Alice O. Howell   





            Pythagoras, of old

            heard in his waking dream

            the ancillary prographs of the golden word.

            the petty petitions of the worm-eaters

                        as yet deferred

            were as the dust unformed on my piano

            wrapped in its plastic sheet

            lest the music escape

            and make this heart more wretched

            to lose its unsung beat.


                        space to him was iridescence

            a scale of ordered rhapsodies

            spiraling with half-furled wings

            in the chromathematics

            eternal being sings

            with such grave and sweet restraint.


                        when he had reached the tower of his reasoning

            he found the steps back down

            were black and white

            triangles and ringed with fright.

            what was the Greek for the coming do, re, mi?


                        he must have cleaned

                                    his trembling fingernails

                                                to remind himself that he was mortal.

            Pythagoras of old

            saw in his waking dream

            the universe - a cosmic harp

            with stars for streaming notes

            and space for non-existent things:

            the precessions of the equinox

            the cadence of planets holding hands

            in their stately dance of epoch

            which demands

            converging rays of every circle

            sun-centered in wonder

                        his thought yet thunders down the centuries

            as some wild exultant Pegasus

            scattering bright hoofprints

            in our wincing minds.


                        let me tell you that

            his eyes in death became light mirrors of fire

            and in his visions and his desire

            he was blinded and could not speak

                        yet we see ourselves reflected

                                    in the square of his hypotenuse

                                                singing mutely do, re, mi

            though not, of course, in Greek.