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Simon, The Sandal Maker

An attempt to show a symposium with Socrates and his friend Simon, the sandal maker.

Note: Simon was an unknown philosopher and friend of Socrates. In this poem I am trying to bring him from obscurity and to show what it must have been like to be at one of the symposiums held in his sandal shop.

“So here we are again, dear friend,” he’d say,

greeting Socrates, kissing cheeks the way

they had for years, opening his sandal shop

for these gatherings, where we could stop

for conversations, forgetting time,

leaning back on pillows, sharing bowls of wine

and ideas, the candles smelling of wax,

while we sipped and nibbled simple snacks,

listening to his questions in the flickering light.

Outside, a sign you couldn’t see at night

said, “This is the boundary of the Agora”

and here we could speak and ignore the

censors in the city and speak of virtue,

rejecting the false wealth that the rich pursue—

exploiting truth for their personal gain,

living for life’s pleasures and avoiding pain—

and Socrates would listen as we spoke,

nodding at our words before he’d poke

holes with his questioning, his frog eyes

squinting as he thought, looking unwise,

asking with simple words what we meant

when we said this or that, his argument

always baffling us. My, he had his ways

of teaching that would open and amaze

our minds, but it was Simon whose open door

let us sit with hobnails on the floor

and leather straps and stitching needles

and have our dialogues and silly riddles—

games to exercise our minds, having fun

with friends, enjoying our symposium

those evenings where we had the leisure

to argue--is virtue the only pleasure

man should seek and Socrates would ask

but what is virtue and if that’s the task

how can you pursue what you don’t know

and from those questions, our thoughts would flow.

Simon often laughed at his dear friend,

shaking his head to challenge and defend

another point of view, getting him to nod

before Socrates would ask and slyly prod

him to consider another assumption.

But Simon wouldn’t budge and had the gumption

to poke back at Socrates and on and on

they’d go all night, the dark becoming dawn.

Both Socrates and Simon lived their stoic lives,

wanting to be poor despite their wives’

harangues and thought that they were rich as king

because they did not live their lives for things

but wanted only what they needed to survive

to live a simple life and never strive

for wealth and Simon said he’d use his leather

straps to admonish foolish men who measure

luxury as if it were a garment to be worn

and never ask the meaning they were born.

Few know of Simon and his sandal shop

and how he loved it when we men would stop

and share a bowl of wine and salted nuts,

the pillows in a circle, our ifs and buts

and ponderings flowing like the wine.

It’s there I learned to seek the divine

by opening my heart and mind to the unknown,

chewing at life’s rawness like a bone.

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