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And Have You Heard?

peguy2

IN MEMORIAM: CHARLES PEGUY (Jan. 7, 1873 – Sept. 5, 1914)

Athena in reverse, the bullet hits
The pate and pierces deep within the folds
Of reason, music, memory. In bits
And pieces, death releases what it holds
And faith is stopped in mid-stride. While the war
Continues counting on, a mournful muse
Has come to mark her dear lieutenant’s hour:
“He came to speak his mind on flesh, accuse
His blood for God, indict the empty thrones
And cast his songs like crowns.” The western world
Now spills more blood across his heap of stones.
Long after Mars had scattered, banners furled,
His tongue, unflagging, speaks this dying word:
O mon Dieu! Mes enfants! And have you heard?

Reminder

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Post your poems, prayers, and spankings in the birthday boy combox.

My Email to Garrison Keillor re. Walker Percy

Dear Mr. Keillor,

You and Walker Percy both occupy honored places in my personal constellation of literary stars.

That’s why I was shocked and disappointed by your treatment of Dr. Percy in the May 28, 2014 edition of The Writer’s Almanac. Percy never worked as a psychiatrist. In fact, although he was an M.D., he never really practiced medicine. He contracted tuberculosis while conducting autopsies during a residency in pathology at the end of medical school.

And that synopsis of The Moviegoer (which thankfully only appears in the printed version of TWA) is just as horribly askew. Binx Bolling is a stockbroker who goes to the movies but “in an attempt to get over a nervous breakdown” reeks of having been pulled out of someone’s ass who never read the book and doesn’t really care.

I’m not sure I can trust what you say on TWA anymore.

Maybe what you need is a crusty old librarian who cares about real facts and knows how to dig into reliable sources. Coincidentally, I am just such a librarian (and poor starving poet to boot, having earned $100 from TWA, thank you very much, and about $3.95 in royalties since publishing my book). I would be interested in supplementing my meager poet-librarian’s salary, if you’re hiring.

I didn’t start off this email thinking it would turn into a job application, but the spirit surprises us sometimes.

Let me know what you think. In any case, I’m looking forward to what you come up with for Walker Percy the next time his birthday comes round.

All the best,
Jonathan Potter
Spokane WA

My Daughter at Seven

When you were in the womb the
World was a perilous place.
The doctors were full of doubts
About you staying where you
Were, where you needed to be
To do the work of being
And becoming a person.

But you stubbornly stayed put,
Your mother remained calm, your
Sister and I observed the
Hours until you arrived —
A shock of black hair on your
Head, contentment on your face,
Dreams brewing in your dark eyes.

Summer was upon us and
The perils of the world turned
Soft as butter. Your sister
Looked after you with us and
Soon you were smiling, walking,
Talking, singing, doing all
That young and thriving souls will.

You loved baby dolls and soon
You had a few with cribs and
Cradles spread around your room
For lullabies and naptimes.
Hand-me-down princess dresses
From your sister turned the world
Into a magical place.

And when we went to Disney-
Land, you wore a different dress
Each day and demanded that
I fly you from ride to ride,
Which I was glad to do as
Best I could, to simulate
The proper mode of travel.

For you were light as feathers
And I was a gust of wind
Thrilled to lift you up and take
You places. You went to school,
Following your sister’s paths,
But carving your own unique
Grooves and stylings on the way.

Now you’re seven and it’s been
A breakthrough year — up, down,
Spinning all around — breakthrough!
Swimming, soccer, monkey bars,
Learning to ride a bike all
On your own. Ukulele!
Roller skates! How I love you.

Haiku alert

A cake of ice flowed
Towards Joe on his birthday morn
With forty-five flames.

Birthday alert

Once there was a poet named JOB
Whose lines would have wound round the globe
If laid end to end,
Fingered and penned
And cascading down from his lobe.

JOB's Lobes

‘Get me rewrite!’ ‘The Man Comes Around’ edition

When out on the lawn, there arose such a clatter
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter…
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh….

There’s a man looking ’round judging souls,
And he decides who gets toys and who gets coal.
Everybody can be seen from the North Pole.
You will hear the hooves of reindeer touching down
When the man comes around.

You’ll listen from your bed, as cold as ice,
To the tally of each virtue and of each vice.
Will your name be set down among the ‘Nice’,
Or will you shout or pout or cry or frown
When the man comes around?

CHORUS

Hear the jingle, hear the jangle;
One hundred silver bells a-ringing;
Girls and boys are rising as the twelve drummers drum:
Some are ivy and some are holly,
Some are jaded and some are jolly,
The hour of the Man in Red is come.

