Saturday, September 27, 2008


In the words of my best friend's college roommate, "It's raining harder than a cow p*ssing on a flat rock."

dylan the reluctant draggard

TS(O) at Video meliora has blogged a bit about how Bill O'Reilly chose the title of his recent memoir: he recalled a teacher's description of him in the third grade. The teacher, a nun, had called him "a bold, fresh piece of humanity."

I can boast nothing similar. At the end of my freshman year of high school, my English teacher, the late Mr F. J. Molloy, told me my grade for the year (D-plus, despite having turned in two late A papers) and diagnosed me quite aptly, I fear, by saying, "You're a reluctant draggard."

Friday, September 26, 2008

"Forgiving Ourselves"

These words were seen on the sign in front of the Unitarian church near here -- indicating, no doubt, the theme of this coming Sunday's sermon.

It is truly puzzling: why belong to a church that preaches self-absolution?

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Earliest version of an unwritten poème-en-prose

There is no waterfall in the living-room. There is no wristwatch in the sky. There are no detectives among the goldfish. There is no anaphora in the modern liturgy. There are no psalms recited in the public schools. There is no fresh air in the halls of secularism. There are no dissenters in Utopia. There is no architecture in the quicksand. There are very few astronomers in the Capuchin order. There is no subversion among progressives. There is no sarcasm in the asylum. There are unlimited possibilities in Cellblock 61. There are no bottles of Montepulciano in the mountains of Vermont. There are no icons on television. There are no Broadway show-tunes in the eastern cathedrals. There is nothing ridiculous about ambition. There are interesting turns of phrase in the conversation of the effervescent sacristan. There are no lost thoughts in the age to come.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Poetry shop-talk

One of my favorite effects in iambic pentameter comes when the expected "stresses" of the second and fourth foot fall on unstressed syllables. Hard to explain, easy to illustrate by example. Robert Lowell, whom I've been reading with a small degree of avidity, has done this more than once:

I dabble in the dapple of the day

(from "Night Sweat")

My profit was a pocket with a hole

(from "Words for Hart Crane")

Another line almost pulls this off, but is notable more for its alliterative qualities, like the lines above:

The cannon on the Common cannot stun

(from "Christmas Eve under Hooker's Statue") ...

I don't know what it's called, when you do what's done in the first two examples, but it's wonderful.

"Ah! I made veep." -- S.P. Moody? Baby? Doom? P.S.: Peeved am I, ha!

The title of this post is, as you may have noticed, a Palin-drome: coined by one Alison Merrill, and published in this recent Boston Globe column by Alex Beam, which mostly deals with neologisms.

A lofty pronouncement

As for the Ten Commandments, when I could begin to let the family ghosts go, I found that they struck me as sensible, both outwardly, as tenets that help to sustain civil and social order, and inwardly, as principles that assist us in naming and resisting the more negative emotions, such as greed, malice, and covetousness.

Kathleen Norris, from Amazing Grace: A Vocabulary of Faith, p. 86

:: :: :: :: ::

Is it me or is there something a wee bit grating about someone declaring that the Ten Commandments are "sensible"? It seems a little lofty, as if God will be gratified to know that the esteemed poet Kathleen Norris finds Eternal Truth to be "sensible"! (I have to keep in mind that Norris is writing, to some extent, for her fellow progressives, and even for skeptics.)

There's a sentence on the next page I like a little better, about the 'jealousy' of God: "Who, after all, would trust a God, a parent, a spouse, or lover, who said to us, 'I really love you, but I don't care at all what you do or who you become'?"


Some like to study distant galaxies;
    Some scan the skies for Jupiter and Mars:
I tell you, though, this young black woman's eyes
    Could make astronomers forget the stars.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008


You may have joie de vivre, but you're not twenty.

Robert Lowell, from "The Misanthrope and the Painter"

Monday, September 22, 2008


by Robert Lowell (1917-77)
an imitation of "Chant d'automne," section I, by Charles Baudelaire (1821-67)

Now colder shadows ... Who'll turn back the clock?
Goodbye bright summer's brief too lively sport!
The squirrel drops its acorn with a shock,
cord-wood reverberates in my cobbled court.

Winter has entered in my citadel:
hate, anger, fear, forced work like splitting rock,
and like the sun borne to its northern hell,
my heart's no more than a red, frozen block.

Shaking, I listen for the wood to fall;
building a scaffold makes no deafer sound.
Each heart-beat knocks my body to the ground,
like a slow battering ram crumbling a wall.

I think this is the season's funeral,
some one is nailing a coffin hurriedly.
For whom? Yesterday summer, today fall --
the steady progress sounds like a goodbye.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

I'm thinking of changing my name

to Darth Trunk Palin.

Computer problems ...

... and a busy week, and a brain that is not exactly chock-full of interesting things to say, have all contributed to this past week's comparatively low blogging output. Am expecting a similar slowness this coming week.