It’s January 6th, which is the birthday of my late brother, Alan. Miss him terribly, and would sure love to talk U.S. politics with him right about now. I have no other relatives capable of the kind of rational discourse Alan could manage or who are anywhere near as intellectually curious. Would also love to talk poetry with him and as it is Epiphany thought I would try to find some poems other than Eliot’s wonderful Journey of the Magi. I succeeded! This link gives us Eliot’s poem, as well as two others, both of which were new to me: one from Auden and one from Joseph Brodsky, which is just startling. What touched me about the Auden poem was that he had rejected faith as a teenager, but then came back to it. (I have been on a similar trajectory.)
The grandson of Church of England clergymen, Auden renounced his High Anglican faith as a teenager. However, in November 1939 he went to a German cinema in New York City, and as Edward Mendelsohn put it in a review of the book Auden and Christianity, the theatre
was showing an official German newsreel celebrating the Nazi victory over Poland. (Until the United States and Germany declared war, German films could be shown freely in American theaters.) Auden was startled by the shouts of “Kill the Poles!” that rose from the audience of ordinary German immigrants who were under no coercion to support the Nazis. He told an interviewer many years later: “I wondered, then, why I reacted as I did against this denial of every humanistic value. The answer brought me back to the church.”
He eventually found his way to the American version of the Church of England in the United States, the Episcopal Church, and became a parishioner at St. Mark’s-in-the Bowery.
(Emphasis mine.) I have had some similar motivations regarding faith. Follow the above links for the poems and more.
W.S. Merwin’s The Solstice:
They say the sun will come back
my one love
but we know how the minutes
fly out into
the dark trees
like the great ʻōhiʻas and honey creepers
and we know how the weeks
walk into the
shadows at midday
at the thought of the months I reach for your hand
it is not something
one is supposed
we watch the bright birds in the morning
we hope for the quiet
the year turns into air
but we are together in the whole night
with the sun still going away
and the year
The rather grim, yet deeply touching, story behind Longfellow’s famous poem. The poem is here. Always remember what people struggle with in their lives and the beauty that can come of it.
Little weaver bird…get weaving. I love this.
This is the third of my pandemic poetry trilogy (others are here and here) – so you can all breathe a sigh of relief. It is the last one! It is ripped off of a far better poem by John Betjeman, and there is a tribute herein to the wonderful Roz Chast. The reference to “Ol’ Mr. Corona” is something I stole from this cartoon – priceless!
In our Toronto Home: Poem for a Pandemic
Let me throw this disposable mask out
As my paranoia oozes.
Did I get too close to that guy in Loblaws?
Should I decontaminate my shoeses?
As I douse my hands in soap,
Listen to this lady’s hope.
Gracious God, please stop the virus
SARS-CoV-2, or Covid-19,
For whatever you might call it,
It is remarkably quite mean.
But dear God, whatever path you take,
Spare me from Ol’ Mr. Corona’s wake.
Keep my body hale and hardy,
Do your best with my heart and soul.
Oh, and also save my sweetheart
And the other folks I hold.
And, as we chat, sweet Jesus,
Save me and mine from all diseases.
Think of what dear Canada stands for:
Holding Americans in contempt;
Peacekeeping; multicult; and healthcare
Do make we Canucks verklempt.
But Lord, remember with all the muscle you flex
Protect this pair in the Annex.
I worship now on YouTube, Zoom, all that slew,
As no more than one shall gather in a pew.
So God, know my faith has not ceased,
Though I do not at all miss sharing the peace:
Handshakes, awkward smiles – delivered with no flair!
Things that make an introvert’s nightmare.
I miss the singing and King James –
For his version is the best.
None of that “Good News” heresy
Could ever offer me much rest.
I miss stained glass and Healey Willan’s organ,
And Johann Sebastian’s music – ach, JSB, guten morgen!
Now my worries are unburdened,
What a joy to talk with you.
Though these days seem filled with trials,
I know you will see me through.
And while, dear Lord, you do bewitch
I need to binge some more Netflix.
With apologies to William Carlos Williams.
This is Just to Say
I have eaten
the unsalted Saltines
that were in the
and the salted pistachios
and the President’s Choice oatmeal cookies
even though it is Lent
and I vowed no sweets
and the rest of the Kosher Dills
that were in the
along with a chunk of that pricey Parmigiano-Reggiano
you told me was
only for pasta
and a swig of the
Hennessy (right from the bottle)
though you said we
shouldn’t squander it
also I took one
of your Ambien last night
I know you had probably
hoped would last us all
I was stressed
and it made me
Verse for these trying times. (You can also read my Ode to the Banana, my Haiku for Alex Trebek, and my Paris poem.)
makes us stay inside and watch
reruns of Mad Men.
Covid 19 is,
I think, payback for human
abuse of critters.
So, while you watch Mad
Men or Bewitched, enjoy a
vegan snack or drink.
(If you choose Bewitched,
try not to channel Mrs.
Kravitz while shut in.)
And when we are free
again, don’t revert to the
eating of carcass.
For St. Patrick’s Day, these words from poet, priest and philosopher John O’Donohue on aloneness and loneliness, isolation and longing. Fitting topics for this time of pandemic (and actually, for whatever time).
We live in a world that responds to our longing; it is a place where the echoes always return, even if sometimes slowly… The hunger to belong is at the heart of our nature. Cut off from others, we atrophy and turn in on ourselves. The sense of belonging is the natural balance of our lives… There is some innocent childlike side to the human heart that is always deeply hurt when we are excluded… When we become isolated, we are prone to being damaged; our minds lose their flexibility and natural kindness; we become vulnerable to fear and negativity.
Taken from Eternal Echoes: Celtic Reflections on Our Yearning to Belong.
I’m on time for Burns Day – not a week late as I was for Milne (see post below). Check out what I wrote two years ago, which in turn links to a previous Burns-related item.
Apparently, it was Winnie-the-Pooh day last Saturday. I missed it, but I wanted to link to this piece about A.A. Milne, nonetheless. I was and am a Pooh fan, but I think I love Milne’s books of poetry for children more. They were a big part of my childhood – my mother would recite “Rice Pudding” to us if we complained about our meals – and they are so clever it would be a mistake to think they can only be enjoyed by children. “Disobedience” is, in my view, an absolute gem. I offer it, forthwith:
Weatherby George Dupree
Care of his Mother,
Though he was only three.
James James Said to his Mother,
“Mother,” he said, said he;
“You must never go down
to the end of the town,
if you don’t go down with me.”
Put on a golden gown.
James James Morrison’s Mother
Drove to the end of the town.
James James Morrison’s Mother
Said to herself, said she:
“I can get right down
to the end of the town
and be back in time for tea.”
Put up a notice,
“LOST or STOLEN or STRAYED!
JAMES JAMES MORRISON’S MOTHER
SEEMS TO HAVE BEEN MISLAID.
QUITE OF HER OWN ACCORD,
SHE TRIED TO GET DOWN
TO THE END OF THE TOWN –
FORTY SHILLINGS REWARD!”
(Commonly known as Jim)
Not to go blaming him.
Said to his Mother,
“Mother,” he said, said he:
“You must never go down to the end of the town
without consulting me.”
Hasn’t been heard of since.
King John said he was sorry,
So did the Queen and Prince.
(Somebody told me)
Said to a man he knew:
If people go down to the end of the town, well,
what can anyone do?”
(Now then, very softly)
C/O his M*****
Though he was only 3.
J.J. said to his M*****
“M*****,” he said, said he: