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This article is taken from PN Review 257, Volume 47 Number 3, January - February 2021.

Consolation Alex Wylie
It is time, then, for you to take a little mild and pleasant nourishment which by being absorbed into your body will prepare the way for something stronger. Let us bring to bear the persuasive powers of sweet-tongued rhetoric, powers which soon go astray from the true path unless they follow my instructions. And let us have as well Music, the maid-servant of my house, to sing us melodies of varying mood.

        – Boethius, The Consolation of Philosophy (translated by Victor Watts)


Of varying mood, the tree-tops whisper-hiss their choric
through my open window – a sweet-tongued rhetoric
          of tuneless ditties

as the wind strikes up. Melody as rhythm, and vice versa,
          the branches’ subtle
disputations: philosophy’s shekere, cabasa,
          the wind’s rattle

of mute persuasive powers. I wonder if Boethius
          in his prison
heard through his own high window such a breathy, breathless

as this, a desperate wind leafing through the canopies,
          and filled up.
They have no medicines to ease his pains… Quite a mouthful, this,
          of the bitter cup.


No squirrels today. The branches’ skittering genius,
          so to speak,
in hiding, conjuring the image of a universe
          at hide and seek

with itself. A baby’s peekaboo: the innocent fun
          of Brahma
in its googolplex of costumes, lost in its very own
          improvised drama.


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