Article in Arts / Literature / Poetry
The next step for me in the discipline of Pied-Piper Philology is the exploration of what I call "Pathosophy" (on analogy with "Philosophy"), a neologism I consider crucial to what my poetry is trying to discover and inSONUate. The pathosopher is like the philosopher but with a difference—the body.

The Pathosophical Pied-Piper Philologist

Converses with the Philosophical Poet

R. Allen Shoaf

Nietzsche was first, it’s true,

but I didn’t know that

when I unlocked the door.

I walked through the halls

somewhere between anguish and awe,

studying the busts

that line the crumbling walls

as far as the eye can see.

I thought it only polite

to visit each one

and pay homage due,

but I tired

before I reached the dividing arch—

and rested on a broken

though shining marble.


I retrieved my pipe,

gently tested every stop,

and began to play,

drawing every breath

from deeper

than I ever remembered,

as if it belonged

to the genius of the place.


Surprised by her question,

I was not frightened—

I had so many of my own.

I recall feelings of relief

that I was not alone

in so vast a hall.


“Why are you here?

Ruins like these no longer sigh.”


“I have come

to listen to your oldest words

since I must find a way to free—”


“You would wake us, then?

Say you did.

You would not comprehend.”


“But I have to try.

Invention is all that remains—

and you…you are awake…”


“So it seems to you,

pathosopher?—so you call yourself?”


“Yes, the ‘suffering of wisdom’

more than the ‘love of wisdom’—

that is what I know.

No words—”


“Agreed, no words,

that we knew, too, but…

there is no syllable

as pure as your desire,

not in old words,

not even in our old words.”


“Do we then just lie

atop the corpses

breathing history,

dust and irony

of incalculable copulas,

transient pleasures,

insatiable and unsatiated?”


“Is there anything else?”


“How!? How? How?

How can you, all of you,

of all who have lived,

ask such a question?

Do you amuse yourself?

Do you tempt me

for your amusement?

Is one of you keeping score,

etching my fears into the wall?

Would my tears

were as hot as my fury

to burn your hands

but first your eyes!”


“Is this, then, the pathosopher?

Are you not

just one more bone-sack

of impatience and stupidity?

Man-being unchanged?”


“If unchanged,

then look at yourselves.”




“Is that all you have to say?”


“No, but what we have to say,

to that men will not listen,

preferring death to life,

unknowing what they call life

is death in disguise,


petition pleading for pleasure—

poison sugared in self-deception…”


“Do you hate life so much?

Just another religion

robbing the poor of their lives

as they pretend to life

with the lies they’re told?”


“No, we do not hate life

and from the beginning

never resting

we sought antidotes to creeds:

creeds are the breeders

of hatred, pestilential.

We do not hate—

even creeds.”


“But what purpose, then?

If men do not listen—”


“Then we are to blame,

you cry?”


“Yes, that is the pathosopher’s cry.

I tell you, I told you,

I have come to listen—”


“To our oldest words—”


“Yes, pathosophy listens,

leaning my ear

to the other before me—

the suffering of wisdom—

for power is addiction

and the powerful are ill,

diseased with hate and greed,

and there is no healing,

only herding

of the poor, the hungry, and the halt

into death chambers they call

homes or ICUs—

cancer, incest, abuse,

processed morality,

processed mortality.”


“Then, pathosopher, listen,

if you dare.

The oldest of words is health

which none of you

understands in your arrogance

disdaining life for copies of death

(as if nature were deceived)

which only heal

to breed more ill.

Nature is not deceived.

You, only you, pretend

to life you do not own

and never shall.

You treat a gift as if

it were your right,

your possession,

ignoring truths that,

like earthquakes, tsunamis,

will have their say,

when they will,

no matter what you

think…or do…or weep.”


“And tell me,

how does this differ

from any other dogma—

from some mad-dog ruse

abstruse to defraud

by hawking a part

as if it were all,

not apart from

the forgery of the whole

you’re passing?

What is to prevent the scorn

greed and hate

have ready always?”


“Look around you. Look.

What do you see?”


Surprised again, I paused.


All had changed.

A gloom deep as any night

I have known

yet illumined by blood-red bolts

of silent lightening

surrounded me

so that I saw not one

of my limbs nor my pipe.


“Imagine, pathosopher,

your profoundest prayer,

your most selfless charity,

your deepest affection,

the good so primal

you would lay down

gladly your life for it,

and ask yourself,

pathosopher, this question,

this question—one:


‘What good would I do,

what good would I be,

without my body’?”


My hands I saw first

as though they belonged

to the bloody gloom,

and my voice I heard

as from a distance

yet just beside me

as I asked,


“You…you, too,

are you not…?

a pathosopher, too?—

the next oldest…”


A sudden noise

diverts me:

I hear I think laughing,

and I turn, trembling

I find…

around me gathering

in great throngs

men and women

and children it seems

without number

ask me to pipe

that they may dance. to Shut Down Permanently on December 31, 2017

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About the Author 

R Allen Shoaf
EROTIC RECKONINGS, my second volume of poetry, can now be purchased from New Plains Press or from Amazon. My third volume, PIED-PIPER PHILOL

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