Friday, October 31, 2008

Dawn to work

Where is left to head but concluding ruin-
would it only happen here; at least have one thing
follow through to end, if it be only ruin,
where all-else-ends have been contracepted. The garden
between two buildings, like some protesting bleat,
only re-stokes the madness of delayed decay
while grated windows, wire, panelling
surface whore-like to an aching sun-peak;

for morning lifts its face on Hastings Street
and all things, all people move to no
beginning, like a stretch of conveyor belt
in the gaping gravel quarry, alone,
burrs slowly all day in the wide empty gorges.
How sunlight can be so sickening, changed
by what it hits, is a mystery of sin's range:
how our sinfulness gets what it wants,
in an unrelenting ease at unease
until we puncture it for real light, light that heals

as we abide by repentance's choice, costing pain.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

No whistling past the graveyard; nor worshipping the grave

We tarnish our own hallows. For we possess our own hallows, even though they are hallows as potentiality, within time. Their particular colour is yet hidden from us, but what we become goes into making that colour. This is, as far as I can see, the reason for the languishing of Halloween, All Hallows Eve, in the merely ghoulish. All Saints Day necessarily points to our own predestined hallows. (We can say we are predestined for Heaven because God has made every soul for Heaven. It is our bad choices through our own free will that break that predestiny, which is why hell is so hellish)

Surely there was a time when All Hallows Eve began to take up the notion of ghosts and ghouls, of bats and flighty cats driven by dark portents, dashing from the seething underbrush, and low orange moons feathered with the passing of rattling leaves, and yet it remained holy.

Indeed, such things would be expected of All Hallows Eve. For it is about all souls, and if it is about all souls, and their hopeful salvation, and the prayerful recognition of and for the dead which is what we too become, then surely this would include the sudden sight of the ghoulish happenings in one's periphery as one heads forward on his journey. This journey which opens before one like the stripping of the boughs. The onward and upward movement where we realize a quickening sense of the battle we are in, the dangers of the pilgrimage.

The sight of the monsters should give us courage. Our journey then sheds its illusions. The boogies and banshees are no longer hidden, as the propelling of our souls towards our homeland gets kicked up a few notches - or twenty - like the sudden racing of the severed leaves.

But the gargoyles must remain the hunched and burdened rainspouts of the architecture, not the feature of the pinnacle.

Have you read G.K. Chesterton's wonderful essay, The Nightmare? By all means, read it, right here. I read this essay quite a while ago, and have returned to it often, even though it is a short and simple one. I cannot recommend it enough. Read it.

Look, I'll even give you a taster:

"Man may behold what ugliness he likes if he is sure that he will not worship it; but there are some so weak that they will worship a thing only because it is ugly. These must be chained to the beautiful. It is not always wrong even to go, like Dante, to the brink of the lowest promontory and look down at hell. It is when you look up at hell that a serious miscalculation has probably been made."

Now go and read it.

There is also this very interesting article about the Christian origins of Halloween, found here.

Father Dwight Longenecker also has a good post on the subject, here.

A quicky

Some bosc pears I did this afternoon, for fun. I had not done any still-life for a long time. Man, it felt good. Then I made baked pears for dessert tonight. Not these ones though. I didn't want to disturb the placing of the fruit; not until I finish.

Bosc pears are one of my favourite fruits, next to kiwi and pomegranate. I have a fascination for fruits like the bosc whose colour is none too flashy. Like the medlar, which I have not tasted yet.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Nordmann Fir (Abies nordmanniana)

Though I had a few good size cones from the Nordmanns from the Brown brothers' wood, I went there again today and collected some more. Nordmann fir has a beautiful symmetry when young which makes it one of the ideal Christmas trees. Some of the cones I had before got a little mouldy due to my negligence in not seperating the cones and storing them right soon enough. But even then I would have had enough; the cones from before were big. The ones I got today were rather small to medium by comparison.

You find them lying on the floor like this beneath the tall Nordmanns. I think with a little wind the cones are big enough to snap off the ends of the branches, which is why you find some still attached. But that is what you want. This is why:

You take hold of the branch like a handle with the part that goes inside the cone between your fingers. Then carefully you crank it like you're winding a clock, holding the cone firm in the other hand, and then pull.

And presto, the center piece that was holding it all together comes out, like a rod out of a gear-house, leaving the seed tower to fall apart. See it again:

Here is a single 'shelf' that goes to make up one the fir cones:

A single shelf holds two seeds on it. You remove the seeds:

Then comes the fun part where you de-wing the seeds (pluck off the wing attachments) and store them in a seperate bag. Wear kitchen gloves. These cones will get your hands frightfully sticky with their resin. Alternatively, your hands will smell like Christmas afterwards. So it's up to you.

The seed, above.

The chaff.

