Sunday, August 31, 2003

Haunted by My Past Updated!

Sometime ago, Dr. Omed asked folk to offer things to include in the "Dromedary Syndicate" section of his tent show. This was primarily by back channel e-mail, if memory serves. Anyway, since Dr. Omed has for some time been my unofficial archivist (believe me, folks, he volunteered for the job), I gave him carte blanche authorization to publish one of my works from said archive.

And so it is this bar napkin appears on Dr. Omed's blog. It seems fragmentary (and probably inebriated).

Just so I can be fully confronted by this aspect of my 1979 self, here is the text of said napkin:
A door just opened on the street
So in I climbed
A master of the midnight ritual.
Seeking a clearer center
I met there a question
With a beer-soaked beard
We went further
He was my Dante
To my Virgil
(the Roles being, as is traditional,
We worshipped a tree
which once was Daphne.   And so on....  
Because — the only thing in which I believe is Poetry.   God being dead, this is all which is left.   Poetry was there before the garden.   Man was poetry.   Woman was poetry.   Before my birth, I was Poetry.   Even when it was “the winter of our dis-content”, it was Poetry.
So Poetry was is all.
Poetry is God.
Poetry is alive, Poetry is afoot.
Poetry is God.
Poetry will live forever.
So God isn't really dead.
God is Poetry.
Poetry is God!
If you've heard [this] before, you can dream . . . .
What strikes me in reading (and typing) this, is that even as I am denying the existence of god, I suggest a new candidate for the position.

It's no surprise to me that I cop from St. Leonard — the "poetry is alive" section should remind fans of the "God is alive" section from Beautiful Losers. It's interesting that I purposely misquote Shakespeare's "Richard III." I also suspect the bit about poetry being around from the time of the garden was influenced by the prophet William Blake.

Trust me folks, I have tried to deny the divine. I've tried claiming there is no god, just as my faithful atheist friend has done. But god just kept creeping back into my poetry, will-I or no. I have good intentions of detailing my faith journey sometime in the near future, but suffice it to say that I finally said "To heck with it" and returned to the "faith of my fathers". This digest version is what Dr. Omed might refer to as the "cartoon version", so understand that it does the journey little justice.

I do see a parallel, at the moment, with our friend Jonah. For him too, there came a moment he said "To heck with it" and followed the leading of the inner divine.

Newly Blog-Rolled

On the reliable recommendation of Dr. Omed, I have visited Thistle and Hemlock (Notes from a sagebrush basin). After spending about a week dropping in on this web-log, I can also strongly recommend it, and have added it to the list on your left.

Dr. Omed has given her the sobriquet "Ms. Candide", because she seems to be quietly tending her garden. In comments and back-channel e-mails, she refers to herself as "Sam" — by coincidence, her initials form an alternate name, just as mine do.

I gather "Sam" is a copy editor by day, and is hopeful of writing a novel of her own. Pictures posted on her site reveal her to be an excellent photographer as well.

I really want to be quotidian, but philosophy trips me up almost every time. Sam is able to honestly detail the quotidian, and lets it stand for itself. She has a clean writing style.

Pay her a visit. And be sure to leave a comment — we beginners need all the encouragement we can get.

Poetic Novena, Day Four

It being Sunday, it seems appropriate that today's entry be both poem & prayer
O blessed Mother of Mercy
watch over my lady, watch over my lady & her companions
O blessed Brendon, work beside them as they set the walls
O blessed Claire, lay beside them as they sleep
O blessed Brigid be at their heads to guide their dreams
Watch over my lady, blessed Lord,
walk before her to guide her
walk beside her as her companion
walk behind her as champion against the enemy's assaults
Holy Spirit be her light in the night watches
Blessed Father be her strength in the day
Blessed Lord, be her heartbeat at all times
Blessed Trinity, carry this prayer to my Lady
and keep her under your protection
now and beyond the end of days.

So be it.

Report From Bolivia

I have been asked to post the following on VIM Oruro, Bolivia, Aug. 28-Sept. 7. 2003. Unfortunately, the log-in information I was given does not work.
We arrived safely on Friday. The church gave us a great reception, complete with music and dancing. The people are most gracious. Today we had a good work day. We made reinforcing structures for 12 columns, set nine in place and filled three with concrete. Daily updates may be difficult because of the internet access problems. We will send when we can. We appreciate the prayers of everyone, and hope the prayers will continue.


Pics to come when we have more time.

Saturday, August 30, 2003

Postcard from the Past

The following is from the Very Rt Rev Dr. Omed, written before he became Dr. Omed. The image on the verso is of the Weathered Limber Pines in the Rocky Mountain National Park. The stamp is only 19 cents. The postmark has the year "1991". I found this in the front of the NIV Bible I mention below.

Take it away, Dana:
Day trip.   Gene & I have had a fine meander up old Fall Creek Road through the lodgepole and aspen to treeline & tundra.   Now our road (Trail Ridge) smokes over dark volcanic crests.   Mountain Ravens floating just above us.   Storm sweeping in.
Thanks, old friend.

What's in a name, II

You've spent some time here. You are, perhaps, a frequent visitor. You notice I rarely mention myself by name. You notice, however that the address of this space is "" (no need to link that one, folks, you're here). Perhaps you're dedicated enough to visit Elsie's poetry blog-site, and have seen the line
the scent of jac's body
fresh from the shower
And you're wondering, who is this guy? What's up with this "Jonah" mask he wears when he visits Dr. Omed and others in the Salon blogosphere? What's up with this "jac" business?

Well, it's simple: my first name is "James" (inherited from my paternal grandfather William James); my middle name is "Andrew" (I believe this came from someone on my mother's side); and my last name begins with a "C". Put 'em together, and you get "jac".

I officially adopted this as my poetic nom-de-plume in high school, thinking I was quite clever. Turns out, not so much. See, my brother was David Austin C—. Our Gran wanted to call us "Dac" and "Jac". Understandably, David vetoed this idea out of hand. Can't blame him — after all, "jac" is phonetically related to "Jack". "Dac" ain't related to any name I'm aware of in American culture.

So, from high school on, my poetry has been signed "jac". A few close friends have adopted it as a nickname. The two Danas call me this — both the Rt Rev Dr Omed, and my step-sister.

In my Who Am I This Time? entry, I refer to "Still Life With Icons", and the fictitious names I gave my friends in the confessional poems I was creating during this time. I didn't mention the fictitious name I gave myself: Jason. For guys, this is the great adventurer who sought the Golden Fleece (which was the sense I had in mind when I assumed the name, poetically speaking). For gals, this is the a—hole who got what he wanted out of Medea, then dumped her.

So, one day I'm reading the good Doctor's blogspace (linked above, to the side, and frequently elsewhere), and I want to post a comment. The pop-up form asks for a name. Don't recall whether the entry I was commenting on was religious or not. Do remember I was "in a mood", and signed as "Jonah." Well, turns out that little pop-up form saves a cookie on the users' machine so that everytime you post a comment on any Salon blog, the little form assumes you're the same person. Every time I visit the Real Live Preacher, for example, and I post a comment, the top of the form asks — quite politely, I think — not Jonah?
Why did I pick Jonah? Well, this is the guy best known — whether you're male or female — for doing time in the belly of a whale. Many times, driving the streets & going to work & dealing with the whole Great American Dream scenario, I feel like I'm living in the belly of the beast. Plus, the book of Jonah has got to be one of the funniest books in the Bible — it's right up there with the apocryphal Tobit.

I mean, this guy is a poster child for reluctant prophets everywhere. Obviously, no body asks for the job of "prophet" (I think it's Jeremiah who compares it to rape), but Jonah takes it to a whole new level. He makes Jeremiah look like a cheerful enlistee by comparison.

Yeah, we all know the guy did time in the belly of a great fish, but let's see the hands of those who remember why he did time in that fish. God told Jonah to prophesy to some foreigners, and Jonah said "No way! Look, God, you & I both know those folk deserve to fry painfully. But if I prophesy to them, they're going to repent, you'll forgive them, and they're off the hook. Go get yourself another pasty."

Well, God stayed on him, and Jonah figured he better skip town to avoid the whole situation. He talks his way onto a boat, and they put out to sea. Big storm comes up. Doesn't take long for the crew to figure out this grumbling prophet is the source of the problem, so they throw him in the sea.

But instead of letting him drown, God sends this big fish to swallow him. Lets him cool his heels for a few days in the belly of that beast, then the fish spits him out. Jonah finally sucks it up and prophesies to Nineveh (the afore-mentioned foreigners), and he lays it on like Billy Graham in his glory days: "If you don't repent, God's gonna fry your a-- in olive oil & serve you up to every nation west of the Nile."

Well, things end up pretty much the way Jonah expected. The Ninevans repent big time — the whole sackcloth & ashes routine. God smiles on the whole affair, and figures there's no need to do mighty smiting in these parts. Jonah goes and pouts under a tree.

See what I mean? Lot of yucks. In my handy NIV, Jonah is all of two pages long, so check out the original.
Don't claim to be a prophet. Just another ordinary Joe, making his way through the belly of the beast.

