Herakleitos in the snow


Ποταμοῖς τοῖς αὐτοῖς ἐμβαίνομέν τε καὶ οὐκ ἐμβαίνομεν, εἶμέν τε καὶ οὐκ εἶμεν.
“We both step and do not step in the same rivers. We are and are not.”

I was awake for a couple of hours in the night, working on one of the essays that forms the collection Euclid’s Orchard, due out from Mother Tongue Publishing in September 2017. (Contract signed and sent off!) The essay, “Fish Knife”, is about my late father. And it’s about me. Our relationship.It wasn’t entirely a happy one, though we loved each other.

In the kitchen, at 3:30 a.m., the fire was glowing. In my dark room, with the desk light angled over my work, I was filled with sorrow for that relationship. There’s a little epigraph for the piece:“How can you hide from what never goes away?” It’s Herakleitos, in Guy Davenport’s clean translation. I thought of Herakleitos a lot as I was working on this essay. Rivers, the unity of opposites (“The same road goes both up and down.”), fire, that most fundamental of elements. And my father, somehow in the room, as cranky as ever, and as curious.

This morning, the big fall of snow we had over the weekend is melting. The fire, “an everlasting fire, rhythmically dying and flaring up again,” is warming the house. And my father is no longer here.

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