Spring 1986 • Vol. VIII No. 2 PoetryApril 1, 1986 |

Heraclitus on Fire

Thales thought the world was water.Anaximenes said air—or rather aer, which is to saya mist or vapor. On any latespring morning in Miletus, thereit is, aer, hovering where the roaddips toward the sea. If you sitfor an hour, on a rock, you almostsee its double metamorphosis:(1) easing upward as the day rises,becoming air and fire, and (2)drawing itself together on the petalof a columbine and sliding, water now,down the thin stem to take the shapeof earth. Aer it is, by observationand sweet symmetry, the central stuffto which all this returns. But Heraclitus knows the oneis fire, the insubstantial blazethat changes everything. Pythagoras,Xenophanes, and Hesiodknew many things but failedto understand, refused to seethe forest leaping to becomethe red it really is beneaththe apparent green, refused to feelin their own flesh, the unexpectedkindling and the going out.

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Thales thought the world was water.Anaximenes said air—or rather aer, which is to saya mist or vapor. On any latespring morning in Miletus, thereit is, aer, hovering where the roaddips […]

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