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Archives for December 2014

The tightrope walker is a very good talker

Advent, the Thirteenth Day: Paul John, Edited


…et magnificate eum omnes populi.

In India, the morning shimmers saffron –
The noon, and after, heats the henna’s hue;
Its evening’s curried sun, a wrinkled chevron,
Evaporates the Raj – and edits blue
From sea and sky. So Sanjay casks his Paul John
In liquid time that magnifies these thirteen
Diurnal turns of tongue – and Advent’s days
Affirm this foreign concept. Flavor plays
With prejudice, and morning, noon and evening
Condense their essence: fluid amber, smooth
And smoked with cinnamon. The air we breathe
Imbibes its ounce of light – much like believing
Will find its birth in humble origin:
For even Shiva cannot hold the sun.



The Rev. James Martin, a Jesuit priest and editor at large of America, the Catholic magazine, said he believed that Francis was at least asserting that “God loves and Christ redeems all of creation,” even though conservative theologians have said paradise is not for animals.

“He said paradise is open to all creatures,” Father Martin said. “That sounds pretty clear to me.”

Advent, the Twelfth Day: Monkey Shoulder, Blended Malt


Deus autem spei repleat vos omni gaudio…

To see it happen – malt men shoveling out
The barley mounds with spooning blades, a mouth
Of spit per spade, the rollers leveling out
The grainy graft as hard as God’s own truth –
That’s why the motto for the malters’ guild
Is taken straight from Ovid, undistilled:
My soul would speak the change of forms to shapes
More strange…. The mash-up drained like blood from grapes
In triple batches renders something bolder –
This twelfth-night blend for Advent’s dozen days.
Such labored love, the digging ache repays
In kind to arching arms. Like Monkey Shoulder,
What sorrow was becomes the joy that is –
Through incarnation, metamorphosis.

Advent, the Eleventh Day: Glennfiddich (18 Year Old)


…arundinem vento agitate?

On frigid nights the hinds and harts are hunkered
In curls of fur. So hearing sleet and snow
Regale the air, you shelve your earthen tankard
For Glennfiddich in your Glenncairn. You know
That when that valley swallows hard, its weather
Can swirl for weeks. You sip and lean to bother
The hearth from sparks to flames. The kitchen clock
Now inventories – tick by forceful tick –
Your mind: Eleven days of Advent vessels;
The strength of eighteen years in hand. This storm
Of moments may subside, or form a corm
Of litanies that store the Christmas wassails:
The embryo of every minute’s hoard
Reveals its role as servant first – then lord.

Advent, the Tenth Day: Glen Garioch – 1797 Founders Reserve


Ecce qui mollibus vestiuntur, in dommibus regum sunt.

The bonded trade and the proof of Glen Garioch
Reveal themselves among the skeptic songs
That marked the region, brave yet chary
Of hidden fonts replacing crystal springs.
What’s arid truth but history? Yet Advent
Insists we drink this tenth – another day meant
To stretch Oldmeldrum’s trade of woolen hose
Across the hairy legs of Clio, muse
Of epic fancies. Swirling culminations
Of barley’s virtues, though, discern by nose
And tongue the proper mark – the way the Bruce
Deduced his allies from his dark lustrations.
The lesson learned? A king is known
By crowning deeds, not made by deeded crown.

Advent, the Ninth Day: Auchentoshan – Three Wood


et vita erat lux hominum...

So break your fast (but only by a little)
As all the crows of Glasgow occupy
A corner field. Kilpatrick’s hills will bottle
And Auchentoshan triple verify
This Advent day, the ninth to scare the shadows
Of night from day. Dispersed to snowy meadows,
The rooks and ravens plague the winter’s white
Like cankers in the sunlight – cold delight
For rabble hosts who pilfer gold and sliver
From pillaged villages. In full retreat
Such corvine consensus recalls defeat
At empire’s edge, bravado’s rank palaver
Nonsensical as Caesar’s urge to tax
Expressions of the world in tablet wax.

Birth of a journalist


…or, for that matter, a novelist. Joseph Mitchell, author of Up in the Old Hotel, the book that taught me about listening to other people’s stories, remembers the landscape of his boyhood. Read it and maybe weep a little.

I used to climb a tremendous white oak high up on the hill of the branch, from one of whose topmost limbs, hidden by leaves, I could look out on a wide panorama of small farms on the southern side of the branch mostly owned by Negro farmers and watch people at work in cotton and tobacco fields who were entirely oblivious of course to the fact that they were being watched and being watched secretly and from aloft and from afar, a situation that made me feel Olympian but at the same time curiously lonely and alien and uneasy and cut off from the rest of the human race, the way a spy might feel, or a Peeping Tom.

Christmas Card

Advent, the Eighth Day: Dalmore (15 Year Old)


Quaecumque scripta sunt, ad nostram doctrinam scripta sunt…

Well north of Inverness, the Alness river
Elucidates the ways that sunshine reads
Its rippled, stippled deeps – its sweeter water
Reveals the signature of nestled tides.
More shine than burn, this flowing fire makes the Dalmore
Describe the double candle wicks that flicker
This Advent’s second Sunday, the eighth campaign
To rise and set by spinning clock’s design.
In opposition, strategies of darkness
And tactics nothingness would legislate
Become the tomes of sinfulness and cite
Our sentences of death. But mercy works less
To ratify such pacts of blood deferred:
It cribs our meaning in its cradled word.