Wednesday, January 28, 2015

January Weary


Lawrence Hall

Mhall46184@aol.com

 

January Weary

 

Dark weeks of wind and clouds and rain have passed

Into the east where wild storms go to die

While in the west above the woods the moon

A glowing curve of cold reigns over the sky

Now close the door after a lingering look

Upon silence and frost this January night

And dream by the fire, with blanket and book,

Sweet images of spring in the flickering light

And sunlight tomorrow - the frost won’t last

Long weeks of wind and clouds and rain have passed

News From Russia


Lawrence Hall


 

News from Russia

 

The Brothers Karamazov, Book II

 

There was little news from Russia today

At the monastery the late liturgy

Was over around eleven or so

The faithful crossing themselves as they left,

Mostly poor folk, walking to their homes for lunch

And then back to work.  They hardly noticed

A party of their betters strolling about

Reading tombstones, giggling about the quaint monks

Waiting to see a reed swaying in the wind

There was little news from Russia today

Je Suis Dust Jacket


Lawrence Hall


 

Je Suis Dust Jacket

 

Can’t-put-it-down layered tapestry of

Spell-binding patriarchal must-read rich

Ness woven of cross-cultural patriarchal

Assumptions is a multi-gendered land

Mark of accessible, richly textured

Narratives that will make you laugh, make you cry,

And change your life forever through a unique

Voice of powerful unstinting timeless

Human condition moving milestone land

Mark compelling nuanced epic of searing

Honesty and gripping poignancy burnt

Into the human conscience challenges

The heterosexist patriarchal

Mainstream that will define a generation

Iconic sensual stunning absorbing

Lapidary roman a clef triumph

Definitive edgy in the tradition

Of luminous provocative.  And stuff.

Some Mornings Are Like That


Lawrence Hall


 

Some Mornings are like That

 

The day begins, but not in optimism

Sunrise is tiresome, fresh coffee tastes old

The frost in the fields has been used before

Even the evergreens are evertired

So what will you now do? Give it all up?

Oh, no.  Toothbrush and shaver to the front

A shower, hot, get dressed, laugh at yourself

Lace up your sneakers, however awkwardly

Now touch the Crucifix, take up your work

The day begins – to stand up is a victory

After Epiphany III


Lawrence Hall

Mhall46184@aol.com

 

After Epiphany III

 

The stripping of the tree is almost Lenten

The ornaments gone, only “bare ruined choirs”

Remain, no comfort of carols or hymns

As it is dragged outside into the cold

It almost seems to shiver in the winter sun

Reduced to poverty and then to scraps

Which in the months to come enkindle then

An evening fire after the cows are milked

But not celebrated with festive lights

The stripping of the tree is almost Lenten

What's Wrong With Education These Days?


Lawrence Hall

Mhall46184@aol.com

 

What’s Wrong with Education These Days?

 

The principal in his cartoon tee-shirt

His Nike sneakers squeaking across the floor

Sets out candy, pizzas, and canned sodas

Arranges a door prize, and assembles the faculty

Requires them to sign in so he can check on them

Orders them to hold hands and sing the school song

Reminds them they are all one big family

As a preface to his primary agenda:

To tell them to be more professional

The principal in his cartoon tee-shirt

A Clockwork Clock


Lawrence Hall

Mhall46184@aol.com

 

A Clockwork Clock

 

One almost never sees a clockwork clock

Two trimmed and stamped and punched flat metal disks

With gears and wheels and springs and hands attached

And all enclosed in steel and faced with glass

On duty in the kitchen window there

To watch Mom’s baking bread or note the hours

Until The Cisco Kid lassoed a dream

To delight little boys with a golden tale

Adventures when the hands met years ago

 

But now

 

One almost never sees a clockwork clock

The Danelaw


Lawrence Hall

Mhall46184@aol.com

 

The Danelaw

 

The ancient usages of Holy Church

Are hidden in dark marshes with the King 

The Eucharist is fallen into the ash

And all the sacred vessels - they are lost

The holy Chalice is but a cup for mead

The Paten a love-offering for a dancing girl

The vestments coverings for snoring Danes

The burnt Mass-book a mystery of smoke:

But Christus semper vivat, and quickens still

The ancient usages of Holy Church

 

While reading GKC’s Ballad of the White Horse.  I extend this as a modern metaphor.

