Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Back from the March for Life...

Christendom College demonstrated en masse in Washington yesterday.

This is a poem from my old blog which I've revised slightly since I posted it last year. I wrote it in my freshman year after praying at the PP clinic in DC many times and becoming desensitized... it expresses the horror I feel about that.
"No worst, there is none."

Hell has a paved front walk
And a manicured lawn,
A shade tree that must rustle its leaves
In the hours before dawn,
And a street address.

Hell's clients hardly know
Where they should park -
It's modest as a storefront church.
Not a cry, not a mark
Escapes the white rooms of that sanitary place.

Hell's wedged between a preschool and an embassy.
The babbling children playing tag next door
Attract no baleful notice, it would seem;
Unless harm rains silent, as from a reactor core.
You probably expected to see more.

Even the truth-fast criers-out who come
Day after day to pray and plead in very life's defense
Find their minds grown distant and diffuse
When the honeyed light of Monday afternoons
Warms walls that ooze the blood of innocence.

As I rode home, I was listening to some recordings of Dylan Thomas, and I ran across "If My Head Hurt a Hair's Foot." (Scroll down past the scary poem to read it.) I wish I could post the recording. It's about a mother and her child about to be born, although the language is so bizarre that it takes a couple of stanzas to figure that out. Thomas explained it on the CD:
It is not a narrative or an argument, but a series of conflicting images which move through pity and violence to an unreconciled acceptance of suffering, the mother's and the child's. This poem has been called obscure. I refuse to believe that it is obscurer than pity, violence, or suffering. But being a poem, not a lifetime, it is more compressed.
It's a weird poem, definitely an acquired taste. But it felt right to me on the way back from Washington.

Friday, January 18, 2008


After my friend Sarah found a picture of St. Thomas More with the caption, "Im in ur chancery - messin with ur divorce," nothing could stop me!

(If you are unfamiliar with lolcats, i can haz cheezburger should make the concept self-evident.)

St. Ignatius and Gerard Manley Hopkins

St. Pius X* and St. Panteleimon**

* All errors of spelling, grammar, and usage are intentional.

** St. Panteleimon ('All-Merciful') is known as Pantaleon ('All-Lion') in the West, and his hagiography is just that schizophrenic. The stories about his life are all legendary - including the part where he converts the soldiers who are about to kill him and then forces them carry out the execution so he can be a martyr. There is a phial of his blood in Italy which bubbles once a year, just like the one of St. Januarius in Naples; and Wikipedia claims that he appears to Italians in dreams and gives them winning lottery numbers. He has been hijacked lately by Phillip Pullman, to supply the name of Lyra's daemon in The Golden Compass. I wish we knew more about him. But the lack of reliable information has not stopped people from feeling great affection for him.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Last Semester:

- Intermediate Greek II
- Latin Lyric
- Classical Greek Dramatists
- French 102
- Senior Thesis
- Aesthetics (an audit - I'm not crazy.)

O moi moi.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Auden says goodbye to Christmas...

This is the end of WH Auden's "Christmas oratorio," For the Time Being. The whole thing is worth reading - it's full of weird, startling insights into the events of Christmas.


