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Archives for 2017

Sign of the Times (Gone By)

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Ripe fruit left hanging on a tree: a sure sign that your children are not spending as much time at home as they used to.

Is Pope Francis a Heretic?

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Hey, I’m just asking a question. Kidding! Actually, it’s Marist priest Fr. James L. Heft, head of the Institute for Advanced Catholic Studies at the University of Southern California, who is asking — and presumably answering — that question as part of the Institute’s Condon Lecture series. Friends of Korrektiv will no doubt recall the mini-Summit – JOB, Angelico, yours truly — held at the Institute’s conference on the Future of the Catholic Literary Imagination a couple of years back, when Wiseblood’s Joshua “Feather Pen” Hren stood up in the middle of Tobias Wolff’s talk and said, “Me. I’m the future of the Catholic literary imagination.” Notice was, as they say, served.*

Anyway, I’m guessing Fr. Heft’s answer is going to be firmly in the negative, but I did thrill to see the word “heretic” in such a rarefied setting.

Dept. of Rejected New Yorker Cartoons, New Editor Edition

noodz

Well, The New Yorker got a new cartoon editor, so to celebrate, I sent a new cartoon.

Elsewhere

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Korrektiv is gearing up for a great and productive 2018. (It’s good to let publishing start-ups lie fallow every few years, planting only word-fixing crops like JOB’s poetry to replenish the creative urge.) In the meantime, Friend of Korrektiv and Wiseblood wizard Joshua “Word Bird” Hren has a new poem up over at First Things. Read it, and then raise your hand if you had to look up “numinous” to make sure you had it right. Now raise your hand if you had to look up “logikēn latreian.” Søren says, Raise your hand.

Wine Country Fires, California

wildfire wine

                  A wineless man on your seat of native rock.
                              -Oedipus at Colonus

October 2017

When anger flames in torrid waves,
      Component fires and torrid ash,
      The wine that rivers ocean’s crush
      Beneath the land beneath our flesh
Embroils its blood in soil that drives
Imbibing tongues in speechless droves
      To writhe and rave like Tantalus
            At all that frank and fruitless fall survives.

The flow of sweetest liquor from out
      The arteries of Bacchus to veins
      Of Hades’ quenchless burning vines—
      Now hush our wish in panic winds
That lust for soot and loss. By sweat
And brow each duct and gland is sweet
      As ash to taste—and snapping seines
            Are sorrow’s final scenes erupting from the fruit.

When fury cruises the rooted ferrules
       Of California hills, each crest,
      A purple burn now bruised by fist
      And kick of flame, jets a tempest
That slows the dribble of stolen jewels;
And diamondbacks now rue their rule
Of descending ocean-greens which fuel
      A rattled jujube forest
            With gimcrack roots like crucibles crossed—

The dials of day shatter the sun
      And splice the starry dais of night
      Into Persephone’s inferno, hot
      And swift to wilt with volcanic hate.
With flaring dragons’ wings one
Wincing and glancing ember can spin
      The worms of circumstance to cut
            Antigone’s acres from vintage possession.

Thus, a subterranean succubus
      And its phantom spirits drain away
      While Ariadne’s leafy array
      Collapses: a funereal display
Of scorched heddles and phoenixes—
Tarantula winds now spin and truss
      The trellised moments, fruit as fey
            As tragedy’s sightless path to Colonus.

When sparks at root engender quick
      And truncated lightning, a satanic drop
      Of flammable fruit, its molten sap
      Melts these pacific sands. The map
And glass that chart the fickle rock
Of feckless Sisyphus now trick
      To cull the strangling spill and slip
      Of sloughing dust, a chaos sifting at our back.

When raging nature’s racing wind
      Draws a crop of glimmering flint
      And slashes this flashing monument
      To the palisades of time, spent
With flowing ebb, the tide is spanned
And cursed with spawning cinder’s brand,
      The heaven-falling harvest bent
            To hold us fast and take our final stand.

Still, netting proof’s reproof
      The eye that hangs by lash and lid
      Is witness to the arid mood
      Now sere with smoking wands of wood;
Our hands now poised to grope in love
Another mothering flame—from roof
      To groin—now wineless, blind and sad
            As Oedipus—house-erect yet fathering a grave.

