Sunday, February 18, 2018

Teenagers (and some old guys!) Working Flood Rescue in Houston. Photo courtesy of Brandon Bess

Let's hear no more nonsense about "snowflakes."

Lenin's Dream (a Russia series, 27) - poem

Lawrence Hall

Lenin’s Dream

Imagine slaves buying their chains
Proudly bragging about their chains
Prettily decorating their chains
Gloriously celebrating their chains
And accessorizing their chains

Waiting patiently in long queues
All lined up by ones and by twos
Uniform in their chemical shoes
Beast-marked with their camp tattoos
Obedient to the latest news

Desperate for the latest ‘phone
Desperate never to be alone
Desperate for approval shown
Desperate for a cool ring tone
Desperate not to be unknown

Lockdown Drill - poem

Lawrence Hall

School Lockdown Drill
For Danielle and Sarah, school librarians

Criss-cross, applesauce
This is how we read
Hey, hey, library day –
Books are all I need!

Criss-cross, applesauce
Sit with me a while
Right here, on the floor
How I like your smile!

Criss-cross, applesauce
Suddenly afraid
Doors locked, windows blocked
By a flimsy shade

Criss-cross, applesauce
Hiding in the gloom
Lights out, fear and doubt
In this silent room

Criss-cross, applesauce
How does childhood die?
Hush, hush! In the dark
Everything’s a lie

-from Paleo-Hippies at Work and Play, 2014. Available from

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Ornamental Pear Tree in Autumn - MePhone photo

A Liturgy for the Emperor (a Russia series, 26) - poem

Lawrence Hall

This is neither history nor theology;
this is Romance:

A Liturgy for the Emperor

In memory of
Patrick Joseph Donovan,


How, then, will we find death? With rifle in hand,
Perhaps, or flowing with the warm, worn prayers
That slip with beads through one's fingers and soul.
Rifle or Rosary, either will do.
One's death might rise in the boldness of youth,
Or in the wearied wisdom of old age,
In wild combat against ancient evils,
Or softly, while planting a red-apple tree
For grandchildren to summer-celebrate,
In wild red martyrdom, or obscure white.

The nights still whisper how the Emperor fell,
Fell with a faithful few upon the walls,
The old land walls of Constantinople.
But we are not to speak of martyrs whose
Transcendent beauty reproaches our times,
Our drifting dark age, drab, dreary, and dim
Our tomb-like lives cluttered with small darkness,
Our talk all common, colourless, and cold:
The thoughts assigned programmed into our souls,
Daymares programmed into us for our good,
Pitiful, pattering, prosthetic prose,
Cacophonies of casual cruelties --
No brave iambic lines for golden dreams.

But dare we also whisper truths, and speak
Of what a wind-wild people once we were,
And we will want our syllables to sing
In honour of the Martyr-Emperor
And those who followed him into his death,
And in this knowing of him we can live
Among those souls who are forever young.


In Nomine Partis, et Filli, et Spiritus Sancti

We will go to the Altar of God
To God, Who gives joy to our youth
We will go to the Altar of God
We will go to Byzantium


Lord have mercy -- when the shadows surround us
Christ have mercy -- when we forget the Three Romes
Lord have mercy -- when we forget You


Glory to God in the highest
And peace to His Byzantine people
And all His peoples
Lord God, Heavenly King
who once blessed us with Emperors
Send us another
Send Your waiting people their Emperor

The First Reading

As Constantine his walls he watched, he wept,
Lost in the Gethsemane of his soul
His tears they fell upon the ancient bricks
Warm with centuries of sun, saintliness,
And the passions of a glorious race

The City! Long reigning on the Golden Horn
The Summer Country of our childhood dreams
There playing, praying, working, selling, and,
Yes, sinning too. Passionate Romanoi --
What a magnificent people we were.


