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4 Million Wonders of the Bronx

"WELL,  WELL, WELL. WILL YOU LOOK AT THAT,” SAYS MR. PORTER. "IT LOOKS LIKE BABBSIO WENT AHEAD AND GOT HERSELF A BLOGGY THINGY... GOD BLESS HER HEART!"

“WELL, WELL, WELL. WILL YOU LOOK AT THAT,” SAYS MR. PORTER. “IT LOOKS LIKE BABBSIO WENT AHEAD AND GOT HERSELF A BLOGGY THINGY… GOD BLESS HER HEART!”

O’Brien on O. Henry:

In 1906, following the successful publication of his first collection of short stories, Sydney William Porter, under the pen name O. Henry, published a collection titled The Four Million. Included in this collection was his famous, well-loved Christmas story, The Gift of the Magi. The author wrote this series of stories in response to Ward McAllister’s statement of “there are only 4 hundred people worth noticing in New York City” – at a time when the city’s population was approximately 4 million. On February 16th, 1892, this self-appointed arbiter of New York society proceeded to publish a list of these “worth noticing” people in The New York Times. But in O. Henry’s mind, every human being in New York was worth noticing – the socialite and the downcast, the banker and the street vendor. He believed that every person had a story to tell and a life worth noticing. He set out to prove this belief and the result was his collection of short, witty stories with characters modeled after the downtrodden and everyday members of society.

Although the population of this metropolis has doubled since the publication of The Four Million, I, like O. Henry, want to find and notice all the unnoticed people of New York City. I am not a blogger but I will attempt in this blog to relate all of my experiences as a long-time “country mouse” living among the “city mice.” I have never written anything publicly so please forgive my early attempts at self-published work. I am neither an eloquent nor a brilliant writer, but I try to write as I wish to speak – simply, clearly, and honestly.

I hope my stories and reflections help you see a little of the world I see everyday.

Love or Nothing

i

The hardest part
is getting started.
Until you do.

The hardest part then
is continuing, because
once you’ve started,

you need to find a way
to continue continuing …
all the way to the end.

And then you realize
there was nothing to it.
Nothing at all.

ii

Steel tracks and barbed-wire fences,
a square and squat, brick ding
every thing points beyond everything,
beyond even time and its tenses.

The welcoming arbeit macht frei,
albeit in iron. A hidden fire.
A gentle breeze, and smoke now
for our Intuition als Wesensschau.

For Edith Stein, Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, martyred at Auschwitz 9 August 1942

The Secret of Phantom Lake

(To the tune Identikit, by Radiohead)

Our country club was one tennis court
in the middle of a marsh,

and a large, rectangular pool

doubling a small, moon-shaped lake,
whose surface was always as black

as cannonballs stacked in the sun.

The girl was saved from drowning
in the deep end under the diving boards,

as I ran back and forth along the edge,

dripping dry, nothing to assuage
my guilt choking on action

even as it tried to swallow inaction.

Anger, that dispels all phantoms
and then creates more of its own.

To have a will as clear as water
without urine and chlorine.

Next morning, steam rose from the lake,

pieces of a ragdoll mankind,
that we can create, that we can create

as witnessed by reeds and cattails.

The Sea as Heartbreak

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             I
A wave. —A wave. —Another wave retells
The gain and loss, the wealth without a cost—
Recalling how each wave crashes memory,
So far from home and counting what to see.
I stand upon the shore, where wind is tossed
As infinitely as clattering shells

Upon the shore. She greets my eyes with bold
Surrender, nothing returning but wave
And tide. As sun and cloud beseech their home,
So I had begged for shelter. Now sands comb
Debris, the shipping bits that time will save
As cold comfort. The shadows grow old

And light that windows offer to my room
Has nowhere to go, now shunted and lamed
By dying shades. She comes to bring me back
With meats and wine, with spells that crack
An ancient code: your deeds are lost, unnamed
By fame, undone by beauty’s beckoning doom.