But America needs a new prophet. Hearing King's "I Have a Dream" speech replayed on its 40th anniversary certainly brought that home. I think Granny D, that witness walking across America, is a prophet. I think Dennis Kucinich has a little prophet stirring in him.

What about you? Tired of living in the belly of the beast and pretending you like it? Do you have what it takes to be a prophet?

Recommended Reading

Brother Dave sent us this article by Gail Sheehy which originally ran on page 1 in the 8/25/03 edition of The New York Observer. Please click through and read it. If you have not been impressed by the saponaceousness (see entry for Thus, Aug 28) of the Administration, this article may well convince you.

Thanks, Dave!

Poetic Novena, Day Three

and the rain came
to wash away the night
van winkle's bowlers
scoring strikes til 4 a.m.

and the rain came
drove feral cats into hiding
silence on the island
but for drops on rocks

and the rain came
we dance among the trees
naked druids
doing the goat dance

Friday, August 29, 2003

Poetic Novena, Day Two

currachs are sailing
way out on the blue
my lady is sailing
above the sea

i am a poor island pilgrim
counting the gulls
as they kiss the ocean

we measured the island
then we measured our passion
we will count our kisses
when my lady returns to me

Written on a cat postcard.
First two lines are from "Connemara Cradle Song", trad. arr. by Delia Murphy (1902-1979); p.d.
Postcard with an image by the Lady herself!

Who Am I This Time?

A little over a month ago, in writing my friend Dana, I signed myself "Jason, Jeremiah, or Jonah ... which ever mythonym I'm using this week." In a backchannel e-mail, Elsie wrote: "Loved your poem...I replied in the voice of Colleen. I'm beginning to feel a little schizophrenic : )"

Folks who have done a bit of "click-through" research have probably figured out Elsie's given name by now. Yet, I persist in using this name I invented for her — originally with the motivation of protecting her identity. Again, if you click through to White Lace & Red Dirt, you'll learn that Elsie is a pastor at a church in a small Oklahoma town. As I say, anyone with a degree of dedication would have figured it out by now, so why do I persist?

If you brave the pop-up ads at The Saturn Sequence, you may have read my long poem "Still Life With Icons". The Rt. Rev. Dr. Omed has proclaimed it one of his favorites, and I will confess that it is one of mine as well. The poem includes an introduction and footnotes; what's quoted here is an edit:

Around the time I wrote this, I was very influenced by the work of Henry Miller (Tropic of Cancer) and Jack Kerouac (On The Road).  Both men made fictions of their lives, to the point that they gave their friends fictitious names.   I was building a body of work which featured several of my friends, and I chose to create fictitious names which would remain constant throughout the body of work. So, if someone figures out who "Andrea" is, they'll know who I'm talking about every time I use that name. I had read Anne Charters' excellent biography of Kerouac which included a chart indicating which fictional names related to what real people (e.g., Dean Moriarty was the name Kerouac gave Neal Cassidy in On the Road). [Thus by using] the same fictional names throughout all the works ... once someone cracked the code, they'd only need a fairly simple chart.

The poem, in retrospect, seems to reflect a sort of mental breakdown. So, "making a fiction of my life" might be excused — some might even argue doing so caused the breakdown. But I'm better now. Really, I am. I mean, I can form complete sentences using words of multiple syllables and everything.

But I remain fascinated with the shifting nature of identity.

Here's how the very unreliable narrator of Neil Gaiman's story "Murder Mysteries" puts it:
Looking around today at the parts of my life left over from those days, I feel uncomfortable, as if I've received a gift unasked, from another person: a house, a wife, children, a vocation.   Nothing to do with me, I could say, innocently.   If it's true that every seven years each cell in your body dies, and is replaced, then I have truly inherited my life from a dead man; and the misdeeds of those times have been forgiven, and are buried with his bones. [Smoke and Mirrors p. 293, Harper Collins New York, 1998]
I think also, of famous folk who have renamed themselves — Samuel Clemens named himself "Mark Twain" and, according Justin Kaplan, ended his life portraying a character he created.

More recently, Robert Zimmerman renamed himself "Bob Dylan" (aprocryphally, after the Welsh poet Dylan Thomas). His sense of identity is so fractured — or, perhaps he is so playful — that he has assumed a number of names throughout his life. "Blind Boy Grunt" has been "Alias" has been "Jack Frost", and most recently, "Jack Fate." This last is a name he assumes in the movie Masked and Anonymous; the reviews lead me to believe the movie has much to do with Mr. Zimmerman's current sense of his identity, and this myth of "Bob Dylan" which he thought he created in his youth — but has now taken on a life of its own.

All of this seems like notes for several essays. I shall return. Wearing the appropriate mask.

Thursday, August 28, 2003

Poetic Novena

Just dropped in on the Rose of Charon site, and she refers to a "Novena on forgiveness." Glancing at the rest of her site, it seems she has been both posting and praying on the topic of forgiveness.

A novena, for you non-catholics, is nine days of prayer, normally devoted to one particular intent. This is a discipline I have followed a few times in my life. For example, I prayed a novena after my father died, as a means of confronting my grief.

Now, it seems I have contracted for a poetic novena. Which, like Rose's postings on forgiveness, will be shared with the ether world.

You see, Elsie is going out of town again. You may recall that the last time she left town (about three weeks ago), she assigned the writing of poems based on words chosen at random from The Word Book; those poems are back in the archives somewhere, database willing. Once again, Elsie will be gone for ten (10) days, this time on a mission trip to Bolivia.

Since Elsie made the assignment last time, I made it this time. You may not be surprised to learn my assignment was for each of us to write a postcard poem per day. I bought Elsie a collection of Chagall postcards; I will probably use a book of cat postcards, unless I find something better quickly.

So — we have committed to a discipline which will last for a little more than nine days. Yet, it seems a holy discipline. It is a daily prayer we will offer on each others' behalf. Whether we invoke the Holy One or not, we invoke the holy spark in ourselves and each other. We invoke the memory of amour shared. We invoke the hope of safe travel, and safe return.

I will share my poetic postcards here — most likely without images, as they will be copyright. No doubt, Elsie will share her postcards on her own poetry blog-site, but I may reproduce them here as well.

You may not share my religious heritage, or even my religious faith. You may have no conception of the divine, nor desire one. Still, I invite you to share in this novena as I post the poems on this site. I invite you to read these entries, then offer your own prayers and/or well-wishes for Elsie and her fellow travelers.

And, as I've said before, perhaps a thought for your humble correspondent, who will transport the Lady to the airport & will await her safe return.

Definition d’jour

saponaceous (sap-uh-NAY-shush) adjective
Soapy, slippery, evasive.
[From New Latin saponaceus, from Latin sapon- (soap).]
Readers are invited to submit their own usage of this word as it applies to the current Administration in the comments below or via e-mail.

poeme d’jour

awoke at 4 am
thinking of the great bird you will ride
shattered pottery on the ground
echoes of sunrise in the west

thinking of one more embrace
i awoke to the last watch
or maybe the early watch
can't be sure

except i thought
of the mountain you will climb
the birds of the forest
guitars jangling at your feet

Postcard with image here — only fourteen seconds to download, and you get to view one of Dr. Omed's collages!

Wednesday, August 27, 2003

War on Vacation

While our Chief Executive Liar enjoys his vacation in Crawford, two more Americans have been killed in Iraq.

Did you think I had secreted myself so deep into my fantasy skerry that I'd forgotten politics? Far be it!

Got to say, though, I was not nearly so depressed thinking about the next poeme d'jour as I was about the non-existent WMD (likewise the non-existent WMD program), the endless war in Iraq, the hope the Dems can select a candidate who is more than Busch-lite (i.e., Lieberman), etc, etc. I mean, you go past two or three issues, it can feel pretty overwhelming.

But I got to thinking about Busch's vacation. During the Iran hostage crisis (over 20 years ago), President Carter stayed in the White House, to show his solitary with those people. Now the best way for President Liar to show solitarity with the men & women serving in Iraq would be for him to put himself in harm's way.

However, the SS will seek me out if I suggest something along those lines. So, I suggest something more moderate: let King GW II stay in the White House until a week has gone by during which there have been no deaths for any reason in Iraq.

Then, in contrast to those brave service people, we will allow Pres. Busch {ptui!} to leave his compound at the end of his tour of duty. Under no circumstances shall we ask him to stay past 2004.

So be it.

Ideé d’jour

The fetters imposed on liberty at home have ever been forged out of the weapons provided for defence against real, pretended, or imaginary dangers from abroad.
James Madison, 4th US president (1751-1836)

Tuesday, August 26, 2003

From Colleen, on the skerry

Today's card is more of a note-card than postcard, but it does include Dr. Omed's impressive collage of the "Punk Isis." I had this image in mind as I wrote the poem, in which I set myself the challenge of writing with the third person masculine pronoun, which seemed to suggest an attempt at writing from Colleen's POV.