The seed I keep in the plastic bag in the fridge for storage. Later in winter I will stratify them. Meaning, they will be soaked overnight in distilled water, then they will be mixed with a damp sterile mixture of soil and sand (but not too much, and not too damp) in big enough sealable bags. Then it goes into the fridge until spring. When that happens you can expect some to already be sprouting in the bag in the fridge, especially if they are in there longer than they need to be. They are of course planted outdoors after that. If I follow procedure correctly (and it's not a difficult thing at all) I should get many of these:

Saturday, October 25, 2008

One-flesh Tree

How hard the clay that nearly sends bounding
back up your shovel, and leaves day's end
fingertips buzzing from the handle's
sent reverbs, hitting the pit:
polished blue-grey, shovel-carved sides,
in which their long-locked stones, by shovel-tongue clipped,
squeak small sparks in the heart of the dull hole.

Three of us all round the circle, groaning;
you ever seen clay like this before, is
the unspoken converse we make with the
jolting of shovels and our lifting out
the piecemeal tack we manage to break off.
How is the tree going to thrive in this
ceramic casing we shape with our shovels?

Will survive, yes, not though thrive - though
that may change as it sheds its leaves through years
that works its way down to where nothing
of its like really made its way down before
and unkilns, unfires this half-kilned clay.
And there also is the foreign soil
we bed in around the burlapped root ball,

to which its feeder roots will reach, backing
somewhat away from the dense clay: it may change.
In the threatening rain-spit, over the pit,
we shovel this promise; clay we remove
like the hollowing out of the heart's dregs
saying look, I am still clay, but I have
hollowed out, not hoarded, been humoured

with the pain of a proposal, purged
believing and acting on a promise.
We do these signal things: hollow out holes
like proposal rings; asking for a
once-forever joining, jolting, sparking
sparks like seed sent into the ready womb:
the intercourse that from the blue begets

wholly other fruit, from a one-flesh tree.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Cardinal speaks the truth

Here is a bracing letter from Cardinal Edward Egan in Catholic New York.

In a previous post I addressed the Egan/Obama "photo-op" at the New York fundraiser, as did many other bloggers. While I do not want to be petty and bring it up again in the face of this excellent pro-life letter by the Cardinal, I can only say that I wish, and hope, that the majority of CathObamas are influenced more by patient reading of forthright words than by televised imagery.

But enough of that. What he writes is what we need to hear: this is no issue of nuance, philosophy, or theology for that matter. This is not about Church Law, but Divine Law: thou shalt not kill. For me the Cardinal gets to the essence of the matter when he says:

"If you can convince yourself that these beings are something other than living and innocent human beings, something, for example, such as "mere clusters of tissues," you have a problem far more basic than merely not appreciating the wrongness of abortion."

Take the time to read the letter in full. Found here or here. Or right here:

Just Look

The picture on this page is an untouched photograph of a being that has been within its mother for 20 weeks. Please do me the favor of looking at it carefully.

Have you any doubt that it is a human being?

If you do not have any such doubt, have you any doubt that it is an innocent human being?

If you have no doubt about this either, have you any doubt that the authorities in a civilized society are duty-bound to protect this innocent human being if anyone were to wish to kill it?

If your answer to this last query is negative, that is, if you have no doubt that the authorities in a civilized society would be duty-bound to protect this innocent human being if someone were to wish to kill it, I would suggest—even insist—that there is not a lot more to be said about the issue of abortion in our society. It is wrong, and it cannot—must not—be tolerated.

But you might protest that all of this is too easy. Why, you might inquire, have I not delved into the opinion of philosophers and theologians about the matter? And even worse: Why have I not raised the usual questions about what a "human being" is, what a "person" is, what it means to be "living," and such? People who write books and articles about abortion always concern themselves with these kinds of things. Even the justices of the Supreme Court who gave us "Roe v. Wade" address them. Why do I neglect philosophers and theologians? Why do I not get into defining "human being," defining "person," defining "living," and the rest? Because, I respond, I am sound of mind and endowed with a fine set of eyes, into which I do not believe it is well to cast sand. I looked at the photograph, and I have no doubt about what I saw and what are the duties of a civilized society if what I saw is in danger of being killed by someone who wishes to kill it or, if you prefer, someone who "chooses" to kill it. In brief: I looked, and I know what I saw.

But what about the being that has been in its mother for only 15 weeks or only 10? Have you photographs of that too? Yes, I do. However, I hardly think it necessary to show them. For if we agree that the being in the photograph printed on this page is an innocent human being, you have no choice but to admit that it may not be legitimately killed even before 20 weeks unless you can indicate with scientific proof the point in the development of the being before which it was other than an innocent human being and, therefore, available to be legitimately killed. Nor have Aristotle, Aquinas or even the most brilliant embryologists of our era or any other era been able to do so. If there is a time when something less than a human being in a mother morphs into a human being, it is not a time that anyone has ever been able to identify, though many have made guesses. However, guesses are of no help. A man with a shotgun who decides to shoot a being that he believes may be a human being is properly hauled before a judge. And hopefully, the judge in question knows what a "human being" is and what the implications of someone's wishing to kill it are. The word "incarceration" comes to mind.

However, we must not stop here. The matter becomes even clearer and simpler if you obtain from the National Geographic Society two extraordinary DVDs. One is entitled "In the Womb" and illustrates in color and in motion the development of one innocent human being within its mother. The other is entitled "In the Womb—Multiples" and in color and motion shows the development of two innocent human beings—twin boys—within their mother. If you have ever allowed yourself to wonder, for example, what "living" means, these two DVDs will be a great help. The one innocent human being squirms about, waves its arms, sucks its thumb, smiles broadly and even yawns; and the two innocent human beings do all of that and more: They fight each other. One gives his brother a kick, and the other responds with a sock to the jaw. If you can convince yourself that these beings are something other than living and innocent human beings, something, for example, such as "mere clusters of tissues," you have a problem far more basic than merely not appreciating the wrongness of abortion. And that problem is—forgive me—self-deceit in a most extreme form.

Adolf Hitler convinced himself and his subjects that Jews and homosexuals were other than human beings. Joseph Stalin did the same as regards Cossacks and Russian aristocrats. And this despite the fact that Hitler and his subjects had seen both Jews and homosexuals with their own eyes, and Stalin and his subjects had seen both Cossacks and Russian aristocrats with theirs. Happily, there are few today who would hesitate to condemn in the roundest terms the self-deceit of Hitler, Stalin or even their subjects to the extent that the subjects could have done something to end the madness and protect living, innocent human beings.

It is high time to stop pretending that we do not know what this nation of ours is allowing—and approving—with the killing each year of more than 1,600,000 innocent human beings within their mothers. We know full well that to kill what is clearly seen to be an innocent human being or what cannot be proved to be other than an innocent human being is as wrong as wrong gets. Nor can we honorably cover our shame (1) by appealing to the thoughts of Aristotle or Aquinas on the subject, inasmuch as we are all well aware that their understanding of matters embryological was hopelessly mistaken, (2) by suggesting that "killing" and "choosing to kill" are somehow distinct ethically, morally or criminally, (3) by feigning ignorance of the meaning of "human being," "person," "living," and such, (4) by maintaining that among the acts covered by the right to privacy is the act of killing an innocent human being, and (5) by claiming that the being within the mother is "part" of the mother, so as to sustain the oft-repeated slogan that a mother may kill or authorize the killing of the being within her "because she is free to do as she wishes with her own body."

One day, please God, when the stranglehold on public opinion in the United States has been released by the extremists for whom abortion is the center of their political and moral life, our nation will, in my judgment, look back on what we have been doing to innocent human beings within their mothers as a crime no less heinous than what was approved by the Supreme Court in the "Dred Scott Case" in the 19th century, and no less heinous than what was perpetrated by Hitler and Stalin in the 20th. There is nothing at all complicated about the utter wrongness of abortion, and making it all seem complicated mitigates that wrongness not at all. On the contrary, it intensifies it.

Do me a favor. Look at the photograph again. Look and decide with honesty and decency what the Lord expects of you and me as the horror of "legalized" abortion continues to erode the honor of our nation. Look, and do not absolve yourself if you refuse to act.

Edward Cardinal Egan
Archbishop of New York

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

"Are you envious because I am generous?"

The Red Vineyard --Vincent Van Gogh

It is the late expansiveness with which the kingdom of heaven is occupied that speaks so vividly:

And he went out again around noon, and around three o' clock, and did likewise. Going out about five o' clock, the landowner found others…

This continuous occupation of finding workers, even up until the last hour of day, is the constant inflection of the kingdom of heaven; the way heaven works.

If Jesus spoke many parables on the kingdom of heaven, again and again reiterating: "The kingdom of heaven is like…", then there is something obviously here that Jesus knew we were particularly blind to. We see here the kingdom becoming more and more lavish in its outpouring, and not exhausted in the least, the later the day gets, which of course also implies the darker the day gets.

Who goes out to hire more workers when there is only an hour left in the day? Indeed, we ask this every time we wonder what the use is of doing something which our circumstances tell us it would be foolish and to no avail to do the labour. But this is the way Christ works, in His bride, the Church, in our daily lives. We build on what Christ has already established, and we cannot be saved without works. A great consolation in the discomfort of our labour is that Jesus has laboured already to free us - and His labour was far greater, far more discomforting. Our consolation is not only that Jesus experienced the pain that we will have to experience, though perhaps not in the same way or in the same intensity (granted we follow Him and keep His word); and not only that our pain is little compared to the pain Jesus experienced, but that Jesus has identified Himself to that suffering so that no amount of pain can separate us from Him; we will find Him there.

