On the Nature of Things

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall
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.

Landscape, with Traces of Prior Events

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall
This entry is part 25 of 63 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Autumn 2011

 

What of the milk they nuzzled at birth,
and prior to that, what of water and blood?

What of the debris-spattered windshield,
the tunnel wide enough for only one?

What of the minerals gummed with salt and mud,
nourishing dark mixed of earth and flint?

What of the aster and the amaranth, then tiny buds
of forget-me-nots stripped from the field?

What of the year’s deepening light pooled in
the eyelids, a glaze the shade of pomegranates?

And what of the flanks of animals stepping through winter
wheat; then shadows of antlers crossed with the honeylocust’s?

 

In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

Counterpoints

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall
This entry is part 24 of 63 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Autumn 2011

 

The motet is a musical piece for several voices, where independent melodies may be seen to alternate with contrapuntal passages; dating from the 13th century, its name derives from the Latin movere, (“to move”), especially in its description of the movement of different voices against each other; or from a Latinized version of the Old French mot, “word” or “verbal utterance.”    

 

The year dwindles down in earnest, the swirl of
many voices decanting heat and timbre:
notes that move, fevered brass to diminuendo.

We hear them beating against the sky’s clear blue,
dark flecks like carets, bent to their patterned flight.
They’ll find their way to some other page, where wind

combines with other kinds of weather. Don’t rue
too deeply their disappearance; nor the fickle
hue of things steeped in the sun— that russet fruit

whose cheek has turned to blue; that gold persimmon,
its bitter juices puckering on your tongue.

 

In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

Aria

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

I’ve turned the bird of my inmost longings
loose into the ether. It used to sit in a cage

of sinew and leather, its red singing
voice muffled beneath the hum

and chirr of turning gears. It visited
all the dreams I could no longer

remember— How did I know?
I knew, because it left the smallest

of teardrop shapes, tiny salt
chandeliers encrusted on the pillow.

At noon, its unsung arias begged
to be pried open: they swelled,

round-hipped and brown, like figs,
ripe; like rosewood hips of a cello.

They begged to be pried open,
marbled to liquid in a throat drenched

by sun. And so I let it be. I’ll keep
the green branch on which it roosts,

should it return. I’ll learn to live on
this door’s swinging hinge,

sustain on flimsy hope. Because I
love it so, I’ll let it take its leave of me.

Luisa A. Igloria
11 10 2011

In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

Letter to You, Again

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

Dear heart, dear absent one, yes I’m still talking to you: more threadbare than the shroud that veils the moon— not quite full, mottled blue and silver— nevertheless my halting speeches aspire to permanence and shape. I’ve seen the Three Immortals, pilgrims too, with their dusty paper scrolls and staffs and red-ripe peaches plump as children’s cheeks. Is it unseemly to want more, to be as one skein of silk looped richly in the arms of defoliated trees, more than mere sigh in the shadow of departed wings? How long since I lay in the arms of untrammeled time, slow as love and thick as honey; how long since I first troubled the fret of tangled knots, looking for your hidden face? Each night the curtain lowers its velvet drape. Still unspent: my good-luck coin, glimmering fitfully beneath.

Luisa A. Igloria
11 09 2011

In response to an entry from The Morning Porch.

What Leads to Marriage, in a Mostly Roman Catholic Country

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

In order to avert a crisis,
the family comes as one
to plead their case: no one

bothers to verify if it is true
a child is on the way—
how could it not be so?

Quick to the church,
and quickly exit with streams
of jaunty orange and gold;

and all that rice, rained on
the heads of all who’ve
gathered at the door:

and all that fractures
and multiplies in little
bits of rattling white.

Luisa A Igloria
11 07 2011

In response to an entry from the Morning Porch

Landscape, on the Brink of the World to Come

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

Eschatology: a branch of theology concerned with the final events
in the history of the world or of humankind.

 

What else are they waiting for, those ten
watchful virgins? The bridegroom’s been
promised, the nuptials and the feast

arranged. And the ones they send away
to buy oil from merchants in the town?
What becomes of them? Night has fallen,

the year bent hard toward solstice.
In the overhead branches, wind moves
like knives, scoring each surface met.

In the distance, those windows hung
with curtains and ablaze with light—
Why can’t I believe all that were

turned away have been unfaithful,
or merely unprepared? Of them, who
sleeps in abandoned sheds or among

unpolished stones in the field,
gathering scraps and twigs for
kindling? I’ve seen their limbs

offered up to the cold in sleep,
as the bus hurtled along the edge
of highway. At daybreak, a bird

dares to disrupt the silence.
Only the sun warming the peaked roofs
knows how one side begins to steam

while the other remains in shadow.

Luisa A. Igloria
11 06 2011

In response to an entry from The Morning Porch.

Wind Chill Warning

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

Like a restless spirit, the wind
has thrashed through the branches
all night, and is still not done
in the morning— upending some
deck chairs, the small newspaper
dispensers on the corner, signs
on campus that were up yesterday,
announcing the football game. Hard
frost at dawn— thin blossoms
feather with ice crystals and then
lie limp, uncurled by the warming thaw
at noon. I, too, have been confused
by so much weather— burrowing under
a summer-thin quilt and craving warmth,
waiting for the heat to kick in.
More blankets, wool socks. But cold,
anyway, in the bones. Whatever you do,
a teacher said to me once, stay
grounded in the center; don’t let
the fire in your gut go out.

Luisa A. Igloria
11 04 2011

In response to an entry from The Morning Porch.

Resistance

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

Imagine how long it took to form each
solid face of rock, those shoulders

hunched in grey-cloaked silhouette
against the coast— how long

wind and weather chipped away
(to flake, to rubble, and to grit)

what yet withstands the elements
and lodges in the flesh of the unshod

foot. Updrafts of air that wide-
winged birds will ride, alone

in so much space; cathedrals of fog,
buttressed above all that unrelenting

flint. And yet each loosened orb,
each pock-marked surface, moon-like,

gouged by water, wrapped in yellow strands
of kelp, scribes me with grainy hope.

Luisa A. Igloria
11 03 2011

In response to an entry from The Morning Porch.

Thanks also to Beth Adams for the inspiration from some of her recent work.