The card only takes 14 sec. to down-load, and I think the image is worth your time. Yet, here's the unadorned text — very rough, and it might be a sketch for something longer
My beloved is handsome
his heart is a weathervane

I seek my beloved among the bracken
his eyes are the meeting of sky & water

My beloved is lovely
his beard is sea moss

I seek my love among the heather
his fingers are small paintings

My beloved loves me
his ears are day lilies

I seek my love,
I seek each part of my love

I seek my beloved
I found his cock
it is mightly like the oak

Ideé d’jour

Be yourself and do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love; in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass.

Max Ehrmann, writer and lawyer (1872-1945)

Monday, August 25, 2003

Of Icons

In the post below, I refer to Granny D as an icon. In my entry on True Christianity, I refer to myself as an icon of the divine for my faithful atheist friend. In his comments on my post, my friend wonders if I'm suffering from caffeine-induced delusions of grandeur.

We normally think of Icons as static works of holy art, originating from the Orthodox Christian tradition. But human beings may be icons as well.

What is the function of an icon? In a way, it is a window through which one may perceive the divine. Just as one would not mistake a window for a tree viewed through that window, so one is wise not to confuse the icon for the divine itself.

Almost every Sunday, I pray that I may see Jesus in everyone I meet, and that I may be an icon of Jesus to everyone I meet. By which I mean to ask that I may be a living breathing sign of the reality of God-enfleshed. This I understand to be a prayerful invocation of the social gospel Jesus preaches at Matthew 25: 31-40. In this story, Christ makes clear that we serve him by helping the poorest in society. I would even go further, by suggesting that I am Christ when I allow others to serve me. Christ is in the server & the servant. As the popular "renewal" song has it, "I pray to have the grace to let you be my servant too."

I'm not Christ returned, by any means. I have chosen a path, and tried to walk it with integrity (another way of saying I've tried to walk my talk).

Like most folk, I merely fumble along doing the best I can to be the person I am called to be — that image of God unique to the heart of me. I take it for granted that each person on earth has their own unique path to walk. I don't think you have to agree with my beliefs in order for you to be "saved."

Aside: I've always wanted a bumper sticker that says "Jesus saves at First National Bank!"

My dear friend Dr. Omed defines himself as an atheist. He is, as others have said, the most evangelistic atheist you could hope to meet. But he and I have come to an equitable agreement: if it pleases me to think he believes in the divine, he won't argue overly much. As it stands, as I say in a comment to one of his posts, "Not terribly worried about the state of your soul. Expect to greet [you] at the periphery of the celestial rose."

If Dr. Omed sees me as a "true xtian", then it suggests to me that he perceives me as someone who is more successful at walking the talk than some (e.g., Judge Roy Moore of AL, Jerry Falwell, et al). Since I interpret the word "xtian" to mean one who is Christ like (an appropriate translation of the word), then if the good doctor says I am a "true xtian", then I am Christ-like and therefore am an icon of Christ for him.

Now, I don't claim any of this for myself. The fact that I am both flattered and slightly troubled by the designation suggests I have a long way to go to be fully Christ like. So, you guys can put away the boards & the nails.

Meantime, Granny D is preaching a social gospel not too far from the OT prophets or from Mt 25. Therefore, she is an icon of that good news for me.

So be it.

The Icon, Granny D

Brother Dave's clipping service sent this speech by Granny D, speaking in Hood River, Oregon on August 16, 2003. It's a pretty good — though sometimes rambling — populist history of what has happened in America.

In case you don't remember, Granny D first gained prominence by walking across America in 1998, in support of campaign finance reform. As the linked speech makes clear, she has not stopped walking, and she has not stopped believing the best of America's ordinary people, since.

During Rev. Newell's presentation this past weekend (see my notes posted Sat. Aug 23 and Sun. Aug 24), someone asked what Celtic Christianity might look like if plopped in the middle of Wall Street. Well, it was too big a question for Philip to answer in the time remaining, but he did repeat some social justice themes he had alluded to throughout his presentation.

Well, I think Granny D has the answer to that question. It's in the second paragraph of the linked speech:
You know, there are two kinds of politics in the world: the politics of love and the politics of fear. Love is about cooperation, sharing and inclusion. It is about the elevation of each individual to a life neither supressed nor exploited, but instead nourished to rise to its full potential--a life for its own sake and so that we may all benefit by the gift of that life. Fear and the politics of fear is about narrow ideologies that separate us, militarize us, imprison us, exploit us, control us, overcharge us, demean us, bury us alive in debt and anxiety and then bury us dead in cancers and wars. The politics of love and the politics of fear are now pitted against each other in a naked struggle that will define not only the 21st Century but centuries to come. We are the Sons and Daughters of Liberty in that struggle, indeed we are. Let us not shirk from the mission that fate has bestowed upon us, for it has done so as a blessing.

In the words of that great saint, John Lennon, imagine all the people sharing life in peace. That's what the world would look like if all the people and all the leaders of all the nations could listen to the heartbeat of the divine. Doesn't matter what name they chose to label the divine; doesn't matter if they refuse to name or label the divine. Listening for the universal holy heartbeat will be sufficient.

“You may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one”

Definition d’jour

facinorous (fuh-SIN-uhr-uhs) adjective
Extremely wicked.
[From Latin facinorous, from facinus (bad deed), from facere (to do or make).]
From Word a Day

Sunday, August 24, 2003

Ideé d’jour

The presence of God's spirit in all living things is what makes them beautiful; and if we look with God's eyes, nothing on the earth is ugly.
— Pelagius, c. 380 CE, quoted in J. Philip Newell, Listening for the Heartbeat of God, Paulist Press, London, 1997, p. 11

Two Stories

  1. The early Celtic Christians were especially drawn to the mysticism of St. John's Gospel. Like many, they identified John with the "Beloved Disciple", who is said to have laid his head on Jesus' chest at the Last Supper. Since Jesus is understood to be a physical manifestation of the Godhead, it may be said that John listened to the heartbeat of God. I would say this phrase "listening to the heartbeat of God" is an excellent description of contemplative prayer.

  2. This story is more modern. Several years ago, Rev. Newell became friends with a man who grew up in a Hasidic community in "New Joisey". Every year, the man would attend a Jewish summer camp in upstate New York. The man was still fairly young, pre-teens I believe, when this story took place.

    The students heard that their beloved Rebbe would be visiting the camp that week. They were very excited, and anxious to meet him. So anxious, in fact, that when they heard he was nearby they ran to meet him. They found the Rebbe standing in a stream, doyaning in prayer. "Look closely," said the Rebbe, "this water that flows at our feet will never pass this way again." The boys joined him in the water and began praying with him — many of them also doing the rocking and bending characteristic of Hasidic prayer.

    In time, the sound of the water and the regularity of the rocking put our friend to sleep. He woke sometime later to discover the other boys had gone. The Rebbe remained; in fact, the Rebbe was holding the boy as he himself continued his prayer. When the Rebbe noticed the boy was awake, he looked upon him with a smile. The boy recognized that smile as an expression of God's grace.

The Book of Creation

J. Philip Newell, Saturday, 23.Aug.03

My notes for Saturday morning's seminar are not quite as detailed from Friday night's presentation. I think I was caught up in our meditation times.

What we did, three times between 9:30 and 12:30, was to chant. These chants were written by Linda S. Larkin, inspired by the work of Rev. Newell; she has two collections out, and you may write her for ordering information. Music is where I meet the divine, so this really spoke to me, more in its way than intellectual concepts.

Anyway, here are some preliminary notes from Saturday morning:
  • Truth is not too complicated for expression; truth is too simple for expression — Irainous (don't have the spelling handy)

  • When practicing the Presence, prayer is not thinking, but being present to God & allowing ourselves to be renewed.

  • The presence is forever inviting us to new beginnings, new creativity

  • The moon & the sun are equals. The moon, for its part, is a lamp in the darkness which is not frightened by the unknown.

The primary topic of the day was the first chapter of Genesis. As any creation reveals something of the creator, so Genesis is a reflection of the nature of God. Most of the morning session focused on Day Two of creation:
God said, "Let there be a vault in the waters to divide the waters in two." And so it was. God made the vault, and it divided the waters above the vault from the waters under the vault. God called the vault "heaven." Evening came and morning came: the second day. (Gen 1:6-8; Jerusalem Bible)
  • The Firmament in the midst of the waters is in the midst of the womb of life

  • The waters which enfold this womb are the mystery of God

  • The water also represents chaos, which is seen as a part of God

  • Chaos is the swirling of energy within as a new thing is being born

  • The turbulent & wild places of our life are where the spirit of God is struggling to birth something new

  • Being present to the spirit makes us alive to the wildness as the birthing of God within us

  • When the spirit of God is described as brooding over the waters, it's another way of saying God is fermenting the water

  • Suppressed wild energies wreak havok

After a time of chanting and meditation, we had a break, then returned to focus on Day Seven:
Thus heaven and earth were completed with all their array. On the seventh day God completed the work he had been doing. God rested on the seventh day after all the work s/he had been doing. God blessed the seventh day and made it hole, because on that day God had rested after all his/her work of creating. (Gen 2:1-3, op cit, with edits)
  • First, note phrase "Evening came and morning came", which is to say the time of rest precedes the time of creativity
  • The Seventh Day is also an utterance of God

  • Creation is born from the stillness

  • Stillness is part of the way of God

  • Our own rest is so sacred, the Celts speak of "the angeling of our rest", which is to say angels watch over us during our time of rest
As I say, my notes are sketchy, and I've only scratched the surface of what Rev. Newell shared with us Friday evening and Saturday morning. For more, I direct you to the following sources by J. Philip Newell:
Rev. Newell also recommended a book by Bede Griffiths, The Marriage of East and West which talks about the dialogue between Eastern Spirituality (e.g., Hindu and Buddhism) and Western Spirituality (i.e., Christianity). This dialogue essentially began with Thomas Merton, one of my heroes, and continued with Fr. Griffiths.

