White Flies

I had to put down this article to think.

Though just beside it another page rests

Flat. Nonetheless, like all others polite,

Learned, painfully neat, explaining why

In words, most I which I don’t understand,

We have walked away from God who made us.

I have my own ideas about this mess

These other guys write about all day long

It seems, or spend their lives smelling book dust

Trying to understand how it came to this.

Like white flies on young fruit.  We suck life

And never stop to wonder why it’s so,

Or for or from whom.  What is here, is here.

Oh, I know it wasn’t always this way.

Sixteen years in Catholic schools can do that.

But, nevermore will such things seem the norm

For all or any these fugitive days where we run away

And never seem to get anywhere.  Just

Return in the morning haze inside out

With holes in our hearts, and drugs in our guts.

Those tiny suckers will soon drop an egg

If not already.  It’s October!  Then die!

Life’s hard on all tiny soft plant killers

Who believe in nothing, not a single

Thing!  White flies and us have that in common.

God should put out a hand…  Wave us away.

You know, if He could weep, I think he would.

Well, didn’t He once?  Noah?  Ararat?

How did the Ark get there without His tears?

It will not happen like that any more.

No, no, no more.  It’s the fire next time!

And files, every kind of them, hate flames!

PEG

10/29/2020

WHAT A GRACE!

Some years ago, when I worked in the rectory kitchen, I used to write a little thing each week, more or less, for the Parish Bulletin. It was called From The Kitchen. Here is one of them I happened across:

Linus Would Know

In between all the prayer, the fasting, the spiritual discipline, the works of mercy that one takes for granted around the rectory, there sometimes creeps a worldly care or two. We are, of course, on guard to prevent these things from taking up too much of our valuable time. But, this is a Vale of Tears, and, after all as some wag once said, “In the great Boarding House of the Universe, the pancakes, butter and syrup never come out even.” In other words we have a galaxy cluster here and nothing there. The mountains have not been leveled, the valleys filled and the crooked ways made straight. Thereby hangs a tale. As a matter of fact, thereby hangs all tales.

And, I suppose now that I think on it thereby hangs the very reason for such valuable things as a Liberal Arts education. That’s an argument for another day, but a wonderful segue into the next paragraph.

Not too long ago we hosted a guest at the rectory, a transitional deacon from North Dakota here to attend a function at Thomas More College of the Liberal Arts in nearby Merrimack, NH. He slept in the guest bedroom at the back of the house which we use to store altar drapery, prayer shawls, the odd empty box on its way out the door, and occasional visiting clergy, as above. Good man that he is, he stripped his bed and left the linen to be washed. I discovered it washed and dried by Linda, our maid and occasional Parish Life Coordinator, when I went to the basement for some stuff to stuff the priests with. It was food of course that I keep in the pantry downstairs. It allows me to grumble that everything isn’t within arm’s reach as I tramp up and down the stairs, and to reflect on my absent mindedness as I go back down for the item I forgot.

I passed the bed linens which had been nicely folded into a compact ball and placed on top of the ironing board by one of the holy fathers. There were two sheets and two pillow cases compressed to the density of a neutron star. Neatly stretched across the wooden drying rack was a pink cotton blanket.

Faced with a decision, “Do I stay or do I go?”, I did a dangerous thing. I listened to an accusing angel standing nearby the sheets and pillow cases who accused me of not wanting to take them upstairs. My heart pierced with guilt, I carried everything upstairs, placing it neatly on the bed. That far I was willing to go in my act of pure charity. Well there was the slightest admixture of churlish reluctance, the merest hint of indolence. We ordinarily overlook those things though as unimportant to the outcome; of a life as well as a tale. And so we shall here.

I wrote a nice note to Linda asking her whose was the pretty cotton blankie, and apologizing for not making the bed because my back ached. Well, it did! Later on, I was feeling compunctive about leaving it all up to Linda, so I made the bed after all…but forgot to remove the note from her desk.