There is this astonishingly joyful sense in knowing we are the children of the eleventh hour. That our labour time is short, and our reward imminent. It is not only because our labour period is short that we find it joyful (indeed, we should be ready to give thousands of lifetimes of labour for the Kingdom of Heaven), but that the chaos within ourselves will be made short order of; that the despairing rush of machinating Time will be ruined, as the eternal depth and as-yet-not-comprehended end of our work begins to resolve itself - in the face of the ideological opposition of our enemies. Our work becomes some of the most intense because it is the pinnacle work, and because of it, the work most infused with abundant and miraculous graces.

The reading in its entirety, from Matthew 20:1-16:

Jesus told his disciples this parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out at dawn to hire labourers for his vineyard. After agreeing with them for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard. Going out about nine o’clock, the landowner saw others standing idle in the marketplace, and he said to them, ‘You too go into my vineyard, and I will give you what is just.’ So they went off. And he went out again around noon, and around three o’clock, and did likewise. Going out about five o’clock, the landowner found others standing around, and said to them, ‘Why do you stand here idle all day?’ They answered, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You too go into my vineyard.’ When it was evening the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Summon the labourers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and ending with the first.’ When those who had started about five o’clock came, each received the usual daily wage. So when the first came, they thought that they would receive more, but each of them also got the usual wage. And on receiving it they grumbled against the landowner, saying, ‘These last ones worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us, who bore the day’s burden and the heat.’ He said to one of them in reply, ‘My friend, I am not cheating you. Did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? Take what is yours and go. What if I wish to give this last one the same as you? Or am I not free to do as I wish with my own money? Are you envious because I am generous?’ Thus, the last will be first, and the first will be last.”

How easy to mistake this parable as an affirmation of equality; to take it to mean that in heaven there is no hierarchal difference in reward; that in heaven the work that was done on earth becomes irrelevant in the now bequeathed eternal equality; that the specific works on earth were just sorts of arbitrary ways for God to see if we would follow orders, and that now in heaven, He bestows some assembly-line dispensation of "equal" reward.

How easy to assume this and close up the parable and walk away assured and safe and sound from the formidable notion that in heaven there are mansions made to the specifications of a particular soul.

This is no example of the landowner being equal in his pay. It is rather an emphatic example of the landowner being especially and gratuitously generous. And not just generous out of some social-minded welfare pity, but so disinterestedly generous and gracious towards those who work for him, as to give the one-hour workers their wages even in front of the eyes of the other workers without thinking they would complain. And so disinterestedly generous as to be not generous in just one fixed form that is then divvied out, but increasingly generous; for remember the hired workers from nine o' clock and noon and three o' clock. If he was being generous in giving the same wage to the nine o' clock-hired workers, then he was being quite a bit more generous in giving the same to the noon-hired workers, in which case he was being even more generous in giving the same wage to the three o' clock-hired workers. And to the five o' clock-workers, he was being generous in the extreme.

If that weren't enough, he starts giving the payment to the one-hour workers first.

Again, let's reiterate: it is the late expansiveness with which the kingdom of heaven is occupied that speaks so vividly. And elusively. Yet nothing is more fixed and solid. God is innocence. As the day dwindles, God expands His gifts, His solace, His anointing. Is it possible that our material affluence and luxury has blinded us to this and kept us hindered from seeing and accepting it? We have mistaken stasis for security. But our one true security is the thunderclap of God's complete otherness.

We come to one of the reasons why Jesus told parables: because they had a successive structure, as stories must necessarily have, that inherently informed the listener about the hierarchical way that God works. The way that God cannot work without somehow building on what came previous by His hand - and cannot build on what came previous without resolving more clearly its shape and colour, so that what came previous shows more clear than if it had been left alone.

But what if all this time we have not, in a certain sense, even arrived at the first work on which God has wanted us to build? Or arrived at it, but not realized it, which prevents one from building, or building with more abandon? It is never just the "moral" of the parable that matters, but the fact of the parable itself.

So, it is not a case of God equalizing every soul with the same pay. Rather, it is a case of God, first hiring the labourers in the morning on a just wage, and those labourers going into his vineyard to work for Him. Full-stop. Then God going out and hiring some people at nine o' clock. Full-stop. God then going out and hiring some at noon. Full-stop. Then God going out and hiring some more later. Full-stop. Then again, God going out and finding those who have not been hired, that is, the small, the invisible, the neglected, the spat out and forsaken, sinners and idlers, those who cannot prove to be removed from God's graces - in other words: us.

Now what God gives to each as their wages, it is imperative to see it the same way as God went about hiring them. That is to say, it is not God "thinking equally", but rather specially and distinctively in each individual hiring; such that though He is God and can see all things eternally in an instant, He has the full capacity, as the second Person of the Trinity, to enter into each specific situation as though He had not hired any other workers on that day. God is innocence.

He did not go out and hire the noon-workers until he had hired the morning ones. One might even say, in a mood of fancy that may not be too far wrong, that it was the hiring of the morning workers and the sight of them working in the vineyard that set the landowner with great delight and joy, so much so, that it sent him out again on the very overflow of that joy, to find more workers, who in their turn, would send him out for yet more.

