Sunday, October 21, 2007

Post Compost

Whenever I go to Drumlin Farm, a local Audubon sanctuary, I visit the compost heap. What draws me to this vegetable mass grave ? You'd think that skeletally picturesque autumn would be enough for camerawoman -- weeds withering in place, pods dying on the vine -- without her having to visit this place of cull and rot.

One day last week, in the midst of everything usual and mundane, I had the sudden sense that I was -- that we all are -- bright little dreams of Being, fragile, evanescent, contingent little nodes of awareness, connected to one another and rooted in Being as our collective source and collective destination.

And, unlike a squash or a leek, we talk. "We are the children of God," we say. Our words are endearingly, heartbreakingly, quaint. They only hint at our deepest intuition, our most fervent, quixotic hope, our most radical, terrified assent. Religion is nothing if it doesn't penetrate, plumb, and strive to represent what is most real, most true, most actual.

But we quibble, even fight -- even slaughter -- over words, forgetting that we are, all of us, creatures of the worm-infested humus. Instead of falling to our knees with awe and praise, instead of embracing each other in compassion and love, we argue over words and statutes, we struggle to prevail, we lord it over one another. We want the three devilish things that Christ rejected: possessions, prestige, and power. And we want them in vast, limitless quantities. And, furthermore, we will do whatever it takes to get them, whatever mendacious, corrupt, oppressive, persecutory thing, even as we tell ourselves that we are good, and that we unquestionably deserve every blessing that befalls us.

I am, I think, drawn to the compost heap as Melville's Ishmael was drawn to the sea:

Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people's hats off - then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can. This is my substitute for pistol and ball. With a philosophical flourish Cato throws himself upon his sword; I quietly take to the ship.

There is something bracing and unfathomable about this cresting wave of hay and cast off vegetables. Particle and wave, emptiness and form, being and non-being, death and resurrection -- it's all here, and it's all haunted by the great white whale of our idea of God. Here is the straw-filled manger,

here is the brood hen's sheltering wing

and here is compline's final Ave Maris Stella, maternal star twinkling like a tear-filled eye

over all her crucified and crucifying children.

It's October. We are slogging through the dregs of ordinary time. All Saints' Day and Advent seem impossibly far off. What is the combustive mystery of this aromatic heap of decaying plant life ? That this year's compost will fertilize the fields and be reborn as next year's carrot ?

Oh, tell me something I don't know -- or, better still, show me what smoulders at the triplicate core of the mystery of faith: Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again --

Friday, October 19, 2007

To Do

(a love poem)

Rain on her to do list
became the tears of things
the rerum natura
of spent semesters
reborn as trimesters
and mouths of endless
bottomless spit and suck

look at the pretty
moo cow piggy duck

Today the asylum, tomorrow the slaughterhouse

First friend, then dinner,
first lub then dub,
she knows it all too well.

Past her lists of less, her trackless,
daily autumn, her
eat, walk, read, feed,
she points the baby-laden Honda,
toward Stephanie, Stephanie, Stephanie
and only on the AM does she find
whom she's leevin' an' whom she's lovin'

Vivaldi baldy

and hums the kids to sleep
in the back alley she means backseat
nothing counterclockwise ever happens
not horse not barn not dinner

but Stephanie !

so much depended upon
the elevator
stuck for two hours
between the white chickens

chickens number 12 and 14

first there was her speech
sweetly contrived
coyly dissembling
circuitous and circumlocutory and even

and then there was

Stephanie, Stephanie, Stephanie !

yellow as a Post-It, smooth
as a Sharpie, swell as spit-up,

Iceburg lettuce, mother's milk,
celery stalks, baguettes --

cheesy, innit.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

A Match Made In Heaven

My medical dictation program continues to amuse me with its malaprops. And horrify me with the thought of the malaprops I don't catch before I hit save....

Just tonight it had a nun "teaching religion to soft Morris," and quoted me as claiming "I will give him eardrops for external arthritis" and that "I urinated her left ear canal with the mental syringe."

And just last week it alluded to someone's "pyogenic grandaunt, Paloma."

Soft Morris, I'd like to introduce you to my pyogenic grandaunt, Paloma.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

The Parable Of The Fussy Dinner Guest

A dinner party was being planned, and invitations were sent out.

One guest, Mr. A, phoned to ask about the menu. Vegetarian ? Oh, no. That would not do. He needed his red meat. The hosts, not wanting to offend Mr. A., called the butcher.

The next day Mr. A. phoned again. The dinner party was Tuesday ? That was unacceptable. It would have to be Wednesday, and not at 7:00 (he had his favorite programs to watch) but rather at 8:00. Well, said the hosts, yes, it could be Wednesday.

The next day brought another phone call from the Mr A.. "I just noticed that my invitation says casual dress," he complained. "That's positively barbaric ! I will not attend unless it's full tie and tails." The hosts hastened to acquiesce. What had they been thinking !

Finally, the day before the event, Mr. A. called one last time. What was this he'd heard about Mr. X. and Mr. Y. being invited to the dinner party ? Mr. X ! and Mr. Y ! He could not even consider sitting at the same table as Messrs. X and Y ! So the hosts (albeit sadly) phoned up Mr. X and Mr. Y and stammered Would you mind terribly...

Finally, the night of the party arrived, Wednesday, 8:00. Guests (mostly vegetarians and a few vegans) sat squirming and chafing in their uncomfortable tuxes and gowns around a table heaped with steaks and roasts, noting (sadly) the absence of their friends X and Y. The hosts glanced anxiously toward the window. Where was Mr. A. ? Suddenly the phone rang.

It was Mr. A. Giving his regrets. He was hosting his OWN dinner party across town.

And you should see the guest list! he chortled.