Within the Octave of the Superbowl


Mack Hall, HSG


 

Within the Octave of the Superbowl

 

In ye olden Puritan colonies ye olden local police were charged by the magistrates and the clergy to verify church attendance on Sundays, even to checking the houses and businesses of absentees to make sure they really were sick, and not simply avoiding sermons of such transcendental length that even Methuselah might yawn and check the ol’ sun dial.

 

In our times the powerful purveyors of beer, fizzy-water, and cardboard calories might be tempted to petition the several states to ensure that every householder in the land is in prayerful, purchasing-power (a widow’s mite won’t cut it anymore) devotion before the Orwellian telescreen on Super-Bowl Sunday unless there is a valid excuse, such as being dead.

 

Yes, the Octave of the Superbowl is here, and all unnecessary work is suspended for a week in observance of this Great Liturgy of the Republic.  Long before the Game Itself, children and adults alike dream of the merry violence of unionized millionaires bashing each other in taxpayer-funded stadia for the profit of a small oligarchy of owners.  Attended by a praetorian guard, airships, amazonian vestals, liturgical directors, referees, commentators, line judges, hired musicians, dancing bears, dispensers of comestibles, lights, colors, sounds, smokes, and tiers of worshippers in their made-in-China vestments, the Superbowl is a display of excess and distraction that would make even the giddiest Babylonian king envious.

 

All over This Great Land millions of fowl are sacrificed to the gods, and their smoking body parts rendered up on the Altar of Consumption under the transfiguring name of buffalo wings.  Yes, no matter what anyone says, Americans are a people of great faith – in spite of all evidence they believe that on Superbowl Sunday buffalos have wings just as in Ordinary Time they believe that paint stripes on a pavement will keep two cars from crashing into each other

 

Superbowl Sunday is such an essential liturgy of Americanism that those few who recuse themselves from this Holy Day of Obligation can be subject to questions about their morals.  Not to have a favorite team is to shame one’s family, especially Grammaw in her made-in-China Green Bay ensemble, and not to know the names of the competing gods in the Super Bowl is to invite McCarthy-ite suspicion about one’s religious fidelity and national loyalty.

 

At the end of the game – or Game – the faithful of the losing gods are in such despair that they feel the only way they can restore their faith is by the ritual burning of other people’s cars.  Curiously, the faithful devotees of the winning gods also burn other people’s cars, but in celebration of the increased strength of their gods.  Understanding the anthropology of primitive peoples is always a challenge.

 

After The Game, the human sacrifices begin, when the Chosen Stadium itself is as bare as a Christian Altar on Good Friday: dark, empty, forlorn, devoid of hope.  The gods themselves, when they are or are broken in body, are abandoned.  Some have been known to die alone and homeless, with none of the millions who once cheered them in attendance.  For there are always new gods and new places of worship in the cycle of diversions.

 

For now there is Mardy Graw, and the burning question of whether the made-in-China beads were deflated, and whether The Plastic King may or may not be righteously baked into the cake.

 

-30-

 

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Amid the Alien Whole Kernel Corn


Lawrence Hall


 

Amid the Alien Whole-Kernel Corn

 

Given that most of humanity has always lived on the edge of starvation, the ordinary (to us) grocery store is an adventure in consumerism and culture: coffee from Colombia, tea from Sri Lanka (which was Ceylon before it watched too much television), bananas from Nicaragua, olive oil from Italy, herring from Norway, and summer vegetables shipped from California at all seasons. Sugar-sodden snacks pose seductively only an aisle away from the ascetic whole-grain breads, and diet sodas vamp desperately for the shopper’s attention like aging pop stars layered in makeup.

 

Shopping the supermarket is like shopping the world, and presumably the rest of the world enjoys effective means of transporting groceries back to the house, flat, yurt, tent, or trailer.  In the USA, it might be time for us to bring our own bags to the grocery store.

 

Not so long ago grocery sacks were made of heavy brown paper.  When the sackboy, showing off a bit, swung it in a great arc against the air the sack opened with a very satisfying “pop,” ready for action.  The good old paper grocery sack was sturdy and capacious, and once the groceries were stored away at home the sacks went on to second careers as costume masks, school projects,  and useful (though not fashionable) beach and overnight bags, and for carrying one’s own garden produce to friends.  The cloud of polysyllabic adjectives condemning the use of paper grocery sacks as a crime against red-headed toadfrogs or something is just a darned lie. 