Shall we put here the parable of the mustard seed?

“The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all your seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and perch in its branches.” -- Matthew 13:31-32

There is no equality in heaven but what usurps its desired dimension of being on the same ground of knowing about one another, is love.

There is love in heaven, but not equality.

What grants each soul in heaven the same amount of fulfillment and no one lacking, is Love, not equality.

We do well not to carry over our citizenry-rights into God's treatment of us - though our citizenry-rights be based on God's law. We should not presume. We should rather throw ourselves on His mercy - and generosity.

And the economy? What about the economy of the kingdom of heaven? It does not hoard. It does not make slaves. It does not give what will only decay and pass away. Nor does it entreat of each with bland equanimity and safe comfort. Nor does it risk its own balance by expansion. It gives what expands - on into eternity. Even while it is given, here, right here, on this material earth.

It is time to look and see it: the joy that we have been missing. And the work of the kingdom of heaven has a way of alighting on the most diffuse and unremarkable of things - and people.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Mother of our Saviour

Some beautiful photos of a small procession of Our Lady of Fatima (with a Lady of Lourdes statue) to be found here.

I'm always amazed at how a statue of Mary seen from various perspectives, or seen at different times, takes on noticeably different poises. Sometimes indescribably mild; sometimes tilted with sadness; sometimes radiant and queenly; and sometimes humanly a mother, smiling.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Everything will be brought to light

Bishops throughout the U.S. have been telling their dioceses that to vote for a candidate who is anti-life would be to go against conscience. It would be, for instance, a violation of conscience for a Catholic to vote for Barack Obama. One can read here on how anti-life Obama is.

There are people, Catholics, who believe it fine and good to vote for the most aggressive anti-life presidential candidate ever in the history of the United States of America. What would be the point of looking into their reasoning?

Then, in spite of the continued admonitions of Bishops and priests, bloggers and Catholic sources in the media across the U.S. who convey the truth and spell it out as to why a Catholic cannot in good conscience vote for Obama, the 63rd Annual Alfred E. Smith Foundation dinner is held, where one Cardinal Edward Egan is seated beside Obama and laughing it up (with McCain on his other side).

It's an annual dinner held by the archdiocese of New York that raises money for charity. It's been a traditional pit-stop for presidential candidates. It doesn't matter squat what sort of event it is: you do not seat a cardinal of the Catholic church beside an extremely anti-life, lying, Planned Parenthood-whipping boy who has the very real potential to come to the place of president and tear off all residual doors that were precariously keeping out the plague. Not when Catholic votes are so important in this matter.

That's just what those deluded Catholics need to ease their suppressed, ill-formed, wretched consciences when they go to vote for the man who would legislate infanticide. The Cardinal was sitting beside him in all good humour and apparently thought he was a great chum! The Church is in for some serious chastisement from God.

I watched some of the event; the jokes cracked in the speeches of McCain and Obama. It's interesting how a different air of 'levity', as strange as it may be to watch in such formidable times, gives certain insights into the characters of these candidates. John McCain can be funny. Very funny actually. Now, I know it's probably cliche to say it, but humour goes a long way in telling you about someone's strengths. My favourite was when McCain said, "Maverick I can do. But messiah is above my pay grade". Ouch. You could see it in Obama's face: keep laughing, for the cameras.

Obama's jokes were not funny. The man is laden with a bitterness. Call me crazy, but he has that air that has been the mark of tyrants in times past. The 'mark' is not just a deficiency in humour, but a certain cold greatness. Don't get me wrong, I'm not in awe of the man in any way shape or form; that's not the greatness I mean. Greatness does not always mean great. It's a concentrated grandiosity that doesn't give any time whatsoever to the human things. It siezes authority in the very moments that it eludes people.

Call me crazy, but I think Obama is capable of incredible hate. Which of course one would know looking at his anti-life record. But beyond that, he seems to have a side where a particular hate would become the motivating force. At least to this writer's subjective take.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Acrostic Poem (on Pumpkins)

Peter, Peter…well, perhaps he was a cannibal.
Unforthcoming is the rhyme - does not tell
More than it means to say. Sort of like the gourd
Plump and glowing in the fields, oddly orange,
Keeping to its selfsame shape, its own hearth-warm orb,
Indulging none with any word: and so we set
Nimble Jack's candle into it, quite lit, you see,
So further deepen the gourd's seat mystery.


There is a word I am to speak. And it is the word I persistently fail at time and again. But it is, as persistently as I fail it, the one word that I am to speak. It even takes up my failure into the resolution of its countenance - and makes an even more demanding proposal.

The word is impossible to speak, for it is about the impossible that happened in our world. It is a sacred extension of that impossibility which really happened. It is about the Absolute becoming perfect man, not donning the form of man as a cloak, but becoming man incarnate - once and for all - and that Love extenuating Himself so much that His love went down to the floor of hell - and floored it.

