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Even The Shape seems to have withdrawn itself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

Sunday, July 16, 2017

15th Sunday in Ordinary Time - poem

Lawrence Hall

15th Sunday in Ordinary Time

We are scattered, like the Tribes of Israel
Sown not in rejection but as word and work
Planted everywhere, and commanded to grow
In the rich earth of divine Creation

There is no veto in birds, rocks, or thorns
Let them instead serve in their own poor ways
As dutiful as humans, maybe more so
Unfallen either as seed or as beings

To tend and guard the ancient unities
That grow forever in Jerusalem

Saturday, July 15, 2017

A Carpenter's Hammer - poem

Lawrence Hall

A Carpenter’s Hammer

A craftsman does not hammer with a hammer -
He wields it with surprising subtlety
As delicately as a scalpel poised
Or as an artist’s most elegant brush

A hammer is balanced to mind and hand
Its journey planned and scheduled with great care
To bring about something that was not before:
Through muscle and thought it falls, it dives, it drives

And when the hammer strikes the waiting nail
It sings to Creation a workman's hymn

Friday, July 14, 2017

The Happy Little Guillotine - poem

Lawrence Hall

The Happy Little Guillotine

Oh, happy guillotine, who blesses us
With your great gift of freedom, so that we
Will never again suffer the cruel torments
Of faith and friendship, air, love, light, and breath

Oh, do lop off our heads, and make us free
To gurgle hymns to The Revolution
By our hundreds free, nay, our thousands free,
To rot in the streets, gloriously free

Oh, holy guillotine, come to our aid
And make us one beneath your healing blade!

Thursday, July 13, 2017

The Evolution of Sophomores - poem

Lawrence Hall

The Evolution of Sophomores

Poor sophomores like polliwogs within
Their small Samsaric Sea do swim about
And seemingly without purpose or point
Startled by shifting shadows or loud noises

But polliwogs in time absorb their tails
Then grow their legs, and hop ashore to eat
Mosquitoes, moths, and flies and dragonflies;
Sophomores acquire their driving licenses

And seemingly without purpose or point
Do drive about their small Samsaric Sea

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

After Their Divorce - poem

Lawrence Hall

After Their Divorce

In his garage he takes a break, and sits
Among all the mechanical debris
Of an inventor born a century late:
Unsorted hopes, tools, dreams, and engine parts

The project car that he and his son will never
Rebuild together on Sunday afternoons
An old guitar, an ashtray full of ends
A midden of beer cans crushed in memories

He should be loading his truck and trailer, but
In his garage, in bitterness, he waits

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Did the Burning Bush Send Moses a Monthly Bill? - column

Mack Hall, HSG

Did the Burning Bush Send Moses a Monthly Bill?

Mark Zuckerberg is said to have said that Facebook could be a replacement for religion. But one never knows; as George Washington wrote in Grant’s Farewell Address to His Soldiers in 1918, “Don’t believe everything you read on the internet.”

Mr. Z is said to have said in an interview on CNN (eek) that Facebook is like a church, and that “connecting people is not enough…Facebook has a responsibility to manage its communities.”

Now we know the latest manifestation of Voldemort.

Great Zuckerberg will manage you, so bow before him, and obey.

Pens and paper, typewriters, CB radios, semaphores, smoke signals, mirrors, newspapers, the telegraph – all these are forms of communication, but probably no one has ever perceived these as manifestations of God.

Imagine kneeling in private prayer before an Underwood typewriter and whispering, “O Great Underwood, let thy keys speak unto me and share with me thy mysteries.”

No one has ever suggested of a problem, “Let’s take it to an 80% cotton sheet of bond paper in prayer.”

No one in a theological discussion has ever declared a Sheaffer fountain pen to be the inspired pen of God, and that a Parker pen is a heretic to be cast into the outer darkness of a dumpster behind The University of Where Circuit City and Radio Shack Used to Be.

No one has proclaimed, “For God so loved the world that He gave His beloved Zuckerberg to be His only-begotten distributor of gossip.”

How, then, can a little plastic box made in China be an Epiphany?

In the end, an anti-social medium is but a back fence that lights up and makes noises: gossip, recipes, Amelia Earhart sightings, unmarked UN helicopters ferrying Real Americans to concentration camps in abandoned Wal-Marts, and pictures of kittens and puppies.

Yes, that’s all somewhere in Genesis.