 

Later the customer was given a choice, paper or plastic, and the plastic, too, was good stuff.  Primitive plastic grocery sacks were manly ones, quite capable of telling that “Hefty, Hefty, Hefty” upstart where to get off.

 

Alas that now shoppers in the land of Manifest Destiny have no choice.  Grocery bags are plastic only, and nouveau plastic of such a flimsy, vaporous quality that they are no more substantial than a political party’s platform.  Groceries that could be toted in two or three substantial paper bags are now wrapped into six or seven little puffs of weak, thin film.  These diaphanous fancies are carefully designed to fall apart, like an environmentalist’s excuses, between your car and your back door.

 

A modern plastic grocery bag is not strong enough to hold even a pound of coffee, but that works out okay because there are no one-pound cans of coffee anymore.  Coffee is now sold 12 ounces at a time in cardboard cylinders.  One supposes that an honest pound of coffee was detrimental to the rain forest, which used be a fine old jungle before it began taking night classes at community college and got all sensitive.

 

Shopping carts have changed little; they’re still made of steel, rattle like crazy, and feature errant wheels that are determined to steer the cart to India even though you are trying to tack against them to the frozen foods.  I have been in grocery stores where the shopping carts were made of plastic atop obedient wheels, but that somehow seemed a little too Martha’s Vineyard or something.  Real Americans demand noisy, oppositional, steel shopping carts with a little fight in them.

 

Your old Granny thumped the melons, smelled the steaks, palpated the bread, and eyed the ground Charles carefully because she knew what she was doing.  Now most food products, even bananas and apples, are decorated with health and safety labels, but I’d rather trust Granny’s diagnosis than some propaganda about how an apple was grown by barefoot beatniks invoking karma-ness and the spirit of Alan Watts.

 

But, hey, it’s all organic, natural, farm-fresh, and good for the environment, right?  After all, the label says so, and who can argue with a label?

 

Coffee in cardboard and fooofy grocery sacks that exhibit the tensile strength of water vapor, well, we can cope, but how sadly progressive that sackboys no longer wear aprons, white shirts, and bow ties.  They looked sharp in a Little House on the Prairie-goes-to-town-on-Saturday sort of way.  I kinda miss that.

 

-30-

 

 

 

Community College for Everyone


Lawrence Hall

Mhall46184@aol.com

 

Community College for Everyone

 

“Tolle Lege - Take up and read”

-a child’s voice in Saint Augustine’s Confessions

 

You do not need permits or paperwork

A license, vouchers, sufferance, consent,

Authorization, sanction, approval,

Passport, certification, charter, chit,

Security clearance, brevet, code, key,

Party card, registration, ration book,

Rubber stamp, fingerprints, user name, badge,

Photo identification, pin number

To read a poem on a summer afternoon

You do not need permits or paperwork

Sergeant Schultz Saw Everything


Lawrence Hall

Mhall46184@aol.com

 

Sergeant Schultz Saw Everything

 

This sad world needs another Sergeant Schultz

That merry miles ponderosus who

Carried his rifle like a walking stick

And celebrated strudel instead of glory 

His innocent joy repudiated

The burning-soul pornography of war

In seeing nothing he saw everything

Through ordinary men living in hope

The liturgy of daily happiness

This sad world needs another Sergeant Schultz

The Danelaw


Lawrence Hall

Mhall46184@aol.com

 

The Danelaw

 

The ancient usages of Holy Church

Are hidden in dark marshes with the King 

The Eucharist is fallen into the ash

And all the sacred vessels - they are lost

The holy Chalice is but a cup for mead

The Paten a love-offering for a dancing girl

The vestments coverings for snoring Danes

The burnt Mass-book a mystery of smoke:

But Christus semper vivat, and quickens still

The ancient usages of Holy Church

A Clockwork Clock and The Cisco Kid


Lawrence Hall

Mhall46184@aol.com

 

A Clockwork Clock

 

One almost never sees a clockwork clock

Two trimmed and stamped and punched flat metal disks

With gears and wheels and springs and hands attached

And all enclosed in steel and faced with glass

On duty in the kitchen window there

To watch Mom’s baking bread or note the hours

Until The Cisco Kid lassoed a dream

To delight little boys with a golden tale

Adventures when the hands met years ago

But now

One almost never sees a clockwork clock

What's Wrong With Education These Days?