             II
We watch cloudy shadows with sunlit cast
Across the waves, like dark monsters beneath
Our vision. Hand across your brow, you peer
Where sea and sky are married, lost in vast
Declensions: wind and water—spangled breath
Of glittering gems that glow and disappear

Beneath our separate islands. Though we share
A single epic, lyric solitude
Maroons these comic palms, their offered green
Is lost in ocean’s grey. For ghosts that bear
The memories of tragic war intrude,
Insisting a claim on blood, true and clean

As bodies washed ashore. Such is the loom
In Ithaca that plucks Ogygia
From its threads, woven poor with cramped regret…
Tonight the stars dine alone and assume
A feast of meats we would call nostalgia—
And waves. —And waves. —And other waves forget.

These Guys Want to Have a Few Words with You

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Did you hear? Next Sunday, you ought to get drunk at Mass.

But in a sober way, of course.

That’s what the Liturgy Guys were saying during one of their recent podcasts.

But what do they know?

 

 

Splinter

splinter

A splinter tends to surface deep from flesh
Like any black worry aching the blood,
A fevered heart in dead February. Mud
And wood are piled as winter winds engage
In mortal combat with fields of white, clash
In dull retort with beds of wilted sage.

As hands are steeled to helve each ringing log,
A splinter tends to surface deep from flesh,
Like ironwood and oak. What April wish
Can lick its roots with rain and shape the woods
To fly once more? Each leaf, a violent flag,
Slivers sunlight into a thousand gods.

Yard by acre, the grub denies the plow
Its seam in spring, but quick as silverfish
A splinter tends to surface deep from flesh.
Each swollen sty keeps it from summer’s eye:
Did not the soot-grey sage die to know
The shed secrets that hurt seasons deploy?

Now in woodsheds, those secrets are kept locked
As hostages of summer drying out.
Agonies of decay never forget
A splinter tends to surface deep from flesh
To vanquish the epoch and moment clocked
In concentric rings counting down to ash.

So summer falls and winter’s meat is fresh
For death—but first, autumn’s echo so sounds
Its drums from trunk and branch, and sun redounds
To arctic shadows drawn from night just as
A splinter tends to surface deep from flesh.
The whetstone sings its dirge in orchard grass.

Plucked as a loom, the bruised lilacs withdraw,
Unraveling a spool of leaves and blooms
Now bruised and left for beetles, mushrooms—
As forest floor enfolds the underbrush
And sawdust spits at the toothy bucksaw,
So splinters tend to surface deep from flesh.

The Judgment of Paris

judge parish
The Judgment of Paris

Eris:
A golden apple has no bruise—
Contemptuous of all that shine
Around it. Guests, you see the ruse
A golden apple has? That shine
Which vanity has lusts to choose
When discord’s mind cannot divine
A golden apple. Has no bruise
Contempt? Yes. Of all that shine.

You Among the Fireflies

lightning-bugs-fireflies-timelapse-michael-roman

The fireflies were thick in the back field tonight. Went out to watch the light show. Big, huge moon above, all peaceful except the drone of mosquitoes in my ear — at am an impasse — waiting for another.

You among the fireflies, you leaning deep
Among the dizzy fields of midnight haze—
How did we not meet the moon and stars in sleep?
There’s only calendars to blame. The maze
Of crickets cannot lead us from the past.
The myrmidons that make their tiny heaps
Are fierce as summer’s long—each kiss that’s lost
On wasp and hive discovers night and keeps
The honey secret. Your lips, the sweet
Mysterious defaults the spider shapes,
Are soft as flowers opening the night—
And sting.— With mosquito wings, blood escapes…
So I’m captured, lost as dark, a firefly
That burns your fields — urgent, silent as your cry.

‘… On the Wings of the Wind …’

From the Armadio degli Argenti of Blessed John of Fiesole, OP (Fra Angelico), c. 1450

From the Armadio degli Argenti of Blessed John of Fiesole, OP (Fra Angelico), c. 1450

… he came, cherub-mounted, borne up on the wings of the wind….

Pslam 18:11

From the YouTube Music Video Archives: Mahler’s Symphony No. 2 (‘Resurrection’) – Finale

“Why have you lived? Why have you suffered? Is it all some huge, awful joke? We have to answer these questions somehow if we are to go on living – indeed, even if we are only to go on dying!” These are the questions Mahler said were posed in the first movement of his Symphony No. 2, questions that he promised would be answered in the finale.

–John Henken, Los Angeles Philharmonic, ‘About the Piece’

The full symphony is available on YouTube here, courtesy of the Netherlands’ Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra.

Quin Finnegan has more on Mahler (and Percy!) here.