Saturday, March 31, 2018

Asesino Lent-o: Four By The Growlers

These first three were recorded almost a year ago, when I kept catching the same cold.

And this one, recently recorded, I'm very happy with.

I said to my soul, be still, and let the dark come upon you
Which shall be the darkness of God. As, in a theatre,
The lights are extinguished, for the scene to be changed
With a hollow rumble of wings, with a movement of darkness on darkness,
And we know that the hills and the trees, the distant panorama
And the bold imposing facade are all being rolled away—
Or as, when an underground train, in the tube, stops too long between stations
And the conversation rises and slowly fades into silence
And you see behind every face the mental emptiness deepen
Leaving only the growing terror of nothing to think about;
Or when, under ether, the mind is conscious but conscious of nothing—
I said to my soul, be still, and wait without hope
For hope would be hope for the wrong thing; wait without love,
For love would be love of the wrong thing; there is yet faith
But the faith and the love and the hope are all in the waiting.
Wait without thought, for you are not ready for thought:
So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing.
Whisper of running streams, and winter lightning.
The wild thyme unseen and the wild strawberry,
The laughter in the garden, echoed ecstasy
Not lost, but requiring, pointing to the agony
Of death and birth.

- from "East Coker" by TS Eliot

Friday, March 30, 2018

Roosters - Elizabeth Bishop

At four o’clock
in the gun-metal blue dark
we hear the first crow of the first cock

just below
the gun-metal blue window
and immediately there is an echo

off in the distance,
then one from the backyard fence,   
then one, with horrible insistence,

grates like a wet match   
from the broccoli patch,
flares, and all over town begins to catch.

Cries galore
come from the water-closet door,
from the dropping-plastered henhouse floor,

where in the blue blur   
their rustling wives admire,
the roosters brace their cruel feet and glare

with stupid eyes
while from their beaks there rise   
the uncontrolled, traditional cries.

Deep from protruding chests   
in green-gold medals dressed,
planned to command and terrorize the rest,

the many wives   
who lead hens’ lives
of being courted and despised;

deep from raw throats   
a senseless order floats
all over town. A rooster gloats

over our beds
from rusty iron sheds
and fences made from old bedsteads,

over our churches
where the tin rooster perches,
over our little wooden northern houses,

making sallies
from all the muddy alleys,
marking out maps like Rand McNally’s:

glass-headed pins,
oil-golds and copper greens,   
anthracite blues, alizarins,

each one an active   
displacement in perspective;
each screaming, “This is where I live!”

Each screaming
“Get up! Stop dreaming!”   
Roosters, what are you projecting?

You, whom the Greeks elected
to shoot at on a post, who struggled   
when sacrificed, you whom they labeled

“Very combative ...”
what right have you to give   
commands and tell us how to live,

cry “Here!” and “Here!”   
and wake us here where are   
unwanted love, conceit and war?

The crown of red
set on your little head
is charged with all your fighting blood.

Yes, that excrescence
makes a most virile presence,
plus all that vulgar beauty of iridescence.

Now in mid-air
by twos they fight each other.   
Down comes a first flame-feather,

and one is flying,
with raging heroism defying   
even the sensation of dying.

And one has fallen,
but still above the town
his torn-out, bloodied feathers drift down;

and what he sung
no matter. He is flung
on the gray ash-heap, lies in dung

with his dead wives   
with open, bloody eyes,
while those metallic feathers oxidize.

St. Peter’s sin
was worse than that of Magdalen   
whose sin was of the flesh alone;

of spirit, Peter’s,
falling, beneath the flares,
among the “servants and officers.”

Old holy sculpture   
could set it all together
in one small scene, past and future:

Christ stands amazed,   
Peter, two fingers raised
to surprised lips, both as if dazed.

But in between
a little cock is seen
carved on a dim column in the travertine,

explained by gallus canit;
flet Petrus underneath it.
There is inescapable hope, the pivot;

yes, and there Peter’s tears   
run down our chanticleer’s   
sides and gem his spurs.

Tear-encrusted thick   
as a medieval relic
he waits. Poor Peter, heart-sick,

still cannot guess
those cock-a-doodles yet might bless,
his dreadful rooster come to mean forgiveness,

a new weathervane   
on basilica and barn,
and that outside the Lateran

there would always be
a bronze cock on a porphyry
pillar so the people and the Pope might see

that even the Prince
of the Apostles long since
had been forgiven, and to convince

all the assembly
that “Deny deny deny”
is not all the roosters cry.

In the morning
a low light is floating
in the backyard, and gilding

from underneath
the broccoli, leaf by leaf;
how could the night have come to grief?

gilding the tiny   
floating swallow’s belly
and lines of pink cloud in the sky,

the day’s preamble
like wandering lines in marble.
The cocks are now almost inaudible.

The sun climbs in,   
following “to see the end,”   
faithful as enemy, or friend.

Good Friday; Stations of the Cross - Malcom Guite

I was lucky to hear Malcom Guite read his sonnet for the 9th Station at the Trying to Say God Conference last June. Even via Skype, it was unforgettable.

VII Jesus falls the second time
Through all our veils and shrouds of daily pain,
Through our bruised bruises and re-opened scars,
He falls and stumbles with us, hurt again
When we are hurt again. With us he bears
The cruel repetitions of our cruelty;
The beatings of already beaten men,
The second rounds of torture, the futility
Of all unheeded pleading, every scream in vain.
And by this fall he finds the fallen souls
Who passed a first, but failed a second trial,
The souls who thought their faith would hold them whole
And found it only held them for a while.
Be with us when the road is twice as long
As we can bear. By weakness make us strong.

IX Jesus falls the third time
He weeps with you and with you he will stay
When all your staying power has run out
You can’t go on, you go on anyway.
He stumbles just beside you when the doubt
That always haunts you, cuts you down at last
And takes away the hope that drove you on.
This is the third fall and it hurts the worst
This long descent through darkness to depression
From which there seems no rising and no will
To rise, or breathe or bear your own heart beat.
Twice you survived; this third will surely kill,
And you could almost wish for that defeat
Except that in the cold hell where you freeze
You find your God beside you on his knees.

       - from "Good Friday; Stations of the Cross" in Sounding the Seasons

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Cabled and calm

I recently remembered some songs I loved as a kid. Consequently, I’ve been feeling little pangs of gratitude at having had a musically genius older brother share with my newly teenaged self, the kind of tunes that’s still send me up a tree.

Back then my way of seeing was largely formed by music, and I had earbuds in so often that it permanently damaged my hearing. Beethoven said, "I will hear in heaven." If I get there, I wanna pretend I can't hear him.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Tom Waits two ways

In Praise of Self-Deprecation - Wislawa Szymborzka

The buzzard has nothing to fault himself with.
Scruples are alien to the black panther.
Piranhas do not doubt the rightness of their actions.
The rattlesnake approves of himself without reservations.
The self-critical jackal does not exist.
The locust, alligator, trichina, horsefly
live as they live and are glad of it.
The killer whale's heart weighs one hundred kilos
but in other respects it is light.
There is nothing more animal-like
than a clear conscience
on the third planet of the Sun.