Saturday, March 23, 2013

An Explanation: Creative Platypus

The last few posts can be explained as the results of two weeks spent teaching T.S. Eliot.  I wanted to try and write my own five part Wasteland/Quartet for kicks and giggles (and apparently to inflict it on the rest of you).  As with "The Wasteland," there is a literary key to the work, John Demos' The Unredeemed Captive.  Individual incidents that inspired the work include: a trip to an exhibit of Eastern Orthodox icons, finding out that my favorite tea company had moved from Connecticut to New York, meditations on the California Freeways, The Oresteia, studying at Oxford as an undergraduate, and, of course, growing up in rural southern Connecticut (that pernicious habit).  So, until next time: Weiweilalala.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

At the Oxford Martyr's Shrine: Strange Platypus(es)

Latimer and Ridley
Stand in stone pomposity
More presumptuous
Than anything a Jesuit
Could create.

Merciful necessity,
the citizens agreed
to wrap them
In scaffold, planks,
and signs clearly marked:

Burning, burning, burning.
God help me, I cannot burn!

The Falcon raised the stones
of Salisbury by art magical
and built the ship yards,
and the castle.
Men call him
The Devil’s son.

Now, for a few infested sheep,
or a worm within the brain,
the megaliths are ringed
With hay and signs
(strange designs),
and certain warding

Burning, burning, burning.
God help me, I cannot burn!

There is a fire in the eye
That catches on the blade
And peaked hats like
Church steeples rise
Amidst the iron glade.

The daughters all lie bleeding,
By the children that they loved
And stopped the bullet with
The breast
As did those mothers
Long ago
Who fell amidst the fire light
and snow.

Burning, burning, burning.
God help me, I cannot burn!

Surely, our forefathers were wandering Aramaeans,
But they ate manna in the wilderness and saw the works of God.

When all this is washed away
The River will keep flowing
Wei la lei
And the daughters of the River

Be mindful of these bones
Be mindful of these bones
Wash them
Cradle them
Lay them in the earth
Till they lie
As thick as glacial rock
In the twinkling of an eye
They will be changed

I walked there among the graves at night,
And felt them all about me,
Strangers, friends
And the somber father laid
His arm about my shoulder
And the weak maid placed a
hand upon my arm
About my legs, a cloud of
Little fingers pressed
And all whispered:

Courage sir!  For today we light a fire that will not soon be put out.

And all their faces were:

Burning, burning, burning.
God help me, I cannot burn!

Monday, March 18, 2013

What Kassandra Said: Strange Platypus(es)

Shall I tell you what these things mean?

Kassandra, captive, stands beside the altar,
in Argos, Kanawake, in Babylon or
wherever you may please.
Her wasted face, tear-marked cheek, shines Pre-Raphaelite,
almost maudlin,

but her eyes are shining star light in the summer of the soul.

will you stop to listen?
Do so quickly,
for her time is nearly out.

There is a hope that sits upon your shoulder
like a little bird,
the pastor’s daughter.
She’s singing (you can’t hear it),
but she and I forgive you.
I will go to die (for I must die)
like that little bird
because she and I know what
you can’t believe,
or don’t have strength
to believe.

Believe what?

Courage, good master Ridley:

All will be well, and all manner of things shall be well,
And in the End, even the fall will be made Well.

That is all she ever says, poor girl.
If your travels lead you, stranger,
by way of Holy Ida,
the desert village,
or wherever you are going,
Tell them what she said.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Our Lady of the Wastes: Strange Platypus(es)

I am a stranger here
Where there is no water

We have water.
We hear the sound of it
Night and day, night and day
We hear

I am a Pilgrim here
In this waste
Where there are no trees

We have trees.
We hear them rustling in the breezes
Night and day, night and day
We here

And all the voices of the waste places cried:

Too Whoow Who
Too Whoow Who

Dryness, dust and bones
Dryness, dust and bones

Praise to the Serpents of the Wilderness
Glistening scales of concrete and steel
Holocausts of victims
Smoking in the sun
Shining in the moon
to dust and bones

Whoow Too
Whoow Too

Moloch and Hecate dance
Master of finance and Mistress of Changes
Praise and prosperity for
A hundred Cuylers and
A hundred wandering Phlebases
Children of desolate lands

Too Who

Come and join us
Come and join us
Where the powers all are seated
Mistress Cathy’s on the organ
Brother John will preach the message
A reading from the text
of a Puritan diab’list:
Dia ad aghaidh’s ad aodann
Agus bas dunach ort!
Dhona’s dholas ort,
Agus leat-sa!
That is what they say I said



Where is the Lady of the city;
She who binds and she who looses?
Are her powers now all wither’d
By the breath of concrete serpents;
She who clothes herself in sunlight
Tramples on the disk of Hecate?

