Friday, April 14, 2017

Good Friday

The sun of April is ardent still, and good,
and the furrow of expectation shines;
but today do not fill its longing breast,
because Jesus suffers.

Do not stir the earth. Let go, meekly,
the hand from the plow; abandon the fields
when they are already returning to us the hope
that even Jesus suffers.

Already the blood has run under the olives
and three times he has heard one he loved deny him.
but -- rebel of love -- his heart still beats,
still suffers.

Because you, harvestman, sow hate
and I nurse my rancor at dusk,
and a boy walks like a weeping man,
Jesus suffers.

He is still on the wooden frame
and his lip trembles with terrible thirst.
I hate my bread -- my verse -- my happiness,
because Jesus suffers.


~Gabriela Mistral

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

A Good Life

Well. Let's start back at the beginning, then, before the dreams flickered to a faint blue life, and then died again. There is the sound of a snare drum, just keeping the time, a little cymbal to mark the measures, maybe. Just so. Only this, and so much. There was a time before: and it was much like this.  

Circle back. The problem, then as now, was the tyranny of habit. A chained dog will not stop chewing its paws, no matter now much they hurt. But the solution is not to pepper the paws, nor to call the dog to reason. The solution is to unchain it and let it run.

Let it run. A dog needs to run.

Suddenly I am not in love anymore, though, and I have been in love all my life. It's a shock. It's not that I don't love anyone: I love as much as ever, probably more than ever. But the infatuation, the conviction that my happiness lies in being seen for what I am (or for I might be) by some one particular person, who has gathered into herself all the importance of the world -- that has vanished. And I've never been without it before.

I talk of circling back. But if I don't have that to circle back to, what do I have?

Well. Two hands and a cloudy sky. What did I ever have?

The toms add in to the snare, the complexity builds. If we had a horn player or a guitar, it would be near time for them. A bridge, and a hesitation --

The rain in my face, or the moon trawled by cloud nets on a windy night, or one blue star, where I'd thought the evening or the morning had broken itself. 

But not now, not yet. Somehow, not even yet.

If it is not, now, to please the beloved, then it must be for something else. For the rain or the cloud or the moon or the star itself, maybe. THUD and there goes the base drum, and long wavering roll, the sharp raps of the rim shots. How long since I have danced even a shuffle? Years. 

But if there is one stone to keep hold of, it's just this: that I am free. Just in the simple terms that might be set for a middling-old American white guy. Nobody has much of a hand on me. I should recall myself, and come back. Back to Start: but not, this time, as a moon-puppy. As an ordinary man with a beard on his face, walking around the block one last time, with no one to please and nothing to fear. I don't need to chew my paws any more. It's been a good life. It's a good one still. 

Saturday, April 01, 2017

Vulture

A math teacher stooped in his pulpit walk:
as he turns he lifts one dull black tine
(a primary feather, like a sprig of chalk)
and slowly underscores the horizon line.

He is deliberate, hooded, ugly, sincere.
There is a beat (stroke of pen, sweep of oar)
in his blood-naked head only he can hear:
this is what it means for an old man to soar.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

To The Hebrew People

Pogroms in Poland

Jewish race, flesh of pain,
Jewish race, river of bitterness
like the heavens and the earth, endure,
and nurture still your forest of cries.

Your wounds have never wanted for air;
never stopped you stretching out in the shade
to wring and renew your bandage,
redder than any rose.

The world has been lulled with your moans,
and it plays with the strands of your lamentation;
the furrows of your face, that I love so much,
like the deep cuts of a saw.

Trembling the women rock their child,
trembling the man cuts his sheaf,
the nightmare kneels in your dream
your word is only the miserere.

Jewish race, there even remains in you
breast and honeyed voice to praise your hearthstones;
to recite the Song of Songs, though broken
your tongue, your lip, your heart.

In your woman Mary still walks,
over your visage moves the profile of Christ;
from the slope of Zion they have seen him
call you in vain, as the day dies…

Seeing your pain in the Good Thief
he said that immense word to him;
to annoint his feet he looks for the braid
of the Magdalene, and finds it bloodied.

Jewish race, flesh of pain,
Jewish race, river of bitterness
like the heavens and the earth, endure,
and nurture your wide forest of cries.