Well, so that is that. Now we must dismantle the tree,
Putting the decorations back into their cardboard boxes --
Some have got broken -- and carrying them up to the attic.
The holly and the mistletoe must be taken down and burnt,
And the children got ready for school. There are enough
Left-overs to do, warmed-up, for the rest of the week --
Not that we have much appetite, having drunk such a lot,
Stayed up so late, attempted -- quite unsuccessfully --
To love all of our relatives, and in general
Grossly overestimated our powers. Once again
As in previous years we have seen the actual Vision and failed
To do more than entertain it as an agreeable
Possibility, once again we have sent Him away,
Begging though to remain His disobedient servant,
The promising child who cannot keep His word for long.
The Christmas Feast is already a fading memory,
And already the mind begins to be vaguely aware
Of an unpleasant whiff of apprehension at the thought
Of Lent and Good Friday which cannot, after all, now
Be very far off. But, for the time being, here we all are,
Back in the moderate Aristotelian city
Of darning and the Eight-Fifteen, where Euclid's geometry
And Newton's mechanics would account for our experience,
And the kitchen table exists because I scrub it.
It seems to have shrunk during the holidays. The streets
Are much narrower than we remembered; we had forgotten
The office was as depressing as this. To those who have seen
The Child, however dimly, however incredulously,
The Time Being is, in a sense, the most trying time of all.
For the innocent children who whispered so excitedly
Outside the locked door where they knew the presents to be
Grew up when it opened. Now, recollecting that moment
We can repress the joy, but the guilt remains conscious;
Remembering the stable where for once in our lives
Everything became a You and nothing was an It.
And craving the sensation but ignoring the cause,
We look round for something, no matter what, to inhibit
Our self-reflection, and the obvious thing for that purpose
Would be some great suffering. So, once we have met the Son,
We are tempted ever after to pray to the Father;
"Lead us into temptation and evil for our sake."
They will come, all right, don't worry; probably in a form
That we do not expect, and certainly with a force
More dreadful than we can imagine. In the meantime
There are bills to be paid, machines to keep in repair,
Irregular verbs to learn, the Time Being to redeem
From insignificance. The happy morning is over,
The night of agony still to come; the time is noon:
When the Spirit must practice his scales of rejoicing
Without even a hostile audience, and the Soul endure
A silence that is neither for nor against her faith
That God's Will will be done, That, in spite of her prayers,
God will cheat no one, not even the world of its triumph.



He is the Way.
Follow Him through the Land of Unlikeness;
You will see rare beasts, and have unique adventures.

He is the Truth.
Seek Him in the Kingdom of Anxiety;
You will come to a great city that has expected your return for years.

He is the Life.
Love Him in the World of the Flesh;
And at your marriage all its occasions shall dance for joy.

Dylan Thomas Random Poem Generator

The webfoot iceberg-white truant boy
Scrubbing by the skylark,
With the mildly spellbound salmon

Drowning while the moonless twilight
On the sixpenny street quietly
Goes to rave against the thin night.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Christmas Poem Contest at Sheila's!

Sheila is hosting another poetry contest on Enchiridion. (Her triolet contest two years ago was a roaring success.) The rules are as follows:

1. The poem must be written by you.

2. The poem must be about Christmas. It can be about the Incarnation itself, about the shepherds, the Magi, whatever, but it has to be Christmasy, and the real meaning of Christmas too. No Jingle Bells. Gathering together as a family stuff is okay, though. That is part of Christmas, although not the most important part.

3. It doesn't have to be written specifically for the contest. Any Christmas poems will do, no matter how long ago you wrote them.

4. Try to keep it to about 20 lines or less.

5. Each person can submit up to 3 poems, but please no more.

6. The winning poems will be posted on my blog with a link to your blog or website if you have one.

Any form is acceptable, although I warn you I'm biased toward formal verse. However, I have liked free verse in the past, provided it's actually good and not just random. The poems can be funny, serious, deep, whatever. I'll judge them as being good at what they are, not as being more entertaining or more spiritual.

You can email me your submissions at enchirdion1 at yahoo dot com, or leave them in the comment box. If you have other Christmas poems, not written by you but which you think I should post, please email them to me: I'm looking for some.

I hope this contest will help get both our creative and our spiritual juices flowing, and the finished poems will inspire us to think about Christmas more deeply. Let the contest begin!

Found in my Rome notebook... of the two most infamous squibs in Modernist poetry, done as I was walking through a thunderstorm in St. Peter's Square.

Ezra Pound:

In a Colonnade of St. Peter's:

The apparition of these faces in the crowd;
petals on a wet, white bough.

William Carlos Williams:

so much depends

a rash Christendom

struck by light

beside the fat