In search of gravitas and a sturdy pair of shoes

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Author and archaeologist – and poet, too.

One of the pleasing byproducts of having poets for friends is occasionally having a poem written in your honor. Here’s one that was written by Stanford archaeologist and author Patrick Hunt, way back in 2010.

The year is significant. I spent much of that period in a wheelchair and on crutches, having walked across Vienna, Warsaw, Prague, and Kraków over the previous summer, ignoring pain as I crushed the bone structure of one foot into powder (or so it seemed). It required four hours of very specialized surgery, two titanium pins, a titanium plate, a tendon transfer, and cadaver bone to set it right. Not to mention a good deal of percocet.

The subject of the poem brought to mind Italo Calvino‘s encomium celebrating lightness, which the Italian author defined as the subtraction of weight. However, he added, “the idea of the world as composed of weightless atoms is striking just because we know the weight of things so well. So, too, we would be unable to appreciate the lightness of language if we could not appreciate language that has some weight to it.”

Patrick wrote these lines to me in consolation for my miseries. I believe it’s included in one of his collections. I’m rather fond of it. Hope you are, too:

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Gravitas

for Cynthia

Gravity of truth weighs heavily on some
who hardly feel the pain until their feet break
from years of carrying bone crunching ennui.
Atlas had the shoulders for it but not the mind,
incapable of pondering paradox, to him it wasn’t
weight but tedium because he lacked gravitas.

Persephone too struggled with flowers,
whatever blossoms grew from her dreams
and just as quickly faded, futile hopes
like ripe pomegranates dropped by trees
where pale skin reveals red fruit underneath
and more than enough seeds to last eternity.

Thus weight is not weight but attraction
and some day earth steadily sucks us all in,
not that we find this irresistible, merely
inevitable like falling stars caught at night.
Surprised by darkness, we wait our turn
to fuel another sun blossoming elsewhere.

Patrick Hunt


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