Archives for February 2014

Make certain.


Blogging while working out


… on the fancy new Korrektiv-equipped treadmills at the Y.

Raskolnikov – Part 1: Chapter 1, Stanzas 14-19


One chapter down; forty to go! Today’s post concludes Part 1, Chapter 1 of my attempt to rewrite Crime and Punishment as a verse novel à la Eugene Onegin.

Click here and scroll down to review the story to date.

Thanks to all who have read along so far. As always, your comments — including, but not limited to, negative comments — would be very welcome.

Is the story bogging down at any point? Is the action or setting ever confusing? Are there any trite rhymes? Any syntactic absurdities, prosodic infelicities, or lapses of characterization?

And is there anything that ‘works’ especially well?

He scans the space: a table (smallish),
A sofa (tall), and chairs (a few) —
All cheap and old, yet bright with polish,
Immaculate; the floor gleams, too.
(‘Lizavéta’s work’, he thinks; ‘that’s certain.’)
Here hangs a small icon… A curtain
Hangs there, in lieu of bedroom doors;
Beyond it stands a chest of drawers,
He knows — though he has yet to enter
The shadow of that shrouded cell….
… His hostess pipes up sternly: ‘Well?’
‘I’d like to pawn…’ he says; presents her
A pocket watch (worn silver-plate).
‘Good sir, your payment’s two days late:

‘Your other pledge is past redemption.’
‘I know, Alyóna, ma’am — my ring….
Please give me just a month’s extension.’
‘I’ll do as I please with that thing.’
‘Well…. How much for this watch? It’s silver.’
‘Not even worth the work to pilfer
A piece of trash like that, my friend.’
‘It was my father’s…. If you’ll lend
Four roubles, ma’am, I will redeem it.’
‘I see. Before, I was too nice —
I lent you more than that ring’s price.
As for this watch, now, take or leave it:
A rouble and a half.’ ‘You might —
One and a half, good sir.’ ‘…….. All right.’

She takes her keys out of her pocket;
She takes his watch behind the shroud.
He strains his ears; hears her unlock it —
The top drawer, scraping high and loud….
While he had been discreetly peering
At her (right pocket’s) steely keyring,
One key’d looked larger than the rest:
(‘Not for a drawer…. A trunk? A chest?
… But this is all so nauseating!’)
‘You owe me thirty-five, all told.’
(She’s back!) ‘Here’s one-fifteen; I’ll hold
The watch.’ He stands there, hesitating —
Then speaks: ‘In one more day… or two
… I might… have another pledge… for you…

‘… A cigarette case… silver… fancy!’
‘All right. We’ll talk about it then.
Good night.’ ‘Your sister! Any chance she
Might sort of… sometimes… wander in?’
‘What do you want with Lizaveta?’
‘Oh, nothing, ma’am.’ ‘You want to meet her?’
‘No no, madame, I just… Good-bye.’
He turns, and goes — and starts to cry:
‘Oh God! Can I –? Can I imagine?
How could –? Is my mind capable –?
My heart, so hateful? Horrible!
A month! A month, bent to this passion –!’
His self-disgust is oceans wide….
He sinks, and chokes — and steps outside.

The evening sun continues bleeding
Its dying light upon the host
Of Petersburg, while, all unheeding,
Our Rodya passes like a ghost
Among them, heart and mind encumbered:
He reels, colliding like a drunkard
Along the boulevard, until
His feet and thoughts at last are still:
Up from a dingy basement tavern,
Two tipsy, cursing men emerge;
Raskolnikov now has the urge
To go spelunk that urban cavern.
A sticky table; frosty beer;
A gulp. His thoughts begin to clear!

‘No need to worry any longer,’
He says — and smiles! — with rising cheer.
‘A simple side-effect of hunger;
Just takes a little bread and beer!’
Smiles all around! Lighthearted, hearty,
He beams at one departing party
(Four men; a girl; accordion),
Grins at a fat Siberian.
Above the pale cucumber salads,
Black bread, and kippers past their peak
— Which emanate an evil reek —
Drone mediocre drinking ballads.
An ex-official sits aloof —
Alone, but for his eighty-proof.

Homage to an Empire*


The budget talks have broken down again.
And bliss is ignorant to show what love
Between a man and wife has got to do
With lasting peace. What nature cannot do
Is rendered pointless. We’re at war again –
So power speaks its mind to truth. And sends its love.

The tyrant’s compass spins democracy
Around the globe – what prior to the fall
Had slithered forth – and scales back our freedom too.
While history plays its part for only two –
I and thou – the circus of democracy
Has swords and thumbs enough for all to rise and fall.

