Monday, March 11, 2013


I have a  earworm of Yeats' "Sailing To Byzantium" lately, and a walk by the river yesterday did nothing to dispel my sense of myself as a tattered cloak upon a stick. But I was in good company. The late winter landscape is most decidedly a country for old women. The season of salmon falls, mackerel-crowded seas and the young in one another's arms is still weeks off.  

I was thinking about being a weed photographer. A photographer not just of weeds, but of dead weeds. It does seem odd, to have chosen to be documentarian of universally despised and rejected botanicals, invisible, insignificant; I am the anti-paparazza. No celebrity darkens my lens, nothing that can be monetized. Only that which (as the triad goes) is fleeting, unsatisfactory and lacking an intrinsic self: here today, gone tomorrow, something something something sorrow.

And I have been at it awhile. Long enough to remember when this fellow --

was slender and green and not in need of an arboreal dermatologist.

I have bailed out of the liturgical year again and landed face down in a dwindling snowbank of the natural year. It's where I belong. The green shoots of weeds preparing themselves below the blanket of mud and leaffall, patient understudies of that old usurper, Resurrection and Life, will reclaim center stage. They know their lines perfectly.

The riverwalk -- where I can dive into underbrush when a jogger approaches -- feels more congenial than a crowded ecclesiastic arkful of young couples and their babies.

That is no country for old women. 

Or at least for this woman, who likely feels older than she is, but who nonetheless pines for an anonymous back pew in a dim old church, walls blackened with centuries of lamentation, incense, candlesmoke -- do these exist anywhere ?  Have they ever ?

In my father's house there are many rooms --

I have a recurring dream, a lovely dream,  of a house with a room whose existence I have forgotten. When, in the dream,  I remember the room I am seized with a delight whose main components are curiosity and desire -- and I rush toward it. I usually awaken, disappointed, before I arrive.  If I do arrive, the room is usually large, bright, clean, windowless and empty. A perfect room.

And now, awake, I enter the room. I have a plan. It involves translation, performance, probably transgression.  There is precedent, of course. There is, after all,  the Logos, both spoken and written.  

I bring with me all I need, the elements of this thing I am about to do: one inkwell, one pen, one piece of three-holed, college-lined notebook paper.

On the night before he died for us, he took paper and, when he had given thanks,  said: take, write. This is my body, given for you, translucent, three-holed, overtraced with thin lines of arterial red and venous blue. 

After supper he took the inkwell,  and, when he had given thanks, he gave it to them and said: dip your pens into this, all of you, the ink of the New Covenant, spilled for absolutely everyone.

And, at the epiclesis, the moment when one would think Holy Significance would be summoned to the page, with the cursive stroke of the dipped pen, blood becoming text, there is just this: blot. 


And, instead of the fraction, that harrowing snap of wafer in cold church air, there will be the rip. Blot and rip. And then ?

At the rail, on our knees, maculate paper interposed, a kiss. 

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