Adam’s Alphabet: A Poem for Advent

Adam's Alphabet

All faith consists in Jesus Christ and in Adam,
and all morality in lust and in grace.

-Pascal

Adam’s anguished alphabet bungles the blood
Because Beelzebub became the cause
Creating crass chaos—deadliest of deaths—
Demanding destruction, what Eden earned.
Eve elected her fervent fellow, framed
For feting that green-gartered gallant who grounds
Grey the groynes and hearthstones that heat his hell.
Her heart, his hands, iuncta iuvant,
Inked up and iodine-red, judge the jet juice
Jerked from jaundiced kinks, kiting and kept
Kinetic in kleptic larceny’s lust.
Lo, law and ministrations to mammon
Manumit nothing but the nihil noted
Now in nations, urb et orb, and ordained
Officially on parchment’s passing pips.
Past passages and quotidian quandaries,
Queer the question: Quid est veritas? Right
Remains a rash, a scandalous stigma
Settling the scored sill of temple and thought—
Together taking umbrage underground
Unable to unearth all the virgin virtues
Villified by a vicious, warring world.
Well would it be if excellence exempted
Xerxes from Yahweh’s yawning yen, yearning,
Yoked to yesterday’s yondermost zone,
Zany with zephyrs for Adam’s ashes.

Zealots of zero, though, yank yammering yesses
Yoemen yell from sexless texts — Man’s own
X-rayed lexicons of wode warnings.
Willing, the world waits, revamping vaunted
Venus’s vanities. Uranus unfurled
Understands useless time as torn tissues
Tied to each solemn syllable of sound
Signifying a sore sight — reason’s right
Rescued from this round reliquary’s quagmire.
Qualified, the quest for peace, each person’s plight,
Perforce prays to obviate Eve’s ovaries:
Observe in one alone who negates and nips
Negative notions of mankind, her mother-maned
Mantle magnifying a love lauded
Lusty, loud and long to kismet’s Kαλον.
Keeping kindhearted for Joseph the just,
Jerusalem’s jewel invites the in-dreamt
I AM to inhabit her hallowed house.
He inspires, instead, gaining from her grant
Given ground foreclosed from the fell fall
Free as fields, fallow to its fruitless ends.
Envious, the enemy, dares this dreamed
Damnation a done deal. But incarned
Caritas came to christen blood and breathe
Balm for ancient agony’s ache, always
As Adam’s alphabet amended in ‘zblood.

Mars Hill, J.F. and JOB

powers typewriter

“I think what Powers is trying to say is ‘No look, there’s a whole other side: there’s a lot of boring Tuesday afternoon at 4 o’clock stuff going on in the priesthood.’ And I think that’s what he wanted to show. I think he wanted to show that the priesthood was not glamorous, but that there was a profound struggle going on.”

Variations on a theme

He who hesitates is lost
He who masticates is flossed
He who vegetates is mossed
He who masturbates is tossed
He who capitulates is bossed
He who gesticulates is crossed
He who intoxicates is sauced

Short Story: A Poem

“For my pleasure I had as soon write free verse as play tennis with the net down.”
—Robert Frost

*
I. The Boxer Rebellion

Your turn of that page
has opened a drawer.
My home. I am his underwear.

He’ll always show you
the contents of his drawers
but never what he’s wearing.

He’s that kind of fellow.
But I’ll give you a clue:
I am his only pair of boxers.

To put it briefly,
he suffers a shortage.
Why only one of me?

Why only one day
of freedom per week
when he could have seven?

That is the question
I once heard
his girlfriend ask.

He replied like Robert Frost
that a little freedom
is almost too much

and went home and
put on briefs.
Short changed.

*
II. A Brief History of the Work Week

Briefs #1 (Sunday)
Freedom’s just another word for lost
In funhouse laundromats where dreams are tossed.

Briefs #2 (Monday)
You’ve got to work to make a living wage,
You’ve got to button up your daily rage.

Briefs #3 (Tuesday)
You’ve got to count your syllables and keep
Your cock and scrotum snug and fast asleep.

Briefs #4 (Wednesday)
You’ve got to keep your humpday hopes pressed down,
It makes no difference if you smile or frown.

Briefs #5 (Thursday)
You might love her, she might love you, but then
Your Adam’s apple bulges up again.

