On the Nature of Things

This entry is part 26 of 63 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Autumn 2011


“Against other things it is possible to obtain security, but when it comes to death, we humans live in an unwalled city.” ~ Epicurus

When the radio alarm kicks on at 7:15,
there’s an NPR interview with a writer

who’s talking about how the world
became modern— Still blurry with sleep,

I listen to a few anecdotes about burning libraries,
then some talk about the Renaissance; and of one

Poggio Bracciolini, secretary to several popes,
who found a copy of Lucretius’ On the Nature

of Things in a German monastery— which
everyone thought had been all but lost for the last

thousand plus years. This is the same Lucretius
who wrote about Epicurus, not to be confused

with the website Epicurious (“for people who love
to eat”), where on Thursday the featured recipe

was Turkey Meatballs with Cranberries and Sage.
According to the writer being interviewed,

Lucretius’ text (really a paraphrase of Epicurus)
offered readers a view of a world where the most

important human endeavor was the avoidance
of pain. The world itself was made of wobbly

atoms that jiggled and swerved through space,
sometimes colliding with each other to produce

other complex forms of matter, including humans.
In this old-new world, there are no gods, there is

no afterlife, no heaven or hell: and thus the good
philosopher and poet advise that the sager path

is the enjoyment of life and the relishing of its
pleasures. No need to fear death, as when we die,

our atoms will fizz into the ether and our selves,
as we know them now, will vanish. Why not walk

outside to the porch with a coffee mug in hand,
sit in a chair and set your feet upon the railing?

Bring a saucer of buttered toast spread with some
thick-cut marmalade or a trickle of honey, a book,

some poetry. Enjoy the pearly light while it lasts,
and the quiet: before the day and its many

distractions lays siege to whatever little rim
of pleasure you’ve drawn around this moment.


In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

Series Navigation← Landscape, with Traces of Prior EventsSpell Against Grey →

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