Thursday, December 22, 2011

Empedocles' Physics

In all its parts the deep foul valley trembled so
I thought the universe felt love, which some believe
Has many times returned the world to chaos; here below
And elsewhere in that moment, the ancient cliffsides tumbled.

The Inferno, Canto XII

'Aversion carves the self.'
- A Vedic teaching too, though here
it is Empedocles', who wrote
that Hate creates our fractal'd world,
which Love would have a single, formless sphere.
An example: enemy soldiers, late
in 1914, carolled each other across the fields.
Could not, next dawn, take up their former places.
Such is the chaos that affection yields.

When did we cut the long-compounded verbs
into their separate nouns,
the worm's life from the bird's?
Must it be loneliness crowns all things
that live?  Packed fat of the sea-lion,
fox blood splashing the brush like early sun-
why give them to our wars to be undone?
But what if in truth Love's perfect One were
Dante's sheered disorder, the known world tumbled?
If the longing and stumble of self were made of sin?
Choose Hate, to stay faceted then
in the many and season-strung minds, the battered salmonskin
peeling its sky's flung rind, the blossoming strife.
Choose the cell's dividing, life into life,
the too-bright stream.  Choose beauty loved-
how loved - within division's light.

~ Jane Hirshfield
from The October Palace
art by picasso