Category Archives: Liturgy

Poetry: Magnetic, Elaborate Liquid

Remember “Magnetic Poetry”? I found a set of the little magnetized word tiles in a box in the basement. 

Poetry: Inaccessible

The Inaccessible Cardinal

Or why Rilke’s poetry is really the math of transfinite numbers

Who hears me howl among
the assassin choirs singing hosanna?

Who if I weep will drink my tears
When the Wrath of God is poured?

What angel would take my prayer
As its prey, my plea grasped as in talons?

The amen held against me,
The massive beat of a huge heart

hymning with the beat of wings.
In the steep climb of the ladder of flight

I would be a shadow in stark relief
A squint of crow’s wing in winter sun.

The loft and implicate dominion
Of wing within wing, suns with suns

The cold I feel in my bones–
is love, the infinite cardinal, the aleph null,

The inaccessible cardinal, the smallest
Infinity, the set of all loves.

Note: This is what you get when I try to parse out Rilke’s Duino Elegies auf Deutsch. If you don’t think poetry is a kind of mathematics, you’re not reading the right poetry. Or the right math.

Sinned Light

The angel sinned light.
First and prime spark,
scratch of flame
on the rough nothing
of god’s unspoken

The invariant broken
the angel fell into existence
from chaos into order,
the weight of all matter
on his wings.

Each photon
an infinitesimal death-into-light,
an angel child
unfurling the universe
along the binding curve
of Lucifer’s wings.

Note:This is a revision of an old poem. I always sneered at old poets revising the poetry of their youth, yet I find myself doing it.

Poem: The Instrument of Gath

All majesty is beneath you

Your unspeakable name
the pre-liminal shrug
of earthquake

Shrieking crack
shouted out sotto voce
into the feet of dogs, horses,
and other animals

Tremble of dust
on scuffed earth

I play the instrument of Gath
only to conceal you.

All your glory is set below
in nether heavens
tectonic rifts
shrieking cracks

Into which enemy angels
scream their praises
plops cratered

In the silence
the birds have stopped singing

Playing the instrument of Gath
I can only conceal you.

As you lower me
to the ground
put the stars
beneath my feet
wash my feet
in the blood of eclipse

The instrument of Gath
conceals the work of your fingers.

Domina Nostra, amen longa, oratio brevis.

Note: The image is a part of a scissor dance in progress. The poem may be a work in progress, I don’t know, the muse won’t tell me anything. Also, dusting off the 45 year old high school Latin is inviting peril. Amen longa est?

Superb Owl: Lammas Loaf, with Salt Eyes

Breakfast at Lammas

Upon the fortieth day
under the enemy sun,

if you are
bar abbas,
son of the father:

to become bread.

It shall be written, Diabolos
By bread alone
may we ask for a stone.

A stone to move,
a veil to rent,
a trump to play,
women to weep,
dead saints to rise and walk,
choirs of angels to sing,
orisons to remember all our sins,
and the blood
of the lamb
to wash in the stain.

Enough to feed the multitudes
and seven baskets
of broken promises
left over.

Take this bread, Yeshua
but do not eat.
Instead, speak into it
as if it were the ear of God.

She will hear you.

Put it quickly in the coals
of the cooking fire
as if the crust were brimful
of your words.

She will answer you.

I am so hungry,
I am a bone gnawed by God.

Take, speak.

From a previous Lammastide post: Lammas aka Loaf Mass aka Lughnasadh is a feast celebrated on the cross-quarter day halfway between the summer solstice and the autumn equinox, by convenience of tradition, August 1st or 2nd. It is called the feast of first fruits–the fruits of the year’s harvest. The first fruits are honored by baking bread made from flour milled from the new crop of wheat.

By tradition, the first reaping from the field is winnowed, milled, mixed, baked, and consumed all on the day or days (sometimes Lammas is two day affair) of the festival. These days I recommend the freshest bag of Bob’s Red Mill or King Arthur bread flour you can find on the shelf at the local grocery store.

