“We admit the apparent fact,” say they, “without admitting that it really is
what it appears to be.”. . .[I]n his work On the Senses, [Timon says,] “I do
not lay it down that honey is sweet, but I admit that it appears to be so.”
Diogenes Laertius, Lives,IX.105
It was a warm day, or so it seemed,
and the sea was calm, but it might have been
snowing, in reality, and the sea rising in towering waves.
Who knows what anything is, really,
when solid rock becomes molten
lava becoming solid rock again?
It had all the appearances of a criminal war,
unjustifiable on any grounds, but
it may have been necessary and honorable,
as it seemed to those who started it.
In the fog-wrapped, golden city,
the young were discovering sex and drugs,
but whether this was a model of the angelic life,
or a trap set by demons, is pure speculation.
Though the bomb apparently vaporized
tens of thousands of innocents, perhaps
they had merely left for a picnic on the beach.
I will admit we sat beneath the willow tree,
practically in one another’s arms,
but I could not say that his lips were sweet,
only that they appeared to be so.
Jim Chapson was born in Honolulu, Hawaii, in 1944. Unaccountably, he has been living in Milwaukee since 1976. Kent Johnson has said of him, “He is our Cavafy, completely unknown.” He is currently serving, along with Jeff Poniewaz, as Poet Laureate of Milwaukee.