In the rising flood of desecration, blasphemy and outrages against God and His ordinances, there are two reactions, which are hence mistakes. One descries, not completely wrongly, a coming Justice and coins that Justice as one's own personal retribution, or vindication. But that justice cannot be our own vindication unless we give ourselves to long-suffering, and intend to keep suffering long. The other which is worse is the lukewarm presumption that God's mercy justifies one's own complacence and ingratitude - that somehow, because of God's love, such blasphemy and outrage make no difference to God.

There is a third which is not reaction, nor inaction, and it is the best way. It is the one word I am to speak, and which I fail at time and again.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Threshing Fall

Autumn sun, the burnisher of leaves,
is poured in flora veins and flushes forth
colours that are the light's pinnacle phase;
the seamless trace of its transforming graze,
untouchable, its exposure, and the shades
show where they weren't pierced, where leaves still are green
but on the same tree whose top is apocalypse.

Autumn wind, the banisher of leaves,
billows up branches, displays the blue beyond,
and as it further pocks the canopies,
comes with speech extended for the other fronds
of flames, portends them stricken on candles
like spectral sputtering ember-tonsils,
fluttering in jack-o-lanterns' fat gaping mouths.

The loosening of the leaves' last frail handles,
thus plucked, are grafted onto wind at night:
leaves' freewheel trails that take up the spirals
which they fill with their deaths and cause to burn.
The banished leaves set aflame their banisher;
set invisibility aflame,
in free air burn, in night air burn, above
the ground, in spiral wakes and ploughing droves.

Autumn cold, the desiccator of leaves,
sets into their beatified matter,
sets them for shattering; sets, sets, sets,
and leaves the matter bereft, for the coming
greater cold, the whiter, burning cold.

The child is father to the man

As a youngling I never got into Roald Dahl's books. I believe it had something to do with Quentin Blake's illustrations, which I found as attractive as a closet full of empty wire coat-hangers. I did read The Twits in grade six (no, not a class assignment), and vaguely remember that it just got weird, immersive though it was.

For me, and here we're talking grade one and two, the man was Bill Peet.

His illustrations had that entire inhabitable earthiness that I also found in Calvin and Hobbes and Winnie the Pooh and Pogo, though with Pogo I didn’t understand in the least what the characters were talking about. But that's beside the point, because it was their surrounding world which I wanted to inhabit. Like whenever Calvin and Hobbes (who I did understand; I had the 'collections' in book form) wandered through the woods and were at the creek; it was a landscape I inhabited. The same goes for a number of children's stories that I can't remember the names of, but the vivid mood of their worlds remain.

And then there was The One that now I have second thoughts about, or at least recognize some honest feelings I had about it as a child: Where the Wild Things Are.

No, it's not because its author and illustrator has revealed himself to be gay, having lived together with his fifty year partner, who was a psychoanalyst. No, it's not because one of his other books is one of the most widely banned from schools for showing the genitalia of the story's protagonist boy (a story which, by the by, I tried reading numerous times as a child and found it so not enchanting that it was as though some art-nouveau designer had his illustrations matched with the writing of some blurb writer from Sears catalogue).

It is because the book seems to be the love of Spike Jonze, who has made a movie of the book. Uhm, waste of time? I have no regard for his movies, to the point that if he takes something as the object of his affections, which was something that I had a liking for, I would then seriously question my liking for it. I think he makes a bigger ass of himself than M. Night Shyamalan. At least Shyamalan doesn't have that nasty sophisticated psychoanalytic slant which pretends to give Jonze's films credibility.

I want to be honest. Where the Wild Things Are has excellent illustrations that perhaps go beyond storybook illustration. It's like Henri Rousseau meets William Blake. Yes, inhabitable, and yes, a childhood favourite. Yet, and yet, there was something I vividly remember about this book. When it got to the ending, where the boy Max is back in his room and his soup is there, it left me with this hung-over empty feeling. I distinctly remember disliking how Max screams at his mother and it goes unresolved (this isn't to say I was some saint as a kid; I could throw a tantrum that would make Max look tame). There was something there that did not sit well. It's as though the story is about some kind of pre-adolescent transgression through determined isolation - like the discovery of masturbation. Which is something the films of Spike Jonze pursue with gimped, retarded relish.

I float that out there as 'thinking out loud'. I know and remember the way the book made me feel, and so I simply wonder.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Dappled Things out and about

Latest Dappled Things (Mary Queen of Angels) is out, right here.

I liked Dena Hunt's The Salvation of Glorianne. Crisp and pared to the essentials, the story yet holds real weight. Especially in its wonderfully understated ending.