I’m a retired journeyman baker, and I bake bread at home on a semi-regular basis, so this is an easy thing for me to do. If you can’t bear the thought of firing up the oven on the first of August, or baking anything at all is too daunting to face–no worries–the spirit of thing is to honor and give attention to the “daily bread,” the food you put in your mouth on this day, preferably a food handmade from basic, unadulterated ingredients.

Food close to its roots, so to speak, that has some savor of the ground it grew in or place it came from, that’s best, though hunger can make a Twinkie, or potato chips, or a baloney sandwich on Wonder Bread with Miracle Whip, holy. You want to be hungry when you eat the food you’ve consecrated for Loaf Mass. Bringing your hunger to the table is part of what makes the food a holy offering and the table a consecrated altar to whatever god or gods you’ve asked to dinner.

Even if you have no gods (as I don’t), don’t forget to set out an extra plate for an unexpected guest. Place on it a stone. The guest will tell the stone to become bread. When the stone becomes bread, the guest has arrived.

Today’s loaf is rising in the bowl.

Walt Whitman, a Kosmos (At 200)

Today is the 200th anniversary of  Walt Whitman’s birth; in today’s parlance, #waltwhitman200. Happy Walt Day, all. Celebrate, or loafe, at least. I wrote and posted the following in observation of the day in 2013, and I find it still “plumb in the uprights”:

Walter Whitman Jr. was born on May 31st, 1819 in West Hills, Long Island. The birth of Walt Whitman, an American, one of the roughs, a kosmos, disorderly, fleshly, and sensual, no sentimentalist, no stander above men or women or apart from them, no more modest than immodest… is a more uncertain date but was announced to the world from a print shop in Brooklyn in July 1855.

leaves of grass 1855

As you can see from this picture I took of the copy in the National Gallery in Washingtion, D.C., the author’s name does not appear on the title page of the first edition of Leaves of Grass, just an image of his avatar, a word we use very casually in the virtual realm we inhabit these days. The name “Walt Whitman” does not appear until several hundred lines into the text of which this “kosmos” is composed.

young WaltWalt Whitman, 1854

In this picture, taken the year before the publication of Leaves of Grass, you see the poet, the rough kosmos intentionally posed. Previously, Mr. Whitman, sometime journalist and newspaper editor, had been a bit of a dandy, a city slicker…

Walt 1848Walter Whitman, circa 1848

Walter, Sr., did work as a carpenter, but his son, though he worked on occasion as a typesetter, had soft hands. Walt was just the sort of guy you would find today draped over a cup of milky java at the espresso bar. Today Walt would likely have an iPad, rather than the little notebook bound in green, in which he wrote the words

Observing the summer grass…

The slacker with soft hands reinvented himself as “one of the roughs” and found within himself “miracle enough to stagger sextillions of infidels.”

I celebrate myself, 
And what I assume you shall assume, 
For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.

I loafe and invite my soul, 
I lean and loafe at my ease . . . . observing a spear of summer grass.

Stop this day and night with me and you shall possess the origin of all poems, 
You shall possess the good of the earth and sun . . . . there are millions of suns left, 
You shall no longer take things at second or third hand . . . . nor look through the eyes of the dead . . . . nor feed on the spectres in books, 
You shall not look through my eyes either, nor take things from me, 
You shall listen to all sides and filter them from yourself. 

I have heard what the talkers were talking . . . . the talk of the beginning and the end, 
But I do not talk of the beginning or the end. 

There was never any more inception than there is now, 
Nor any more youth or age than there is now; 
And will never be any more perfection than there is now, 
Nor any more heaven or hell than there is now. 

Urge and urge and urge, 
Always the procreant urge of the world. 

Out of the dimness opposite equals advance . . . . Always substance and increase, 
Always a knit of identity . . . . always distinction . . . . always a breed of life. 

To elaborate is no avail . . . . Learned and unlearned feel that it is so. 

Sure as the most certain sure . . . . plumb in the uprights, well entretied, braced in the beams, 
Stout as a horse, affectionate, haughty, electrical, 
I and this mystery here we stand.