Let us pray:
Blessed are you Lord God, giver of life and life.
Blessed are you Lord God, giver of the darkness and the light
Blessed are you Lord God, giver of the waters of chaos and the waters of healing
Blessed are you Lord God for you dwell within us
Blessed are you Lord God for you have 10,000 names
Blessed are you Lord God for you are infinite
Blessed are you Lord God for you are smaller than a stone and vaster than the sea
Blessed are you Lord God for you gift us with your divine spirit
Blessed are you Lord God for you grace us with your breath
Blessed are you Lord God for you call us evermore to let go of the fleeting to be renewed into what is eternal

So be it

Saturday, August 23, 2003

True Christianity

Just read an entry at Mambrino's Helmet regarding a controversy concerning an entry at the Virtual Occoquan. The "VO" is a monthy compendium of the best entries at Salon (and sometimes other blog-verses — I've even seen an entry from blogspot!); normally, these entries generally revolve around a central theme.

A couple of times now, this virtual gazette has featured writing by Real Live Preacher, a minister who lives in Ft Worth, TX. The reason is simple: this guy can write circles around most of us — and he clearly loves it. What I gather from the entry at Mambrino's Helmet is that someone wrote to the editor objecting to xtianity being forced down their throat.

Well, it seems to me this person was just looking for a reason to complain. The table of contents in "VO" clearly lists the author, and one has to expect a certain type of content from a site called "Real Live Preacher." If you're virulently anti-christian, don't click on that link. Problem solved.

But it also reminds me of an incident which occured when I was working at KGOU, the NPR affiliate in Norman, OK. I was the dj for "Ambient Morning Music" (ie, "new age") Saturday & Sunday mornings. On Sundays, my music program would be followed by New Dimensions, a very thought-provoking program which explores every possible facet of human belief (or unbelief). One morning, the guest was christian. Someone called to complain, and asked if I listened to the program.

Well, I did listen to the program, and could honestly answer that guests on New Dimensions were more likely to be Buddhist or sympathetic to some form of Buddhism. The christian was actually an anomaly.

Now, I haven't read all the blogs at Salon. I have a great respect for them all, and would love to be part of that virtual community — it's just the inner miser that prevents me. But most do not talk about religion one way or the other. One exception is my friend, Dr. Omed. And if you go to a site that bills itself as a Tent Show Revival, with a banner that celebrates the "dancing Elders of the Seventh Day Atheist Aztec Baptist Synod," you better be prepared for some anti-xtian talk. Not to mention some especially naughty nuns.

Mambrino's Helmet has hinted at his xtianity, and I gather he is at the liberal end of the spectrum. Based on comments posted here and elsewhere, I believe paulapalooza is a xtian. Christopher Key, who posts at The Barbaric Yawp has mentioned being an Episcopal priest at one time, but I have no idea whether he still considers himself xtian — he may prefer to be a Whitmanphile.

The point of a collection like the Virtual Occoquan is to provide people a way to discover new blogs, the best writing, images, ideas, and so on. If one of the best writers in the community happens to be xtian, so be it. And the Real Live Preacher is by far one of the best writers I've read on any topic, anywhere, so far.

If one of the most interesting spaces in the Salon blogsphere happens to atheist, great. If Rayne Today is Buddhist, and still deserves a read, so be it.
I come back now to my friend, the good Dr. Omed. As my introduction to his chapbook explains, we've known each other since high school. He has always been a faithful atheist, I have taken a long circuitous route back to faith, back to the xtian pew.

It seems that Dr. Omed does drop by this site on occasion to check up on me, for he has posted a response to my entry below. He writes: "His Loveliness the Fair and Balanced Pope (SDAABS) urges all pilgrims and seekers to visit a true xtian in order to have a basis for comparison when reading of the antics of peckerwood "prayer warriors" and Fundy Bundy serial killers for Christ." I am amazed that my faithful atheist friend would refer to me as a "true xtian".

Which makes me ask what a "true xtian" would look like. To beat one of my favorite horses, the word "Christian" means "Christ follower" not "Christ believer". One follows Christ by trying to be Christ-like (another way to interpret "xtian"). With Rev. Newell, I believe we become more Christ-like as we become more truly ourselves.

We inherit a spark of the universe at birth, which is essentially good. Many things tempt us away from this, most of which I believe at heart are childish. As we truly mature, we can set aside childish things and reclaim that spark. We can nurture it back into being. We may call the expression of that spark "Yahweh", "Buddha", or "Gunga Din", it does not alter the nature of the spark or its dwelling in us.

If, as Meister Eckhart says, the soul is naked of anything that has names, so is God; so is that divine spark of the universe.

I'm going to talk about this more later, as I report on part two of the Celtic Workshop, but according to the Celts, God did not stop creating on the seventh day. The creation is on-going. God continues creation through us, and is continually re-creating each one of us.

We are called to be God's hands and feet in the world. That's what being a "true xtian" means to me. If I can be an icon of the divine for anyone, even for my faithful atheist friend, then I have been truly blessed.

Listening for the Heartbeat of God

J. Philip Newell, Friday, 22.Aug.03

This is a report on the first half of the workshop on Celtic Christianity. Rev. Newell has written a number of books on this topic, most of which are available through Paulist Press. There are two main characteristics which distinguish Celtic Christianity from what Rev. Newell refers to as "Mediterranean Christianity", this latter being the form most of us are familiar with. Those characteristics are:

  1. What is deepest in us is in the image of God

    1. The wisdom of God has been knitted into us in our mother's womb

    2. At the core of our being is the desire to love, and be loved

    3. The gift of grace and the gift of nature are both sacred

    4. Grace is the gift to become who we really are

  2. Creation is essentially good

    1. Creation is forever coming forth from the womb of God

    2. Creation is a theophany, which is to say, an expression of the God

    3. Creation is on-going. God is continuing to bring creation into existence

    4. At heart, we have been uttered into existence; if God were to stop speaking, we would cease to be

The Celtic tradition believes that God speaks through two books - the "little book" of scripture and the "big book" of nature. Furthermore, we must read both books equally. In the West, we have become very adept at reading the book of scripture — many of us have seen our lives reflected in the words of scripture. But we don't know how to read the book of nature — we have lost the alphabet.

I've written down a number of quotes from Philip's lecture — many of which could easily become "ideé d’jour". Here's a sampling:

  • God is at the heart of each moment

  • In Celtic Christianity, there is an emphasis that God is NOW

  • Captive to the past, or in bondage to the future, we keep blind to the present

  • “Soul is naked of anything that bears names” — Meister Eckhard

  • The book of nature repeats male & female intertwined, as equals

  • The call to repentence is not "Repent & be like us" but "Repent and become truly yourself

  • Furthermore, repentence is a call to return to the beauty of our being, which is deeper than the ugliness of our actions

From the Gnostic, or Apocryphal Gospel of John —
Jesus said: “I am the memory; you have forgotten who you really are. I am here to remind you.”
“I am the mirror ” look into me and see what you are at the deepest level.”
Elsie and I are going for the second part of the presentation. Titled “Celtic Christianity in ‘The Book of Creation’”, this is billed as a workshop with music and meditation, where we will be invited to experience the devotions and practices of the early Christian Celts. I hope to share these experiences with you in the near future.

Friday, August 22, 2003

Elsie’s Art

Not to detract from my humble efforts, but Elsie is definitely the superior artist. Anyone who can work so well in watercolors has my eternal admiration (of course, I admire Elsie for so many other reasons....).

Anyway, it you'd like see more of her work, she's set up an on-line gallery. Pay it a visit, then drop her a line.

As I say below, she's going to have a show in a physical gallery sometime this fall. Details will be generously displayed in this space once I learn them.

In the meantime, Elsie is leaving town next Thursday — a mission trip to Bolivia. Offer prayers and positive thoughts as she & her team help build a church in Oruro. And, if you think of it, offer good vibes for the guy who waits for her return.