Arthur Powers' excerpt from his novel Shadow Companion, entitled, Carla and Jaime is very well wrought with suspense and vivid description.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Incense cedar (Libocedrus decurrens)

Collected this handful today. You can see some of the actual seeds in the last picture, just above (click on either of the photos to see better close-ups). The capsules remind me of pistachio nuts. That's in appearance, not taste. They are inedible. They have a very delicate and faint apple scent.

As with many trees that are commonly called "cedar", they are not true cedrus. It is from the cypress family (Cupressaceae). Its genus is Thuja.

The shape of the mature trees remind me of smaller giant redwoods. Where I gathered these seeds there is grove of them, and when you're in their vicinity on a sunny day the smell will let you know why they are called incense cedar.

The wood is resistant to decay and, among its many uses, pencils are made from the wood.

I wonder how many of these seeds will be viable. Here's hoping a lot.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

I went in search of some old movies...

How is it that since DVDs replaced VHS in video rental stores, especially chain outlets like Rogers (a telecommunications company), the actual selection in films has dropped dramatically? You walk into a Rogers now and the one thing you notice, aside from the images of horror and porn on the covers, is that overall, the guts have been sucked out of what used to be an alright selection.

Hyperbolically speaking, it is sort of like a Victorian leaving his living room for a few days and coming back to find that his ornately carved and lushly padded furniture has been replaced with Ikea skeletons. Hyperbolically speaking.

It is strange because supposedly DVDs take up less space than VHS. Part of it is the onslaught of video games, which now take up a good portion of the store. And of course an entire side wall must be devoted to gadgetry, and wires and parts for the gadgetry. And another wall for television series.

On top of that is the sometimes dismal ordering of the movies. You can't trust the employees anymore to alphabetize the movies in a particular section; or even to keep the movies in their proper section. Sort of like the way that hardly anyone on a cash register now can count out change if it's given to him or her. We can thank the internet for that, and the surplus of gadgetry. It's not lack of brains but sheer lack of ordinary patience, the inability to focus on normal concrete things - like coins.

Everyone is buzzing and humming like a computer in a thin, pallid present. It's the latest season of this or that television series, and if it's a movie, it's the latest, most vapid one yet. After all, I don't feel like thinking too much tonight. As if anyone ever does on any night. I feel I feel I feel...I feel just like a funny one...Oh! How about this latest Jack Black?

And then there is the alternative for these ones who feel they've been having too much junk food: Documentaries. Since when did the documentary section become relatively inflated? It used to be a weeny sub-section, generally and properly unnoticed. Now it seems to be growing.

Excuse me while I say it: Documentaries' increasing popularity is a symptom of our culture's collective sickness. Documentaries are a chilly blight that comes to wreak havoc on the lowered immunity of fiction's body. Documentaries are intellectual fetishism at its worst. They are one of the reasons for adolescents and young men and young women entitling themselves to the intellectual pursuit as though it were something they themselves could just add on to their disconnected "lifestyle" of culturally nomadic consumption. Hehehehe...Jack Black is so funny...screw you Bush, I'm smarter than Aristotle! I know so because I understand Chomsky! I became a pro on the subject in two hours, and while eating popcorn too. And chai tea non-fat latte.

Documentaries are the worst form of film. I have in mind here particularly the psuedo-intellectual/political/social-awareness type. Yes, even the ones I would agree with. Expelled? Haven't seen it yet. There's its "rebuttal": Expelled Exposed. Haven't seen it, don't care. I'm still waiting for Expelled Exposed Exposed.

That is not to say there can't be any good ones or downright interesting ones, because there are. Hoop Dreams, for one. There are Herzog's. I do not like his documentaries that proclaim to be so. Because they are not. He adds and changes stuff according to his slant. But his films that utilize straight documentary footage and put it together to form a film that is not documentary but ecstatic sorts of filmic poems - those ones I like. Like Fata Morganna and Lessons of Darkness. I've seen lots of good ones. But they are not the apple of film's eye. They are not its brains or heart or hands or feet or back.

Fictional representation, even when based on true stories, is the home of film. Do you remember those years 2001-2003? Those years that were connected by something so sprawling and immersive and enchanting and deep on movie screens? What was it that excited people so, barely containing themselves to see the next one? Ah, the sprawl of first seeing The Fellowship of the Ring! And going back to see it again. And again. And anticipating the others. Yes, there was quite a bit that was done not very well with these films (in fact some days I'm inclined to say their virtues are minimal), and some that was done just really badly, but because they are the Lord of the Rings and sincerely so...well, even if they did everything in their power to screw it up, they probably still would have ended up with good films, given they retained the story's arch. Because of Tolkien. Because of his story. His imagination. His sub-creation.

We are sick. Sick to do death with ourselves. Documentaries on the rise are a sign of the dwindling of creative production. They are the sign of a people who are chucking out their treasures and resorting to a kind of narrow barbarism, a false centralizing of our intellectual and imaginative resources. Where is our ability to lose ourselves in order to gain ourselves? Story come back to us.