The next day the real owner of the cotton blanket appeared before her to ask what had become of it, his face a complicated mixture of annoyance and anxiety one may safely assume. After all, it was a blankie. The note was seen, the proper conclusion reached and the blanket retrieved. When I arrived for work my note to Linda was on the kitchen counter with an appendix informing me I’d mis-made the bed with someone else’s blanket. Good Catholic that my correspondent was, I was complimented on my bed making skills, nonetheless. When I walked into Linda’s office she told me all about the mystery and its solution, and even told me that she, too, thought I’d done a very nice job making the bed. Inwardly I warmed to the compliment and added one of my own.

I returned to the kitchen happy to know I had a skill, at long last, but happier to know someone’s anxiety had been relieved. No one should be deprived of the one thing in life…aside from God’s grace…upon which one may depend; their blankie.

There you have it! It is the same old story don’t you think? In the great Boarding House of the Universe there is a blankie here, none there… God be praised, though, Earth was restored at least in this wise, at least on this day, and the Parousia put back on track. Safety and security had returned. Peace reigned.

What a grace…

Reading Scary Things

Currently I am reading a couple of books; well about five. Most of them were assigned to be read during the summer….nearly sixty years ago. Among them are a couple of books which I am glad I did not read then, because, well, at the time I did not think summer was the right time to read something like this: The Russian Revolution: The Overthrow of Tzarism & the Triumph of the Soviets. Leon Trotsky, who met an early end, thank God, wrote it. He and all of them, would make Comrade Che seem like a Kindergarten teacher

It is a heavily edited copy, and it STILL runs just shy of 500 pages long, with another 50 or sixty pages of “notes and nods”.

Another of my reading assignments, this one my own, is a book by Alexsandr Solzhenitsyn (yes that is the correct spelling). It’s about what goes on inside and around a Soviet prison, and is the closest thing to a comedy the fellow may have written: The First Circle. Think Dante here.

Both are being read during what may be told to our great grandchildren as the last days of what I like to refer to as “The Untied States of America”. I give you all of this as a lead into what is a small paragraph from Trotsky, call it a piece of history now repeating itself. You will understand, if you can think, what I am talking about. He is here talking about the very beginning of the Russian Revolution, the first days.

It’s only a paragraph. Think of what I have to do:

“Toward the police the crowd showed ferocious hatred. They routed the mounted police with whistles, stones and pieces of ice. In a totally different way the workers approached the soldiers. Around the barracks, sentinels, patrols and lines of soldiers, stood groups of working men and women exchanging friendly words with the army men. This was a new stage, due to the growth of the strike and the personal meeting of the worker with the army. Such a stage is inevitable in every revolution, But it always seems new, and does in fact occur differently every time; those who have read and written about it do not recognize the thing when they see it.”

We have not come to the stage Trotsky mentions in the second part of the paragraph. We, sure as sunlight burns white people at the beach, have come to the first stage. Maybe they have Trotsky’s book open to this page in the White House, and are thinking. “Hmm!” Big Time thinking.

Of course, they could just send a couple of dozen FBI agents through the doors of BLM and ANTIFA.

But this ain’t Russia in 1917. Yet. But, as the songs goes: “It’s a gettin’ closer. Goin’ faster than a roller coaster..”

THE COMMUNIST PROGRAM IS NOW AVAILABLE

Among the several things I am reading is one I was assigned to read back in college several geologic ages ago, The Russian Revolution; an abridgement of Leon Trotsky’s “The Overthrow of Tzarism and The Triumph of The Soviets”.

I thank God I never read the thing then.  It’s grim in any number of ways; not the least of which is Trotsky getting to the point.

I am also reading one of Solzhenitsyn’s novels, “The First Circle”, a happy romp through a Soviet prison. You get the idea there must have been at least a zillion prisons there; two or ten for every citizen, everyone filled with the latest in hardship, lousy food, long days, difficulty and death.  Solzhenitsyn is NOT light reading.  Well, neither is Trotsky, but for an entirely different reason.  Life in a prison in Russia was hell.  Life in a prison of the brain…which is Communism…is much, much, worse; a real Hell.