Which is fine. Liberty pays the price
And soldiers stay the course. So goes the game:
Your countries are all ours. Your babies – also ours.
(Too many, though, and they stop being ours.)
So empire asks its men to name a price,
To load the dice, enthrone the orb and throw the game.

*With apologies to Philip Larkin.

Exchange (for FOK Paul)

[Neko Case’s “Middle Cyclone” playing on car stereo.]

Eldest Daughter: You know, I think Neko Case is the Catwoman of music.

Me: So then who’s Batman?

Eldest Daughter: Duh! Tom Waits of course!



Those Pope Emeritus Blues


Raskolnikov – Part 1: Chapter 1, Stanzas 11, 12, & 13

630px-Piranesi03 - Sawhorse

The adaptation of Crime and Punishment into a verse novel à la Eugene Onegin continues.

Click here to catch up on the story.


If you’ll excuse the interruption,
Dear reader — Something in the way
Of a digression on the Russian
For ‘crime’: It’s ‘prestuplénie’,
Which (in more literal translation)
Means (to a close approximation)
Transgression, or ‘a step across’ —
Concision’s gain, nuance’s loss.
(I claim no special erudition;
I’m just repeating what I’ve read,
But this is what I think it said
In Norton’s Critical Edition.)
We here conclude our brief aside
And rejoin Rodya in mid-stride.


He’s in. His hostess glowers sharply —
Sharp little eyes, sharp little nose:
A tiny, desiccated harpy,
Of sixty years, one would suppose.
Her head is bare; her hair is sallow,
Just touched with grey, smeared thick with tallow.
Her neck is yellow, long, and thin —
Much like the leg of some old hen.
Upon her shoulders hangs a mangy
Old capelet cut from yellowed fur,
For even summer’s cold to her.
She coughs, regarding Rodya strangely.
(‘Does she suspect –? Of course, I must
Act all-correct… establish trust…


‘… show some respect — That’s always prudent!’),
He thinks, and makes a little bow.
‘Raskolnikov, madame — a student.
I came last month…. I’ve come back now.’
‘I know, good sir.’ She’s brusque and hurried.
(‘Was she this way before? I’m worried….
Her piercing eyes… her voice’s edge….’
‘I’m here about — about a pledge!’
She glares, then points — still coughing, groaning,
‘In there, good sir.’ And so he goes
Into a faded room that glows
With ruby hues before the gloaming…
Stained scarlet by a long, late ray….
(‘The sun will blaze like thisthat day!’)


joesmoke copy

The Further Adventures of Fiddleback and Mantilla!

Screen Shot 2014-02-19 at 9.12.50 AMPoor JOB is getting older, so it should come as no surprise that he forgot to mention one very special variation in his list of liturgical hilarities: the retro-cool fashion of the Old Rite that the kids today find so addictive.

Exhibit A (as if readers of Korrektiv needed any proof): Debra Murphy‘s daughter has taken to making vestments. It’s a curious enough vocation, but smell my bells, she’s even doing them Old School. Moda, indeed!


Korrektiv Press considers name change


The Korrektiv Press board of trustees is set to vote on a proposed name change for the quasi-Catholic press. Rufus McCain, Korrektiv’s semi-reclusive director of prison outreach, has brought forward a motion to re-christen the confusingly-spelled media conglomerate as Glut Press. The small but feisty Kierkegaard-inspired publishing house–referred to elsewhere as a”loose affiliation of bad Catholics”–has a cult following that extends to heretics, pagans, Protestants, attached-lobers, and malcontents across the political and theological spectrum. The board will vote on the name change at their July meeting on Guemes Island in Washington State.

Located: Source of clown dearth


Just in case anyone was wondering where all those pesky clowns went

The American Catholic Church, which emphasizes property rights and the integrity of neighborhoods, retained the Latin Mass and plays The Star-Spangled Banner at the elevation of the host.

In a tent! On a boat! In a field! On a haybale! On a suitcase! Liturgical dancers! Rainbow stoles! Superman vestments! Dogs! Magicians! Pig roasts! More Rainbow stoles! Sit-down/lay-down Mass! (Did we mention rainbow stoles?) Light Sabers! Puppets! Giant Puppets! Life-sized Puppets! Monster Puppets! Liturgically dancing puppets! Oh, and look, even Masons! Yes, all of it and more at …. Missa Whatshappeningnow!

Ah, yes, the times they are a changin’.

Dept. of Doggerel

I don’t really care
If the devil wears Prada
I’m more likely to stare
If she’s wearing nada

If it’s Valentine’s Day…

…it must be time for the Lickona Family Art Show, in support of Culture of Life Family Services. This year’s auction raised over $700! Thanks to First Daughter for making this one happen, to everyone who bid, and to all the kids to submitted works! (Sadly, the photos are both blurry and incomplete – you kinda had to be there.)











