An Attempt to Complete De rerum natura

Marty Newman


I begin where the most reasonable but unfinished Lucretius left off
(having committed suicide in a fit of insanity
induced by a love potion he took from his wife).

Barnacles asleep at my feet, at an orgy of mollusks in a kelpen broth
I awake. An embryo pure as a star. Recapping genesis
my pen hesitates no less than the arms of a clock.

No mere compendium (conniving with the reader, excluding this or that)
this must be the infinite poem englobing everything
from the kraken’s tail to the breath of every living thing.

Dry humped by the wind, trimmed of his limbs
here Caesar’s last breath is still fresh.
No atomic syllabary, this collaboration, this is the world in one piece.

It’s all here, this poem contains it all.
We chew gum, blow bubbles, there’s nothing we forget.
Twin stylites, Lucretius & I, sip coffee atop the water towers of Wien

fly the zeppelins of Babylon, lead Ulysses to a Johnny-on-the-Spot
but at the Ark of the Covenant we part.
Sniffing the broken tablets Lucretius turns up his nose –

The revenge of the Jews, he huffs.
Stoically engaged in a matinée of torture, pushing his rock
up a mountain of glass Lucretius goes nuts.


Suicide prevented Lucretius (d. 55 B.C.) from completing his On the Nature of Things. Like the literary saint & martyr, Stéphane Mallarmé, who tried to write the book that would explain the world & the interrelationship of all things to justify his existence in a “godless universe”, but failed (overcome by creative impotence) – Lucretius brings to mind the definition of hubris: overweening pride towards the gods leading to nemesis.

Marty Newman was born in Czechoslovakia in 1948.  He graduated from McGill University in 1978 and practiced dentistry in Quebec’s high north for the Dept. of Indian Affairs. He made aliyah in 1985 and lives in Jerusalem. A fervent jazz listener, addicted to Thelonious Monk, he is equally fond of medieval Central Asian Islamic coinage. His poems have appeared in ARC 22 and Shirim.




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