The miracle exploded into ecstasy out of nothing like a one man big bang, and in its inflation became the “kosmos” proclaimed in Leaves of Grass. Walt lived in its afterglow the rest of his life, revising, adding, revising, adding, modifying the vessel of the literary persona as he aged into the “Good Grey Poet.”  Even for poets who don’t read, the body electric of the eidolons of Walt the Kosmos exist as a sort of cosmic background radiation like the cold remnant glow of photon decoupling that suffuses the visible universe.

Copy and paste this in your hearts, poets:

This is what you shall do: Love the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to every one that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God, have patience and indulgence toward the people, take off your hat to nothing known or unknown or to any man or number of men, go freely with powerful uneducated persons and with the young and with the mothers of families, read these leaves in the open air every season of every year of your life, reexamine all you have been told at school or church or in any book, dismiss whatever insults your own soul, and your very flesh shall be a great poem and have the richest fluency not only in its words but in the silent lines of its lips and face and between the lashes of your eyes and in every motion and joint of your body. . . . . . . . The poet shall not spend his time in unneeded work. He shall know that the ground is always ready ploughed and manured . . . . others may not know it but he shall. He shall go directly to the creation. His trust shall master the trust of everything he touches . . . . and shall master all attachment.


Theodicy: The Mothers

the mothers crop ort

God cannot be, so
he created the mothers.

God created the heavens and the earth
without form and void,

and God cannot be, so
the mothers brought forth daughters

and sons,
but let’s talk about daughters.

God is three people, and God is one,
and God cannot be, so
the mothers tilled paradise
with their daughters at their knees
and the daughters learned the steps
learned to bend and sway,
learned the songs
for sowing, for threshing,
and for harvest.

The boys were out hunting
or fishing or fighting
and thinking up really big lies about it,
because the Lord their God
is a jealous God
and God cannot be, so

the mothers kept their daughters close,
and all fingers busy
picking the ripe fruit
from the tree of knowledge
of good and evil. Take, eat
the mothers say to the daughters, so
you may know what is precious
in our sight.

Plenty will be left over for the boys.

There is no God but God, and God
the compassionate, the merciful cannot be, so
the women have mercy
and teach it to their girl children
while the men are busy
counting their begats.

God from whom all blessings flow
cannot be, so
the mothers carry the daughters’ water
to the place all waters flow,
and God himself
needed his mother and sisters
to get there.

God is love, and God
in his infinite mercy cannot be, so
the mothers love with a love
stronger than death,
dropping tears of blood
in their daughters’ shadows.

Theodicy \The*od”i*cy\, n. [NL. theodicaea, fr. Gr. ? God + ? right, justice: cf. F. th[‘e]odic[‘e]e.] 1. A vindication of the justice of God in ordaining or permitting natural and moral evil. [1913 Webster]

The Tail of my Hell: Noel sur la Terre

Bosch Birds Earthly Delights

I have finished, I think, the tale of my hell today.
It was really hell, the old hell, the one whose doors
were opened by the son of man.

From the same desert, in the same night, always
my tired eyes awake to the silver star, always,
but the kings of life are not moved, the three magi,
mind and heart and soul. When shall we go beyond
the mountains and the shores, to greet the birth
of new toil, of new wisdom, the flight of tyrants,
of demons, the end of superstition,
to adore—the first to adore!
Christmas on the Earth.

Arthur Rimbaud, A Season in Hell

A Little Help

Joe Cocker 1944-2014

Random Photo: Doors of Perception

alley doors hdrish twk crop

A photo a day keeps the Doctor in play.

blake marriage perception

For the cherub with his flaming sword is hereby commanded to leave his guard at the tree of life, and when he does, the whole creation will be consumed and appear infinite and holy, whereas it now appears finite and corrupt.

This will come to pass by an improvement of sensual enjoyment.

But first the notion that man has a body distinct from his soul is to be expunged; this I shall do by printing in the infernal method by corrosives, which in Hell are salutary and medicinal, melting apparent surfaces away, and displaying the infinite which was hid.

If the doors of perception were cleansed everything would appear to man as it is, infinite.

For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things through narrow chinks of his cavern.