Saturday, June 25, 2011

Summer Mystagogy

for KB

In the ebb and dwindle
Of a summer evening ending
I like to think that eleven months
Of buried cigarette butts
Have bloomed into these zinnias
Bookending the walk.
I claim them as my mark.

The sentinel-hums of window
Air-conditioners attest
The cliché humidity of Virginia,
Contesting the minutes kept
By earnest cricket watchmen.
We are all paying rent,
Machines, insects and I.

Lying, then, upon the path,
Ears rotated ninety degrees,
Sounds once parallel are
Transposed, put perpendicular
And hewn again, cleaving
The warm, insistent ether,
Constituting new words.

Yet still the moon rises,
Presides like an elevated host,
As though the Word Incarnate had
An immovable monstrance made
Of it, had turned tides to homilies.
A more sure word, this, than my

Nighttime cantors proclaim.

Summer evening ending,
And I again beginning
The diurnal exit from agnostic
Schadenfreude. I know better now
The condition of the air.
Twenty-twenty hindsight might
Save me again today.


Wednesday, June 15, 2011


for LW

Between planned speech
And inarticulate silence
A hundred nascent conversations dwell,
Each and every one earthed,
Potted in situated soil.

Your breathed words
Inspire unforeseen windfalls.
What harvest spontaneous
Will we reap today?
It is joy, not yet knowing.


Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Gnostic

“tolle, lege.”

— Confessiones Augustini, VIII; 28-29

... for those who won't.

A word stands between
Me and verity.
Why, then, do I not pine for context?

I do not wish for words,
Only that which text
Signifies: naked truth -- no sign.

I see you walk past me,
Cannot know you, for a curb
Of text divides your soul from mine.

Though you incarnate what words cannot convey.
For pride I will not know
What only words can say.

The next metro stop could be Damascus,
Even then, I would not care.
I would make my own way.



Donald Rumsfeld, after PNAC's
biannual meeting last Thursday.

“…Now goblins are cruel, wicked, and bad-hearted. They make no beautiful things, but they make many clever ones. They can tunnel and mine as well as any but the most skilled dwarves, when they take the trouble, though they are usually untidy and dirty. Hammers, axes, swords, daggers, pickaxes, tongs, and also instruments of torture, they make very well, or get other people to make to their design, prisoners and slaves that have to work till they die for want of air and light. It is not unlikely that they invented some of the machines that have since troubled the world, especially the ingenious devices for killing large numbers of people at once, for wheels and engines and explosions always delighted them, and also not working with their own hands more than they could help; but in those days and those wild parts they had not advanced[1] (as it is called) so far. They did not hate dwarves especially, no more than they hated everybody and everything, and particularly the orderly and prosperous; in some parts the dwarves had even made alliances with them. But they had a special grudge against Thorin’s people, because of the way which you have heard mentioned, but which does not come into this tale; and anyway goblins don’t care who they catch[2], as long as it is done smart and secret, and the prisoners are not able to defend themselves.”

—J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit

+ + +

[1] “Creative destruction is our middle name, both within our own society and abroad. We tear down the old order every day, from business to science, literature, art, architecture, and cinema to politics and the law. Our enemies have always hated this whirlwind of energy and creativity, which menaces their traditions (whatever they may be) and shames them for their inability to keep pace. Seeing America undo traditional societies, they fear us, for they do not wish to be undone. They cannot feel secure so long as we are there, for our very existence—our existence, not our politics—threatens their legitimacy. They must attack us in order to survive, just as we must destroy them to advance our historic mission.”

[2] “Every ten years or so, the United States needs to pick up some small crappy little country and throw it against the wall, just to show we mean business.”

— Michael Ledeen

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Examen Concilii Tridentini -- Post I: from the Preface

This is the first of what I will endeavor to make regular posts highlighting bits from my summer reading project, the Examen Concilii Tridentini (The Examination of the Council of Trent) by Martin Chemnitz. While I wish I were reading it in the original Latin, alas, my limited skill and time do not permit me to do so at this time: the Foreword to the English edition (Fred Kramer, trans.; published by CPH and available here) reports that the former totals "1,840 Latin columns of about 450 words each." So, no, not this summer. If ever I become the Latinist I wish to be, perhaps someday I will.

+ + +

We, however, ask that permission be granted us, even though our adversaries are unwilling, to use the liberty granted to us by the divine Word, not to believe any and every spirit, but to test all things. They in turn are free to look into our teachings, not as they are accustomed to do, with arguments procured from the workshops of hangmen, as Jerome says, but with arguments and testimonies from Scriptures. If this were done, I would hope that in this way many mysteries in connection with the deliberations of the Synod of Trent would be brought into the light by our adversaries, unless perchance they should judge that, after the manner of mysteries, they had to be hidden and covered over with silence, saying according to the saying: "He who does evil hates the light."

But let us come to the matter under discussion. We have indicated above in what manner we wish to handle the matter. Therefore we shall skip other preliminaries and hasten to other matters of doctrine. Only I would remind the reader in passing to consider how the Synod of Trent was begun.

Pope Paul III, in the bull in which he announced the council, offered a sale of indulgences described as a full remission of sins, free by his liberality, to those who would be present at the procession, would give an alms to some pauper, or would recite the Lord's prayer together with the angelic greeting five times. Afterward, when the council itself was opened, in the litany, where no mention was made of the intercession of Christ, not even by so much as one little word, they substituted all the angels and saints as mediators, patrons, and intercessors in place of the only mediator, Christ. This was followed by Ambrosius Catharinus, who, in his prayer at the opening of the council, addressed the mother of Christ as His associate, who, as it were, sat next to His throne to secure grace for us by her pleading. A certain other man, in his prayer criminally distorting the words of the Gospel which befit only the Son of God, applied them to the pope and exclaimed: "The pope came into the world, a light," so that there was no doubt that at the very beginning of the Synod of Trent that was fulfilled which Paul prophesied 2 Thess. 2:3-4, that "the man of sin and the son of perdition, who opposed and exalts himself above all that is called God..., sits in the temple of God, proclaiming himself as if he were God." From these beginnings one can judge what progress and outcome may be expected. It is impossible, according to the proverbial saying, that what has been badly begun should have a good ending.

Now let the decrees of the Fourth Session of the Council of Trent be recited.