Poem - Iowa Fields

  • Iowa Fields

    to Epicurus

    I saw Ilium gleam

    As her walls, in a dream,

    Watched her sons return home on their shields--

    Saw the marching Greek host

    In the corn, and the coast

    Of Asia in

    Iowa fields.

    The philosophers spoke

    In the shade of the oak

    As the willows and cottonwoods reeled

    In an October gale

    Blowing hearty and hale,

    Pages flipping in

    Iowa fields

    And I wrote out your name

    On the face of the stream,

    Writ in water but never repealed--

    Made your garden to bloom

    Like the yucca, festooned;

    Flowering lonely in

    Iowa fields.

    And your precepts I pressed

    Like a stamp to my chest--

    And a ring on my finger revealed

    Where your likeness was cast

    And a voice from the past

    Rose up godlike in

    Iowa fields.

    I hoped to see thee again

    By the feld or the fen

    When the bells of the Twentieth pealed.

    But--alas! lies my ring

    At the end of all things

    In a grave beneath

    Iowa fields.

  • Thank you;

    I did up the last stanza first, and wrote the rest as prelude. What I am beginning to understand is that so much of my thinking about Hellenism, philosophy, Epicurus, art, poetry, love, literature etc. is shadowed--I do not say overshadowed--by the hue of mortality. Some will, no doubt, find something morbid in this. A sickness of the soul--the sigh of Ecclesiastes, who has made the diagnosis (that life flows quickly, and leaves very little behind), but did not, could not, know the cure. (A god-shaped hole?)

    But there is no sickness. No diagnosis to be made. I am not diseased. Not a god-shaped hole, but a whole, atomic in its unity, that needs no gods. I am merely, complete-ly, human. Nothing human is alien to me, said Terence. No man is an island, said Donne. Perhaps the old priest knew as much as the pagan poet after all.

    I was 29 years old when I learned that the flower of the yucca was edible. Every lakota boy would have learned that by the age of 4. How many yuccas went untasted by me? The pleasures that salve us are all around; will we see them? We will learn of them in time; those natural palliatives? Not a cure, for we need and want no cure, but a sweetness, the scent of which lifts our heads to ever-higher glories. A light that shines on us in the dark; not like the copper's torch, to catch us slinking in fear; but like the stars, shining into a dim close wood, and finding us rising, rising to their shining!


  • Joshua I think all my life I too have been particularly struck by mortality and the knowledge that life is short. As I have gotten older and had a succession of pets come into my life and pass away, parents, friends, etc., that awareness has just sharpened.