Sunday, January 31, 2016

For Otto Rene Castillo - poem

Lawrence Hall

For Otto Rene Castillo

“…and there burned away in them…tenderness and life”

From “Intelectuales Apoliticos”
Translated by Rev. Raphael Barousse, OSB

Cloud-castles swirl among the mountain peaks
While lower down the jaguar rules and roars
And lower still, along a dusty road
A benevolence of United Fruit

The army burns a broken man to death
His final scream a hymn of victory
Ascending with the sacred smoke and ash
As incense over the altars of the poor

A blessing on the land of eternal spring
Hope swirling down like clouds from the mountain peaks

Friday, January 29, 2016

A Proletarian Fellowship of Death - poem

Lawrence Hall

A Proletarian Fellowship of Death

To have been lost in Indo-China is
A core, a center asymmetrical
Perhaps a hinge, or some other weary
Metaphor for one’s life, a series of
Experiences in no time without time
Frivolous merriment and satanic horrors
Which have led or misled, influenced, moved,
Inspired, infected, focused, fuzzed
Almost every thought, intent, act, motion
That can be credited or discredited
To those of us who were in confusion there
And who have come to realize or been made
To realize this late in life that all -
All - is predicated on murders and lies
And wearing Sauron’s ring has compromised
Any claim of “Gott Mit Uns” or "S nami Bog."
Thus, given that much of one’s life is an exile -
A village shunning, an embarrassment
A stumbling memento mori denied
A former person who should go away -
One question now remains:
What’s for breakfast?

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

For Ngo Dinh Diem - poem

Lawrence Hall

For Ngo Dinh Diem

No flame eternal burns over your lost grave
Unknown beneath an hourly parking lot
Or maybe out back among the garbage cans
No guards of honor pace in mirrored boots
Forth and back in mummery choreographed
Along a field of honor’s concrete walk
No busloads of tourists leave gift-shop wreaths
No bands or speeches mark your martyrdom
Nor would you need them
Nor would you want them
For your small flame is on an Altar set

Unfinished Lines - poem

Lawrence Hall

Unfinished Lines

January is an unfinished line
An incomplete cover judged by its book
A door ajar, a mislaid fountain pen
Unanswered letters bound with rubber bands
Or stacked and listed on a little screen
A chessboard king still menaced and in check
Wandering iambics not yet sorted out
Unfinished business from Porlock Parva -
January is but a fragment of
A life still littered with unfinished lines

Monday, January 25, 2016

Axioma Vulgare - poem

Lawrence Hall

Axioma Vulgare

The stars benignly shine upon the earth
And earth is not alien to itself
Yu-Kiang cannot deny his purpose
Flora cannot do other than follow the sun
That which is true cannot be nothingness
And emptiness tapping upon dim planes
In a closed autophagous loop of lies
Celebrates only hollow inversions
Truth, beauty, and goodness are eternal
And stars benignly shine upon the earth

Because the Queen is More Powerful than the King? - column

Lawrence Hall

Because the Queen is More Powerful than the King?

“I want no more thinking!”

-Henry V in Jean Anouilh’s Becket

A grand mufti in Saudi Arabia has banned chess as antithetical to purity of thought and good order in the family-owned tyranny – hardly a true kingdom – that has spent the last eighty years suppressing numerous ancient nations and tribal groups all over the Arabian peninsula.

But one can understand his point. The idolatrous spectacle of millions of people all over the world obsessing on chess matches is an embarrassment to the right-minded. Fans have been known to riot over chess team identification and send seriously rude twoots and tweets to others for wearing the wrong chess team ball caps and tees. Chess championships often end with supporters of the winning team sneering at two-cylinder Fiats and torching Starbucks coffee cups in designated campfire areas.

Disreputable young people who play chess often lurk in well-lit libraries and try to intimidate other pawn-slingers by wearing those menacing hipster hats and speaking in complete sentences. Scary.

And then there’s the foul language common to chess thugs – saying “en passant” is not acceptable behavior in public, and “queen to queen’s pawn four” might qualify as hate speech.

America pretty much shuts down for the National Chess League’s Superboard Sunday. Friends and families gather over garden salads and gluten-free 10% whole-rice croissants to whisper enthusiastically for their favorite teams.

During advertising breaks the high demand for beverages has been known to collapse cappuccino machines.

This year’s half-time show will feature the cast of Big Bang Theory performing the provocative Dance of the Seven Slide Rules. Let’s just hope Bob Newhart doesn’t suffer a wardrobe malfunction.

Thank goodness the world has the super-civilized Family Saud to stop the blood-crazed madness of chess and guide humanity in the paths of righteousness and clean living through arbitrary edicts and mass executions.

Now that chess has been banned, no doubt the grand mufti will next investigate Candyland and Scrabble for treasonable sentiments.

