Thursday, December 14, 2017

Hobo Jungle - poem

Lawrence Hall

Hobo Jungle

It’s a jungle out there – across the road
A hoodie-man carrying a shopping bag
A turn, a thought, a blink, a pause – he’s gone
Like the silent lynx, disappeared among the trees

The stock market is up, the woods are dark
Beyond the lights, the refuge of lost men;
The old folks spoke of hobo jungles back when
Along the tracks, not near an office block

Beyond the glass, beyond the walls, beyond:
It’s a jungle out there – across the road

Christmas in Exile - column

Lawrence Hall

Christmas in Exile

The citizens of William’s Harbour, Labrador, will not celebrate Christmas in their old homes because now, except as a geographical expression, there is no William’s Harbour.

The 1992 moratorium on cod fishing ended the island’s chief industry, and summer tourism and subsistence fishing and harvesting were not enough to sustain the small and aging community. The government of Newfoundland and Labrador (now there is a forced marriage) set out a schedule for ending all services and offered everyone compensation in exchange for the titles to their homes.

Beginning in August the people of the island began boarding the ferry with their household goods for new lives away. And now William’s Harbour is dark, and the ferry sails no more.

While governments compute in terms of housing stock – not homes – and budgets, those subject to the probably necessary decisions in St. John’s have said farewell to their homes, their fisheries, their trap lines, St. Andrew’s Church on its little hill, and the graves of their ancestors.

Resettlement in denotation is neutral; in connotation one is reminded of the many misuses of the word as a euphemism: the many Trails of Tears of the First Nations, the Hitlerian "resettlement to the east," the Communists' resettlement of peoples in every land that ideology has ever infected, Le Grand Derangement of the Acadians, and Smallwood's forced resettlement of people from Newfoundland's outports.

There were no soldiers with bayonets dragging the people of William’s Harbour out of their homes or forcing them onto boats, but still the thoughtful man or woman can only be uncomfortable with the destruction of a culture as well as the dislocation of individuals and families by the decisions of distant rulers.

And, after all, the rulers will be in their own warm homes this Christmas.

On Christmas Eve the exiles will find other churches for the liturgies, maybe even another St. Andrew’s, but it won’t be on their island. As they light the candles and sing the ancient hymns at midnight they will know that over their old church and over Mama and Papa’s graves there is only darkness, only silence, only the cold Atlantic winds.

          For them no more the blazing hearth shall burn,
          Or busy housewife ply her evening care:
          No children run to lisp their sire's return,
          Or climb his knees the envied kiss to share.

-Gray, “Elegy in a Country Churchyard”


Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Saint Garden Gnome - poem

Lawrence Hall

Saint Garden Gnome

An obscure barefoot friar in Italy
Long labored in the Perugian sun,
Heaped rocks upon rocks, and then other rocks,
Up to a wavery roof of broken tiles,
Repairing with his bleeding hands God’s church

Then, better known – it wasn’t his fault – this friar,
With others in love with Lady Poverty,
In hope and penance trudged to far-off Rome
To offer there his modest Rule of life,
Repairing with his mindful words God’s Church

Along the delta of the steaming Nile
He waved away the worried pickets, crossed
Into the camp of the Saracens
Preaching Christ to merciful Al-Kamil,
Offering with a martyr’s heart God’s Faith

Saint Francis is depicted in fine art
In great museums and in modest homes -
And you can find him too, down at Wal-Mart,
Between the plastic frogs and concrete gnomes.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Hello Poetry - unreliable

Lawrence Hall

Hello Poetry, aka HelloPoetry, He Po, and other unfortunate variants, is a free and enjoyable way of sharing poetry. Many of the submissions are, as one would expect, me-me-me-I-I-I free verse self pityings, but many others are thoughtful in content and artistic in construction. Given that verse has suffered a century-long decline in quality and appreciation as a part of popular culture, that any poetry is written at all is a marvel.

However, in the months I have participated in Hello Poetry the functionality of the site has been undependable – sometimes it has been down for days, and at other times it blocks submissions. Appeals to the webmaster are never answered.

Yesterday an attempt to post was blocked with a large “FORBIDDEN” and a code. Considering the possibility that my computer was infected or was sending false signals, I examined the system, cleaned the cookies, and backed up to several hours before the metaphorical wall was raised. Submissions were still blocked, and later, notes to other writers. This morning I attempted to submit via another computer in another location, and was again “FORBIDDEN.”

The site is free, and the webmaster may choose to accept or reject submissions as he wished, and I am free not to indulge erratic service and ill manners. My poor efforts will continue to be available on (which is not really reactionary, though it may well be drivel).



Monday, December 11, 2017

Vouchsafest Thou? - just for fun

Lawrence Hall

Vouchsafest Thou?

Do you enjoy the word "vouchsafe" as much
As I? It isn't as musical as the phrase
"Thence forward," or “joylich,” “leman,” and such
Or "confusticate" - who says that these days?

“Wherefore,” “abroche,” let us now celebrate
“Antic” English words: “aforetime,” “perforce”
“Slowcoach,” “freshet”, “befall” - at this late date?
And dear “daffadowndilley” (but of course!)

“Declaim,” “forsooth,” “marchwarden,” and “descry,”
And let us not forget the sweet “day’s-eye!”

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Upon Re-Reading Doctor Zhivago - poem

Lawrence Hall

Upon Re-Reading Doctor Zhivago

for two friends

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 in darkness slept,
Since neither love nor life were free to sing
The eternal hymns of long-forbidden spring -
And yet beneath the lies the old world sighs

The old world sighed in sudden ecstasy
A whispered resurrection of the truth
As tender stems ascended, pushed the stones
Aside, away into irrelevance.

And now golden 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 fragments 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 her wide lands high church domes bless the sky,
While Ruslan and Ludmilla bless the earth
With the songs of lovers in God’s eternal now.

(The 1965 movie version is brilliant, and the recent mini-series is good, but these worthy endeavors are but shadows of the novel.)

Saturday, December 9, 2017

On the Vigil of the Nativity - poem (still unsure re the title)

Lawrence Hall

On the Vigil of the Nativity

In a Capuchin friary, on a wall
In faded letters from the long ago
A simple sign asks the casual visitor

            “Why Are You Here?”

And that’s a fair question; it always is
If I am in one place, I am not in another;
Unless someone has forced me otherwise
I have made a choice to be where I am

So why do I kneel here (and half asleep)
In a Stable, among cattle and sheep?

Friday, December 8, 2017

Pilgrimage Along the A1, from Peterborough to Chesterton - poem

Lawrence Hall

Pilgrimage Along the A1

From Peterborough drops a road
Across the Fens, into the past
(Where wary wraiths still wear the woad);
It comes to Chesterton at last.

And we will walk along that track,
Or hop a bus, perhaps; you know
How hard it is to sling a pack
When one is sixty-old, and slow.

That mapped blue line across our land
Follows along a Roman way
Where Hereward the Wake made stand
In mists where secret islands lay.

In Chesterton a Norman tower
Beside Saint Michael’s guards the fields;
Though clockless, still it counts slow hours
And centuries hidden long, and sealed.

And there before a looted tomb,
Long bare of candles, flowers, and prayers,
We will in our poor Latin resume
Aves for old de Beauville’s cares.