When armies marched to the Byzantine beat
Sophia ruled from her Byzantine seat
When Byzantine sails sheltered Odysseus' sea
The wave-roads of trade were open and free
When Romanoi feasted, blood mixed with wine
Daggers drawn over a dancing concubine
A newer Helen who provoked desire,
She seared men's eyes with her own Greek Fire
When Blues and Greens howled in the Hippodrome --
Such rowdy citizens in Second Rome! --
Then even Emperors in purple shoes
Feared stoning by Greens or hanging by Blues
The rough, loud democracy of the street --
Mobs also marched to the Byzantine beat

The Second Reading


But –

Above all rose Justinian's gem
The holy place where God called us to Him
The Mother Church of dawn-lit Christendom
Sophia -- the Queen of Byzantium
Where Patriarch, patrician, people, and priest
Gave worship. Then the greatest and the least
Abandoned sin to hear the sweet bells ring,
Stood penitent before our God, our King:
In consecrated hands, through wine and bread

Christos Pantocrater fed us Himself

And then all hearts were cleansed, all souls were fed

(Very slowly)

But centuries passed, and this City of God
Heart of the Empire, became the Empire,
As lands and peoples were lost forever
to the creeping new age. When Constantine,
The last Constantine, was called to the Throne,
All that was left was The City herself,
The Morea, and islands, and memories.
The fleet whose sails had shaded the Inner Sea
Was but a few hopeless hulks in the Horn

From the dust, dark shadows metastasized,
Shadows who stole and slew their way to power
And swept the land bare of free folk and fields
And more and more the shadows grasped and held,
A dead world of slaves whose backs were bloodied
Beneath the whips of masters, slaves whose eyes
Were cast carefully, cautiously to the ground
Lest demeanour manly and bearing proud
Attract the executioners' busy blades.

Finally, after devouring lands and souls,
The shadows coveted Constantinople,
The Red-Apple Tree where continents meet,
The City they could never build for themselves
And nothing stood between them and their lust
But one bold man: Constantine Dragases.
The faithful few who stood the walls with him,
Gathered around proud, stubborn Constantine:
Workers and monks and nuns, beggars, merchants,
Proud, arrogant Byzantines, and the few
Wild Latins From the barbarian West
Whose Greek was in their hearts, not on their lips,
Who gave their loyalty late to their liege lord,
The Emperor, who could have safely lain
A shadow's golden-caged slave, obedient,
Well-fed, well-bedded from the shadows'
Catalogues of pretty girls and prettier boys,
A memory of what had been a man.

But Constantine stood proudly on his walls,
Defiantly, bravely, sadly there on
His crumbling ancient walls, and gave his faith
To God and the City, to his people,
Even to the faithless ones, even to his death.

And others came, From Rome and Spain and France,
From Germany, and even from the Turks,
Brave, lonely men with reasons of their own
For ending their lives there on the Land Walls.

But they were not enough. And late that night,
After the last Mass in Hagia Sophia,
The Emperor knew that his was the blood,
The blood of sacrifice that would be shed
In remembrance of bloody Golgotha,
For the people he was given to rule,
For the people for whom he chose to die,
Sheltering, protecting, until his end.

A Gospel

No angel appeared to the Emperor,
No voice of God from a burning bush
He parted himself from his followers
And for a few minutes grieved alone

And this was given Constantine to know:

The eternal Constantinople is
Never to be lost, never defeated --
In every Christian flows Dragases' blood
Every village is the Holy City
Every church is Hagia Sophia
Every prayer is a Mass for the Emperor
Every children's foot-race the Hippodrome
Every poor family's poor supper
A banquet under the Red-Apple Tree.
Constantinople will live forever.
Know that, and, laughing, give your last earth-hour,
And your joyful eternity, to God.


We believe in God's holy empire too,
Byzantium, eternally golden
The Red-Apple Tree in the eastern sun
The City that echoes with laughing light
Through memory and history and beyond.
We believe in God and His Emperor,
And we believe that in the absence of
The Emperor, even then we must be
The Emperor's subjects, stubborn and true,
Wherever God has chosen to send us.
We then must rule our passions and our hearts,
Tend our gardens as if they were Eden --
Because they are -- and care for our children
As if angels were visiting tonight,
Until our God restores our Emperor,
Restores His City where the Earth-halves meet,
And finally, some day, some happy day,
Returns Himself to sit and rule enthroned
In His Three Romes, and in Jerusalem.


