Saturday, February 6, 2016

Christmas Lights in February - poem

Lawrence Hall

(Of indolence I have not taken down the lights on the back porch. Louisiana ‘Cajun acquaintances advise me that adding a few purple and gold ribbons transforms Christmas lights into Mardi Gras lights.)

Christmas Lights in February

Lingering lights, bright Christmas lights, aglow
In merry defiance of the darkness
As winter closes in for the chill
Tiny colored lights in repudiation
Of the joyless censorship of place and time
A triumph of kitsch over criticism
A charming waste of non-renewables
A celebration of the ephemeral
Since celebration is itself eternal -
Lingering lights, bright Christmas lights, aglow

Friday, February 5, 2016

Descent - poem

Lawrence Hall


The moon has not yet risen above the trees
Nor has the frost yet fallen upon the fields
January stars, blue, brilliant, and cold
Halo an aircraft marked in flickering lights
Every seat-back standing at attention
Lap straps fastened, tray tables locked away
Attendants making a last litter patrol
“The temperature in Houston tonight is…”
An old canvas bag on the carousel
And who will be waiting at the exit?

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Cleopatra's Royal Barge - op-ed

Lawrence Hall, HSG

Queen Cleopatra’s Royal Barge

Palace courtiers are even now ensuring that their next master will be presented with yet another Imperial Death Star upon his or her earthly apotheosis. There are already some seven or eight cars (“limousine” is a low-prole usage) in the presidential harem, but court functionaries know how important it is to keep the Grandissimus Supreme Sultan, Republican or Democrat, entertained with newer and more expensive toys and luxuries.

Just why any president should swan about in a Wal-Mart-size sled that even the sleaziest drug dealer would dismiss for its vulgarity eludes the thoughtful citizen of this republic.

The answer, known to office-gnomes throughout history, is that without expensive diversions the sultan-aspirant might have time to remember that he was elected to be the servant of the people, not their all-knowing, all-wise, all-this-and-that autocrat, and begin to wonder why he is obscured by a cloud of unctuous briefcase carriers and door openers.

The recent history of the presidency indicates clearly what a psychological god-emperor temptation the White House is. Early in every election cycle each candidate drifts into referring to himself in that pompous first-person-plural – “we” instead of “I.” Already he is / they are anticipating sitting in the big chair behind the big desk, playing with the little buttons that light up and summon the servants.

A true queen, king, bishop, prince, emperor, or other noble personage employs the first-person-plural only when speaking officially, not otherwise. The Queen says “we” when giving a speech from the throne, but at all other times remembers the “I.” The distinction is lost on the not-so-humble successors to the humble rail-splitter, Honest Abe.

No recent president has seemed to avoid confusing self with state, and none has cried “Away with this bauble!” (Oliver Cromwell was a regicide, a mass-murderer, and a genocidal maniac, but this one quotation from him is useful) when presented with fleets of giant flying palaces and show-off automobiles, and battalions of Praetorians and Streltsy (some of them sober).

No presidential candidate has promised abstinence from courtiers and palaces and toys and the arrogance of power. Not even the Socialist candidate has said he will forswear the presidential fripperies paid for by the sweat of the workers he purports to love.

In Ye Olden Days a Roman emperor on his inauguration was said to have been assigned a functionary to whisper constantly a repeated caution during the procession. The phrase might be loosely translated as “Man, you ain’t no thing; you’re just a guy who’s going to die like everyone else, so don’t get the big head.”

If that is not true, it ought to be, and it ought to be true now.

And the first thing the new president should do is get rid of all the Queen Cleopatra-ish royal barges as part of his first duty – to remain connected with humanity.


Sunday, January 31, 2016

For Otto Rene Castillo - poem

Lawrence Hall

For Otto Rene Castillo

“…and there burned away in them…tenderness and life”

From “Intelectuales Apoliticos”
Translated by Rev. Raphael Barousse, OSB

Cloud-castles swirl among the mountain peaks
While lower down the jaguar rules and roars
And lower still, along a dusty road
A benevolence of United Fruit

The army burns a broken man to death
His final scream a hymn of victory
Ascending with the sacred smoke and ash
As incense over the altars of the poor

A blessing on the land of eternal spring
Hope swirling down like clouds from the mountain peaks

Friday, January 29, 2016

A Proletarian Fellowship of Death - poem

Lawrence Hall

A Proletarian Fellowship of Death

To have been lost in Indo-China is
A core, a center asymmetrical
Perhaps a hinge, or some other weary
Metaphor for one’s life, a series of
Experiences in no time without time
Frivolous merriment and satanic horrors
Which have led or misled, influenced, moved,
Inspired, infected, focused, fuzzed
Almost every thought, intent, act, motion
That can be credited or discredited
To those of us who were in confusion there
And who have come to realize or been made
To realize this late in life that all -
All - is predicated on murders and lies
And wearing Sauron’s ring has compromised
Any claim of “Gott Mit Uns” or "S nami Bog."
Thus, given that much of one’s life is an exile -
A village shunning, an embarrassment
A stumbling memento mori denied
A former person who should go away -
One question now remains:
What’s for breakfast?

