Monday, February 27, 2017

A Laughing Springtime Child - poem

Lawrence Hall

A Laughing Springtime Child

Her locker was just outside the classroom door
And sometimes during class change I called out
Confusing numbers as she worked and turned
The combination lock: “12...32...”

Ashley indulged her teacher’s feeble attempts
At humor, twirled the dial exactly right,
Popped open the locker, and laughed:
“Ya can’t fool me, Mr. Hall; I am good!”

And indeed you were, and are, and will be forever,
Forever our happy, laughing springtime child

“And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.”
-- Hamlet, V.ii.371

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Mardi Grouch - column

Mack Hall, HSG

Mardi Grouch

C. S. Lewis’ older brother, Warren, kept a diary most of his life, edited into a small book, Brothers and Friends, by Clyde S. Kilby and Marjorie Lamp Mead. Major Lewis was a career officer in the British army, and aboard the Chinese ship Tai-Yin, homeward bound after overseas service in Shanghai, he made this entry for Wednesday, the 26th of February, 1930:

About teatime today a woman I have never seen before came to the smoking room and asked each of us to a “karktail poity” in her suite at 5:30. Resistance being obviously futile, we all went…the conversation by the way was exclusively on the subject of alcohol. The sort of remarks I remember are “Does this baby love to throw one bug grand gin poity? Well I should say!”

The theme of scheduled, organized, and mandated happiness is a common one in narratives of well-meaning oppression. In an episode, appropriately named Dance of the Dead, of Patrick McGoohan’s miniseries The Prisoner, all the inmates are commanded to participate in a costume party through a bullhorn proclamation ending with "There will be music, dancing, and happiness - by order!"

Which conscripts us into the Danse Macabre horror, inflicted even on children, of something called Mardi Gras.

Most people are aware of the origins of Shrove Tuesday / Meat Tuesday / Fat Tuesday in Christian Europe as modest, family-oriented merriments during which, depending on varying local customs, remaining rich foods (meat being a luxury) in the house were eaten on Tuesday night before Ash Wednesday in anticipation of a modest diet, prayer and reflection, and generosity to others during the six weeks of Lent.

As with so many customs, the Tuesday evening meal before Lent has metastasized into a mandatory, weeks-long bother and expense that is disconnected from anything else. “Mardi Gras” has become a theme for any sort of party at any time of the year. Just as the Presentation of the Child Jesus in the Temple has been displaced by Groundhog Day, and Advent by shopping, ordinary housekeeping in anticipation of Lent, usually along with Lent itself, has been displaced for what often seems to be nervous hysteria rather than ordinary enjoyment of life.

Country-and-western songs and InterGossip memes ‘n’ themes notwithstanding, any group activity that features casualty lists, mass arrests, and piles of garbage in the streets seems to miss the point in merriment.

There are many non-liturgical customs that develop culturally from Christianity - Christmas carols, Thanksgiving, and Easter dinner come to mind - but throwing up on a police officer’s shoes while being cuffed and stuffed is not one of them.

And let The People yelp “Wooh! Wooh!”

If they wish to do so.


Saturday, February 25, 2017

A Shining Checkpoint on a Hill - poem

Your ‘umble scrivener must be cleared every few years by Homeland Security in order to teach as a part-time adjunct faculty of no status whatsoever at his little cinder-block community college. This began under President Bush. President Obama did not end it. President Trump is for now making yuge deals or something.

A Shining Checkpoint on a Hill

There is within this body no pedigree
And the DNA is hardly worth knowing
No yellow star, kennkarte, or ausweis
No tribal identification card

Form 3078, TSA Pre(checkmark)®
FEMA security clearance, TWIC card
NEXUS, SENTRI, Proof of Residency
USDA HSPD-12 card

A Costco card – oops, failure to renew:
Say, will a Barnes & Noble membership do?

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Compline in the Alley - poem

Lawrence Hall

Something Fr. Raph said reminded me of the poor man to whom Becket gives a blanket in the 1964 film:

Poor man: Thank you.

Becket: You're welcome. It will keep you warm.

Prissy cathedral canon: He'll only sell it for drink.

Becket: Then that will keep him warm.

Compline in the Alley

Oh, let the poor man cling to his bottle
It’s his, isn’t it? It’s his own free choice
The only thing he owns. Not even the space
Behind the dumpsters is reserved for him

Some bigger guy might take it away tonight
And his blankets too, and maybe his shoes
But with his bottle he is a worthy man
And he will drink to his own worthiness

Hard-earned, hard-fought, hard-drunk, ‘til dead
And kissing no one’s feet or hands or *ss

Harrison Ford Navigates Us Through the 21st Century - column

Mack Hall, HSG

Harrison Ford Navigates Us Through the 21st Century

A state representative in Mississippi, channeling his inner Borgia, wants to kill more people and employ more diversity and inclusion in doing so. In addition to lethal injections, Representative Andy Gipson proposes killing people with firing squads, electrocutions, and gas chambers.