I watched her parted lips. They said enough
And nothing more. I would have been content
With happiness; I would have borne at large

The baby’s-breath that tucked a faded rose
Between its gauzy stems. A place where wood
And stone could fit together, a cognate

Of aspen (our favorite rendezvous)
And granite (worldly, but not of this world).
Someplace that found and fleshed us out and we

Delighted, being found. A little ground
Within a forest clearing, lamed by pleasure –
An April sunbeam’s doubled-bladed shaft.

It would have been such deepening of light,
Its richness ran to darkness as a friend,
And stars would hate to see it go away

When winter swept the constellations from
The northern sky. Some ground, I say, we’d find
If only she would say, if only speak.

I watched her parted lips. They said, “Not here.”

And remember…

…these words from Third Daughter, not quite five:

“If you don’t work, we can’t live in this house.”

What makes it is her perfectly innocent (ha!) delivery.

Talking of which…


What earthly use has innocence?
There can be none, for use will make it naught,
As frost upon a pane, or dew upon a web.
For nothing can be seen, no insect can be caught
Until they’re cleared away, the ebb
And flow of life must drive them hence.

Impediment to life, it’s true,
Experience’s opposite,
The space that wisdom comes to fill.
Innocence will bid us sit
And stay our hands and keep quite still
And wonder at the frost and dew

And who can bear it? Who revere
That unsought innocence to which he’s born?
That golden-clappered bell he must not ring?
Say who can keep his heart from scorn
For innocence, that shy, unbodied thing
That only in its loss can be held dear

So we set out, who have seen much
And learned the price of gain and loss
To guard it in some newer soul
And call it precious, though it’s dross
To youth who crave some useful role
And seek the day when longing yields to touch.

Raskolnikov – Part 1: Chapter 1, Stanzas 9 and 10


In honor of Ss. Cyril and Methodius, Apostles to the Slavs, whose feast-day was 14 February, here are the latest stanzas in my ongoing project of adapting Crime and Punishment to the sonnet-stanza form of Eugene Onegin. It’s been thirteen-and-a-half months since the last update, but, plot-wise, things are, I daresay, on the verge of getting real.

Click here to read the previous stanzas.

I welcome your comments, whether effusive or abusive.


The stairs he climbs are dark and narrow.
‘Still dark… still safe…. That’s good… but think!
Just now, I’m frozen to the marrow!
How, then, will I feel… on the brink
Of –?
’ Rodya all but crashes into
A pair of porters — two old men who
Are lugging down the furniture
From someone’s flat… Fourth floor! He’s sure
It’s from the old crone’s only neighbor.
‘That German clerk is clearing out
… So no one else will be about
If I…. That’s good! Then why belabor
The point? It’s time. I’m doing well….’
He’s at the door. He rings the bell —


And flinches from its tinny tinkling:
Its feeble chime seems to recall
Some distant, half-remembered inkling.
‘That certain sound…? It’s nothing! All
These flats have bells like that! … I know this!
Why did I cringe? It goes to show this
Is still too soon; I’m still too weak
For now!’ The hinges groan and creak:
A little gap; a glimpse; the glitter
Of wary eyes that peek, then spy
The porters and the clerk nearby.
The hag seems reassured a bit: Her
Apartment door now opens wide —
And now, our Rodya steps inside.

Happy New Year

The first short film from writer-director-star Monica Lickona, goddaughter of yours truly and daughter of writer-director-star Mark Thomas Lickona.

Driver Hate


To be sung to the tune of “Driver 8”

With apologies to Berry, Mills, Buck, Stipe.

The van, it speeds up, drifting lane to lane
And the kids assigned seats one by one
And the homeschooling dad says
“Shut up you kids back there! You kids back there shut up!
We’ve been on this trip too long!”

And the homeschooling dad says
“Shut up you kids back there! You kids back there shut up!
You’re driving me to drink again! and AA’s still a ways a way!”

I saw an orphanage on the outskirts of that last town,
I’m thinking of getting my tubes tied so I won’t get snagged
Into buying a Grumman bus next time
The children look up, all they hear is my homeschool-daddy rant.

And the homeschooling dad says
“Shut up you kids back there! You kids back there shut up!
We’ve been on this trip too long!”

Way to feel my middle age
Way to drink myself to sleep
Way to feel my middle age
Way to drink myself, my children to sleep.

I fathered each one in a van like this one
But now she sells cold showers and NFP crusades
Ford Fifteen, Econoline, hear the horns blare again,
Out of whisky, out of gin

And the Homeschooling Dad says
“Shut up you kids back there, you kids back there, shut up!
You’re driving me to drink again! and AA’s still a ways away!
Still a ways a way
Still a ways away
Still a ways a way…”