Sunday, February 17, 2013

Cincinnnatus - Rough Draft

Rough Draft

Mack Hall
17 February 2013

When Cincinnatus in a desperate time
Was called to serve the undeserving state
Imperiled by the armies of the kings
And weakened by senatorial whisperings
Our conscript father laid aside the plough
Forswore retirement and his peaceful fields
Unwillingly took up the imperium
And journeyed thus to disharmonious Rome
To teach, to govern, and to sanctify
A people lost and drifting with the age
To hazard all in the forum of the world
Not for himself, not for brittle applause
Blown by the wind, noisy for a brief time
As when October’s leaves make temporal show
And then decay through winter’s cold demands
Nor for the silky smiles of ambassadors
The approval of jugglers and panderers
The cricket-voices of mummers and polls
But rather for the fuller at his cloth
The builder with his plans and rule and line
The seamstress working a wedding dress
The laughing child at play with her favorite doll
The sunburnt fisherman drawing his nets
The mother teaching her child his aves
The farmer treading the fruitful furrow
The humble priest offering holy rites
The parish tipstaff on his daily beat
The scrivener with his busy abacus
The chemist with his pots and potions and pills
The healer, whose pallid patients are her prayers
The artist, whose lines and colors delight
The barrister, pleading for true justice
The magister lettering inattentive youths
The woman whose shop displays good, homely needs
The sick man on his penitential bed
The young recruit on obscure weary watch
The wretched beggar who gives holy blessings
For these a Cincinnatus offered all
Repute, honor, perhaps his very life
And when, withered with age and cares of rule
Painfully unsure of step and sight and self
He wisely, humbly left the robes of office
In prayerful trust to the Will of God
And wearily wended to the Altar of beginnings
To give himself and his last days to us
Still serving, bidding for us with priestly heart
Let none he faithfully serves question his prayers
Or mock him with idle speculations
For flattering courtiers are as common as smiles
Painted upon false lips, hiding false desirings
And generals arise from time to time to draft
Houris to their beds and youths to their deaths
As do the successors of Simon Magus
Pirouetting in their temples to self
But Cincinnatus – O happy Cincinnatus
Whose memory is incense in the night
Or a candle in the holy darkness:
His Tenebrae is our continued blessing



Saturday, February 9, 2013

An October Chill

October, 2012
Mack Hall

An October Chill

A merry dachshund yaps and leaps for leaves

Wind-blown across the still-green summer grass

As autumn visits briefly, and looks ‘round

To plan his festive moonlit frosts when next

Diana dances ‘cross November’s skies.

Harvest Time in the Fens

January 2013
Mack Hall

Harvest Time in the Fens

St. Michael’s Church, Chesterton

A calendar knows little of a day,

Of any day; its arbitrary squares

Mark seasons as they amble on their way

From holy Advent ‘til the harvest fairs,


When summer’s crops, all red and gold and blue,

Along with piglets, ducks, some well-fed hens,

Are carted squeaking, squealing, creaking to

Saint Michael’s fields in the Anglian fens.


Old Father William lifts a pint (no less!)

With farmers selling cows and chicks and corn,

For he is merry too, and quick to bless

The laboring marsh-folk on this autumn morn.


Earth, sky, and air mark seasons as they fall,

And now comes Martinmas, joyfully, for all.


January, 2013
Mack Hall


For Eldon

An empty chair beside the fireplace waits,

And lamplight falls upon an open book,

Pen, pocketknife, keys for the pasture gates,

Dad’s barn coat hanging from its accustomed hook.


But he will not return; his duties now

Transcend the mists of the pale world we know,

And you in grief must carry on, somehow;

Your duty is here, for God will have it so


The good man takes that chair reluctantly;

It is a throne of sorts, and one imposed,

Not taken as a prize, triumphantly,

But in love’s service, and in love disposed.


An empty chair beside the fireplace waits

For you, whom doleful duty consecrates.

A Hitchhiker Arrested

January, 2013
Mack Hall

A Hitchhiker Arrested

Hunched in his football letter jacket, he,

Graduated into anonymity,

Flogged by his demons through the winter air,

Screams out his might-have-beens to the sirens


On Manchester's THE LAST LION

January, 2013
Mack Hall

On Manchester’s The Last Lion

There were lions then,

Tawny in the pale twilight,

Roaring down the dark

Sending Your Daughter to War

Mack Hall

Sending Your Daughter to War

A covy of Merovingians in court dress sat around in the White House last month and decided that sending young women into combat is a good idea.

Well, if Betty, Veronica, and Barbie can kill and die in this nation’s undeclared wars (cf. The Constitution of the United States, Article I, Section 8), we might as well go ahead and send in the children, too. 

After all, the nasty young man who shot schoolchildren in Connecticut, the nasty old man who, as of this writing, is holding a five-year-old hostage, the actions of Cardinal Mahony, the inaction of absentee sperm-donors, and the assembly-line murder of children under the Goebbels-esque euphemism of freedom-of-choice make abundantly clear that in this nation children are disposable.

