighbors, you know,
when you open their skull
instead of a brain
all you’ll find is a toad — a toad
inside whose skull you’ll find
another toad
Mise en abyme —

Pythagoras, Pythagoras
Did he know Anaxagoras?
He knew Anaximander, Anaximenes,
and Thales —
having spent time in Miletus
Then he traveled down to Egypt
Was admitted to the priesthood there
To study math
He knew his share
(Copernicus confessed
it was Pythagoras
Who gave him the idea) but
that thing about the beans
must be rethought
Grow them on the bridges
on the ziggurats
Why not?
Why not make things easy?
Ease —
the skies and seas
are toxic these
days
Breathing in the poison haze
It changes brains
Deforms them
into toads
It’s so — so
What can you do?
Pythagoras studied
for 22 years
When Cambyses — Cyrus’ son
attacked and banished all
the priests to the east, to Babylon
(Pythagoras from Samos
He discovered some amazing things
The theorem, though
that bears his name
that one’s Babylonian)
A decade with the magi passed
when he was freed at long last
and returned to Samos.
But things on the island
just weren’t the same
his fame was lame
the attention: a drain
a pain in the brain

What’s in an atom?
the neutron, the proton
Pythagoras left
Put his raggedy coat on
waved
and said: Antio
Stepped aboard a ship
Stepped off in Croton.

Not Croton, New York
near the Bear Mountain Bridge
But Pythagoras did talk to bears
Yes, he did.
And to snakes
And a cow
on the far side one time
of the Gulf of Taranto
A cow eating beans — which
Pythagoras found quite disturbing
This thing
with the beans
is a mighty big problem
For all Pythagoreans

Just eat them
They’ll grow on the bridges
in plots
upon the ziggurats
All over the sides and tops of buildings
Chick peas, favas,
painted ponies, kidneys,
pintos, all of those
Pythagoras did not wear robes
but trousers, some say,
like they wore in Thrace
A place named for a sorceress
The home of both Democritus
and his student, the sophist, Protagoras
Did they discuss the Cosmos
Dressed in trousers?
Wowzers

Atoms, relativity, chremata,
the commodity, the plaque
that’ll grow on your soul
preventing any passage
through the tunnels
to the after world
And how to clean it off
by thought alone

These were, inter alia, the topics
under discussion
Sitting there in dirty trousers
Just like those cro-magnon gals
Who skinned the limbs of animals
and wore them on their own legs
Like a pair of jeans

Oh it’s obscene
Xenophanes remarked somewhere
that Thracian gods
have reddish hair
You hear about Tereus, their king
Who cut out the princess
of Athens tongue?
A tongue composed of so many atoms,
Democritus declared
Protagoras says:
though we can’t really know

Pythagoras, Pythagoras
He couldn’t know Protagoras
He couldn’t know Los Angeles
Or eat a lima bean
Not that he would if he could
though they’re good
And Dr. Freud would most likely conclude
That sometimes a cave
is only a cave,
but sometimes it’s your mother
That hole in the world
out of which we all squirmed
And now we’re here
wearing trousers
Oh brother

Freud, of course, would note as well
each bean’s a seed
And the word, as we all know,
for seed is semen –
each bean is a daemon
the bridge between the divine and the human
Entirely consistent
with Pythagorean thought
Or maybe not

We open up a can of beans
it looks like a mass grave
Peeling open cans of sardines
It’s about the same
Walking through the supermarket
Punching open plastic bottles
Oil spreads across the floor
oil spill on aisle four
But do not fear, there’s no risk here
The creatures are all safely wrapped
in plastic, well-refrigerated
Hacked to pieces, sealed in cans.
No more harm can come to them

The night grinds like a garbage truck
And was that you
all dressed in blue
a slab of gum stuck to your shoe
staring out the window of the city bus
Pythagoras?
Exhorting: do not be a moron
peel your grapefruit like an orange
Is that true? Did you say that?

Pythagoras?

And was the Buranuna River
so named for the copper ore?
you hear about that one before?
you stand along its shore
and did its level drop
the flow diverted
so Cyrus the Great
and the rest of the Persians
could breach the city walls?
You hear about that thing at all?
Or how about Tenochtitlan’s chinampas?