Postcard Poems

Probably won't be forging any web-based postcards over the weekend. Elsie and I have a fairly busy week-end planned, most of it spent, ironically, in a workshop on Celtic Christianity. So, since you've been especially good, going to offer two postcards today.

Today's card takes about 14 sec to download. The picture is by your humble correspondent — the second one of my paintings to be featured in this series. The text is an attempt to feature the second person pronoun more prominently. Elsie says she really likes this one.

The "archive" postcard is probably over-sized. This one only takes 5 sec to down-load, since I'm not using many images. The text on the face side is authentic, although the layout is all mine.

About that workshop I mentioned in my first paragraph — hope to share some notes with you here. Should be interesting.

Ideé d’jour

The charm, one might say the genius of memory, is that it is choosy, chancy and temperamental; it rejects the edifying cathedral and indelibly photographs the small boy outside, chewing a hunk of melon in the dust.
Elizabeth Bowen, novelist (1899-1973)


A memory is the hardest thing to fight against.
Louise Kowitz

Thursday, August 21, 2003

From the Skerry

The image for today's card also comes from Elsie. It's about 14 sec. down-load, and I think it's worth it.

Elsie tells me the poem is very sensual. I woke up thinking about my spiritual grandfather, Walt Whitman, and wanted to try to write in his style. Not sure I entirely succeeded, but I did manage to work in one of his compound words.

Turns out that Elsie is a little jealous of this "colleen" who keeps popping up on my fictitious skerry. Guess a word of explanation is in order.

About a month before Elsie and I met, folk on the Poetry Espresso e-list were having a discussion about what books & records they'd take to a desert island. Well, the deeper I thought about what I wanted on my island, the more I decided a library boat would be required. From there, my fantasy just grew.

Having been fascinated by things Irish since my pre-teens, I decided I wanted my desert island to be an Irish skerry — my limited knowledge of which is summed up in John Sayle's movie The Secret of Roan Innish. As I say, I developed this fantasy before Elsie & I met, so I wanted to include a nice Irish lass on the island. My puckish sense of humor inspired me to name said fantasy Irish lass "colleen" — from Gaelic cailin meaning a young girl.

It's been said that virgins write the best porn. I suspect folk who are in a happy relationship may write the best sensual poetry. Well, that's my story, and I'm sticking to it!

Ideé d’jour

The easiest kind of relationship for me is with ten thousand people. The hardest is with one.
Joan Baez, musician (1941- )

Wonder if this is true of most performers, or just politically active "folk" musicians?

Wednesday, August 20, 2003

The Rule of Postcards!

A gander at Ron Silliman's site lead me to this NPR story on Poetry Postcards. Worth the time to check-out the pop-up box linked in the lower right-hand corner. Great images linked to fine verse. What I would like to achieve, as well.

I suppose the whole idea occured to me because Robin Shultz in Norman would promote poetry readings by printing short poems on one side of a postcard. Not sure of Cassie Lewis' source — but, as she says, they seem to have been around for awhile.

From the Skerry

Today's postcard was written with the Goddess in mind (see below). An early draft went to the Poetry Espresso list and Elsie. No one on the list has commented on it, but Elsie liked it.

Well, since Elsie liked the poem, I thought it would be nice to include a picture from her collection. The stamp (above) is also from her collection. Nice work, eh? Elsie will be having a gallery showing in the near future, I'll be sure to share the details as I receive them.

Postcard will take an estimated 19 seconds to down-load. I think Elsie's picture will be well worth the wait. Besides that, you can read the poem (in the lower part of the screen) while you're waiting for the image to down-load.

Postcard from the Archives

It’s interesting what happens when you receive forwarded e-mail — sometimes you can’t tell with whom it originated. When I received a forwarded message from Brother Dave regarding a proposed Wellstone World Music Day, I assumed most of the folk were known to him, and would know him.

The message seemed to have originated with Connie Beckers, aka the"Goddess of Glass", so I wrote her to find the source of the article. In looking at her website, I was very taken with many of her stained glass creations, and thought some would make good images for my postcard series.

As it turned out, Connie only knew Brother Dave through the "friends-of-friends" network, but was very flattered that I thought so much of her work, and would ask permission prior to grabbing the desired images.

One of the stained glass pieces I chose is in Ms. Beckers' living room, above her piano. When I requested the image, Connie told me how special this piece was to her, writing:
She's my logo and it's very very personal. She's willed to my granddaughter who was named for Selene, Goddess of the Moon, by her adoptive parents. I finished it a month before she was born and before I even met them so the coincidence is . . . well, not really a coincidence, I don't think . . .

So, naturally, I felt a very special poem should be linked to it.

Rather than leave this up to chance, I chose a poem from my archives. I've posted it once before, but since the section of the archives it lives in is currently unavailable, I guess it won't hurt to post it once again.

Here it is, image and all, Postcard Theology. Allow about 11 seconds down-load time for a 28.8K modem.

Paul Newman is Still HUD

In a comment on my "Fair & Balanced" entry (about 3/4 down the current page), Brother Dave cites this editorial by our hero, Paul Newman. The NY Times site requires registration, but I have yet to receive any spam from them.

Many over in the virtual Salon community have taken up the "fair & balanced" banner, apparantly on the advice of the good Dr. Omed. Many of them are including it in the title of their blog. My personal favorite is "Andrew Bayer is fairly unbalanced." Even the former Episcopalian and current Whitmanite, Christopher Key has taken up the challenge.

Many on the Poetry Espresso list are Australian. I think it was Jill who asked whether everything was "fair & balanced" over here. No, Jill, I'm afraid it's just limited to the web-logs.

“I tip my hat to the new revolution” Which begins, naturally enough, in cyberspace.

Tuesday, August 19, 2003

Beat Postcard

I decided my fantasy skerry needed a visitor. So, today's postcard seems to be written in the voice of Maynard G. Krebs (big no prize to anyone who gets that gag).

There may be an interplay between the image and the photograph. This is following the advice of my friend from Suffolk County. The postcard will take about 23 seconds to download on a 28.8K modem.
Spelling of Maynard's name corrected in response to Christopher Key's comment, below.

Monday, August 18, 2003

Postcard from NYC

As you shall see, this card from my archives dates from October 1981. I often hear echoes of what I was reading at the time in my writing. In this case, I was reading a lot of Taoist philosophy, for this is the source of the phrase "10,000 things". It's a phrase which is commonly repeated (at least in the translations I've seen), and I find it especially charming.

Oh, yeah, download time is estimated at 9 seconds.

In other postcard-related news, I've decided to forge a permanent link to an "index" page for these postcards. This link appears to your left, near the top of the screen.

Postcard from the Skerry

The postcard series may go on hiatus for a while, as my day job is picking up. Today's card will take about 17 sec to download on a 28.8K modem, and I promise you the picture side will be well worth it. The image is a collage created by the venerable Very Rt Rev Dr. Omed. Per usual, check it out, then get back to me.

May add an older postcard later today, as time permits.

Sunday, August 17, 2003

Report from Suffolk County, NY

What follows is a marvelous street/stream scene from my friend George Wallace. Mr. Wallace is the poet laureate of Suffolk County, and was one of the thousands affected by the recent black-out.

because there is no yellow light
or red light or green light
only eyelids at the crossroads
going off and on
without direction
it is no longer a river
it has become
stagnant water
so a man in a uniform
with a set of flares
in his belt
and a set of instructions
in his head
with eyes as big as bicycle tires
and brass buttons
on his blue shoulders
and a gun on his hips
and a white glove
on his right hand
and a silver whistle
in his left hand
wades into it
he is slow as a bear
reaching into a river
but he is also very patient
he dips his hand
into the blind rumbling
horizontal darkness
chock full of unmoving things
rock and water
branch and stones
he sets his jaw
he fishes around in it
he takes a taste of it
he admires the logic of it
river! river!
he is defiant
he is wise
he is standing waist deep
at the intersection
and he sets it going again
with a strong
river! river!
river! river!
all the while
staring back at the rest of us
staring at him
© George Wallace, 2003

Friday, August 15, 2003

Two Postcards

Since it's Friday, and I'm not likely to post any postcards over the weekend, I thought I'd treat you to two postcards.

The first, dated 4.June.1997, is one of the Postcard Poems I actually mailed. The picture was different, but the text is the same; I've even used a fictionalized version of the recipient's name in the address section.

Here's the story: The youth leader assigned an adult to different "youth" in our church. My youth was Jon. The idea was to anonymously send different cards and letters to the youth, and s/he was to try to figure out which adult was his/her benefactor.

The second card is part of the continuing "Skerry Postcard" series. The picture side is a poster I designed for a poetry reading ages ago — I'm guessing late 70's.

Each postcard takes less than 15 seconds to down-load. Once again, please click through to the cards, then use your browser's back button to return here & comment on them. Enjoy!


Run, do not walk, to buy the August 15 issue of Entertainment Weekly (#723; cover has banner headline, “One Shocking Summer”). It’s worth the cover price for "My Movie Year," a cartoon by Harvey Pekar. Harvey has been self-publishing a comic book, American Splendor for several years; this is his first-ever publication in a national magazine.

