Tag Archives: dessert

Throbbing Reality

But that man’s mind itself in all it does
Hath not a fixed necessity within,
Nor
is not, like a conquered thing, compelled
To bear and suffer,—
this state comes to man
From that slight swervement of the elements
In no fixed line of space, in no fixed time.
Lucretius, Of the Nature of Things, Book II, p. 57.

The pleasure of nature in a bite.

The pleasure of nature in a bite.

After reading The Swerve it seemed to me that I must read Lucretius. At my library I found many editions of De Rerum Natura, usually translated as On the Nature of Things. I found a compact edition entitled Of the Nature of Things translated by William Ellery Leonard. Comparing his work with another I was on the brink of choosing the other based on the first line, Leonard has it as follows: “Mother of Rome, delight of Gods and men,” but I preferred the romance and classicism of the other which read, “Mother of Aeneas, darling of Gods and men.” Yet,  when I began to peruse the forward, I knew I had to chose Leonard— his appeal to the “throbbing reality of the great living Roman, chief poet on the Tiber’s side” (xi) spoke to me.  And, he ended with an emotional appeal—only slightly tempered and made very amusing by being written in the third person: “He has loved Lucretius for many years, and the mighty spirit of the Roman has helped him to sustain many burdens in life” (xiv).

 Thus thou myself in themes like these alone
Can hunt from thought to thought, and keenly wind
Along even onward to the secret place
And drag out truth (16).

On the Nature of Things is basically an ancient science book written in verse. It is quite spectacular. Lucretius is thought to have lived between 99 and 50 B.C., but there is not much else known about him. Indeed, he came perilously close to complete obscurity, as The Swerve relates. Which would have been a shame as his words, particularly his acceptance of mortality, as well as his sensible observations of the natural world are beautifully rendered. He is emphatic that one need only think and live with a “breast all free” (187) to see that there are reasonable explanations for the nature of things. Admittedly,  sometimes he’s a bit testy:

… For dolts are ever prone
That to bewonder and adore which hides
Beneath distorted words, holding that true
Which sweetly tickles in their stupid ears (25)

Ouch.

Starting with his concept that all matter is composed of seeds (or atoms, or germs) undetectable to the eye, with a clear inclination or disinclination for similar seeds that can’t be mixed willy-nilly—after all human beings have a similarity and affinity for other human beings, we can’t mate with trees can we? No, of course not, there are limits.

From out the heart, aye, verily, proceeds
First from the spirit’s will, whence at the last
‘Tis given forth through joints and body entire (56).

He moves on to the motion of said atoms, the soul, the senses, love, the origin of the world and its inhabitants, the beginning of civilisation, meteorology, and then, concludes with the plague. In all fairness, the work was apparently unfinished so one can only hope he had been planning a more pleasant ending.  Nevertheless, on a whole, quite ambitious.

…but unto things are given
Their fixed limitations which do bound
Their sum on either side, ‘tmust be confessed
That matter, too, by finite tale of shapes
Does differ (64).

This is a fascinating point to pause on. Life is finite. There are limits, and yet:

The which now having taught, I will go on
To bind thereto a fact to this allied
And drawing from this its proof: those primal germs
Which have been fashioned all of one like shape
Are infinite in tale; for, since the forms
Themselves are finite in divergences,
Then those which are alike will have to be
Infinite…(64).

Infinity within the finite. It’s brilliant, really. I can’t stop coming back to this idea again and again: the possibility, the diversity—but all within the finite. It almost seems that it is the limits which make infinity possible. Similarly,  it is the certain knowledge of death (but don’t despair! nothing will matter because, well, you’ll be dead!) which makes life sweet. Lucretius writes with such passion about every subject that I am not revealing anything unexpected by saying, so too then—Love. His section on love and lust is startlingly erotic in its true description of the “violence of delight,” the lovely insatiability:

Nor can they sate their lust
By merely gazing on the bodies, nor
They cannot with their palms and fingers rub
Aught from each tender limb, the while they stray
Uncertain over all the body (177)

It’s not as if all his “facts” are correct, he has, for just one example, some funky notion about women being less likely to conceive when enjoying sex too much, (sometimes men come up with such odd ideas regarding women’s sexuality that all one can do is be thankful not to have been their lover). But, be that as it may, he was onto some very huge ideas, with enormous implications for the way in which one chooses to live. As an admirer of Epicurean  philosophy, to spare oneself unnecessary evils and ignorances doesn’t require much. Our bodies are made to experience this world in all its wondrous splendor, and as we happen to find ourselves here, why not?

Therefore we see that our corporal life
Needs little, altogether, and only such
As takes the pain away, and can besides
Strew underneath some number of delights (45).