Yesterday, a desire for leek soup came out of nowhere. I searched and found this person's recipe.

The taste is delicious as the soup is simple. I got my mom to make it that evening and I helped. You can use half-and-half cream instead of heavy cream. And we found you don't need to mash the potatoes.

I had a friend in my teen days whose English parents made leek soup from the leeks in their garden. If I remember right, leeks will stay in the garden for a while into late fall, maybe even winter. They are perfect for soups for those cooler gusty darkening days.

I can see this soup going better with sourdough than with french bread. I can also envision this going well with fried crumbled bacon sprinkled on top. Then, with some red wine (in a tumbler, not a long stem) you're all set.

Make it a double recipe and put some in the fridge in jars for it tastes even better reheated later.

Signs of justice

So, Friday's verdict that found O.J. Simpson guilty of 12 charges which included robbery and kidnapping, occurred thirteen years to the day after his acquittal of the killing of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman.

Perhaps the jury was aware of this impending date and held off for a while just to give the sentence that added vindication. But the entire coalescence of the trial that brought it so close to that date? God knows what He's doing. Things like that simply do not "just happen".

Friday, October 3, 2008

One world, and then another

The domes that are the scrubs are surged with green
and fleck the margins of expansive fields.
Because the green sea’s vestured weaving
we do not see the windows and the doors,
the countless circulating corridors
in the singing scrubs’ interiors.
But see the birds, slashing airborne crescents
over the field’s green sea’s fire?
They know of every opening one of them.

The woods that are about to lose their leaves
pivot them sadly back and forth like the queen
waves her hand; or tremble further faster
to hiss and seethe like fire, that hottest
at its peak will even roar in wet wind.
The birds who weave about the ruin of the woods
forget about every opening, the green secret halls,
the full-bursting out into widely smiling fields,
but in the woods' widening, leaf-loss, seize on still berries.


Life is a heap of rejection slips for the poems you wrote.
Brunt reality's unwieldy retort strangely does not revoke
the life of your poems; does not kill, but which wants you
to receive life first receiving its hardness, which is you;
that is to say: one's hardness must be broken, which we find hard.
Where one seems soft often is where one is hard - a sneer that hasn't happened yet.
Unwieldy reality asks for the significances
of them (the poems) on freedom's hard pat ground, without due acceptance,
but with the odd exceptions of acceptances
for the ones you tossed off in a spell of lightness.
To wield them and write them with light
that is not from you, with light and for Light
through a glass darkly; find and find again
lightness is a hard thing that is not frivolity.
Reality's splendorous and modest that suavely
opens for one a path, first requires rejection's air to breathe.

Thursday, October 2, 2008


“…He has known grief” was the end of what was spoke
about a third between two beings at my bedside as I woke
at three in dark and tried to hold in mind
the things they said before this, but my mind
in waking would not retain it, only: “…He has known grief”.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Memory seen by eyes

Like the ground was water to him
that to me was talcum caked trail
wobble-wise in woods, either side
girt with fern, rusted layered furls:

he lay as one dead; and it would
seem he was so, were it not
the up-tilt of his head, held
above the floor one hairbreadth,

cooling himself? What doing there
in diffuse noon’s again again
leaves-refracted lights that jounced,
did a jig over all the path and him?

Even with approach – close, more close,
he would not alter, would not extend
his sides with breathing; but when I
pushed a clip of dirt with a twig

towards his tail, his other end flickered
wan violet flame. Instantly he
poured out odour that brought back times
when we would grab such, sun-loose

in field with hands bare, often in
weeds that stung, demanded pay
for taking these cool sliding braids;
nettle more hurtful than our prey.

Star-bursts in grass, whose prickled beams
would not seem to hurt what we sought,
sometimes cloistered them. These, rare times seen
from winging owls, like seaweed

would hang from a lifted sea log.
We never kept them long, extended
catch and release, in his or mine yard,
sometimes found later, unforeseen,

when lifting a clump of light grass
like a tangled toupee from off
the composting heap: expose one, still
as a lump of lead, in dull brown scales,

wound around itself in frozen vortex.
They were the initial surprise
from looking at the singing floor,
and we would carry on in our

own trajectories: lore on lore
of old games made new, new sights made
familiar, familiar sights
reseen with new or old games.

Then the summer lore comes back, in
sudden stops of eye-catch, on ponderous
walkway whitegrey; and where to go,
for the one on floor and I both,

caught in the quiet of the woods?
Junction sweet; his patience bettered mine:
each second held his fate, whether
sailing off and find a feast, or

caught up and talon flown, to be
beaked to pieces by owlets.
All held. I tried the twig once more. Along
his sides were hair-thin lines of lime,

with which he of a sleek sudden
struck away, out of the margins
that enclosed him: no ballyhoo,
reverberating snap or scare;

no again or to or start or from,
essence derived from winding silk
could one from seething silk, let blood,
like the ground was water to him.