No less a national figure than Rahm Emanuel, currently the mayor of Chicago, where they know something about disposing of children, said last week that children are “our greatest resource.”


Mr. Emanuel presumably loves his own children, but to him and to our national government your children are nothing more than a resource, like a bunker full of coal, a grain elevator full of corn, a tank farm full of oil.

The idea of humans as a resource is nothing new to Mr. Emanuel; in 2006 he advocated compulsory service for young people.  Compulsory.  The President proposed the same idea in 2008. 

Women have served in combat, but as an accident of their roles as physicians, nurses, corpsmen, pilots, and drivers; now they are to be assigned to combat by intent.

Women are often smaller than men, and children definitely are, so they would be, logistically, far more economical in combat.  They eat less, so feeding them would be cheaper, and the generalissimos can stuff more of ‘em into helicopters and trucks to get them to the fighting where they would make smaller targets.  Smaller blankets, smaller uniforms, smaller body armor, smaller bandages, smaller body-bags.  Their little guns would require less steel and plastic, so, hey, let’s Go Green, eh. 

More women and children can be flung into a medevac helicopter when they’re wounded, and more of their little corpses can be loaded onto a transport for fuel-efficient shipping to Andrews Air Force Base where really important people can pretend to be sad when the tiny, flag-covered caskets (note to budget office – smaller flags) are offloaded.

So you think this nation will never send children into combat?  Really?  But what is an 18-year-old girl?

When teenaged girls are shipped off to war, where will the grown men be?  Some will log-in on conservative websites acting all John Wayne while tippy-tapping their support of the little-bitty troopettes, and others will be shooting skeet or doing something with groundhogs.

Who would have thought that Anne Boleyn’s father would be our national guy role model?



One Day in the Life of a Chicken Nugget

Mack Hall


One Day in the Life of a Chicken Nugget

King: Forks?

Becket: Yes.  It’s a new instrument…for pronging meat and carrying it to your mouth.  It saves you dirtying your fingers.

King: But then you dirty the fork?

Becket: Yes.  But it’s washable.

King: So are your fingers.  I don’t see the point.

-      Becket, Jean Anouilh

In One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, Shukov always removes his hat when eating.  As a long-term prisoner in one of Stalin’s Siberian gulags, his purpose is to work and suffer until he dies.  Cold, malnourished, and overworked, there is no reason for Shukov to take off his cap over his evening bowl of fish heads and other, more mysterious bits of solids floating in the hot water except for this: Shukov is determined to maintain his sense of self. 

Most of the other prisoners have completely surrendered to dehumanization.  Shukov, too, can do nothing against the tyranny of Communism, but he can choose to remember who he is.  That he takes off his cap in the grim, cold chow hall causes him to stand out.

Shukov also eats with a spoon, a forbidden object, and not with his hands or a wood chip.  He cast the spoon from a scrap of aluminum in another camp some ten years before, and has managed to keep it concealed from the perpetrators of progress.  The illegal spoon is another symbol of Shukov’s self-hood, of civilization.

He can do nothing about his ugly, padded uniform made from scraps.  His number, Shcha-854, painted on his cap and trousers, is the identity imposed upon him.  But inside, and through subtle acts, he keeps his dignity.

The gulag’s chow hall anticipates modern dining in America: men wear their caps in restaurants and eat mysterious substances with their hands, and their formless clothing is badged with the alias identities of the Communist factories where it is made.

Quite often moderns stand as petitioners before windows or at stainless-steel counters in cinder-block, bunker-like structures for food and drinks whose antecedents, shipping, and handling are questionable.  Consider the now common chicken nugget, now made by many purveyors of comestibles, which is not a nugget although it may share some strands of DNA with a long-dead chicken.

Fred Turner, the man who in the 1980s invented the first chicken nugget for McDonald’s, died last week.  A generation has grown up eating this staple of fast food and cafeteria service.  Mr. Turner’s chicken nugget is finger food, perfect in a country where the possession of knives, forks, and spoons, even soft plastic ones, by The People can be suspect.

Hamburgers (not from Hamburg), tater tots (made from real tots?), tacos, wraps (not your granny’s coat), fish fingers (one wants to see that fish in the wild), and steak fingers (ditto for that cow), are all ordered from pictures and sometimes through loudspeakers: “That’s be a snakefinger basket, big ol’ chemical fizzy-drink, and fries!  Oh, and Prisoner #6 is to report to the delousing shed!”

In our sad world, are dishes, forks, napkins, menus, identifiable foodstuffs, and sitting at a table with one’s hat off really important?

In Jean Anouilh’s fictionalized play about the relationship between King Henry II and Thomas Becket, the king is unfamiliar with forks, an otherwise trivial matter which foreshadows his own uncivilized behavior later on.

 When the king says to Becket that he doesn’t see the point of a fork, Becket replies “It hasn’t any, practically speaking.  But it’s refined, it’s subtle.  It’s very un-Norman.”