 

Advertisements

Sense and Memorabilia

I remember, in the heart of passion once, trying to get a guy’s turtle-neck sweater off. But it turned out not to be a turtle-neck sweater. – Joe Brainard, I Remember (131). 

IMG_1888

I remember not being able to get any dessert but prune crostata when I lived in Parma. But not minding, really.

“In the heart of passion” – that probably says it all. I Remember, written in 1975 by Joe Brainard, is one of the sweetest, funniest books I have ever read. In fact, I caused the  fellow commuter sitting in the seat ahead of me some alarm as I intermittently burst into spasms of laughter reading this on my way home the other night. She rather ostentatiously turned around to see what I was on about, and then I caught her peeping into the reflection of the window several times assessing my mental health.

I remember a little girl who had a white rabbit coat and hat and muff. Actually, I don’t remember the little girl. I remember the coat and the hat and the muff (32).

The book is brilliantly conceived. Ridiculously and poignantly simple. It reads as a sort of poem with each stanza beginning with the refrain: I remember.

I remember the only time I ever saw my mother cry. I was eating apricot pie (8).

There is something magical in it. Brainard, a child and adolescent of the 40s and 50s, relates  details that are lovely in their historicism, but it is the disarming simplicity of his raw memory data that connects the reader to this charming fellow.

I remember once my mother parading a bunch of women through the bathroom as I was taking a shit. Never have I been so embarrassed! (93)

I’m really glad I never did that. As a mother of (mostly) sons, my heart just about burst for this young boy and his beautiful, puriel, ernest mind.

I remember when I worked in a snack bar and how much I hated people who ordered malts (22).

As a human who endured adolescence and retains a frightening degree of it, my heart ached for our shared humiliations, tribulations, and confusions. It would seem that Mr. Brainard and I suffer from the same malady – our hearts stuck in the ‘on’ position.

I remember liver (16).

Me too.

I remember Judy Garland singing “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” (so sad) in Meet Me in St. Louis (49).

It was his tender use of parenthetical commentary that convinced me that this man must have been a lovely, kind soul.

I remember a girl in Dayton, Ohio, who “taught” me what to do with your tongue, which, it turns out, is definitely what not to do with your tongue. You could really hurt somebody that way. (Strangulation.) (133)

It is his innocence and crass adolescent mind, (which never seems to really leave us, eh?) his sexual forays, observations, reactions, and random thoughts that fill his memoir. This is the stuff we are made of.

I remember my mother cornering me into the corners to squeeze out blackheads. (Hurt like hell.) (141)

Okay – but in my defense, as a mother, that is really hard to resist.

I remember not finding pumpkin pie very visually appealing (113).

The sensual strength of our memories, whether it be vision, touch, sound, taste or smell is fascinating, revealing, and true. This is how we experience our lives – our world. It’s beautiful. Joe Brainard’s, mine, and yours. Simply beautiful.

I remember trying to figure out what it’s all about. (Life.) (46)

 

* I Remember – published by Granary Books

 

 

 

 

Bartered

IMG_1638

Before you, this rose.
Blush and bemused sweet.
Between fingers stained,
Better unrestrained with
Berries and their red refrain
Bartered for my heart.

Prepare You Victuals

chocolate_tart

Sweetness kindled
Push my heart
Prepare you victuals
Prepare you tart
Untwist the riddle
of the lame-wing’s dart
Let us meet in the middle
For to make a start

Sinners

DSC_1147The big mountains sit still in the afternoon light
Shadows in their lap;
The bees roll round in the wild-thyme with delight.

We sitting here among the cranberries
So still in the gap
Of rock, distilling our memories,

Are sinners! Strange! The bee that blunders
Against me goes off with a laugh.
A squirrel cocks his head on the fence, and wonders

What about sin? -For, it seems
The mountains have
No shadow of us on their snowy forehead of dreams

As they ought to have. They rise above us
Dreaming
For ever. One might even think they love us.

Little red cranberries cheek to cheek,
Two great dragon-flies wrestling;
You, with your forehead nestling
Against me, and bright peak shining to peak –

There’s a love song for you! – Ah, if only
There were no teeming
Swarms of mankind in the world, and we were less lonely!

-D.H. Lawrence (Mayrhofen) from,  Look! We Have Come Through!

*Cranberries drizzled with honey

*Bowl made by Victoria Accardi

Akrasia

DSC_0942

I blame you, Dear Man.

Apfel

IMG_1002In the center of it all
Oh, apple of my fall
The parts that I have bitten
Even those that once were hidden
Caught useless in your thrall-
recall! recall! recall!
This is the taste of knowing
Your sweetness reckoning
a delicious peck our greatest haul-
that’s all! that’s all! that’s all!