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

For Ngo Dinh Diem - poem

Lawrence Hall

For Ngo Dinh Diem

No flame eternal burns over your lost grave
Unknown beneath an hourly parking lot
Or maybe out back among the garbage cans
No guards of honor pace in mirrored boots
Forth and back in mummery choreographed
Along a field of honor’s concrete walk
No busloads of tourists leave gift-shop wreaths
No bands or speeches mark your martyrdom
Nor would you need them
Nor would you want them
For your small flame is on an Altar set

Unfinished Lines - poem

Lawrence Hall

Unfinished Lines

January is an unfinished line
An incomplete cover judged by its book
A door ajar, a mislaid fountain pen
Unanswered letters bound with rubber bands
Or stacked and listed on a little screen
A chessboard king still menaced and in check
Wandering iambics not yet sorted out
Unfinished business from Porlock Parva -
January is but a fragment of
A life still littered with unfinished lines

Monday, January 25, 2016

Axioma Vulgare - poem

Lawrence Hall

Axioma Vulgare

The stars benignly shine upon the earth
And earth is not alien to itself
Yu-Kiang cannot deny his purpose
Flora cannot do other than follow the sun
That which is true cannot be nothingness
And emptiness tapping upon dim planes
In a closed autophagous loop of lies
Celebrates only hollow inversions
Truth, beauty, and goodness are eternal
And stars benignly shine upon the earth

Because the Queen is More Powerful than the King? - column

Lawrence Hall

Because the Queen is More Powerful than the King?

“I want no more thinking!”

-Henry V in Jean Anouilh’s Becket

A grand mufti in Saudi Arabia has banned chess as antithetical to purity of thought and good order in the family-owned tyranny – hardly a true kingdom – that has spent the last eighty years suppressing numerous ancient nations and tribal groups all over the Arabian peninsula.

But one can understand his point. The idolatrous spectacle of millions of people all over the world obsessing on chess matches is an embarrassment to the right-minded. Fans have been known to riot over chess team identification and send seriously rude twoots and tweets to others for wearing the wrong chess team ball caps and tees. Chess championships often end with supporters of the winning team sneering at two-cylinder Fiats and torching Starbucks coffee cups in designated campfire areas.

Disreputable young people who play chess often lurk in well-lit libraries and try to intimidate other pawn-slingers by wearing those menacing hipster hats and speaking in complete sentences. Scary.

And then there’s the foul language common to chess thugs – saying “en passant” is not acceptable behavior in public, and “queen to queen’s pawn four” might qualify as hate speech.

America pretty much shuts down for the National Chess League’s Superboard Sunday. Friends and families gather over garden salads and gluten-free 10% whole-rice croissants to whisper enthusiastically for their favorite teams.

During advertising breaks the high demand for beverages has been known to collapse cappuccino machines.

This year’s half-time show will feature the cast of Big Bang Theory performing the provocative Dance of the Seven Slide Rules. Let’s just hope Bob Newhart doesn’t suffer a wardrobe malfunction.

Thank goodness the world has the super-civilized Family Saud to stop the blood-crazed madness of chess and guide humanity in the paths of righteousness and clean living through arbitrary edicts and mass executions.

Now that chess has been banned, no doubt the grand mufti will next investigate Candyland and Scrabble for treasonable sentiments.

One can only imagine the mentality of an old dude with a beard that looks like it was culled from Donald Trump’s hairpiece sitting around and finding evil and dirty-mindness in board games.

We have people like that here, of course, but Old Ms. Grundy can’t have anyone’s head chopped off.

And what, really, is a mufti, grand or otherwise? Is there a baby grand mufti that you could stand in a bay window for impressing the neighbors?

Yes, chess offends the grand mufti; indeed, it frightens him because chess requires thinking. Once people start thinking, tyrants start trembling on their stolen thrones.