One can only imagine the mentality of an old dude with a beard that looks like it was culled from Donald Trump’s hairpiece sitting around and finding evil and dirty-mindness in board games.

We have people like that here, of course, but Old Ms. Grundy can’t have anyone’s head chopped off.

And what, really, is a mufti, grand or otherwise? Is there a baby grand mufti that you could stand in a bay window for impressing the neighbors?

Yes, chess offends the grand mufti; indeed, it frightens him because chess requires thinking. Once people start thinking, tyrants start trembling on their stolen thrones.


Saturday, January 23, 2016

Humility Unbidden - poem

Lawrence Hall

Humility Unbidden

Humility comes upon us when it will
Bidding us rise from ill-remembered dreams
To pace the darkness in a Tenebrae
Of guttering candles in irregular sequence
Those false expectations now burning low
That only punctuate a forlorn night
And give humanity neither warmth nor light
In the clock-ticking hours of nothingness
When even the pillows seem exhausted -
Humility comes upon us when it will

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Road Breakfast - poem

Lawrence Hall

Road Breakfast

Greasy spoons are a little too clean these days
After the sweet incense of cigarette smoke
Was purged by a Vatican II of health
Along with the morning paper. It’s all
Plastic tablets and gourmet coffees now
Multi-colored packets of chemicals
Flatware in little cellophane envelopes
Bright cartoon tees instead of stained work shirts
Cross-trainers where muddy boots used to rest -
Greasy spoons are just too d****d clean these days

Ella's Unicorns - poem

Lawrence Hall

Ella’s Unicorns

There is no reason why pale unicorns
Should not cavort in frosty fields at night
Or dragons play around the moonlit pond
Annoying the naughty naiads bathing there
For startime is the magic dreamy time
When flowers and leaves are given whispering speech
And laughing faeries flit from tree to tree
In games of hide-and-seek until the dawn
The world would be strange without unicorns
Cavorting in the frosty fields at night

Monday, January 18, 2016

Nancy Drew, Multi-Cultural Young Person Detective - essay

Lawrence Hall

Nancy Drew, Multi-Cultural Young Person Detective

CBS Entertainment president Glenn Geller, channeling Sir Roderick Spode and the Black Shorts, has decreed that the new Nancy Drew, girl detective, must meet specific racial criteria in adherence to the zeitgeist.

Geller-Spode’s thesis is that Nancy Drew can be of any ethnicity except Caucasian, whatever Caucasian is. And who decides? On what basis? Is one drop of inferior franco-russo-italo-hispano-anglo-and-stuff blood toxic enough to taint out of existence the possibility of a young actress with the wrong genetic coding being banned from ever dashing about in Nancy’s little blue roadster?

A photograph of Mr. Geller, a seriously white dude, indicates that by the standards he imposes on others he is not racially qualified for his job. And that he needs to shave. Really. It’s like he’s trying to be Leonardo’s bear.

Just what the world needs, another white man giving everyone else orders about gender and culture. Maybe like the Oscars™ nominating committee.

Hollywood auditions may now demand DNA tests and the scientific measurement of knees.

And must Nancy Drew be, well, a girl at all? Couldn’t a transgendered Bill Cosby qualify?

CBS has not yet said whether a birth certificate from a government hospital in Calgary will be a disqualifier. A fear greater than the peril of Caucasiananityness is that someone’s blood might be irreparably contaminated by a soupcon (that’s, like, French, y’know) of Tim Horton’s coffee.

Be on the alert for any signs of The Northern Peril, citizens! Nancy might seem like a good Yankee Doodle American teenager, but has she ever been heard to end a sentence with that imperialist “eh,” eh? Does she sometimes whisper “Je me souviens” when she think’s no one’s listening? If so, confiscate her junior detective notebook immediately and escort her to the nearest block warden post of The Black Shorts. The Ottawa-Dawson Axis must be contained. They can see Alaska from The Yukon, you know.

Word on that metaphorical street is that a Texas attorney will demand that the Supreme Court rule on whether Nancy Drew is really a Hardy Boy in denial.

Nancy Drew’s next adventure is to discover just what that thing lurking on Donald Trump’s head is.

The Clinton campaign underestimated Nancy Drew.

The President is said to have said “If you like your Nancy Drew, you can keep your Nancy Drew.”

Donald Trump proclaimed “I’ll make Nancy Drew great again!” Senator Cruz rebutted him with “My opponent represents Nancy Drew values, while I represent Trixie Belden values!”

And if ya think all that’s weird – though not as weird as this election cycle – wait until CBS transforms Hank the Cow Dog into Fluffy the Vegetarian Persian Kitty.

And let the people say “Icon.”