Well, to lighten my mood, this morning I picked up the current issue of Touchstone, which has a subtitle explanation on the cover of every issue, “A Journal of Mere Christianity”.  I have been getting it for at least a dozen years, even though it has no cartoons.  You may wish to pick it up yourself, but don’t let yourself be fooled by it’s “Mere Christianity” line.  Read an issue and you’ll find your brain saying, “Yeah! Right!” to you as you wander through the articles thinking, “What is mere about this?”

Any issue.

There is a long article in this one written by a Russian priest named Vladimir Vorobyev.  It’s title is “The New Martyrs and Confessors”.  The first few dozen paragraphs will rock you back, even if you’ve been reading the light travelogues that Solzhenitsyn, Russia’s own Rick Steves, writes.

But, the stories made of the travels with Marx and Lenin in the old days before TV will, I suspect, bring you to your knees.  “Mere Christianity was never supposed to be like this!” one might find themselves thinking.

Oh, yeah!?

There is a short paragraph in this long story (It gets better.  It does!  This is a Christian publication.)

But this little bit seemed an arrow aimed at the heart of us, and I mean U.S., too.

Here it is: “The Communists were not content with the physical extermination of millions of people, entire social classes – Clergy, nobility, merchants, the educated, peasantry.  Not only monasteries and churches were blown up and demolished; architectural monuments, museums, and libraries were also either torn down or “reorganized”.  He goes on to mention education, too, and how “The entire system of education and bringing up children was remodeled to promote the new moral order, a total cult of atheism based on worshiping communist leaders – Lenin and Stalin.”

Does the mind turn to any number of recent newscasts of the folks across the country who are re-arranging the culture, literature, history and, well, everything around here so we will henceforth live and love in a better place?

Mine did.

Yours should.

Can you spell STEM?

And, when you think you are still are allowed to have thoughts of your own, concentrate on a day or time, surely not far from now when that will not be allowed.

PEG

August 17, 2020

Feast of St. Bernard of Clairveaux

This Might Be A Poem

This is long.

Despite having written some thises and thats which sometimes rhyme, and have long or short lines, I am not sure that I have ever written a poem.  I have read many of them in books; while in school, or on the subway, or at home in the morning and the evening.  I have even done that in a park on a quiet day.

The things I wrote I am not really sure they fit the description or definition of a “poem”.  I am sure about the others things, because folks who should know the difference between a poem and a shopping list have said so.  And, who better…

A little more than a month or so ago, a fellow Iknow and like, who is a Fellow at a nearby small Catholic College mentioned that he would be teaching a class of young scholars all about a poem by none other than T.S. Eliot, a poet I keep getting mixed up with about seven or eight other guys, Englishmen all, who write poems.  And, he’s not even English.

The poem he was going to be teaching these kids about, he said, was /is “The Wasteland”, a thing that, I think, never goes out of style; well, at least the title and what it signifies.  So I tell my friend that it interests me.  And I ask him if he would mind my sitting in…way in the back…and listening to what he has to say.  It’s fine with him, he tells me.  Then he asks if I would mind giving the class my own opinion of what The Wasteland is all about.

Now it has got to be a good half-century since I read this poem; which I always mix up with The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, another thing that Eliot wrote.  And Iknow he wrote something about Cats.  In any case, against my better judgement, a thing never to good, I say I will do it.

We part still friends and I run home to read The Wasteland.  Which I do, and then spend an hour or two reading explanations about the thing.

And then our gift from The East drops on us and I am allowed to escape from my crazy adventure.  But, I still think about reading about the poem Eliot writes, and the man himself, who he was, what he did and how he thought.  I really haven’t learned very much, but I did learn about…a very little about…what goes on in his poem.