Harvey’s comic has been adapted to a movie (also titled "American Splendor"), which has won a number of awards, including the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance. I’ll admit that Harvey’s work is an acquired taste. The guy is almost as self-obsessed as I am — if they taxed the use of the first person personal pronoun, we’d both be poverty stricken.

However, this is a fine American tradition. Dates at least from Thoreau, who said that he wrote about himself because that was a subject he knew the most about. The tradition carries on into Henry Miller, Jack Kerouac, and others.

Harvey makes quite a point of reminding us he’s just a working stiff — he’s worked most of his life as a file clerk in a VA hospital. Granted, it’s a sort of "No Exit" kind of job, but it’s not quite the same as an assembly line worker or long shoreman.

I suppose I was just as much of working stiff, back when I worked in shipping & receiving, and tossed boxes most days. But, like Harvey, I always had my cultural interests to keep my mind active. Not sure "working stiff" is synonymous with "mindless drone", but that's the connotation that immediately occurs to me. Don’t have to read much of Mr. Pekar's work to realize he's far from a mindless drone.

As a rule, there’s not an over-riding plot to Harvey's comics. Just a guy commenting on life around him. I don"t buy all his comics — they’re best sipped, rather than gulped. However, I can strongly recommend the book Our Cancer Year, which details his battle with lymphoma.

The comic in Entertainment Weekly is a fine introduction to Harvey Pekar’s work. "My Movie Year" details the path from becoming a fledging comic writer to having his work adapted for the screen.

I give it three stars ***

Thursday, August 14, 2003

Where Black is the Color & None is the Number

Brother Dave sent us the following missive:

Some of you may know this, most I suspect do not. Friday, August 15, 2003 is a momentous day for US citizens and a few 100,000 surviving Viet Nam veterans. On this day, the federal government (aka, taxpayers) will pay off the last US bond issued to pay for the Viet Nam "conflict".

I wonder what year today's troops will be able to celebrate that same event for today's "operation". I sure as hell hope there are not as many of them with cause to celebrate as there are of us.

It is not time for "bring 'em on"; it's time for "bring 'em HOME".

Semper Fi — Bro. Dave

“Wolves” Update

The Very Right Rev. & Venerable Dr. Omed has posted the title poem from The Bread of Wolves on his website/blog. If you have not visited the Tent Show Revival, this is a good time to start!

Skerry Postcard

Click the stamp to see today's postcard, which will take aproximately 12 seconds to download on a 28.8K modem. You may notice that today's stamp is a little different than the past several days. It is a sort of comment on the picture side of the card.

Well, of course, you have to click through to the card. Let me make clear there is no threat here, actual or implied. “Our days are like dust,” says the psalmist; or, in the words of the Kansas song, “We're nothing more than dust in the wind.”

So — guess what? — not going to give you the text today. You'll have to click through. Then use the "back" button on your browser to come back here & let me know what you think about the card, stamp, and poem(s).

Wednesday, August 13, 2003

Fair & Balanced

I have been given the imprimatur and nihil obstat of the Very Rt Rev and Venerable Dr. Omed to declare this little corner of the blogosphere Fair and Balanced.

In case, like me, you avoid most news like the plague, you may not be aware that Fox News is suing Al Franken because his new book uses that phrase, Fair and Balanced. Apparantly, in a mood of "War=Peace", Fox News has been using the slogan Fair and Balanced for some time.

In other revelations, it has been determined that Al Franken is annoying and unfunny. Afraid I lost the link for that part of the tale, but it's out there. Well, Fox News is neither "Fair" nor "Balanced", so I'd say they're even.

Fair And Balanced; nihil obstat
Imprimatur: OX

News Flash! I'm a “Lit Geek”

Are you a lit geek? — Take the quiz and find out!

Paul and Sheila Wellstone World Music Day

Brother Dave's Clipping Service sent me a copy of an open letter from Jim Walsh, a former music critic for the Pioneer Press.

Paul Wellstone, as most of you know, was the junior senator for Minnesota who died in a plane crash several years ago. Dennis Kucinich, whose name should be familiar to most of the readers of this blog, is now in that seat. Sen. Kucinich has cited Wellstone's name so often, he should genuflect everytime he says it — yet Dennis is sincerely striving to continue Wellstone's progressive legacy.

In any case, the proposal is to have a "World Music Day" on October 25 in memoriam of Sen. Wellstone, and his love of music. The emphasis will be on the joy of music, and how it can unite us, rather than on politics.

My motto is “Music Heals” — and right now is definitely a time for healing. I don't feel qualified to start something like this, but I have sent the message to all my musical friends. Hopefully, one of them will take up the challenge. I'd be happy to lend my talents (such as they are).

If a "Wellstone World Music Day" is successfully organized in Oklahoma, I'll post all the details right here.

May the divine spirit of music make it so.

Today’s Postcard

Today's entry might be titled “Why I Moved to the Skerry”. In any case, it is an intentional attempt to move away from the first-person pronoun. Down-load time is an estimated 9 sec. (not bad); the picture is from the family archives. Per usual, here's the text without the images:
He saw her on the stoop,
near the steps, smoking a cigarette
outside the health food store
he didn't know what to think

Drove home haunted by cancer
watched the road
haunted by sunset

Drove out the nightmares
by chanting his dreams

Introduction to Bread of Wolves

As you shall see, I am recycling some very old material here. As I recall, this was Dana's first chapbook (privately published by the Dromedary Syndicate), and he asked me to write the introduction. So far as I know, Dana never published a copy of the chapbook with my introduction.

It's been my observation, that a poet writing about another poet's work will reveal more about his or her own poetics than s/he does about the referenced poet. So, this entry will give you a sense of where my poetics stood about ten years ago. Note that I admire Dana's "Dionysian" art, which may suggest that I was "Apollonian", but wished I were less "formal". Hard to imagine the guy who wrote "4 am" as being formal, huh?
Bread of Wolves
Dana, on “performance art” poets: “Most of them are bad actors who have, unfortunately, written their own lines.”

To play the devil’s advocate, one could argue that these poets are drawing on poetry’s oral origins. They are recalling the tradition of Homer and the troubadour tradition.

Or not.

We cannot hear Dana read his poetry. Like most poetry written after the 15th century, Dana’s work was written as much for print as for performance.

I would inebriate you with words!

Dana and I met in about 1975. I was a senior in high school, and Dana was a year behind me. At the time, I was one of a group of recognized poets. I had been published in the high school literary anthology, and had won an award from the Oklahoma Poetry Society. I suppose Dana looked up to me, both because I was an upper-classman, and because Dana was an aspiring poet.

Now, he has surpassed me.

Most of the poems in this book are addressed to women, or are about women. These women may be actual living women whom Dana has known, or they may be images of the Goddess — or what Jung called the anima.

A comedian once said that the main reason men write poetry is to get women into bed. There is an element of truth in that. On the other hand, it is also true that a writer — regardless of gender — writes to wrestle with whatever spirit drives him or her to create.

Leonard Cohen once said that the bedroom would be the final battlefield. Truthfully, the erotic wrestling match between a man and a woman is similar to the wrestling match between a creator and his/her creation. It is the wrestling match between the creator and whatever spirit drives him/her to create. But remember also that when we say one is “inspired,” we are also saying s/he is ‘filled with the spirit.’

There are those who are willing to be possessed by that spirit, and others who see that spirit as a force to be manipulated, codified, and controlled. Nietsche called the former Dionysian and the latter Apollonian. For the latter, a work is not a poem unless it obeys certain rules. The Dionysian creator is willing to take the risk of allowing the work to define itself. The Apollonian is rules-oriented; the Dionysian is more interested in relationship with the spirit. There is the same tension between the priestly and the prophetic tradition in Judeo-Christian theology.

Is it surprising that I turn so quickly from the sexual imagery of Dana’s poetry to spiritual concerns? I know Dana won’t be surprised (not that he would necessarily agree with my analysis). Of course, it’s a truism that a sexual climax is the same sort of ecstatic experience which is sought in religion, as well as from other sources. Such experiences connect us with the universe, the Collective Unconcious, the Godhead, or Fill In the Blank. These experiences liberate us from our prison of perceived reality, our bodies, and our normally self-obsessed egos.

Mark well my words! They are more than New Age psychobabble!

Furthermore, poetry also has its origins in the Greek mystery religions. These were the chants to invoke and/or please the gods. Homer was not writing confessional poetry; he was recording the deeds of the gods and their heroes, to do them proper homage. If the “performance art” poets would claim the oral tradition, then they must also acknowledge the religious tradition as well. I wonder: do they serve their own self-obsessed egos or the universal creative spirit?

Dana does not worry about this. He writes. He becomes vulnerable to his creative spirit and allows the work to find its form. In so doing, he invites us to share the ecstatic experience. This seems to me to be the poet’s duty: to create that bit of mystery, to offer that element of myth, which blows the back of our heads off (to paraphrase Emily Dickinson).