Briefs #6 (Friday)
Thank God? Well, maybe in the morning light,
But Eden’s underwear gets torn at night.

Briefs Chorus (all together)
Like Frost said, don’t play tennis without net.
Don’t let your balls fly free from match to set.

*
III. The Girl Who Was Saturday

I like it when my man is frisky
But when he drinks too much he gets so frisky
Like a shooting star on a Saturday night
He shines so bright but then he passes out.

I like it when he takes me out dancing,
I like it when he cuts loose a little bit, you know,
On a Saturday night after a long week of work,
When he takes off that tie, loosens up his collar, and swings like a birch tree.

I like it when my man gets frisky
And I like to drink and have a good time
But if he drinks too much too fast he passes out too soon
And when I’m ready for the fun to continue on, he’s gone.

He’s lying there in his boxer shorts. I love those boxers,
The ones with the palm trees and the Christmas lights,
He looks so peaceful sleeping there, like an angel, like a fallen soldier, like a child,
But I want my man to wake up and take me to the promised land.

I like it when my man is frisky, when he’s had just a little whisky.
But when I see him on a Wednesday or a Thursday,
He never has those boxers on, he’s wound up tight and white,
But I love my man when he gets frisky on a Saturday night.

*
IV. The Naked Poet Speaks

O boxers, I hear the siren call
Of your easy-open fly
And your free and airy ways.

O briefs, you’ve
held me close and kept me
Safe since childhood.

O Adam, O Eve, O Fruit
Of the Loom, what have you wrought?
Who told you you were naked?

Since childhood, I’ve been
Burdened and blessed with the words
For the days of the week.

I’ve been clothed
With the fabric of toil and dread,
Of yesterday and tomorrow.

But now I stand undressed
Before the dresser of my shame,
I stare into the abyss of my drawers.

In this present moment
I ask of you, O Robert Frost: speak
Your will and testament to me.

*
V. The Shorts Not Worn
(with apologies to Robert Frost and his underwear)

Two shorts submerged in a yellow drawer
And sorry I could not model both
And be one wearer, long I wore
The tighter briefs till I was sore
And then I bent and scratched my undergrowth.

Then took the boxers, just as fair
And having no doubt the looser fit
They were the ones I wanted to wear;
So easy to whip it out and piss anywhere,
The opening truly being made for it.

And both that morning equally lay
In my drawer with shirtsers and socksers.
Oh, I kept the briefs for another day!
Yet knowing how freedom has to have its way
I doubted if I should ever change from boxers.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
On Korrektiv.org ages and ages hence.
Two pairs of shorts in a drawer, and I—
I wore the ones more loose to thigh
And that has made all the difference.

*
VI. Whose Woods These Are

We hope you’ve enjoyed our brief exposé.
The frost is coming, so bundle up, okay?
Be it brief or boxer, boxer or brief,
Relax, unwind, get some relief.

*
VII. Epilogue

The page has turned, the drawer
is closed. The leaves are
falling from the trees.

One brisk fall morn, in the middle of the week,
whistling a carefree tune, he put me on,
slipped on some pants, a shirt, socks and loafers.

I said, Man are you puttin’ me on?
He said: Well,
I’m taking the day off.

And we went shopping
over at that dress-for-less place
and bought a bunch more of me.

Two packs of three, to be exact,
and that’s enough to form a tribe,
for seven days of freedom every goddam week.

The woodchucks and squirrels
are squirreling away their nuts
in the backyard as daylight declines.

But his are hanging loose now
as he kneels and asks his girl
if she’ll tie the knot with him next summer.

So it seems that just when he found
his freedom, he gives it up.
I’m not surprised. He’s that kind of fellow.

*
*
*
THE END

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Birthday Limerick

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A fellow named Potter was born
On this date in a stable, forlorn
And the angels sang Hank
Williams songs while they drank
Irish ale from the night till the morn.

Nicholas Frankovich on Several Things

At National Review Online. Like so many other writers I’ve discovered at the magazine over the years, Nicholas Frankovich has become the guy to go to for the Catholic culture overview.