I also thought that “wastelands” come and go, and have been doing so for a long, long time.  For instance we built a doozy not a few years after Eliot’s poem was published.

That kind of thinking prompted me to do my own imitation of Wasteland which is a more private thing than his was; I mean Thomas Stearns.  I had thought I would bring it along with me whenever, if that ever comes, I find myself sitting in on my friend’s resurrected class on the real wasteland, which begins to look like it is happening anytime soon.

So finding nothing better to do in a world now shrunken to my living room than think..a wasteland in itself…I decided to share it with whomever is having a hard time falling asleep.  I don’t consider it a poem, mainly because I don’t really, as I have said, a good idea what a poem is.  That is unless I come across it inside a book which has a tiele  that includes the words “poem” or “poetry”.

Enjoy it, or not; here it is:

 

READING ELIOT

(For Mariellen)

 

THE BOOK IS OPEN BEFORE ME

April, still to come, is waiting in the wings.

March has trampled much to long for everyone.

Embarrassed it sends waves of beauty

And all the bells ring in a warm Spring breeze

While April, next, endures the wait.

 

I sit reading all about it. A poem

Almost a hundred years old in my hands.

Prophetic, if I can figure it out

But little more than mystery to me.

Brow wrinkling, mouth gaping strange: mystery.

 

I’LL NEVER UNDERSTAND

So, Mama Me Sosoteris sits somewhere

In the nicest room in the whole wide world.

Do you think that for one minute I care?

That sweet girl named Hyacinth came my way,

Pole, whose parents once from flesh to smoke

Rose on thick currents to coffered black sky.

Oh, sooted ceiling! Oh, coffered Polish sky!

 

Sooted was the ceiling! Beware Laquerea

But more, laquearius bearers at home.

(The Bandersnatch has no claws to match.)

Unless one has a larger home than mine,

 

I NEVER THOUGHT OF THIS

Four small rooms on the ground floor in the back.

Cooler for that, sheltered from noonday sun

With concrete-brick alley mere steps away.

All manner of sport among friends was had

And life was tried on for size, which some found

Too large then or for any age to come.

 

I have played chess, of course. In the alley

With Martin. Marty, my short Hare-lipped friend,

Liked the game.  His false teeth were ill fitting,

Sometimes slipping out part way when he spoke

Making conversation juicy.  We joked

All of us when he wasn’t nearby.  Poor

Marty was arrested some years later.

Sent away for his part in a weird scheme

For trying to blow up a Post Office.

Life…too large for Marty then or ever,

Merely a laquaerius target he.

 

Short sharp knives cut deep the net covered ones

Of cruel circumstance, waves of poison,

Sweet poison, nets of happiness and woe

The gray river, lazy, lethal, lonely

A path where prints previous disappeared

And thus, no path at all, no one knew, no one cared

Because the best thing to have is fun.

 

But time, time, time stepped in grime on the roof top

Below in the alleys where cats chased rats

Each night and stray dogs sniffed at sacks of waste

We pitched pennies, we all played cards, and threw dice!

The things all growing boys wanting to be

Men do on the way. There were casualties.

There were, and we knew who they would be.

Billy Gedry, rode atop the train but

Lost in the contest between train top and

Tunnel wall, never again to stand! To

Sit, drink, piss down a tube, die a drunk.

 

Joe Duncan was another, watching as

His father beat to death his mother

Drowning in her screams and tears.  It took years

For Joe to get over it, dying slowly himself

In the most delightful way, unconsoled

For they were both dead. Who was there to hold

Or would, who himself drowned in filth and booze?

Now, what does he see looking down from high?

 

THE CENTER DOESN’T HOLD

One summer one man, The Son of Sam, ruled

The City of Seven Million Stories.

On a mission from God the two young men

Sat in the car.  It was well past midnight.

Two more sat behind them for other reasons

All four eying the car across the street where

Two others sat.  “We buy heroin,” he said

To me when I took an oath the same

To do, thinking then of what that might mean.