Why not build a bunch of those
though salty the rivers
could still water things
like beans and greens
from underneath
by way of steam — evaporation
I don’t know though
could you grow
a garden on the Harlem River?
gardens on the Brooklyn Bridge?
What do you think, Pythagoras?
Is that you
collecting your salad?

 

More articles by:

Elliot Sperber is a writer, attorney, and adjunct professor. He lives in New York City and can be reached at elliot.sperber@gmail.com and on twitter @elliot_sperber

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
Weekend Edition
August 16, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Uncle Sam was Born Lethal
Jennifer Matsui
La Danse Mossad: Robert Maxwell and Jeffrey Epstein
Rob Urie
Neoliberalism and Environmental Calamity
Stuart A. Newman
The Biotech-Industrial Complex Gets Ready to Define What is Human
Nick Alexandrov
Prevention Through Deterrence: The Strategy Shared by the El Paso Shooter and the U.S. Border Patrol
Jeffrey St. Clair
The First Dambuster: a Coyote Tale
Eric Draitser
“Bernie is Trump” (and other Corporate Media Bullsh*t)
Nick Pemberton
Is White Supremacism a Mental Illness?
Jim Kavanagh
Dead Man’s Hand: The Impeachment Gambit
Andrew Levine
Have They No Decency?
David Yearsley
Kind of Blue at 60
Ramzy Baroud
Manifestos of Hate: What White Terrorists Have in Common
Evaggelos Vallianatos
The War on Nature
Martha Rosenberg
Catch and Hang Live Chickens for Slaughter: $11 an Hour Possible!
Yoav Litvin
Israel Fears a Visit by Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib
Neve Gordon
It’s No Wonder the Military likes Violent Video Games, They Can Help Train Civilians to Become Warriors
Susan Miller
That Debacle at the Border is Genocide
Ralph Nader
With the Boeing 737 MAX Grounded, Top Boeing Bosses Must Testify Before Congress Now
Victor Grossman
Warnings, Ancient and Modern
Meena Miriam Yust - Arshad Khan
The Microplastic Threat
Kavitha Muralidharan
‘Today We Seek Those Fish in Discovery Channel’
Louis Proyect
The Vanity Cinema of Quentin Tarantino
Bob Scofield
Tit For Tat: Baltimore Takes Another Hit, This Time From Uruguay
Nozomi Hayase
The Prosecution of Julian Assange Affects Us All
Ron Jacobs
People’s Music for the Soul
John Feffer
Is America Crazy?
Jonathan Power
Russia and China are Growing Closer Again
John W. Whitehead
Who Inflicts the Most Gun Violence in America? The U.S. Government and Its Police Forces
Justin Vest
ICE: You’re Not Welcome in the South
Jill Richardson
Race is a Social Construct, But It Still Matters
Dean Baker
The NYT Gets the Story on Automation and Inequality Completely Wrong
Nino Pagliccia
Venezuela Retains Political Control After New US Coercive Measures
Gary Leupp
MSNBC and the Next Election: Racism is the Issue (and Don’t Talk about Socialism)
R. G. Davis
Paul Krassner: Investigative Satirist
Negin Owliaei
Red State Rip Off: Cutting Worker Pay by $1.5 Billion
Christopher Brauchli
The Side of Trump We Rarely See
Curtis Johnson
The Unbroken Line: From Slavery to the El Paso Shooting
Jesse Jackson
End Endless War and Bring Peace to Korea
Adolf Alzuphar
Diary: What About a New City Center?
Tracey L. Rogers
Candidates Need a Moral Vision
Nicky Reid
I Was a Red Flag Kid
John Kendall Hawkins
The Sixties Victory Lap in an Empty Arena
Stephen Cooper
Tony Chin’s Unstoppable, Historic Career in Music
Charles R. Larson
Review: Bruno Latour’s Down to Earth: Politics in the New Climatic Regime
Elizabeth Keyes
Haiku Fighting
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail