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We were poets once and young…

…or younger, anyway.

Desktop5So JOB was visiting the Dappled Things website, as one does, and he stumbled across this in the “featured poem of the day” department: a little ditty he composed a while back for some M.L. character…

Screen Shot 2017-02-08 at 11.18.37 AMI do so love “ogling theologians.”

[Image: Gargoyles at Notre Dame, and the Café Grotesque mascots they inspired.]

Rally, Korrektiv, rally — here cometh Sister Sinjin!

29dd2b_bfe7c65d37aa41ab842fb4ae063b4542~mv2-1

Friend of Korrektiv Betty Duffy has formed a band and recorded an album. Let that be a spur for your own efforts, and also a spur to go, listen, and purchase.

From the Sister Sinjin blog: What Does Creativity Look Like Within the Covenant and Constrictions of Life’s Obligations?

When we met for the first time we talked about creativity as our culture celebrates it: Freeing yourself from distractions, surrounding yourself with all things beautiful, being lost inside the space created for yourself whether in nature or a coffee shop, throwing off any labels the world has placed on you and discovering your true self. Who doesn’t want all of that from time to time?

 We are at a different stage in our lives, however, where time for leisurely creativity is at a premium. And do we even want that? We all have families and loved ones that we’re not willing to sacrifice to art.

 Elise threw out the phrase “Creativity of Obligation” as a topic for exploration. What does it mean to be creative while embracing the roles, responsibilities and obligations of mother, wife, friend, minister, employee, Christian?

 What if creativity does not flow best into the limitless space we strive to create around ourselves? What if, instead, it is pressed out of us by the constant, repetitive, unending cycle of daily life? What if creativity is not the result of acting on our every desire, but rather what’s found after everything else has been drained from us?

 Maybe there, in the uncomfortable realities of our lives is where creativity is expressed, because it must be in order to survive the exhausting and the mundane. Maybe creativity is more incarnation than transcendence.

 Creativity of obligation requires us to show up with all our baggage and create something anyway.

 Two weeks after we first met we began recording an album. We have carved out space though it has been brief and hard won. Most of our creative process, however, has happened with children surrounding us, in dirty kitchens and cluttered cars.

 If we had all the time and resources in the world we could create something more grand, more elaborate, but not more beautiful. What results will be all of what we had to give in a brief period of time with pinched pennies and crying babies at our side.

 Our obligations do not stop us from creating, they compel us.

Hey, look at that—AP says I’m Trump Country!

crawford county map
See me up there in the upper right-hand corner?

As Percy would say, I’m “validated” like the young man who sees his own town in a film or lights up William Holden’s cigarette without acknowledging that he knows Holden knows he knows who Holden is, etc.

(p.s. This is not meant as a provocation, so please if you have anything bad to say about the current president, I would refer you to previous dust-ups at this blog on that issue, which I won’t even link to because I don’t think it bears any relevance to this post. Here, it’s all peace and joy and I don’t really care what you think about the current president – I’m making a Percian point here, which is much more important.

As a smoking/meat-smoking friend of mine in California might say, “Oh, you don’t like my politics? That’s nice. Did I mention that I bake bread?”

Except in my case I would say, “Did I mention I make a helluva good Chicken Cacciatore and that I can make you a martini that you will never forget? Sit down right there at my kitchen table and I’ll stir us a couple, and then let’s light up a smoke—cigar for you? Perfect!—and cigarettes (unfiltered) for me. Let’s talk then about the beauties of poems that completely nail the execution of a perfect enjambment of lines, of women who wear their hair down, of early R.E.M. albums and whether they were meant to be concept albums in the tradition of Pink Floyd and Yes but tinctured with a Southern Gothic ethos, of love in a time near the end of the world, and of children and how, one way or another, the little dears are going to get you out of bed in the morning. Yes—oh, and how’s your drink? See? I told you so….Cacciatore will be ready in about 20 minutes. How ‘bout another round?” )

 

Adult Strength (A Psychological Gallery)

adult strength

          I
Neuroses are not popular these days
Although my married friends all have them.
So they take meds and play
With possibilities. Otherwise, they don’t survive long
In the darkness. The vended pills, precise dosages at proper times,
The white scalloped paper cups half-filled
With tepid, highly chlorinated water.

My friends all pray their hearts out that their treasures
            Are not to be found in the dispensaries of this world

For the orderlies in the vineyard are few
            But the orderlies in the vineyard are strong.

          II
A woman I knew, not a friend, had married young
And spent her tenderness like a season’s first crop of honey
Unaware that a late-July blight is eating away at the honeycomb,
Aborting the queen. She always carries
The odor of late August hayfields, the tanned and broken stalks
Mown down and laid out beneath the sun in dusty rows.
She spreads her hands over my coverlet like a nurse in the war.

Her mind a cold bunker of last resort, she grew into her adult strength
With the soft shape of a slender teardrop hanging forever
In open space. I could not see her beyond that space and now
She carries on as if the world behind her eyes
Is counting down in dust motes to an explosion of lint beneath her bed.
I once watched her fall asleep in a sunny parlor chair,
The barbiturates pouted her lips to the edge of endurance.

As she slept, she spread her hands over the coverlet like a lover in the war.

          III
This poem is not a chair; it is a table of contents.
This poem is not a pen; it is ink spilled in a cold war with death.
This poem seeks to spread its hands out like wind that dents a clover field.
This poem is not words; it is the mind that sees,
Not a terminal palm tree (with apologies to Hartford Indemnity)
But a fist clenching at a handful of pills spilling out in all shapes and sizes.
It’s what’s seizing us:

We, out of our minds at the end of all possible poems.

          IV
Exempla abound: Take my friend the thinker. He once was
A political philosopher but now
He lives in the mountains, his back against the sea, reliving lore
From a long-dead civil war, his narrator’s voice grown silent as a gulag.
He teaches catechism to those who don’t care,
And even though it doesn’t pay well,
He believes the job is worth more than the money.

Or at least the money and maybe more.
But he was younger back when I knew him first; we both were.
He had a million wisdoms locked behind his eyes.
They were eyes, I recall, as blue as Kentucky clover.
His wife keeps the bottles hidden from visiting parishioners.
He keeps his wife hidden from
The blue shadow of winter, and even today

He will not come out from under that mountain’s blue shadow.

          V
Another case is another philosopher friend;
He had vowed himself for a while to a more pure kind of wisdom.
But relenting, he bound himself like Prometheus
To a lot of “ologies.” He’d drive himself crazy
When I wasn’t driving him to his head doctor. I forget
What happened to him the first time; but before long
He was concrete as an angel’s name again—

Yet still inconsolably abstracted
To the point of distraction all the same.
Now he does his own taxes, pays his bills on time
And keeps a sad eye on his wife—and she lives by the skin of his teeth,
That wife of his. Meanwhile, his life is a series
Of manila folders staggered neatly
On his desk between the blotter

And a pair of tapered brass pens
Set in their holders, sprouting from his desktop
Like a cuckold’s ears.
He could not know how his wife needed to open a vein.
She merely looked on in a mirror
At seven times seven years of some kind of luck
And discovered

Seven times seven years of beautiful loss staring back.

          VI
As for my own tendencies, they live on like business cards
Set on the careless edge of a bookcase.
Or, to my mind, I drift toward the ragged transient heaps camped out
Above heating grates near a subway station.
Could be trash. Could be human.
Either way, they continue on, unedited, in northern cities,
And either don’t know or don’t care.

Perhaps they are waiting for warmer weather that never comes.

          VII
Let us pray:

Dear Great Silences: —Miserere.

Dear Infinite Spaces: —Miserere.

Dear Orderly Universe: —Miserere.

Dear Successive Darknesses: —Miserere.

Pray for us, that ours may be the treasures of the dispensary.
Pray for us, that, unseen by the orderlies,
            We may stroll the vineyards in peace.

          VIII
Dressed in white trousers and jackets again tonight,
The needles are out like chromium fangs:
They glisten beneath the skittish glow of mercury vapor—
Lights Out.—Lights Out.—Lights Out.—now swallowed in darkness
Down this long gallery of tempered glass,
Through these long corridors of scuffed floors.
Then a fugitive sound.

Then a silence captured in the utopia of opposing mirrors.
Experience has taught that
Such a battle line never budges. Fixed as a star.
Lights out, but the lungs fill with insomnia like mustard gas.
And now I watch the imperious moon that hangs outside my window,
Its hooded eye appearing, peering
Into the long torpid hours that follow….

Like armies in the night, we all live in pillboxes these days.
We don’t pray for orderliness in the dispensary.
But we do pray that reinforcements come soon. Tonight. Now.
Lights out. Lights out.
Lights out.
We all live here as if our lives depended on it.
Tonight.

Now.

Out for a Larkin

crucifix-santa-croce-florence-italy

Walk into a Catholic church, and tell me what you see
A dead man, pierced and naked, hanging from a tree
A God you’re told to worship, though he looks like you and me
A dead man, pierced and naked, hanging from a tree
An ad that sells you sorrow, with some pain thrown in for free
A dead man, whipped and bloody, hanging from a tree
And you wonder how, with such a pitch, it ever came to be
A dead man, whipped and bloody, hanging from a tree
Since no one’s seen a dead man rise since AD 33
A dead man, sent to save us, hanging from a tree

Live-blogging the Brisket – Hour 4 & 5

Perhaps to temper the fire of my hubris with a little smoke of humility, in today’s Gospel reading (Rite of ’62) our Lord’s words were a fitting reminder of priorities, even as my Weber was attending to its business, I should be minding my own:

“Therefore I say to you, be not solicitous for your life, what you shall eat, nor for your body, what you shall put on. Is not the life more than the meat: and the body more than the raiment? Behold the birds of the air, for they neither sow, nor do they reap, nor gather into barns: and your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are not you of much more value than they?” (Matthew 6:24-26)

But then after returning home from Mass, I wondered if our Lord also considered cats in these calculations…

1

 

Alas, they seemed undeterred by maledictions and threats of malefactions, should they even be considering carnoklepty…

2

Of course, I should have trusted n the Lord (and it being a Sunday too!)…

3

Jonathan Sacks on Rediscovering Our Moral Purpose

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, this year’s winner of Great Britain’s distinguished Templeton Prize, delivered an exceptional acceptance speech on “Rediscovering Our Moral Purpose”. He begins with the concept of outsourcing, of all things, tracing its development in history and in the progress of the West in particular. And then contrasts this outsourcing with a necessary spiritual Korrektiv, insourcing.

Here is an excerpt; read the whole thing here.

Our computers and smartphones have developed larger and larger memories, from kilobytes to megabytes to gigabytes, while our memories, and those of our children have got smaller and smaller. In fact, why bother to remember anything these days if you can look it up in a microsecond on Google or Wikipedia?

But here, I think, we made a mistake. We confused history and memory, which are not the same thing at all. History is an answer to the question, “What happened?” Memory is an answer to the question, “Who am I?” History is about facts, memory is about identity. History is his-story. It happened to someone else, not me. Memory is my story, the past that made me who I am, of whose legacy I am the guardian for the sake of generations yet to come. Without memory, there is no identity. And without identity, we are mere dust on the surface of infinity.

Lacking memory we have forgotten one of the most important lessons to have emerged from the wars of religion in the 16th and 17th century and the new birth of freedom that followed. Even to say it sounds antiquarian but it is this: a free society is a moral achievement. Without self-restraint, without the capacity to defer the gratification of instinct, and without the habits of heart and deed that we call virtues, we will eventually lose our freedom.

That is what Locke meant when he contrasted liberty, the freedom to do what we ought, with licence, the freedom to do what we want. It’s what Adam Smith signalled when, before he wrote The Wealth of Nations, he wrote The Theory of Moral Sentiments. It’s what Washington meant when he said, “Human rights can only be assured among a virtuous people.” And Benjamin Franklin when he said, “Only a virtuous people are capable of freedom.” And Jefferson when he said, “A nation as a society forms a moral person, and every member of it is personally responsible for his society.”

Whan that Aprill, with his shoures soote

Chaucer_ellesmere1

The Official Poet of the Year of Mercy

‘… Still With You.’

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

‘… I rose up and am still with you.’

Psalm 139: 18

‘… His Sepulchre Shall Be Glorious.’

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

In that day the root of Jesse, who stands for an ensign of the people, him the Gentiles shall beseech, and his sepulchre shall be glorious.’

Isaiah 11: 10