And the stockings hang by the chimney!
(The children are all trimming their tree.)
The stockings hang by the chimney!
(No sugar-plums will dance that night for thee.)

Until the daybreak, Pedro Negro, Peter Black,
Or the Krampus crams bad children in his sack,
And carries them away upon his back
To beat them, eat them, or to see them drowned
When the man comes around.

Whoever is naughty, let him be naughty still.
Whoever is joyous, let him be joyous still.
Whoever is toyless, let him be toyless still.
The twice-checked list at last shall be unwound
When the man comes around.

CHORUS

A trick on kids, or something more profound,
When the man comes around?

… And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight,
‘Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night’….

My Daughter at Ten

My daughter was born at the edge of day
When autumn’s equinox was a distant
Memory, the days in our northern town
Narrowing down like light through a keyhole,
Her mother and I praying for that light
To shine in our dawning daughter’s heart that
First day, praying for wisdom to show her—
You—the way to open the door and let
The light flood in to fill the room of her
Life with the light there waiting in her eyes.

We brought you home, uncertain of how to
Love you with the love that overwhelmed us,
How to protect you from our own mistakes
And the mistakes of others everywhere
That swirl round Earth’s atmosphere unaware
Of fragile just-born beings lying there,
Asleep, soft, smelling of springtime dewdrops,
Moon petals, sunbeam sweet pea barley tea,
How to keep you safe from danger but not
Safe from love, not safe from every good thing.

Some time passed, the sun and the moon sped by,
Birds flew, dogs barked in their turn, words upon
Words piled up all around you, wooden blocks
Formed into towers to tumble, we moved
To a new house, bigger, with a big yard,
Grandparents kept watch in their turn, new friends
Appeared, new places were tried, names turned over
On lips and tongue with laughter and cries of
Joy and dismay, aunts, uncles, and cousins,
Walks in the park, everything happening.

You were as precocious as the sunrise,
Singing and speaking, running and walking,
In and out of everything, your mind a
Light, your eyes open, your heart burning flames
Made of music and color, and yes, you
Gave us some trouble, too, we not always
Able to contain the spilling over
Urgency of wonder you couldn’t stop,
And then your sister was born and you were
The guide to her light, the sister teacher.

Preschool, Kindergarten, teachers smiling
Into your light, letting their warmth and yours
Merge in moments of time, good friends and best
Friends concocting adventures on the spot,
Scooters, skinned knees, nature walks, collecting
Pinecones, leaves, bugs, rocks, slugs, crawdads, fairies,
You learned by going, learned to ride a bike,
First on a grassy slope, then on a broad
Expanse of flat asphalt near an ice cream
Shop, and finally on sidewalks and streets.

You paved the world in reams of paper drawn
With pen and ink, pencil and paint, light and dark
Imagined things drawn from the world and made
New by the newness of you, you sang songs
Made out of the same intricate dreamstuff
And carried on dramatic productions,
Star-crossed narratives, comedic word play,
And I looked at you and your sister in
The rearview mirror, wondering at all
The mystery let loose within your souls.

The uniform you wore you wore so well
Back then, not for uniformity’s sake
But for the sake of style and tradition,
For the way the light shown on the fabric,
The way a kind of music played across
The pattern, especially when you sang
In the bleak midwinter, poor as I am,
What can I give him, give to him my heart,
When you sang that in the Cathedral with
All of heaven’s angels pausing to hear.

Earth stood hard as iron then, but summer
Softened the world and warmed the changing time
With a view of the strong flowing river
Where it came down from the falls past children
Playing, you and your new and old friends there,
And then a new school, new teachers, new light
On old thoughts growing and changing, looking
Past the past to see continuity
In all things, past the future to see the
Present moment resting there in your heart.

That moment of rest is there inside you
Always and forever for you to hold
Steady when you need to and you will find
A river of light flows through in full and
Bursting life and love, love of mother, love
Of father, sister, grandparents, cousins,
Aunts and uncles, friends and teachers, angels,
Saints, and God the source and fountain of love,
The love that there is no hiding from, the
Love that will never ever leave your side.

I am writing this on the eve of your
Tenth birthday and I cannot find the words
To say how much you mean to me, Holland,
To say how I am still as overwhelmed
As the day you were born, still overwhelmed
With love for you, still blinking in the light
Of you, still drinking in the mystery
And the majesty of you, and praying
For the wisdom to know how to let you
Open your door and fill the world with light.

Lord Don’t Let That Cold Wind Blow

A song by Kevin Welch

Lost Renoir Discovered

la-fête-d'anniversaire