 

And slowly one man left the car we watched.

Back to us as he moved away, turned and ran

In our direction, faster every step.

Before he could get too far, he was shot

And fell between tracks on the empty street

Cradling him, collecting his blood.

The car behind us moved.  I moved to halt

Fired once, and wounded one in flight.

Fear took hold, but work to do conquered fear.

Before it happened, it was over.  Work

Was done by men as work had to be done.

Trying to hold what did not want holding.

 

PLANNED

To kill is easy.  To keep alive hard.

Margaret is dead so she now knows

How being dead feels.  No doubt not surprised?

Overwhelming, on a scale unheard of is Hell!

It is filled with untold horrible sights

Unbelievable mutilated mountains.

Piles of rotting corpses everywhere

Death on scales that were never before thought,

Mountains, civilizations, whole continents!

Mengele blushes shame, humiliation

Covers Stalin, Mao runs from the burning pit

While Hell itself laughs though no sound is heard.

Never a sound in Hell but silent screams.

Margaret, dressed well in her own offal,

Is royalty in hell. Treated that way

She’s cut to pieces ten thousand times each

Day by Gosnell, merely a minor stooge.

Who says Satan has no sense of humor.

 

 

IN A LIKE PLACE

On a quiet morning the three drove from

The fine hotel through the sleepy city

To the meeting place, a deserted lot

In a torn and tattered slum beyond the

Tall shining silver monuments to gold

And there met the one waiting for them to

Do the business he had come from far to

Do; the business being Cocaine or death.

No matter!  No one died that morning clear

But, he fell and flooded blood like a dark

Red carpet on the ground, a small blood lake.

What is that!  Millions more slowly do the same!

 

 

 

NOW IS THE EXCEPTIONAL TIME

Fast forward a few years and see how sweet

It all is.

 

In Healdsburg by the Russian River, near

The peaceful ocean I cleaned the glass

Of all the windows while the world burned

On the nearby hills and my brother died

Inside, slowly.  My sister washed walls.

No longer may he go to San Francisco

To leave his heart there high upon a hill

Nor run to leave his heart behind

Though he could not know. The children would know

They who never are enough were enough.

It has not rained and so the flames eat well

On nearby hills; hearts and homes and hopes

Above the burned-out river filled with dust,

Dry beds, dry bones, dry lives, dry eyes, dry hearts.

Old Indians whose land this was once walk

About wondering how it happened

While the new Indians open stores, build

Hotels and change everything not changed. Yet

He dies inside.  Outside I look for a priest

And wonder when or if the rain will fall

Watching through the smoke the mad mountains glow

Smelling in the day the sour scent of death.

 

Soft the rain begins, tiny drops walking

Before the door with food for him. I stand

And drink for my sister.  The priest will come

Today and bring my brother home; and us too

The most true thing.  This for us priests to do.

 

A CANTICLE FOR LIEBOWITZ

Fly away cross the country.  Leave at last

The western wastes.  The flames, the dust. The death!

The older death and the small hope, tender hope

Growing in the old places, hope by hope. And

From a river’s edge look toward the old

Mountains, the old trees, the old people

And their children in this quiet time

Just before spring, as birds fly in

Far to near, as cold sifts and snow disappears.

Death is a thousand miles away

Does he dance his last dance with all his fools?

Will what death loves end as sure as night?

 

THE END IS NEAR?

So, laughing day comes dancing over hills

Across the oceans, down from heaven’s fire?

Few are here who still believe all of this.

The rest dance and sing at the Salt Pillar.

 

Gone, almost everything is gone that was

The bad , the good, the worse, the best.  All gone.

Washed away in booze, or risen to the laquerea

Where the Pugio waits cutting damned from just.

That is the gate now through which we all pass

While the churches are locked for safety’s sake

And Mighty God from another day’s Work

Rests in peace.

 

PEG 03/31/2020