Sunday, July 23, 2017

Does the Point Vanish? Or do We? - poem

Lawrence Hall

Does the Point Vanish? Or do We?

In poetry there is no vanishing point
No lines converging in flat distances
Upon a gessoed plane of pleynt and paint
Skillfully rendered for the imagination

In poetry lines flow as languid streams
Or sometimes storm the soul as wilding floods
For seldom do they pause and build a pose
Because lines are imagination

Lines converge in flat dis
Tances because in
Poetry there
Is no van

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Cassandra and Simon - poem

Lawrence Hall

Cassandra and Simon

Rose and Neil eloped to America
Mrs. Blossom is forever silent now
Mortmain in solitude emends his drafts
And Topaz dances under the summer moon

Even The Shape seems to have withdrawn itself
From Godsend Castle, where Cassandra writes
Shaping into meaning the wreckages
For she will build a life true to herself

Whether or not Simon ever returns
But wait – the foot of the lane – those car lights…

School is Ratcheting Up and Up and Up - column

Mack Hall, HSG

School is Ratcheting Up and Up and Up

For the next month there is not a newspaper, radio station, or television station in this great land of saints and scholars that will refrain from employing the cringe-making wheeze “School is gearing up.”

No, school is not gearing up. It has never geared up. It will never gear up. Except for maybe Cousin Les’ auto shop class. Let us make our first lesson of the Michaelmas term a caution against using tired metaphors.

There is no adverb less useful than “actually.” After all, one cannot “unactually” do something. And then there is “absolutely,” a useless four-syllable construction meaning “yes.” Say “yes” to clear usage.

The May equivalent of gearing up is that school is winding down. No, it doesn’t. School is not a mechanical watch – which no one under forty has ever seen anyway – and so does not wind down.

“School is just around the corner” – it is if you live around the corner. If you live down the street then school is down the street. If you live in Magnolia Springs school is way off yonder in town.

Back-to-school ads feature adorable little kidlets with big grins modelling the cooler-than-cool new shirts and skirts and jeans and sneaks, and maybe a notebook. The children in school ads never carry, oh, you know, books. Have you ever seen a b-t-s ad in which the kid was carrying a copy of The Brothers Karamazov or The Road to Magdalena or maybe a Jane Austen? Nope, and you won’t see those books in the kid’s house, either; a big ol’ television the size of Rhode Island is the usual home altar and cultural center now. Who needs 2,000 years of Christian scholarship, music, and art when everyone can now lapse into a fuzzy-eyed stasis, the Lot’s-wife-as-a-pillar-of-salt thing, in front of the latest episode of Flip This Dancing House Cooking Show off the Island of Machine Gun Fire and Dead Bodies?

Is there a Texas Education Agency rule that school administrators must shave their heads and grow odd tufts of hair on their chins?

Dress codes and professional demeanor are issues that really annoy principals: slovenly clothes, weird hair, gang signs, flip-flops, tattoos, cartoon tee shirts, tardiness, inappropriate language – and that’s the faculty and parents; the kids tend to do better.

Just a joke, guys, just a joke.

Did you know that algebra is now taught in junior high middle school? That’s wicked. Jesus never said, “Solve for X.”

Did you know that your daughter can learn to weld in high school?

Did you know that your son can venture beyond the microwave and learn real cookery in high school?

Did you know that Julius Caesar and Macbeth are about American politics?

When I was in school, about the time my ol’ dad and the boys got home from the Battle of Hastings, we kids learned about telling time by using construction paper and brads and crayons to construct a clock face on a pie tin. I suppose now children print out a picture of a Fit-Bit and hot-glue it to a take-out pizza box.

But busses are still yellow (and their wheels still go ‘round and ‘round), new pencils (especially cedar, if you can find them) smell like your own childhood, the first day of school is exciting, 6th-grade band concerts are painful to the ear but symphonic to the soul, new clothes are nice, the first look at amoebae through a microscope is to visit a new world, sophomores should fitted tracking devices, seniors pretty much rule the universe, Robert Frost makes more sense than Congress, and voting in a school board election remains a lonely experience.


The Running of the Bullssss in Pamplona - column

Mack Hall, HSG

The Running of the Bullssss in Pamplona

If we were to add a few letters, as in “The Running of the Bulls***,” one might think we were speaking of our freely elected government. But not today.

This is the season in Spain when many stupid tourists and a very few stupid locals, who really ought to know better, make a point of taking on bulls in the narrow streets of Pamplona. The point of running with the bulls is that you can’t outrun the bulls; they outrun you, and if you survive your self-endangerment you can boast of your stupidity. It’s sort of like having ENRON on your resume’.