Poisoning, shooting, shocking, and gassing – yeah, that’ll probably do it.

Representative Gipson, that merry rascal, missed his true vocation as the villain in one of those lurid Hammer Studios thrillers of the 1950s.

One wonders if Representative Gipson takes Christmas, Good Friday, and Easter off from imagining different ways of killing people.

+ + +

Vice-President Pence visited Dachau last week. My father was in that area in early May of 1945 but I don’t know if he entered any of the Dachau compounds; I do know he was in Ohrdruf / Buchenwald with the 602nd Tank Destroy Battalion a month earlier on 3 April ( He did not have his picture taken.

+ + +

Recently we have seen disturbing photographs and video images of refugees fleeing from the USA into Canada across frozen fields in areas usually isolated but at present busy with taxis, photographers, and border agencies from two nations.

One might dismiss the reports if they came from Native Texan Dan Rather, but they’re not; they’re from many different sources.

Is this nation suffering an East Germany moment? Or did someone or some group make a point of frightening these poor people into hazarding their lives unnecessarily?

The keyboard commandos with their programmatic slogans and clich├ęs don’t have answers to any of this. But who does?

+ + +

According to the Los Angeles Times (, the California high-speed train project, which taxpayers have been funding since 2008, is scheduled to begin construction this week. Expected to cost working Californians $65 billion-with-a-B, this tribute to Jerry Brown’s vanity choo-choo has not, after eight years of taxing and spending, carried the first passenger because it doesn’t exist.

In the meantime another California project, the 50-year-old Oroville Dam, is in danger of collapse, possibly due to inadequate funding for maintenance. Essential to the state’s economy because of its service in flood control, agriculture, and power generation, loss of the dam would threaten the lives of approximately 180,000 people and flood several counties. Depending on the circumstances, there might not be adequate warning time (

And those 180,000 people sure can’t escape the flooding by riding away aboard the governor’s imaginary Hooterville Cannonball.

+ + +

Numerous government and news agencies, some expressing indignation, report that a Russian spy ship is lurking off our Naval bases on the east coast. The Russians are not lurking very well if we know that they are lurking. But then, our spy ships are lurking in the Black Sea and in the Baltic. Lurk, lurk, lurk. Maybe in all that lurking someone’s spy ship will spy, with its little electronic eye, Tom Brady’s jersey.


For John Keats - poem

Lawrence Hall

For John Keats

Wanderer by moonlight, you never knew
That mellow autumn of elusive fame
Which you well-earned in your suffering youth
Through the fatal cough as you labored in haste

In haste to set in jeweled, sunlit lines
Each joyful day’s delight in nature and man
Before they faded into that long night -
You never knew what treasures you left to us

Then may your desperate pilgrimage to Rome
Lead you at last to more glorious Stairs

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

The Chair of Saint Peter - poem

Lawrence Hall, HSG

The Chair of Saint Peter

Wherever our errant bishop teaches
There is his throne: a rock beside the road
A rock beside the road that leads to Rome
A wooden bench in a laborer’s hut

A grassy bank along a fishy stream
A pile of hay in a stable by night
The ivory couch in a rich man’s house
Or the floor of the executioner’s cart

Wherever our vagrant bishop teaches
There is his throne, where we attend his words

Monday, February 20, 2017

Saint Robert Southwell (not a catchy title; I'll work on it) - poem

Lawrence Hall, HSG

Saint Robert Southwell

+21 February 1595

O clever Jesuit! sneaking about
From house to house, and, too, from heart to heart
Speaking the treason of faith, hope, and love
And bearing true the Passion of Our Lord

O pray for us, poor brave seeker of souls
Your faithful remnant of Our Lady’s Dowry
Against the whisperers, the rack, the rope,
Hiding, flying before pursuivants

Without you

Our souls, like looted chapels, lie in heaps
While still Our Lady of Walsingham weeps

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Coffee - A Dipstick (or Something) - poem

Lawrence Hall, HSG

Coffee – A Dipstick (or Something)

I. Elegy for a Four-Cup Coffee Maker

Poor Mister Coffee – may God grant you rest
After long years of humble service to man
You never abandoned your duty station
Next to the cookies and the kitchen sink

You were the first to bless each day at dawn
Your little red sanctuary lamp aglow
As with electricity you commingled
Water and coffee into a sacrament

Fruit of the bean and work of human hands -
But now you are silent, to drip no more

II. Signor Bialetti Brews the Coffee Now

Grazie, grazie, Signor Bialetti
Natty with your moustache and pork-pie hat
Charming man, your aluminum design
And Italian elegance grace my stove

If Don Camillo were to visit now
And bring along his Commie pal Peppone
They would still argue faith and politics
Just as they do in Emelia-Romagna

But here, over biscotti and expresso -
Grazie, grazie, Signor Bialetti!