On Trump’s intrusion into sports:

The Boston Red Sox won the World Series in 2004. A few months later, they went to the White House for the traditional round of presidential congratulations. Manny Ramirez was a no-show. Why? He didn’t like the president, George W. Bush, a baseball man himself, a former part-owner of the Texas Rangers? Sox officials said Ramirez was visiting his sick grandmother. Boston won the Series again a few years later, and the president invited the team back to the White House. Again, no Ramirez. Bush’s response? A shrug, a teasing smirk. “I guess his grandmother died again,” he said.

On the decline in Catholic Literature:

The traditional Catholicism that is the setting of that backward-looking novel included a lot of looking backward itself, of course. That’s what made Catholicism traditional. For believers immersed in the faith, the past was alive no less than the present. They could see ghosts. A heavyweight from the Norman Mailer generation of American letters once commented on the Catholic writers of her generation. They were sure of themselves, she recalled, though not preachy. Spend time with them and it was hard to escape the impression that they knew something you didn’t. That’s gone. So the flowers in the garden aren’t what they used to be? Blame the flowers if you like, but it remains the case that the soil has been depleted.

Here he is on reasoning behind the Novus Ordo:

In the 20th century, Church leaders began to advocate an effort, more deliberate and thorough than in the past, to enculturate the faith among the various nations of the Third World: Catholic missionaries should learn, and learn to love, local customs and languages and to translate the faith into forms that would be meaningful and appealing to indigenous peoples. Implicit in their argument was the need for the Church to pour the Romanità out of Catholicism so that vessel could accommodate the new wine of non-Western cultures.

Read Sacrosanctum Concilium (1963), the Vatican II blueprint for liturgical reform, and you will notice a lot of concern for the mission lands. References to them dot the document, and in their glow the reader is led to imagine that the point of the many broadly sketched recommendations is only sensible and moderate, generous but not extravagant.

In the mission lands, let bishops adapt the liturgy to local cultures. Trust their circumspection and sober judgment: “Provisions shall also be made, when revising the liturgical books, for legitimate variations and adaptations to different groups, regions, and peoples, especially in mission lands, provided that the substantial unity of the Roman rite is preserved; and this should be borne in mind when drawing up the rites and devising rubrics.”

No sooner had Western Catholics digested and largely shrugged in agreement to the gist of this plan for liturgical reform than they discovered that Rome now counted them, too, as inhabitants of mission lands, in effect. In America, English was introduced into the Mass by increments, which meant of course that Latin was ushered out at the same pace, until the process was complete in the fall of 1970.

The movement away from the sacred, classical language and toward the vernacular was accompanied by a corresponding change in tone and style, from solemn and formal to less solemn and less formal. William F. Buckley Jr. recorded for posterity a typical reaction of many a Catholic: both a sense of loss and a glum resolve not to be sour about it. Surely some good could come of this?

Night Rain

                …presently after they shall be honored and exalted,
                shall come to nothing and vanish like smoke.

Our kingdoms shall not last. The rain says that
In every word that drips from eaves tonight—
Soliloquies in sluices, gutters spit
Their gargle out on the driveway’s concrete
Like morning coffee pouring cold and hard
Into tomorrow’s undreamt cups. The words

Of rain are not to be trusted. Tonight
The roof sizzles with them—like meat on a spit.
We listen late between thunder’s concrete
Exemptions and windy inclusions that
Prescribe our mortared brick. End-stopping hard
And final as a trumpet-blast of words,

Each kingdom states the risk. What more concrete,
More sound and safe a thing to say than that?
But liquid eloquence is drowning night
And counting syllables with all the spit
And polish of modern minds that, pressed hard,
Mushroom haloed plumes, like songs without words….

What kingdom ever lasts? For those who spit
Upon their mothers’ graves have made concrete
The mystery that reigns in darkness—that
Which irrigates our time: The rain tonight
Succumbs to its own rules—its laws are hard
And fast as tongues evaporate their words.

Envoi
So rain takes note of rust, and toads (discrete
As thoughtful lovers) crowd the waterspout—
The weather front decays to scraps of snarled
And scudding cloud—the kingdoms of this world.

“One of Those”

bartender pic

FOR JOHN LYON, ON HIS 85TH BIRTHDAY

Some say the cocktail’s genesis
       Was — fiat decoctae — New Orleans:
The Sazarac, wry antithesis
       Of Northernmost mixorians.

Some say it claims Midwestern root
       In sipping supper clubs that branded
The Brandy Old Fashioned—and put
       As paid the spirit tongues demanded.

