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Pythagorean comma

“For the Universe has three children, born at one time, which reappear under different names in every system of thought, whether they be called cause, operation, and effect; or, more poetically, Jove, Pluto, Neptune; or, theologically, the Father, the Spirit, and the Son; but which we will call here the Knower, the Doer, and the Sayer.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson, “The Poet”

(The first installment of the 3-part narrative poem, “Refunding Fire: A Sestina” can be found here.)


The tone read, you have reached the end
of conversation. Greater Diesis now says
you may proceed. With what, wha, wh…? Even
echo was giving up in my spiraling effort
to return fire to the Customer Service
nether gods with no hind end in sight
to guide me, I could only grope and hope.

Welcome to twenty-three degrees. We hope
you have enjoyed the fright. The effort
to speak without speech, to view sans sight,
I don’t care what anybody says—
the jar of fire surged—here resides the end
of lies! Don’t try that again, mortal. Disservice
the gods, what, you think you can get even?

The place was neither hot nor cold. Effort
to think sucked away out the bitter/sweet end
of where I used to have fingers and toes. Hope,
Pandora, last thing in the box, in dreary service
to hubby, Epimethius, fun-killer, myth says,
but do we listen? If none of us can even
fathom truth, what’s the diff, hind or foresight?

Sightless, imagination had come to my service.
Three surrounded me, only numbers uneven
seemed to rule in these chambers. No effort
conjured a macaw with man’s face; the sight
of Diotima, Socrates’s teacher, gave me hope;
the third, unsmiling old man, set of keys, says,
Call me Rock. How’s it feel to reach the end?

Pyth had warned me of the trap. Whoever says
the stupid earthly things, keep in your sight.
I nudged the urn forward. We’ve come to the end
of uses for this fire. We cook with microwave, hope
that eating raw will slow down time, even
though we must know better. Can you service

my request? Three pinwheels spun, a sight
that made my ears pop. Too few carry hope
for mankind; this once mighty fire can’t service
like it used to. Fire power, huh! You can’t even
imagine—I shut my no-mouth in an effort
to remember, this is a place of forgetting, End
of all ends, who cares what a paltry human says?

The guy named Rock jangles his keys. Even
Macaw Man rattles at that noise. Service,
by custom, requires exchange, calmly says
the priestess Diotima. To meet your end
you must give up the means. This no-sight
of humans creates and sustains no hope,
though to your credit, you are surrendering effort.

To hope or pray I can convey the sight
of fire’s service vanishing is beyond my effort
though goddess says, firmly, there is no end.


Please stay tuned, if you are enjoying this,
for the conclusion of “Refunding Fire”.

© Elaine Stirling, 2013
Image of Pythagorean comma can
be found at breakfornews.com

A Note on Form: The septime is a poetry form of my own devising. It consists of seven, seven-line stanzas with a concluding three-line envoi, 52 lines in total. As with its medieval predecessor, the sestina, a selection of end words (that don’t have to rhyme) repeat in differing order. While the sestina creates a spiraling pattern, the septime offers an experience of randomness, disorder—even, depending on your theme, chaos.

To create the pattern grid, number your first stanza end-word choices as 1234567. Subsequent stanzas appear as:
2nd: 7462153
3rd: 4175236
4th: 5346721
5th: 2617345
6th: 6753412
7th: 3521674
Final 3-line envoi:
1st line: 76
2nd line: 543
3rd line: 21