Constantine shook himself, and gave commands,
Commending all to duty and to God.
Above him the dome of Hagia Sophia
Glowed eerily on that last, wild night
While lightning slashed among the sliding clouds
Byzantium rose again for one glorious hour
And the world marveled that such things could be,
That Christ and Rome and Constantinople
Could be found in one man at the end of an age.

Blood, vomit, screams, and death;
blood, vomit, death
Blood, vomit, screams, and death;
blood, vomit, screams
Blood, vomit, screams, and death;
blood, vomit, death
Blood, vomit, screams, and death;
blood, vomit, screams
The glory is that there is no glory.
Chaos. Horror. Stench. Sweat. Pain. Vomit. Death.
Hi­s -- His -- body broken again for us.

On that dark morning of a dark new age,
Constantine turned and faced its slithering shadows
With a Byzantine end to his ruler's art,
With the peace of Christ and a hero's heart.


The Mass is ended. Byzantium is ended.
Escape, if you can -- make Byzantium live.
Escape to live in some peace, if you can.
Escape in peace to love and serve in exile.
Escape in peace to love and serve the Lord.

"O Lord save Thy people and bless Thine inheritance;
And to Thy Faithful king grant victory over the barbarians.
And by the power of Thy Cross, protect all those who follow

Not an End at All

1Troparion for the Sunday of the Elevation of the Cross, Divine Prayers and Serves of the Catholic Orthodox Church of Christ, copyright 1938.

Many thanks to Mr. Tod Mixson and others of St. Michael's Orthodox Church for assistance at many points, both liturgical and artistic, to Dr. Dan Bailey, of happy memory, and Dr. John Dahmus of Stephen F. Austin State University.

Friday, February 16, 2018

A Card from the Home Office Upon the Occasion of a Death - poem

Lawrence Hall

A Card from the Home Office Upon the Occasion of a Death

Our thoughts and prayers are with you our thoughts and
Prayers are with you our thoughts and prayers are with
You our thoughts and prayers are with you our thoughts
and prayers are with you our thoughts and prayers are

With you our thoughts and prayers are with you our
Thoughts and prayers are with you our thoughts and prayers
Are with you our thoughts and prayers are with you
Our thoughts and prayers are with you our thoughts and

Prayers are with you our thoughts and prayers are with…
What thoughts? And what does any of that mean?

A Shrew - MePhone photograph

On Reading Doctor Zhivago (a Russia series, 25) - poem

Lawrence Hall

On Reading Doctor Zhivago

Love lost along abandoned railway lines,
Grave-cold, grave-still, grave-dark beneath dead snow,
A thousand miles of ashes, corpses, ghosts -
Sacrarium of a martyred civilization.

A silent wolf pads west across the ice,
The rotting remnant of a young man’s arm,
Slung casually between its pale pink jaws -
A cufflink clings to a bit of ragged cloth.

Above the wolf, the ice, the arm, the link
A dead star hangs, dead in a moonless sky,
It gives no light, there is no life; a mist
Arises from the clotted, haunted earth.

For generations the seasons are lies,
Since neither love nor life is free to sing
The eternal hymns of long-forbidden spring -
And yet beneath the lies the old world gasps

The old world gasps in sudden ecstasy
A whispered resurrection of the truth
As tender stems ascend and push the stones
Aside, away into irrelevance.

And now the sunflowers laugh with the sun
Like merry young lads in their happy youth
Coaxing an ox-team into the fields,
Showing off their muscles to merry young girls.

The men of steel are only stains of rust,
Discoloring the seams of broken drains,
As useless as the rotted bits of brass
Turned up sometimes by Uncle Sasha’s plow.

For this is Holy Russia, eternally young;
Over those wide lands her church domes bless the sky,
While Ruslan and Ludmilla bless the earth
With the songs of lovers in God’s ever-spring

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Astrid-the-Wonder-Dachshund II - MePhone photograph

4,000 More Light Casualties (a Russia series, 24) - poem

Lawrence Hall

4,000 More Light Casualties

A group of journalists arrived from Moscow and were told that the Afghan National Army…had taken the ridge. (They) were posing for victory photographs while our soldiers lay in the morgue.