To speak mythically, Dana becomes drunk on words in the Dionysian rite, and invites us to the dance of ecstasy.

When a friend offers us a creation, the most honorable response is to offer another creation in return. As we enter into the creative process, we partake of the bread of wolves even as the children of Israel partook of the food of angels. We bring to these poems the memories and fantasies of our own loves; the memories of our own wrestling matches; and we bring our wounds. As with myth, we find in these poems whatever we need to heal these wounds; whatever strikes a sympathetic chord in our own experience of the spirit; whatever blows the back of our heads off and liberates us from the narrow confines of our perceived reality.

Give thanks for these things, and enter into the dance.
October 1993. Norman, OK.

Ideé d’jour

The road to wisdom? Well it's plain and simple to express: Err and err and err again, but less and less and less.
Piet Hein, poet and scientist (1905-1996)

Busch Does It Again

Elsie sent me this bit of spam humor. It had me going, up til the last line. The Chief Executive Chicken Hawk is neither Texan, nor a gentleman. And he has yet to display this sort of diplomacy. But, the gag is fun.
Mr. Bush meets the Queen . . .
At Heathrow Airport, a 300-foot long red carpet stretches out to Air Force One and Mr. Bush strides to a warm but dignified hand shake from Queen Elizabeth II. They ride in a silver 1934 Bentley limousine to the edge of central London where they then board an open 17th century coach pulled by six magnificent white matching horses. They ride toward Buckingham Palace, each looking sideways and waving to the thousands of cheering Britons. So far everything is going well. Suddenly the right rear horse lets fly with the most horrendous, earth-rending, eye-smarting blast of flatulence ever heard in the British Empire and so powerful that it shakes the coach. Uncomfortable, but under control, the two Dignitaries of State do their best to ignore the incident, but, embarrassed, the Queen
decides it's impossible to ignore.

“Mr. President, please accept my regrets. I'm sure you understand that there are some things not even a Queen can control.”

Ever the Texas gentleman, the President replies, “Your Majesty, please don't give the matter another thought. You know, if you hadn't said something, I would have thought it was one of the horses!”

Tuesday, August 12, 2003

Today's Postcard

Click on the "stamp" to see Today's Card. Allow about 11 seconds for the main picture to down-load; it's appropriate for the overall theme of this "postcard" series. Here's the text, sans image:
mother bred monsters
so we walked the Valley of Good & Evil
as she blew smoke
into the chambers of our hearts

i have lived in exile
hovering somewhere twixt land & water
i walk the limits of this island
as dawn blows smoke
across the embarrassed moon

the moon goes to bed
as coleen & i are rising
we rebuild our society
we sculpt new faces
we dust the unknown graves
and sweep out the caverns
of our hearts


Ideé d’jour

Between trying to impeach Bill Clinton, Florida 2000, and the recall in California, I'm beginning to think that Republicans will do anything to win an election — except get the most votes.
— Bill Maher
quoted by Oliver Willis on Like Kryptonite To Stupid.

Monday, August 11, 2003

If you missed the stamp on the first postcard, this is an artistic rendering of your correspondent.

Today’s Postcard Poem

As I say below, this series is inspired by work done by Cassie Lewis. It's also inspired (at the moment) by a discussion the group has had on the Poetry Espresso list about Desert Island Books. Somehow, for me, this became a fantasy about life on an Irish skerry. Emphasis on fantasy (IOW, don't ask where the coconuts and macaws come from).

Here's the on-line version of the postcard; it will take approximately 72 sec. to down-load on a 28.8K modem. If you don't have that kind of time, here's the text-only version:
She came to the island yesterday
she said to deliver groceries
When she heard my guitar
she decided to stay

Now she is plucking strings
on my guitar like snapping peas
as I build the evening fire
the stew kettle for to boil


In Consideration of Marriage, Part Two

In part one of this essay, I made some assumptions about government’s interest in marriage. Although Brother Dave is the superior sociologist, I have drawn conclusions — based on unscientific observation - about why most societies favor monogamy, rather than bigamy or polygamy. The latest data I am familiar with suggests that "serial monogamy" is the dominant form in most "Western" societies.

You may recall that my argument centered on the notion that, so far as the government is concerned, a marriage is a unique sort of contract. For the sake of this essay, we will assume that marriage is limited to two people at a time — due primarily to social norms, rather than any compelling governmental need.

I want to emphasize that I have avoided making an argument on the basis of "legislating morality". Often when one is arguing these hot-button issues, one often says we cannot (or should) "legislate morality". Well, as the Southerners say, that’s a dog that just won’t hunt. Most laws are founded on a moral system. It may be an extension of the Ten Commandments, or practical applications of the Golden Rule, but I can think of few laws that can not be traced to some moral basis. Most arguments actually derive from philosophical questions — the beginning of life, who determines the relative value of a life, and so on.

So, when we consider the question of marriage — and remove Judeo-Christian morality from the discussion as much as possible — the philosophical question becomes how we chose to define marriage. The state, as such, has little interest in why people get married. However, sociological trends do suggest that people who have formed this sort of union tend to be responsible citizens and tend to support a robust economy. These reasons alone would be sufficient cause for the state to support a codified civic union.

Then what interest does the state have in the gender of the two people entering into a civic union? I can think of only two reasons why the state would limit unions to persons of opposite genders: social norms, and progeny.

I have discussed my perception of social norms at length in the first part of this essay, but will return momentarily to make this point: I have been told that homosexuals who wish to enter into committed relationships are approximately 8% of the population. Since heterosexuality has been the dominant mode practically since the fall of Rome, it has been perceived as the norm. Therefore, I suspect calls to legally limit marriage to heterosexual couples are primarily founded on fear of anything outside of the norm. In this sense, homosexuality has been treated as the new "communism", since many of the arguments seem to center on gays "recruiting" others to their way of life.

Since modern psychological theory has yet to substantiate one person "making" another person gay, this fear is patently irrational. Yet, I am aware that logic rarely persuades those possessed by such an irrational fear. However, in ideal terms, the state does not exist to respond to irrational fears, the state exists to promote the common welfare of the members of that state.

But the state is not going to survive beyond one generation without progeny. So, for a state beginning from "ground zero", as it were, there might be good reason to compel or encourage unions which are likely to produce progeny. Given the current state of science and biology, such unions are limited to people of opposite genders.

As an aside, this argument mirrors traditional Roman Catholic teaching, that marriage exists to create progeny. Again, this traditional teaching is of no concern to the state. The state may, however, agree with that teaching for pragmatic reasons of its own.

When we consider the current status of the world population, and of the precarious ratio between resources and population, there seems to be little need to insure continued progeny for the state’s survival. I do not propose to argue in favor of recognized homosexual committed relationships in order to decrease the world’s population. But given the fact that the United States (along with most of the world) has a robust population, there is no need to require people of opposite genders to form civil unions in order to insure the potential for the perpetuation of the species (and the state).

Note I say "potential", for not all heterosexual couples are capable of siring children. There may heterosexual couples who actively choose not to have children, for whatever reasons. Outside of a doomsday scenario, there is no pragmatic reason for the state to compel couples to have children. Since there is no need to compel a couple to produce children, the state has no intrinsic interest in why a couple chooses to make a mutual commitment.

This being the case, there seems to be no sound reason for the state to limit civil unions to heterosexual couples — beyond preserving a social norm which serves no practical purpose. This is not, as it were, "legislating morality"; it is rather, imposing a philosophical belief on all members of a society. The imposition of such a philosophical belief would seem to blur the distinction between church and state — a distinction which American society has traditionally striven to maintain, to varying degrees. Furthermore, the imposition of this belief on all members of the society simply because it is the norm for 92% of the population seems like a "tyranny of the majority" — that great fear which Thomas Jefferson once expressed.

If the state has an interest in this issue, I suggest it would be in educating the majority. The best counter-agent to fear is information. With this information, the majority may come to accept committed homosexual couples as being no more aberrant than childless heterosexual couples.

Sunday, August 10, 2003

Ideé d’jour

. . . words are nothing more than things that fall out of your mouth.
— Sasha Frere-Jones, review of D-D-Don't Stop the Beat by Junior Senior, Entertainment Weekly; August 8, 2003, #722, 71.

Bad News, bad news

Got some bad news from P— in my e-mail this morning. I dated P— off and on, before I met Elsie. P— wrote:
My son Brandon was killed this morning by a hit and run driver. He was 19 years old.
Hardly knew how to respond. There are times the world seems so tragic, I could spend days crying. What I did say is that I grieve on her behalf, and would pray for her & her family.

You don't know P— or her son, but the divine spirit does. Offer up healing thoughts today for this child broken too soon. Pray also for children broken too soon all over the world.

And, I suppose, pray for that driver as well. We can only guess why they didn't stop, or what they are feeling right now. I suppose all hypothesis would lead to an appropriate prayer.