Some say the how and when of it
       Was sourced more cosmopolitan—
A toast to Peter Minuit
       Who drank the first Manhattan in.

But whiskey, bitters, wine and fruit
       (As democracy often shows)
Will always win the local vote
       Decocting taste with “one of those.”

Rally, Korrektiv, rally!

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Take up our struggle to print books;
To you, from failing press we look.
Some cash? It’s yours, so spend it well.
If ye break fifteen grand, that’s swell!
We shall rejoice. By hook or crook
Shall Wiseblood last.

Rain on the Wing

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The gold of Mexico is at the airport, the sticks
Of Cortes in my basement. We are free

To call the words of wisdom what a fool
Would warn us against. Ignore the rusty hook.

I don’t farm and history is a field I walk
With icons and trinkets in hand, lures and bobs.

The grey coat of heather and haggard face of coal
Conspire patterns in acres of mud-born puddles…

The myth of the trout I never caught is the net
I never set. It pulses with muscles, gills, scales

And the rainbow memory of a river – caught
Instead. We could have never been friends —

I never learned to fish and Cancer dried out
Between the stinging constellations. Religion

Was kissing the claws of my secret cowardice,
Letting Christ off the hook and stilling the plow

While foolhardy farmers, who know better than me,
Take their tools to the city – asking,

“Where’s the rain?” The hawk and wolf ask too,
And find their answer in the tombs

That false spring makes of fallen boughs
And rocks pushed around by thaw and freeze.

Blood between your teeth, you took wing one day,
Despite the rain, because of the blood,

And never looked down, not even once:
What Cortes had between the pages I’d never have.

What Montezuma wanted, crossed sticks
And shiny stones and savannahs spreading out

Beneath us, I could never break.
But the river broke the trout that broke

The river.

The House of Haddix: First Mansion

for Louise Cowan

Wisdom builds her house,
But folly with her own hands tears it down.
– Proverbs 14:1

You enter the house to see the house, four walls
And foundation under constant hazard
Of frost and crumbling emotions in time.
You enter the house to see what the house
Is not: these four walls and seven mansions,
The ghostly heads turned from the weariness
Of history, the keepers of the shades
Now gone down to sacred rest and left restless,
Unburied. Enter the house and the senses detect
A quiet genius undisturbed as attic air,
Locked in a tomb, no part of the fixtures
But like a fiction, finding the locus
Where object and memory meet, escape
Time, and maintain vigilance over what
From root cellar grows in the house of Haddix:
Expressed, the elegant elegiacs
In the dust and mold, the fingers of bone
Trace the moistened tracks a snail will make,
Moving toward inevitable lessons of the salt-lick.

Grace of God and raise your arms…Flood!

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So we had a flood – and thought it was a good time to have a craw boil, Nawlins style….

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Potatoes, 10 minutes; Chicken thighs, 5 minutes; Corn 3 minutes (after return to rolling boil); crawdads, 3 minutes; Shrimp 3 minutes; sausage (what the hell!). And finished off with Peychaud-laden (five dashes!) Manhattans (actually, at that point, frick! – might as well call them Birminghams!). Then cigars and port wine and conversation. Not a bad way to face the flood.

And her hallway moves
Like the ocean moves
And her hallway moves
Like the sea
Like the sea
She says “no, no, no, no harm will come your way”
She says “bring it on down, bring on the wave”
She says “nobody done no harm”
Grace of God and raise your arms
She says “face it and it’s a place to stay”
This, this is the way it was
This, this is the way it is
When the water come rushing, rushing in
She says
She says “anytime”
Raise your arms
Flood
And her hallway
Like…Like…Like a million voices call my name
Like a million voices calling
Not now, not never again…
Sitting here, now in this bar for hours
Strange men rent strange flowers
Seconds to…

One day in New Ionia or Tennessee, as the case may be…

straightlinedef

Do you read? Do you read? Are you in trouble? How did you get in trouble? If you are in trouble, have you sought help? If you did, did help come? If it did, did you accept it? Are you out of trouble? What is the character of your consciousness? Are you conscious? Do you have a self? Do you know who you are? Do you know what you are doing? Do you love? Do you know how to love? Are you loved? Do you hate? Do you read me? Come back. Repeat. Come back. Come back. Come back.

(CHECK ONE)