The owl of the waste place
Stands beside her spouse
The Dragon
They will bind her, they will eat her
Feed her to the concrete serpents


By the Fire of Azusa
By the oil of the Stewarts
By the Love of Mother Horton
By the Yankee preacher’s message
By the Power of the Missions
Now unbind her gods of Edom


Shall these bones live?
Shall these bones live?

Son of Man, Speak.

Friday, March 15, 2013

The Last of the Darjeeling: Strange Platypus(es)

Silent, stand the stones of Salisbury
Watching upon the plain
Joined by arteries and veins
of stone
That pass by hidden channels in the sea
Down to Taconic and Washinee

At the bottom of the cup the leaves lie
Patterning things past and yet to be
Black and white monotony
There to scry

I think
I think I will go out today and stand upon the Rock
With the Valley all below me:
Burning leaves of red and yellow, purple maple smoke
I will go and see
The eschatological moment wrapped
in a snow globe on the mantlepiece
or a post card off the rack

Little brother, little brother,
When Hesiod the shepherd sang
Then the nymphs of Helicon came and danced
The rivers lapped their banks
as that bard sang
The Works and Days and ways of men
Who know the time for planting and the way to make a wheel
and how to sing a song for poor Athamas
Dead and gone

He is dead and gone, good lady,
He is dead and gone,
At his head a grass green turf
And at his heels a stone

Will you remember me in miller's town
When you have crossed the boarder
Where Dutch Phoenicians trade
a hatchet or a gun
Wampum and a blade
For a little girl or boy
The pastor's child

But on the third day out the woman died and
the crew tossed her over the side
to be
Food for fishes of the sea

I cannot trade
My hands are empty
All I have are these
broken memories 
Little fragments red and gold
and the scent of maple smoke
Rising from forgotten chimneys in the valley of the soul 
Who will take it
Who will take these wampum beads
Not coin of the realm for Phlebas or for Cuyler
I have no pearls for them
They will not grow in Montauk or Pomenauk

I brought the cup to Artaxšaça and he saw my face was fallen
It was the Lord who did this
He bade me go unto the land and build the walls
For his lovingkindness is everlasting
And gave me money from the treasury
Unless the Lord builds the house

Oh let my labor not be in vain.  

Saturday, March 09, 2013

At the Icon Exhibit: Strange Platypus(es)

Son of Man,
You cannot say, or guess, for you know only
A heap of broken images

-T.S. Eliot, The Wasteland

Staring out of eyes Phoenician brown, old Phlebas looks
At you,
Speaking of the profit and the loss of
Holy things
Bequeathed and unbequeathed by patriarchs and kings.

"Smell this one.  I will open the case for you.  You see?  The smell of myrrh
and frankincense.  This one here is very special.  They were selling it for five rubles.
I bought it for two-thousand dollars -now, it is priceless."

Priceless pearls that were his eyes
Priceless pearls that were his eyes
These were

"Now this one is of the Theotokos.  -an example of the Moscow school.  See how alive she looks, as if she is staring right into your soul.  Do you have any questions for me?  Ask a hard one."

Boniface is that you?
So soon
So soon
I cannot tell you; his face is too beneficent.
I would not judge.

Thank you for your time.  So generous, so very generous.
"Farewell to you.  Keep your theology straight my friend!"
I will.  Promise!

Tumbling in the surf, tumbling in the surf.  By the pilgrim path to Constantinople,
Lie young Phlebas' bones

a maze for creatures of the sea.
They know more things than are dreamt of, are only dreamt of,
in your philosophy.

Wei wei la
Wei wei la

I who have known Shepaug, and Pomperaug, Naugatuk,
I catch the good pastor's tears
for his daughter's
To Kahnawake,
And will not return.

I will go to La Prairie
I will go to La Prairie

And shall not be drunk again

Wei wei la
Wei wei la la

I knew the little mill town when the
robber baron smiled
He tried to sway me
Captain of industry
But I was a good girl
But I was a good girl

Wei la la
Wei la

Oh Hale has gone to Salem
Where they all shall swing
He cannot help you
And the young master now is swinging
Now is swinging
He cannot help you
Cannot help

La la

Shall these bones live?
Shall these bones live?

Oh take us under Thy great shadow
Take us under Thy great shadow
Remember our fathers who confessed,
Of Thee, oh murdered King

Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image,
or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above,
or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.
Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them

We have sinned, we have sinned, we have sinned,
Speak the Word only and we shall be healed.