Three Poems by James Valvis

Mixing Socrates and Descartes

“The only thing I know is that I know nothing.”
-Socrates

“I think, and therefore I am.”
-Descartes

the only thing
I know
is that
I know
and therefore
I think
I am
nothing

**

A Likely Story

At a busy intersection
under an overpass,
we came upon him late,
after he’d laid his Harley down,
and now, dazed, babbling at nothing,
he was trying to steer his bike
out of the still moving traffic.
I jumped out, helped him push it
to the curb, cars speeding by,
coming within inches of us.
I asked if he was okay–
and he looked at me,
as if for the first time.
Asked who the hell was I.
Well, I was nobody,
just a guy passing by
who stopped when others
stared, inhaled a look,
then drove around his bike.
In the car, my wife was calling
the police. She’d sent me out,
saying it was the right thing to do.
The guy said, did you hit me?
Was it you? You run me down?
I told him I hadn’t,
nor had I seen who had.
Likely story, he muttered.
His face was crimson on one side,
ghost white on the other.
He was limping. He slurred
like a drunk, but he wasn’t.
I have to go, I told him.
Thanks for nothing, he said.
Back in the car, my wife said,
Look at it this way, you’ll
probably get a story out of it.
I nodded, turned the key.
Next time, I told her,
you can have the story.

**

They Are Just

It’s fitting for the young to be arrogant,
to burn the wisdom of age page by page.
Shelves must be cleared to make room
for old learning learned anew.
Who trusts the dying’s heartache,
the corpse wrapped in its paper shroud?
Youth shakes loose Shakespeare
for slam stammerers. Do not complain.
There is nothing you can teach them.
What you have they do not want.
What they have you cannot win back.
They are right. They are just.
Not claiming to have what you don’t,
but to know what it is you’ve forgotten.
Make way. It’s their turn to foul things up.


ValvisJames Valvis is the author of How to Say Goodbye (Aortic Books, 2011). His poems or stories have appeared in journals such as Anderbo, Arts & LettersBarrow Street, Baltimore Review, Hanging Loose, LA Review, Nimrod, RattleRiver Styx, Vestal Review, and many others. His poetry has been featured in Verse Daily and the Best American Poetry website. His fiction was chosen for the 2013 Sundress Best of the Net. A former US Army soldier, he lives near Seattle.

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