Lawrence Hall

Mhall46184@aol.com

 

What’s Wrong with Education These Days?

 

The principal in his cartoon tee-shirt

His Nike sneakers squeaking across the floor

Sets out candy, pizzas, and canned sodas

Arranges a door prize, and assembles the faculty

Requires them to sign in so he can check on them

Orders them to hold hands and sing the school song

Reminds them they are all one big family

As a preface to his primary agenda:

To tell them to be more professional

The principal in his cartoon tee-shirt

After Epiphany III (and I'm not calling the three poems a tryptich)


Lawrence Hall

Mhall46184@aol.com

 

After Epiphany III

 

The stripping of the tree is almost Lenten

The ornaments gone, only “bare ruined choirs”

Remain, no comfort of carols or hymns

As it is dragged outside into the cold

It almost seems to shiver in the winter sun

Reduced to poverty and then to scraps

Which in the months to come enkindle then

An evening fire after the cows are milked

But not celebrated with festive lights

The stripping of the tree is almost Lenten

Sunday, January 11, 2015

The Cigar is Forbidden


The Cigar is Forbidden

 

The cigar is forbidden. Dare not to smoke

To puff, to huff, to breathe, to sigh, to toke

These rules apply to every lad and bloke

Your attitude’s been noticed – dare not to smoke.

After Epiphany I & II


Lawrence Hall

Mhall46184@aol.com

 

After Epiphany I

 

Epiphany is the door into winter

Into those bleak, grey days, into the cold

When time itself is huddled in the dark

Asleep, suspended in the drifting mist

In clouds of icy mist among the trees

Above the somnolent, shivering earth

The brief, pale sun in silence disappears

The moon in silence rises high to watch 

Over a world asleep until far spring

Epiphany is the door into winter



 

After Epiphany II

 

There will not be a gay bonfire tonight

The outside animals were early fed

And early sheltered in their straw-strewn barn

To chew and low and snuffle through the hours

Then folks withdrew from duties and the dark

Into the house to hang their coats and find

A chair next to the stove; they sigh the time

And mourn the emptiness where was the tree

And linger drowsily over a Christmas book

There will be not be a gay bonfire tonight

We All Came from the Stars


Lawrence Hall

Mhall46184@aol.com

 

 

We All Came from the Stars

 

We all came from the stars. It’s just that some

Among us never forgot. They cause problems.

Narcissists Without Borders


Lawrence Hall

Mhall46184@aol.com

 

Narcissists Without Borders

 

I am Charlie Hebdo I am I am

Charlie hebdo I am Charlie hebdo

I am Charlie hebdo I am I am

Buy my album buy my music buy my

Television show buy my movie I

Am Charlie Hebdo I am I am I

Look at me, take my picture, look at me

There I am on the big flat screen it’s me

Read my sign, ain’t I cute, where’s my credit

I am Charlie Hebdo I am I am.

Student Loans


Lawrence Hall

Mhall46184@aol.com

 

Student Loans

 

“Tolle Lege - Take up and read”

-a child’s voice in Saint Augustine’s Confessions

 

You do not need permits or paperwork

A license, vouchers, sufferance, consent,

Authorization, sanction, approval,

Passport, certification, charter, chit,

Security clearance, brevet, code, key,

Party card, registration, ration book,

Rubber stamp, fingerprints, user name, badge,

Photo identification, pin number

To read a poem on a summer afternoon

You do not need permits or paperwork.

Monday, January 5, 2015

What's Your Oeuvre?


Lawrence Hall


 

What’s Your Oeuvre?

 

How then does one acquire an oeuvre

Pronounce an oeuvre and spell an oeuvre

Tossing one’s cookies – is oeuvre the sound

Of gagging old beer onto the ground

Are oeuvres ordered from Amazon

Or styled tres chic at a hair salon

Or force another rhyme with “Babylon?”

How very sad to have no oeuvre

Such a disgrace – we’ll have to movre

Unless somehow we acquire an oeuvre.

The Portuguese Main in Old Movies

Lawrence Hall
mhall46184@aol.com


The Portuguese Main in Old Movies

Why don’t the Portuguese have their own main?
Errol Flynn fights only Spanish baddies
Who twirl their moustaches in sneering disdain
But the villains are never Portuguese laddies
When ships do battle on Warner’s sound stage
The English are haughty, the Spanish snooty
Prince Henry’s brave men are never the rage
And the heroine is never a Lisboan beauty
Harken unto this repeated refrain:
Why don’t the Portuguese have their own main?