~Gabriela Mistral

Friday, March 10, 2017

Except Food

I have more of my life under control than most people, I think. I love both my jobs, which put me contact with interesting people and afford many warm friendships, and for which I pretty much set my own hours. I have always followed an exercise routine, which is modest but keeps me strong enough to lug my massage table over a few blocks and up a couple flights of stairs without puffing. For years, I have studied one foreign language or another for an hour or two a day. I have time to write poems and little lyrical essays. I read interesting books. I spend time with my family. I get out into nature once a week or so. I can afford what I buy and know precisely where my money goes. I don't drink, smoke, or dope. I'm my own master.

Except for food, of course. Food is ridiculous.

There's a dreary family history behind this, a nightmare from which I am trying to awake, as Stephen Dedalus might say. Everything about food is supercharged with meaning: it is the axis of coercion and liberty, pleasure and death-wish. Every encounter with food is some sort of showdown. It's totally crazy. No way to live.

It used to be worse. There used to be orgies of potato chips alternating with oreos, enormous restaurant meals that left me uncomfortably full, daily multiple soda pops. I would eat until I couldn't eat any more, but I was almost always hungry. My evenings generally consisted of settling in with an entertaining-but-not-challenging book and bags of chips and cookies. I'd read for hours, and when replete with one sort of snack, I'd switch to another for relief. It is rather horrible to look back on: I'd get terribly sick if I did that now.

So the present state of insanity, which includes perhaps five restaurant breakfasts per week, of astonishing volume and unhealthiness, and seven fast-food dinners per week from Burgerville, bless them -- is in fact a step UP from that. Sad but true. And in the last year or two my project of wedging a cup or two of broccoli and a large salad into every day has been running a success rate of about 50%, which is something.

But the fact is that the next step -- which will, incidentally, save us at least $7,000.00 a year -- has to be cooking and eating almost exclusively at home. It's going to be a major life overhaul. I've started: I have the breakfast proof-of-concept now. (That five breakfasts per week? It used to be seven).

I find the scale of the project daunting. But it's the last piece of my life that I really want to be different.

Sunday, March 05, 2017

In the Ear of Christ

I

Christ, with your fresh-sliced skin:
Christ, with your river-emptying veins:
these poor people of the world are dead
of laxity, of fear, of cold.

You are at the head of their beds,
(if they have you), in a form too bloody,
without the tenderness that women love,
and with those marks of violent life.

They would not spit at you for being crazy,
but they would not be able to love you either,
their impetus is too slack, too worn.

Because like Lazarus they already stink, already stink;
better not to move, than to disintegrate.
Not love -- not hate -- wrings a cry from them.


II

They admire the elegance of gesture and color:
but in your wooden contortion --
your blood-sweat, your last shudder,
and the purple brilliance of Calvary --

it seems to them there is exaggeration
and plebeian taste; one who wept like you,
had thirst and suffering, would not let
those two bright tears congeal in his eyes.

Their own are dull eyes of damp tinder
without virtue of weeping (that cleans and cools);
their mouths are loose buttons,

wet and lascivious (not firm, not red),
and like the end of autumn: so unstrung
and polluted the cores of their hearts.


III

Oh Christ! May pain make that soul alive,
which you gave them and which has fallen asleep,
return it, deep and sensitive,
to the house of bitterness, passion, and outcry.

Gaffs, irons, claws which tear your flesh
as if it were fruit or a sheaf being shared;
flames that catch on your sectioned flesh,
flames like rings or knives --

weeping, weeping in warm streams,
renew the cloudy glass of those eyes
and restore the old fire of their gaze.

Sprout them from your innermost heart, Christ!
Or if that is impossible, if they are ruined bedstraw,
come down, and scatter them on the winds.


~Gabriela Mistral

Wednesday, March 01, 2017

Bistolfi's Cross

Cross that no one sees, that we all feel --
invisible and certain as a wide mountain --
we sleep on you, and on you we live:
your two arms rock us; your shadow bathes us.

Love pretended to make a bed for us, but it was
only your living gaff and your naked beam.
We believed we were running free through the fields
and we never descended from your clench.

Your wood is all of fresh, human blood,
and on you I breathe in my father’s wounds,
and on the dream-nail that wounded you I die.

The lie, that we have seen the nights and days!
We were caught -- as the son on the mother --
on you: from the first wail, to the last agony.


~Gabriela Mistral