When your wife or husband dies, or your child has been arrested, or you’re suffering a terrible illness, will God’s Chosen Manager Zuckerberg come to your house at three in the morning? Or maybe he will only manifest himself (or Himself) as a recorded voice, urging you to place your hands on that glowing, noisy little plastic box that has indeed become a god to many, and ask the electrons for a blessing.

Gentle Reader, you probably identify with a religion. As part of that there is a local minister. He – or she – probably isn’t cool, doesn’t sport a Rolex watch, doesn’t wear a designer hairpiece, doesn’t fly all over the world in a private jet having his picture taken, and doesn’t have a tellyvision show or a media empire. But he has you. And he’ll come to the house and be there for you when your life falls apart in the dark of the night.

An Underwood typewriter won’t.

And besides, who would be the cranky coffee lady after the Sunday morning service?


Sixth Mass Extinction - poem in two parts

Lawrence Hall

Sixth Mass Extinction

Earth's sixth mass extinction event under way, scientists warn

-The Guardian

The headmaster has shaved his head egg-smooth
Shifted his hair to the point of his chin
And his sunshades to the top of his scalp
His petrol-station SAS sunshades

He often boasts he doesn’t even own a tie
And hasn’t read a book since Upper-Sixth
Something transgender post-colonial
About Guevara (who is on his tee)

Not a form master, but a master of forms
A way-cool disciple of Ofsted norms

Variant for the American Market

Sixth Mass Extinction

Earth's sixth mass extinction event under way, scientists warn

-The Guardian

Like, you know, the principal shaves his head

Like, absolutely, OMG

Got him a goatee, like, actually

Cheap gas-station Official USA Navy Seals™® shades, mannnnnnnnnnnnnnn

Not cool, OMG, actually

I had to help him with the big words in Goodnight, Moon

Absolutely, like

Yosemite Sam™® on his faunky ol’ tee

His office has, like, stuffed fish and, like, football pictures, like, and his Dallas Cowboys™® baseball cap, like, actually

Monday, July 10, 2017

Kafka's Coffee Cup - poem

Lawrence Hall

Kafka’s Coffee Cup

A poor petitioner spoke unto a grille;
His need was simple, coffee ‘gainst the dawn.
A voice metallic, disembodied, chill
Chanted a liturgy through the speaker ‘phone:

“And would you like some sweetener with that?
Sugar? Or chemicals, yellow or pink?
Creamer, perhaps, no gluten and no fat;
The selection is yours; what do you think?

“And, oh, yes, would you like to supersize
Your order with a little bit of nosh?
A doughnuts or bagel, some curly fries,
Or a croissant with cream cheese, by gosh!”

(The reader pauses, then speaks the last two lines slowly)

Years passed, as did this tale of Kafka’s woe:
He died while waiting for that cup of joe.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

A Secret University - poem

Lawrence Hall

A Secret University

You registered for university
When in the womb you were beloved of God
Your classes then began when you were born
When you awoke, and saw your mother’s eyes

And in them all the possibilities
Of life, of golden life, given to you
Upon this planet with its flowered fields
Forests and rivers beneath its moon and sun

And all these tell you, in eternal Song1
That all the world’s your university

1 In The Kalevala, in Lewis’ Narnia, and in many faiths, God sings the world into being.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Reclining Nude with Pet Frog - poem

Lawrence Hall

Reclining Nude with Pet Frog

Hobby Lobby got caught smuggling artifacts
Vaticanos got caught snuggling each other
Putin and Trump are loose with their facts
The governor of New Jersey is BIG Brother

The Republicans blame the Democrats
The Democrats blame the Russians
The Russians blame the plutocrats
And the Norks won’t join the discussions

All of them make big ol’ messes each day
And they expect us to shut up and pay

Friday, July 7, 2017

Still Life with Ant Poison - poem

Lawrence Hall

Still Life with Ant Poison

A summer’s dusk, a rustic garden bench
Deep-weathered from the cycles of seasons and years
And burdened with those homely implements
Beloved of the philosopher-gardener:

Clay pots at rest after nursing young plants
An old birdhouse in need of repair, a trowel
A pair of old cloth gloves, a watering can
A cylinder of painful death for ants

And for the old philosopher’s Vespers
An inch
              (or two)
                            of therapeutic single-malt

Thursday, July 6, 2017

The Bishop of DaNang - poem

Lawrence Hall

The Bishop of DaNang

In Grateful Memory:
Pierre Marie Pham Ngoc Chi,14 May 1909 – 21 January 1988

What did he think of his Americans
Some six or so, just kids, in jungle greens
Receiving from his hands the Sacrament
Of Confirmation there, among Marines

A Quonset hut chapel in the morning sun
Blistering the steel in its passage to noon
Anointing all with gun oil and with sweat
“Do you reject Satan and all his works…?”