-Svetlana Alexeivich, Zinky Boys: Soviet Voices from the Afghanistan War

A touchy old man who never went to war
Now poses with his decorative generals
In their tailored Ken-and-Barbie battle dress
All prepped for combat in the officers’ clubs

New president, same as old presidents
And generals, awarding each other medals
And promotions for their golden resumes’
For sending not-their-children off to die

While they prosper on defense industry bids,
Afghanistan is the graveyard of our kids

(Shhhhhhhhhh…Don’t disturb Congress;
they’re fast asleep.)

Many incidents detailed in Zinky Boys parallel incidents in the lives and deaths of American enlisted men in Viet-Nam.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Pensees' for an Ash Wednesday - poem

Lawrence Hall

Pensees’ for an Ash Wednesday

Today is also Valentine’s, and so
For the schoolchildren little candy hearts
As we remember from our happy youth
Teenagers like them still, and so they should

Now lessons follow: the four elements
Of Anglo-Saxon poetry, history
Chemistry, a turn in the auto shop:
Yeats’ happy “ceremonies of innocence”

And in the afternoon, Mass, and ashes,
And the cleaners tidy up candy wrappers

                                                  Instead of corpses

Astrid-the-Wonder-Dachshund, ca 10 weeks old - MePhone photo

Article 58 (a Russia series, 23) - poem

Lawrence Hall

Article 58

“We can’t go arresting people for what they say in a private conversation…I’ve no doubt we shall come to that eventually, but at the present stage of our struggle for freedom, it just can’t be done.”

-Evelyn Waugh, Put Out More Flags

Our leaders now investigate silences
And threaten imprisonment casually
For thoughts unknown and acts never considered
Under secret indictments alien to law

Star Chambers assemble in conclaves dark
Special prosecutors instruct their Cromwells
To find a law, or interpret one so
To make each midnight knock a work of art -

Mind what you don’t say, and how you don’t say it:
Our keepers now investigate silences

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

The First Lenten Penance - poem

Lawrence Hall

The First Lenten Penance

The first Lenten penance is being told:
Lent is not just about giving up things
Lent is not just about giving up things
Lent is not just about giving up things

Lent is not just about giving up things
Lent is not just about giving up things
Lent is not just about giving up things
Lent is not just about giving up things

Lent is not just about giving up things…
But did anyone ever say it was?

Machinery, Jefferson, Texas - photograph

The Revolution is a Corpse (a Russia series, 22) - poem

Lawrence Hall

The Revolution is a Corpse

The revolution is a stinking corpse
And spreading Walter Duranty all over a corpse
While chanting “It’s alive!” won’t make it so
Because a revolution is only death

Artists are never revolutionaries
Because artists work up the good and true
From the foundation of Creation
While revolutionaries obey diktats

Rearranging a corpse is never art
And revolution is always a corpse

Homage to Pascal - poem

Lawrence Hall

Homage to Pascal

For Thomas V. Morris and William J. Bennett
In gratitude for a wonderful summer at Notre Dame

O, thou dry Jansenist! A night of fire
Left in your pocket like a shopping list
Sitting quietly in a room, will never burn
To set your sere and withered soul alight

And one might wager that your calculator
In brass, for counting brass, touches not the heart
Which has the reasons which the mind knows too
Pensees which never make a night a day

Forgive thou, then, this lettre provinciale
And count it as a friend’s memorial

Monday, February 12, 2018

General Store, Jefferson, Texas - photograph

Who was Stalin's Barber? (a Russia series, 21) - poem

Lawrence Hall

Who was Stalin’s Barber?

So who was Stalin’s barber? Did he joke
About mass starvation, and did he bet
Stalin five kopecks on footer matches?
“The Spartaks are sure looking good this season.”

“Ya think? I’m betting on the Dynamos;
They’ve got a forward like you wouldn’t believe.”
“But, Comrade Boss, you had him shot last week.”
“Oh, yeah, after the Lvov game. I forgot.”

“Sometimes you just kill me, Boss; you really do.”
“That reminds me - just leave your keys after work.”