Sunday, January 17, 2016

The Yet-Again Catholic Literary Revival That's Really, Really Going to Take Off This Year - poem

Lawrence Hall

The Yet-Again Catholic Literary Revival
That’s Really, Really Going to Take off This Year

There’s more to Catholic poetry than
Nailing an adverb to a crucifix
Repeatedly troping from the Inklings
And claiming a circlet of preciousness

There’s more to Catholic prose than me-ness
Setting one’s self in a My Middle-Earth
Clutching a rosary of first-person pronouns
And What I Learned From shallow allusions

The revival will begin when Catholics
Write about others, not about themselves

Friday, January 15, 2016

Romantic Arctic Frogs - poem

Lawrence Hall

Romantic Arctic Frogs

Are frogs cold-blooded? Or merely stupid?
A freeze tonight – and they’re playing Cupid!

Monday, January 11, 2016

Coins and Raindrops - poem

Lawrence Hall

Coins and Raindrops

There is much to be said for January:
The barn coat in whose pockets you find coins
Left over from a coffee run last year
Spare change from the last chilly day of spring
Dark-webbing trees framing rain-heavy clouds
As fragments of a painting never finished
By an artist of the mind dreaming through
His afternoon walk among expectations
That need not be fulfilled this side of dusk -
There is much to be said for January

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Closing the Air France Loophole

Mack Hall, HSG

Closing the Air France Loophole

“We are glad the Dauphin is so pleasant with us.”

- Henry V

Should Air France be required to apply for a federal firearms license?

In 2014 Air France delivered an American He(ck)fire missile to those merry mass murderers the Castro brothers in Cuba.

One imagines the cabin attendant on the speaker: “Mesdames et messieurs, welcome aboard Air France Flight 13 to a retrograde Communist state with a human rights record superior to that of North Korea. For those of you in Euphemism Class we have complimentary champagne since in the cargo hold directly below you we’re carrying an American missile, and, gosh, we don’t know how it got there or what it might do. For those of you in Paid-for-by-Your-Corporation-or-Government Class, continue your accustomed denial of proletarian reality.”

The sloppy, ahistorical sentimentality of old comrades has folks wanting to visit Cuba “before it’s ruined.” A He(ck)fire missile could ruin a1956 DeSoto, that’s for sure.

Beyond the creaking old Yank-tank automobiles, Cuba has much to offer the sightseer: Spanish colonial architecture, tobacco and sugar plantations, rum, nightclubs, music, seafood, beaches, and mass graves.

Although Air France delivered the lost or stolen American missile to Cuba two years ago, the most transparent American government in history is only now letting the American people know about it.

But then, a number of people around the world think several American governments have been a bit careless with missiles the past few decades.

Perhaps the empty seat at the State of the Union address will be taken from an Air France plane.

The alligator-shoe boys assure the American people that the missile was not loaded. Coming from the same clever fellows who sacrificed hundreds of innocent Mexican and American lives by giving combat weapons to international drug warlords, this assurance might not be as reliable as one would hope.

There could be another empty seat representing the victims of gangsters armed by the American government.

And maybe another empty chair for those Americans abandoned to their deaths at Benghazi.

When the President appears before the Castro brothers later this year, perhaps he will ask them pretty-please to give the missile back now that the Russians and North Koreans have taken their pictures, measurements, and souvenirs. The Castro brothers might agree, but only if Americans promise to be more careful with their toys because that missile could have shot somebody’s eye out.

And, hey, was anyone with Air France charged under Cuban law for bringing an unregistered weapon into the country?


Liturgical Dance - poem

Lawrence Hall

Liturgical Dance

The liturgy has always served as dance
Timed to the courteis of the universe
Choreographed with planets, moons, and stars
To celebrate and sing and taste the Truth

Thus every gesture, every careful step
Leaps wildly across the sacred arc of time
And circling ‘round, and ‘round again all meet
In elevation silent within a Cup

But pause and kneel now at the sacring bell:
The liturgy has always been a dance

Thursday, January 7, 2016

The Feast of the Epiphany This Year - poem

Lawrence Hall

The Feast of the Epiphany This Year

If the Three Kings were to visit today
They’d need the proper paperwork
Passports and visas, and what is the purpose
Of your visit? A check through INTERPOL
A cavity search by rubbery hands
An escort armed with bribes and Kalashnikovs
Through tourists armed with me-phones, selfie sticks
And cardboard chalices, following a Starbuck’s
Searching the East for a wondrous ATM
If the Three Kings were to visit today

Sunlight Falling Upon a Cinder Block Wall - poem

Lawrence Hall

Sunlight Falling Upon a Cinder Block Wall

Each sunrise falls like blessings, slowly down
A wall of lowest-bidder cinder blocks
All pin-striped by long streaks from seasons and storms
And splash-back eaves of indifferent design
Night’s dampness steams away, warmed by the sun
Or drip-drip-drips into the summer grass
There welcomed warm by leaf and stem and earth
As they begin their office of the day
In offering work and praise unto the light -
Each sunrise flows like blessings, softly down

