Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Chaucer and the Lightendyten - poem

Lawrence Hall

Chaucer and the Lightendyten 1

“The Prologue” to The Canterbury Tales
Grinds from the photocopying machine
And thus the casual observer, he wails
That technology produces the scene

And yet good Chaucer wrote in the long ago
Rhymed rhythms to instruct and to delight
The copier came later, as you know -
Our pilgrim was the first these tales to write

Or was he?

So here is a problem, which I you begge:
Of which came first, the cicen or the egge?

1 There was of course no Middle English word for “photocopier” so I cobbled one together from “lighte,” to give light, and “endyte,” to write. Chaucer said it was okay.

Monday, January 14, 2019

Tears, BUSY Tears - rhyming couplet

Lawrence Hall

Tears, BUSY Tears

These are not tears of sorrow or joy;
These are tears from allergens, m’boy.

(As Tennyson did not say)

Sunday, January 13, 2019

If Robert Frost Slep with a CPAP Machine - a pastiche

Lawrence Hall

If Robert Frost Slept with a CPAP Machine

Whose breaths these are, oh, yes, I know
And on the laptop they will show
With lines and graphs so all can cheer
Each breath of mine I huff and blow

My little dog must think it queer
To sleep with a machine so near
Sighing all night without a break
Every evening throughout the year

She gives her collar bell a shake
To ask if there is some mistake
The only other sound’s the beep
Of mechanical air intake

Breathing is lovely, counting sheep
And I have life to love and keep
And hours and hours of healing sleep
And hours and hours of healing sleep

All honor to Robert Frost, to the scientists and medicos who invented CPAP and BIPAP machines, to the makers of those little life savers, and to all medical workers.

In cartoons and in family lore snoring is amusing; in reality snoring indicates a lack of oxygen to the brain and the body’s struggle to make it good. Snoring = oxygen deprivation, which leads to stroke and / or mental issues, and a too-soon death.

A sleep study involves no needles or indignities, only a night’s sleep with some flat little electrodes taped to one’s chest and extremities. Early in the morning the nice technician brings you a cup of fresh coffee. Now that’s my kind of medical care!

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Weaponizing Weaponization - poem

Lawrence Hall

Weaponizing Weaponization

“Weaponization” has been weaponized
So that a shutting down may be shut down
By weaponizing a shutdown’s downside -
And let The People shout “Absolutely!”

By weaponizing one’s feelings and whims
There is projected a transparency
That calls for a personal comfort snake -
And let The People shout “Actually!”

So please shut down the shutdown; that’s the tonic -
And let The People shout “Iconic!”

A consideration made after reading Alan Glyn’s thoughtful essay, “Conspiracy Fiction Once Helped Us Tell the Truth. Now It’s a Weapon for Liars,” in Vulture: https://www.vulture.com/2019/01/can-conspiracy-thrillers-work-under-a-conspiracy-presidency.html. The title is preachy and too long, reflecting the heavy hand of an editor, but the essay is most interesting.

Antihistamine Dreams with a Little Touch of Grendel in the Night - poem

Lawrence Hall

Antihistamine Dreams with a Little Touch of Grendel in the Night

Silence is here

I shine a light             into the night
I see an eye                an eye sees me
It seems to see           inside of me
It seems to see           what I might be
It sees in me               a recipe
A single eye               it seems to blink
It’s not a deer             I dream, I fear
And now a mist          I dream, I think
Slips from the wood   across the field
In silence slips            it flows, it dips
It comes this way        I must not stay
I see the eye                the eye sees me
I feel its breath            I feel its death
I cannot move             I cannot wake
I cannot walk              I cannot take
A step, a step               a saving step
The dream won’t end
The dream won’t end
The dream won’t end

The caesura divisions might not have survived the transfer.

“A little touch of Grendel in the night” is a takeoff of “a little touch of Harry in the night” in Henry V.

Friday, January 11, 2019

Camping on the Edge of Forever: a Memorial to Youth - poem

Lawrence Hall

from 2103

Michael Dean Marconett of Minnesota was a Navy buddy in 1967-1968 through recruit training, Hospital Corpsman ‘A’ School, and Field Medical Service School. One weekend Mike, Bill, and another friend rented an old car, loaded up our Marine Corps sleeping bags, and went camping in the snow:

Camping on the Edge of Forever

For Mike Marconett

of happy memory

Bright star, beyond a Sterno stove’s brief glow,
We’ll live forever as we live this night:
Coffee and cigarettes and comradeship,
Our backs against the sun-warmed Sierras
As the cold falls from infinite darkness
To keep the snow in place another night,
To smile in ancient silence back at you,
To make a glowing, slumberous twilight until dawn.
Those C-rations were good after a day
Of scrambling among pre-historic rocks
Made musical by the dinosaur creek,
Water as cold as the dark end of time.
San Diego glows in the south-southwest,
Silently, inefficiently, light lost.
But you, dear, happy star, will still shine down
On dreaming youths, tonight and other nights,
Counting for us, for them, each millennium.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Tudors to Saxe-Coburg-Gotha to Kendra Scott - weekly column

Mack Hall

Tudors to Saxe-Coburg-Gothas to Kendra Scott

During the Second World War the royal family changed their surname from Saxe-Coburg-Gotha to Windsor, and one can understand why. First of all, Saxe-Coburg-Gotha was just too many letters for the mailbox (Thames Street, Windsor, Berkshire SL4 1NJ). And then there was the matter of their German cousins of the same catalogue of names being a spot of bother from 1914-1918.

Windsor sounds more comfortably English, like the names developers give their pop-up subdivisions. Who would buy a house on “SaxeCoburgGothabahn” or “Hohenzollernstrasse” when “Windsor Way” is so much easier to pronounce and spell?

The American obsession with kings and queens continues after 200 years of professing red republicanism. Each autumn students in every school elect a homecoming queen, not a chairwoman of the Students’, Workers’, and Soldiers’ Soviet, and in the spring a prom king and prom queen, not a prom good comrade of the month and another prom good comrade of the month. Video productions – or product – featuring the love lives of kings, queens, and czars are consistently profitable.

Thus, that an exhibition of British (English, mostly, but let it stand) royal portraits should be a big hit in Texas is not a surprise.

Through the 27th of January The Houston Museum of Fine Arts (https://www.mfah.org/) features, among many other galleries and offerings and films and lectures, Tudors to Windsors: British Royal Portraits from Holbein to Warhol. Most of the pictures are on loan from London’s National Portrait Gallery, displayed only in Houston and then in Australia before being returned to England. The Houston museum staff have combined the visiting pictures with some of their permanent collection for a brilliant, accessible, and well-documented display of paintings, a few artifacts, and photographs among three capacious galleries.

One passes by Warhol’s stains and smears, of course.

There were many delights and surprises, but the picture y’r obedient ‘umble scrivener most wanted to see, Holbein’s portrait of Sir Thomas More, now Saint Thomas More, was a surprise only in its beauty and excellence. The cliché that a reproduction is never as good as the original is a cliché because it is true, and this is especially true with this portrait.

Many of Holbein’s portraits are highly stylized because those who commissioned the pictures wanted the conventions of the time. However, Holbein’s Sir Thomas More is wonderfully true to the man.

More does sit in a formal pose, but looking away to the viewer’s right, perhaps in some sense perceiving his martyrdom, or perhaps seeing beyond his martyrdom.

He wears his Chain (and it proved to be a chain indeed) of Office as Chancellor of England, and its Tudor rose is place directly over More’s heart, indicating his love for and loyalty to King Henry in spite of all.

In More’s hands there is a bit of paper, and anyone familiar with Robert Bolt’s play will associate it with the fictional Averil Manchin’s petition and her attempted bribe.

In sum, the picture is in one way a standard portrait of a successful attorney, judge, and government official, but in other ways we see something of the man Holbein came to know. As More’s daughter Margaret says in A Man for All Seasons, there is a difference between the man’s office and the man himself.

The wonderful protective glass is so unobtrusive that it seems not to be there at all, and so one can see even the brush strokes of individual bristles, and the layerings that build up almost a glowing iridescence even in the drab fabric (More was no peacock).

I spent some time before this picture, while all around me shoals of beeping rental earphones were coming and going like the tide. Thomas More deserves it. Holbein’s painting deserves it.

You can see poor representations of Holbein’s More, including (http://visual-arts-cork.com/famous-paintings/thomas-more-holbein.htm), but, no, it’s just not the same.

A young person of our acquaintance took the spouse-person and me to see the pictures, and was rewarded afterward with a new pair of Kendra Scott ® earrings. In them, too, art can be found. Perhaps in 500 years they will be seen and admired in some wonderful painting.


Poll: Armed Revolution Could be Necessary - poem

Lawrence Hall

Poll: Armed Revolution Could be Necessary

Those who have never bagged corpses
After a night of flarelit horror
Confused, concussed, their souls awash
With blood and smeary shards of flesh

Those who have never smelt the night
Incensed in the obscene stench of death
Where screaming conscripts’ lives were ripped
Are calling for armed revolution

Let us call instead for a cigar
And a quiet evening with Keats

This is a variant on a poem I wrote in 2013 and published in Paleo-Hippies at Work and Play, available on amazon.com.

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

The Week Before Term Begins - poem

Lawrence Hall

The Week Before Term Begins

The cleaning lady pushes her cart about
Among administrative whisperings
And teachers sneak out of in-service
For an electronic moment in the head

The cleaning lady pushes her cart about
Computers in their wireless conclave met 1
Exchange that hushed arcana passed through PEIMS 2
And sticky notes – they seem to reproduce

Youth is reduced to a computer printout


The cleaning lady pushes her cart about

1 cf. G. K. Chesterton’s “Elegy in a Country Churchyard”

2 The Public Education Information Management System (PEIMS) encompasses all data requested and received by TEA about public education, including student demographic and academic performance, personnel, financial, and organizational information. (https://tea.texas.gov/.../Data_Submission/PEIMS/PEIMS_-_Overview)