Let us not conclude from the merriment in Pamplona that Spaniards are generally stupid – they have, for instance, bought control of much of the banking in the United Kingdom and the USA, including my little local branch. Thus, young Americans and Brits travel to Spain to spend their pounds and dollars getting drunk, getting arrested, and getting killed by stampeding bulls while young Spaniards are quietly acquiring that part of American finances not yet controlled by the Chinese and the Germans.

Spanish bulls are not as effective as they might be, though; they leave some of the runners alive. Now if the organizers of this event were to import a number of lithe and nimble Jersey bulls, the mortality rate among the humans – at times an inferior species – would rise precipitously.

Why would a young American spend money to be killed by bulls in another country? He – invariably a “he” – could stay conveniently in this country and chant “USA! USA! USA!” while being killed by domestic livestock.

We don’t have anything like the running of the bulls on this continent, but if we did, here are some possibilities:

The Running of the Newark – each contestant is fitted with a nice wristwatch, a Rolex or Tag-Heuer, and if he can run two blocks through Newark without being relieved of the watch, he gets to keep it.

The Running of the Air Canada – in this race, the contestants try to walk the length of an Air Canada aircraft without being savaged by a snarling cabin attendant.

The Running of United Airlines – much like the Running of Air Canada, but in this version you get beaten up by another passenger and you have to pay United extra for the luggage that was misrouted to Baltimore. USA! USA!

The Running of the Movies – Hollywood runs yet more CGI cartoons of look-alike, sound-alike thirty-somethings emoting and hope anyone notices.

The Running of the Houston Birds – the trick here is to run to your car without being attacked by grackles and crows in the nesting season.

The Running of the Russians – Boris and Natasha are lurking everywhere! They’re everywhere! We’re doomed to be a nation eating borscht and drinking vodka! There’s no escape!

Not sure what borscht is, though.


Friday, July 21, 2017

A Rainbow Bends toward Eternity - poem

Lawrence Hall

A Rainbow Bends toward Eternity

A rainbow bends toward Jerusalem
Constantinople too, and holy Rome
(Though some have said the last cannot be so!)
And makes each dome glow in reflected Light

And whether the Cross is signed left to right
Or right to left, only let it be signed,
And with the work-worn hand of an ‘umble man
Who prays each day in offering up himself

Seasons sail by, like ships upon the sea

and still

A rainbow bends toward Eternity

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Always Check for Scorpions in Your Boots - poem

Lawrence Hall

Always Check for Scorpions in Your Boots

If in Viet-Nam you enjoyed the right
Of taking off your smelly boots at night
You kept them close to you, lest they march away
You didn’t want to be barefoot at break of day

Then when some idiot yelled “Boots and saddles!”
(He’d seen too many films, and was somewhat addled)
(True, “saddles” and “addled” don’t really rhyme)
You checked for scorpions every old time

Though now your uniforms are ties and suits
You always check for scorpions in your boots

(Read the scorpions in the last line as metaphor.)

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

A Veteran of the Wars - poem

Lawrence Hall

A Veteran of the Wars

This old warrior has many tales to tell:
He’s sailed among the distant Philippines
Built ships all over the world, repaired tanks
In Germany, was in the desert wars

He served with the Marines, and the Navy too
And can tell you everything about the Aegis -
And does –
                        but he was never in the service;
He’s a sacker at the supermarket

This poor old man; he never got it right
But God bless him – he had his own wars to fight

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

The Canals on Mars - poem

Lawrence Hall

The Canals on Mars

From an allusion by Robert Royal1

Martians spent centuries building canals
Across great continents to irrigate
Their fields, and on barges of marvelous design
Voyage across their picturesque red lands

They watch us through wonderful telescopes
And send out ships whose missions seem to be
To crash into Earth’s deserts with little green men –
Alas that none of this was ever true!

There are no canals, only an optic blur:
We will miss those Martians who never were

1Robert Royal: “Are Americans from Mars?” The Catholic Thing, 17 July 2017.

Robert A. Heinlein’s boys’ books were part of my childhood. I am sorry that I will never meet a Martian.

Monday, July 17, 2017

A Little Girl on a Wagon Seat - poem

Lawrence Hall

A Little Girl on a Wagon Seat

Of her deep thriftiness, Grandmama Hall
Saved every button that passed through her hands
And banked them in a large glass jar from which
She could withdraw an investment in clothing:

New dresses cut and sewn from bolts of cloth
(The styles from 1900 served just fine)
From Mixson’s Store in town, and buttons for all
From her accumulated waste-not, want-not

Wisdom and skill, and girlhood memories
Of when she came to Texas in a covered wagon