My Saturday Reverie

Elsie and I had a good day yesterday. I joined her at the community center in her little town to have breakfast with the folk she works with. They're good people — lot of farmers, who really seemed to be about as down-to-earth as the stereotype. I'm a self-confessed introvert, and tend to be quiet when faced with a room full of strangers. But I do like to listen and learn about folk. And there were a couple who were interested in drawing me out.

Marilyn asked me if I had any hobbies. Well, I said, I like to write & I like to play my guitar & sing. I guess those are hobbies.

Yesterday afternoon, Elsie and I went to Norman to meet one of her cousins, Johnny. This was a fellow Elsie hadn't seen for several years. She took a collection of photographs and probably about 75 pgs or so of family history to share with Johnny. He was very appreciative, and they seemed to hit it off very well.

But, you know, I don't suppose Elsie has ever met a stranger. Look up "people person," and it will say "Elsie." Earlier, at the breakfast, she was going from table to table visiting with folk. In a way, it was her job. But she wasn't schmoozing. She clearly enjoys every minute of it.

This was proven further when we went to Eischens, in Okarche, OK. We went there so I could introduce a few of my work-related friends to Elsie. It was a little noisy for good conversation, but Elsie got a good impression of Sharon (a kindred spirit people person). Sally, my spiritual sister, told me that Elsie was nice & she liked her.

I'll add, for non-Okies, that Eischens makes — without question — the absolute best fried chicken I've ever had. If you're even near the state a jaunt through El Reno to Okarche (off I-40) is well worth the drive. If you come on a Friday or Saturday, however, expect a couple of hours to wait.

All in all, a good day. And I got to spend it with a pretty special lady who seems to feel very special about me.

Suppose I should say something about the poem below. I've been reading some essays by William Stafford, a poet who was a great influence on my friend George Wallace (poet laureate of Suffolk County, NY). Stafford had the discipline of writing a poem a day, which he accomplished by setting down the first word or phrase which came to mind, and letting that run into a long line of words. Then, he would let it set for a bit, and a few days later would let the inner editor work on it.

Well, you're getting the raw unedited stuff below. Maybe the only time I do it, too. I mean, it may be the only time I throw the raw unedited stuff out for the whole either world to see. There's a personae at work here, and just enough autobiography to create verisimilitude. Main choice I've got to make these days is whether I want to keep my day job, or strike out for my dream job.

Filled out on of those e-mail "Who are you and what vegetables do you like" questionaires a couple of days ago. One of the questions concerned my dream job. I answered the first thing which came to my head, which was "free lance writer".

Now awaiting the votes & comments advising me to keep my day job ....

It's 4 am

It's four a.m., and I've got some hard work to do.
Or maybe I don't. Maybe it's simple.
Maybe it's as simple as you do or you don't.
Maybe it's as simple as the sunrise.
Could be as simple as the walk from the bedroom to the computer.
Well, maybe I could make a list
write down all the pros & cons
Maybe I could offer my heart to the divine
and let the fiery finger start writing the Law on my heart
Maybe I could talk it out with a friend

I know you don't know what I'm talking about,
but perhaps you're listening to your heartbeat
and it's four a.m.
and the air is sticky with yesterday morning's rain
and the clock you bought at a garage sale
is ticking off the morning
And - I don't know -
could be you've got a painting of a skull on your left
a picture of the boy jesus in front of you
and it's four a.m.

Maybe you don't know what to think
could be you don't know how to start that list
It's possible that you've lost whatever scale
it is they use to weigh the pros & cons

Oh, i'm just aching and world weary and tired
and my fingers are suffering from paranoia
my eyes are strained by inner editing
and i'm talking to a screen

i can't hear you, but i know you're nearby
i suppose i feel your breath
i suppose i know your song
as it opens the morning

but i don't know and it's four a.m. and words are betrayers
inner judases, tempting me to stay awake
even though i'm tired & world weary and
thinking of you

Friday, August 08, 2003

Postcard Poem

Cassie Lewis has published a series of chapbooks which are composed of poems written on actual postcards between two poets — the first set were between Ms. Lewis and Del Ray Cross.

I've also written various postcard poems, off & on, most of which were actually mailed. I thought it would be fun to create a postcard poem in html format, which could be viewed by everyone. Here's the full postcard.

And here's the poem sans card:
The library boat arrives today
macaws chatter in the trees
I built a penitential fire at noon
Played solitaire with
cards made from coconut leaves
Then sang the afternoon shade

Ideé d’jour

We need more light about each other. Light creates understanding. Understanding creates love. Love creates patience. And patience creates unity.
Malcolm X, quoted in First Words, Utne Reader, July-August 2003, pg. 12

The Frustration

A parody
About three or four years ago, a poem titled "The Invitation" was being forwarded in multiple e-mails. If you visit the link, you'll see the poem is by an woman — who appears to be caucasian — Ohiah Mountain Dreamer. However, no doubt due to her name, many people assumed it had been written by a Native American. By the time this bit of "spam" came to my mailbox, the claim was that it was written by a Native American chief.

The poem takes the form "X doesn't interest me ... I want to know Y", where "X" is some traditional American value (e.g., how one earns a living) and "Y" is some positive, "spiritual" value (e.g., "what you ache for").

After receiving the poem for the 3rd or 4th time, I decided it needed a parody, and suggested that the venerable Dr. Omed collaborate with me on same. The Reverend Doctor quite appropriately pointed out that "The Invitation" was practically self-parody, but he was game to give it a shot.

What follows is my edit of that collaboration.
The Frustration
I don’t care where you slept last night
I want to know if she was warm & tender
and told good jokes.

It doesn’t matter what your screen name is
or if your avatar has been killed 9000 times.
I want to know if your fingers are sore from typing
or from stroking her cheek.

I’d have to stay up late at night
to be concerned about Cheryl Neys
much less to pray for her.
I want to know what color socks she was wearing
when she came down with that strange blood disease.

I want to know how many jokes you’ve learned from your email
and if you have them filed
according to topic.

I want to know if you really have awakened in a tub of ice
with only one kidney.

I want to know if her kisses were worth it.

I could care less about your dimensions, your prowess,
or that little trick you do with the circles.
Just give me your credit card number
and password.

I don’t care if Shannon O’Malley has been missing
for six weeks, six months, or six years;
by the time you’ve read this message,
he will have been found.

I want to know your favorite singer, favorite pet,
and eternal destination. Just fill in the form below.

I don’t care whose cousin told you Microsoft
would send you to Disneyland and
Nokia would give you a free phone and
5,000 chain e-mails will grant me everlasting peace.

I want to know if you’re interested in this fine lake-front property.

I want to know the name of your legal guardian.

Spare me the details of your web site, your web cam life,
or the list of others who have read this very important message.

I just want to know
how to get my name off your mailing list.

By Uriah Heap BigMuddy
from Denial of Dreams (1995)

Thursday, August 07, 2003

In Consideration of Marriage, Part I

Just last week, Our Fearless Leader spoke in favor of a law or amendment which would restrict marriage to one man and one woman. This statement certainly is in reaction to the recent Supreme Court ruling that a Texas sodomy statue was unconstitutional. The statement may also have been in response to a Canadian recognition of same-sex unions.

On the surface, this consideration of a “bedroom” issue seems contrary to Republican goals of laize faire government (a.k.a. “Getting the government off people's backs”). I would contend that those who support this type of reform are somewhat schizophrenic — it is, at the least, inconsistent to support laize faire economics while at the same time supporting government intervention in the bedroom. These types of issues seem to be primarily motivated by the religious right, a section of the party which has insured its continued power.

But one must ask whether marriage is a concern of government at any level. Legally speaking, marriage is a type of contract entered into by two people. The question then becomes whether that contract is to be recognized by municipalities beyond the place where the contract originated. This does take the romance out of the matter, but beginning at this point helps defuse the issue.

At this basic level, a marriage contract may be analogous to a contract affecting interstate commerce. Therefore, the Federal Government might have a role insuring that states reciprocally recognize contracts. But does any government have the right to restrict who enters into these contracts?

The primary business concern in a marriage contract is the disposition of property. This is a concern which impacts insurance and inheritance. There may be no legitimate reason for government to restrict the marriage to two people, but this restriction simplifies the disposition of property. Certainly, it cannot be denied that emotional issues between the two parties also complicate the matter. Imagine how complex a legal divorce for polygamists might be!

But let’s be frank: the primary reason to restrict the marriage contract to two people is tradition. At some point in our evolution, a form of monogamy seemed to be best suited to the human psyche. This is certainly the dominant form of the majority of the world's cultures today. Doesn’t mean the form is right, just that “couples” is the norm. Bigamy has been outlawed in the U.S. for generations . . . maybe since the very beginning. Even this may be more intrusion than a pure libertarian would favor, but it is an intrusion the majority of our population has learned to live with.

Let's face it, there is a degree of society pressure here: even if there were no law present, there would be a level of prejudice against a non-traditional polygamous family unit. Such a family would likely be shunned and held suspect.

So, ok, let’s grant that a "civil union" should be restricted to two people. What interest does any level of government have in restricting that union to people of different genders?

Two words: tradition and progeny.

Stay tuned for part two.