The Word and his blessings, a group picture -
And what did the NVA think of him?

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

#What's in a #? - poem

Lawrence Hall

#What’s in a #?

#“What's in a #? That which we call a #
By any other # would smell as #...”


You are, by the Grace of God, as you speak;
You are not a #; you are not an @
You are not a consumable to be
Tagged, twitted, labeled, renamed, and recycled

Honor the languages of your ancestors
Who gave to you, through work and dignity,
The Muses Nine of civilization
And not vague scratchings in the muck of now

Write nobly, not in # @ noises weak -
You are, by the Grace of God, as you speak

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

I am so Boring That... - poem

Lawrence Hall

I am so Boring That…

Morpheus takes my correspondence course
I teach the House of Lords how to induce snores
I make strong men yawn with my tired metaphors
I am on retainer with all the best sleep clinics

I am the reason the grooms in Macbeth slept
Hypnos and Nix envy me and my skills
Rip Van Winkle was wonked out by my rhymes
My verses make for Odin’s yearly sleep

I wield my Sword of Soporificity
And the condemned oversleep their executions

Look upon my cliches’, ye mighty, and despair, hahahahahaha…!

Monday, July 3, 2017

Is That a Prophet on Your Roof? - poem

Lawrence Hall

Is That a Prophet on Your Roof?

A woman of Shunem gave to Elisha
A small room on her roof, furnishing it with
A bed, a chair, a table, and a lamp
And, truly, what more does a man of God need?

It’s possible that the neighbors gossiped
About keeping a prophet on the roof
And what did the owners’ association say
About extra rooms and extra prophets?

A little room in which to pray and sleep,
And friends – what more does a man of God need?

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Juvenile Court Day - poem

Lawrence Hall

Juvenile Court Day

So sullenly he sneers and slouches there
Behind a menu that he will not read
His mother smiles apologetically
And orders milk and cereal for him

He sulks beneath his franchise baseball cap
And grunts into a little plastic box
Then shoves it back into his pressed knee-pants
His mother smiles apologetically
                                                       tips apologetically
                                                       pays apologetically

The waitress with her chalice takes communion‘round
Refills the cups at each creaky table
Newspaper stories, what is this world coming to,
Bacon and eggs, toast, orange juice, refills, life

Beyond the misted glass the old court house
Begins to take the early morning light
Like an old man taking his first cup of the day
Having another go at civilization

A rural Thomas More parks his old truck
This Chaucerian sergeant of the law
Will plead the usual catalogue of not-his-faults
The lad will smirk and feign apologies

The creaky tables of the ancient laws
To be served with irrelevant custom
The lad demands change for the Coke machine
His mother yields

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Canada Day - Just One? - poem

Lawrence Hall

Canada Day -  Just One?

With love from an ‘umble Yank

But every day is Canada Day!

The afternoon plane lands in Halifax
When the hatch is popped, cool air rushes in
Even the fog is happy in Canada

The Muskogee never made landfall here
And so we pilgrimage for her, complete
Her voyage from ’42 to Canada

Wolfville, Grand Pre’, Le Grande Derangement
The Deportation Cross and beer cans
Well, God forgive the Redcoats anyway

Is a bold

The church spires in a line, the light is green
The bold young captain shoots the narrows wild
Can you find your way to your painted house?

To walk again the cobbles of Ferryland
And smell the very blue of the Atlantic
The sea-blown wind is cold in Canada

Blue Puttees and a mourning Caribou
Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord
Good children sing “We love thee, Newfoundland”

Quebec – royal city of New France
May Le Bon Dieu bless the Plains of Abraham,
And may God bless
The signs an English driver cannot read

The Coca-Cola streets of Niagara Falls
Yanks laugh at made-in-China Mountie mugs
And buy them, happy to be in Canada

A cup of Toujours Frais from – well, that place
But to us in your southern provinces
Below Niagara, Tim too is Canada

Though Canada goes on, these scribbles must not -
Your grateful guest wishes only to say
That every happy day is Canada Day!