Iconic Bucket List, Actually


Lawrence Hall


 

Iconic Bucket List, Actually

 

Some amusing folks at Lake Superior State University have published their 40th annual list of overused and euphemistic words and phrases, including “polar vortex,” “skill set,” “swag,” “foodie,” and “enhanced interrogation” (http://www.lssu.edu/banished/).

 

The anonymous writers refer to the tiresome words and phrases as “banned” and “banished,” but one hopes those strong verbs are mere hyperbole.

 

This is all jaw-droppint iconic fun, actually, and actually all of us tire of overused iconic words and phrases, actually.  I mean, like, actually, you know, actually keep calm and talk to the jaw-dropping iconic hand because actually at the jaw-dropping end of the iconic day when the iconic fat lady actually sings ya gotta give 1001% to iconic, inclusive, and sensitive jaw-dropping iconic fate because actually iconic Mother Nature’s wrath is a jaw-dropping shoo-in for the bucket list.  Jaw-dropping, actually. And iconic.

 

And, hey, television news: why do you say “Next, but first?”  Almost every evening the on-air reporter says something to the effect of “Next we’ll have Greg with the weather, but first…”  In the event, what is truly next is a series of advertisements, followed by what used to be called a human interest story, and then, finally, the weather report.  Thus, Greg is not only not next, he is far from next, and so has time to go out for a coffee before he must be in place before the cameras.

 

Actually (so to speak), Lake Superior State University is not free of verbal clutter itself.  Note the filler language on their admissions page:

 

At LSSU, we're redefining the classroom and preparing students for a world where the only constant is change. Students at LSSU go beyond the traditional classroom experience with real-world, hands-on, engaged learning experiences. (http://www.lssu.edu/admissions/).

 

“The only constant is change,” “real-world,” “hands-on”, and “engaged learning experience” are the sort of puffery that appeared, like fungal growth, in high school mission statements (remember mission statements?) before the turn of the century.  These examples of verbal clutter should be featured on LSSU’s list of banned words.

 

On the admissions page appears a promotion for LSSU’s honors program:

 

The Honors Program at LSSU is for highly motivated students that wish to develop their abilities and skills in exciting and innovative ways that go beyond the classroom. The central goal of the Honors faculty is to actively engage the Honors students in the process of their undergraduate education.

 

Given that this blurb features four capitalization errors, a pronoun error, numerous redundant modifiers, and a split infinitive, the admissions people might want to ask the word people to proofread their puffery.

 

They could put it on their iconic bucket list, actually.

 

-30-

 

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Seventh Day in the Octave of Christmas I, II, and III

Lawrence Hall
mhall46184@aol.com



Seventh Day in the Octave
of Christmas I

“Lest our old robes sit easier than our new”

-Macbeth II.iii.37

Does the year fail, or is it we who fail?
This Octave day in darkness cold begins
And on the radio the same dark news
That began this fading Gregorian year
The well-turned compost heap of history
On which we flung the grounds and husks of hope
Expecting little, and so not disappointed
No resolutions, then, no black-eyed peas
No cabbage; let the months fall as they will:
Does the year fail, or is it we who fail?


 
Seventh Day in the Octave
 of Christmas II

Time has no divisions to mark its passage, there is never a thunderstorm or blare of trumpets to announce the beginning of a new month or year. Even when a new century begins it is only we mortals who ring bells and fire off pistols.

-Thomas Mann, The Magic Mountain

Does the year fail, or is it we who fail?
This Octave day opens in darkness cold
And on the radio the same cold news
That began this fading Gregorian year
And ends it, churned by a news-o-matic
To be poured into an old plastic cup
As steaming-hot clich├ęs to be consumed
By the devout, obedient faithful
The faithful, who worship a falling light bulb
Does the year fail, or is it we who fail?

 
Seventh Day in the Octave
of Christmas III

“O moments big as years!”

-John Keats, "Hyperion"

Does the year fail, or is it we who fail?
This Octave day opens in darkness cold
And on the radio the same dark news
That began this fading Gregorian year
But let us face this next turn of the time
With Aves on our lips and in our hearts
With the cold courage of Crusaders
And the cool kindness of missionaries
And may God grant that never again we ask:
Does the year fail, or is it we who fail?