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Bishops on Monastic Retreat - poem

Lawrence Hall

Bishops on Monastic Retreat

A few spiky mitres among the cowls -
One hopes holy bishops don’t pinch the towels

Octave Sunday - poem

Lawrence Hall

Octave Sunday

The bishops say this is Epiphany
This silvery-grey Sunday in the Octave
With church ladies clucking over the schedules
Of lectors and servers and commentators
Eucharistic ministers who aren’t here
Are you first cup? Well, I can be. Would you?
And does the Christmas tree come down today?
And monthly luncheon in the hall after Mass
This is all very Ordinary Time but
The bishops say this is Epiphany

The Coyotes Have Taken the Night Off - poem

Lawrence Hall

The Coyotes Have Taken the Night Off

Winter at last - the night is silent and cold
The moon and stars obscured by clouds all week
Even the coyotes have taken the night off
There is no symbolism; it’s just nice

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Contra Julius and Gregory - Poem

Lawrence Hall

Contra Julius and Gregory

A year does not fail, because there are no years
There are only seasons dancing through being
The choreography of Creation
Written with meteors dreamed out of stars
And so the first day of January
Is the thirty-second of December
And neither is either or even itself
But only a mark that says left foot forward
Continuing a step from beyond forever
The year does not fail, because there are no years

The Aesthetic Joys of a Calendar with Pictures

Lawrence Hall, HSG

The Aesthetic Joys of a Calendar with Pictures

Picture calendars are nice. Facing the new day is easier if the first thing you see is a picture of puppies or sailboats. Otherwise you might be alarmed by looking into the mirror and having to ask yourself “Who is that old man?” A cold, grey dawn is not the time for introspection.

At the bookstores calendars are discounted after the beginning of the new year, and while the dachshunds are all gone you might find some kittens or airplanes or icebergs off Newfoundland. Italian scenes are always popular, although trying to sort out The Leaning Tower of Pisa while waking up could lead to a skewed perception of reality.

Imagine living in Pisa and seeing the leaning tower most every day. You’d be asking yourself if it’s going to fall today, or maybe tomorrow. Maybe you could petition the city council to go ahead and knock it down so no one would have to worry about it ever again. But what would visitors then do for photographs? They’d have to take gag pictures of each other holding up a coffee shop or something.

Beagle puppies are fun. You cannot look at a calendar picture of beagle puppies and not feel optimistic about the coming day at work.

Cats, well, maybe. Cats are decorative, but, really, how much fun are room accessories that might choose to hiss and spit at any time? Soooo Harry Pottery.

In Ye Olden Days the calendars in barracks, fire stations, cop shops, and dorm rooms tended to be of a somewhat, um, frivolous nature. Given the Comrade Grundy grimness of popular culture just now one supposes that Miss April has been taken out and shot, and her amusing image replaced by a collective photograph of diverse assemblies of DNA sternly examining an algebra book for insensitivity and cultural occupation.

The English word “calendar” comes from the Latin word “calends” or “kalends,” originally referring to the first day of the week. It has come to mean the measurement of the solar year for the inconvenience of humans. Really smart people who do thinky-stuff tell us that humans have always constructed calendars – Sumerians, Akkadian, Chinese, Hebrew, Roman, Julian, and Gregorian, among others.

The calendar makes it possible for the left-brained among us to discuss the meteorological significance of the 21st of September as the autumn equinox and the first day of autumn, while the more practical individual simply opens the door to determine whether he will need a coat.

Just before Christmas funeral homes begin giving away Christian calendars marked with all the usual dates and lunar indications as well as religious observances. Thus, beneath “Martyrdom of St. Lawrence” you can write “Men’s Bible Class Barbecue,” and on the occasion of the beheading of St. Thomas More pencil in “Haircut – maybe closer this time.”

A calendar can note a full moon, but it cannot anticipate that the children will run barefoot around the backyard and chase lightnin’ bugs through a long summer dusk while waiting for it to rise. A calendar cannot replicate the hypnotic humming of cicadas under the noonday sun on a still, gaspingly hot day in July, nor can it communicate the joy one feels when, on a 90-degree afternoon in October, the wind suddenly shifts north and blesses the hot, tired earth with the first cool breezes since May.

In old movies a narrative technique to indicate the passing of time was to have an offscreen fan turn the pages of a desk calendar. Life doesn’t really pass that fast, though sometimes it seems that way.

But a calendar of happy pictures will help begin the day. That’s better than staring into a grumpy old face in the mirror.