History (n.)

John James

I didn’t make these verses because I wanted to rival that fellow, or his poems, in artistry—I knew that wouldn’t be easy—but to test what certain dreams of mine might be saying and to acquit myself of any impiety, just in case they might be repeatedly commanding me to make this music.—Plato, Phaedo

Viewed from space, the Chilean volcano blooms.

I cannot see it. It’s a problem of scale. History—the branch

of knowledge dealing with past events; a continuous,

systematic narrative of; aggregate deeds; acts, ideas, events

that will shape the course of the future; immediate

but significant happenings; finished, done with—“he’s history.”

Calbuco: men shoveling ash from the street.

Third time in a week. And counting.

Infinite antithesis. Eleven

miles of ash in the air. What to call it—

just “ash.” They flee to Ensenada.

The power of motives does not proceed directly from the will—

a changed form of knowledge. Wind pushing

clouds toward Argentina. Knowledge is merely involved.

Ash falls, it is falling, it has fallen. Will fall. Already flights

cancelled in Buenos Aires. I want to call it snow—

what settles on the luma trees, their fruit black, purplish black,

soot-speckled, hermaphroditic—if this book is unintelligible

and hard on the ears—the oblong ovals of its leaves.

Amos, fragrant. Family name Myrtus. The wood is extremely hard.

Ash falling on the concrete, falling on cars, ash

on the windshields, windows, yards. They have lost

all sense of direction. They might as well be deep

in a forest or down in a well. They do not comprehend

the fundamental principles. They have nothing in their heads.

The dream kept

        urging me on to do

what I was doing—

        to make music—

since philosophy,

        in my view, is

                the greatest music.

History—from the Greek historía, learning or knowing by inquiry.

Historein (v.) to ask. The asking is not idle. From the French histoire, story.

Hístor (Gk.) one who sees. It is just a matter of what we are looking for.

Back to top ↑

Sign up for Our Email Newsletter