Showing posts with label Marthe G. Walsh. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Marthe G. Walsh. Show all posts

Thursday, October 23, 2014

"DUN" - A POEM

Paul Baum - "Harvested Fields in a Flat Landscape"
A hint of brown in the low cloud layer, dun
they call it, light reflected from
fields cut to stubble, leaves moving to umber,
russet and gold, chlorophyll in retrograde,
temperate zone transitioning
from relentless summer cheer to winter chill
    dull, sad, depressing, this color,
     the consensus view, death before we renew
       dissonances old, unresolved.
It all comes back to this, always, always this,
metaphors , similes, nature
imagery because sprouting and budding,
growing and frost reassure us,
comfort with predictability, relax
into the what we can see, know,
     surety that does not require decision,
      just observation, no payment
       due or pestering for more and more and more,
just a force beyond our control,
independent of the press of human choice
that promises all, but does not
guarantee, success in productivity,
hides like snow blindness the contours
of reality and downside risk ignored
     by easy winners fattening
      on a harvest of accepted fictions sown
       to distract, deflect their weakness.
God paternal or mother earth eternal,
some insist on the either/or
then moot the argument with a willfulness
of neither that makes petulance
itself a form of worship, a self-focus
oblivious to living things,
     pretend the sphere is flat, the axis upright
not a bit off plumb, stay indoors
when clouds refuse to endorse the light logic
that prefers bright and brash and loud
to the subtleties of consideration
possible without the raw glare
of uninterrupted sun, the surge and ebb
of atmosphere necessary
     as the tides scrubbing sores humanity leaves
      on the beachhead of creation.
       Tilt on, dear earth, even if thy will be dun.

(Marthe G. Walsh)
Image from WikiGallery.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

"OFF SPRING" - A POEM BY MARTHE G. WALSH

Off  Spring

The trees held off longer
than the daffodils
buds anxious to burst
bulging with the lingering
 polar vortex induced
     (scary new weather channel term,
       a syntax of dread deniers reject)
delay, burgeoning
     (old word, comforting)
of Spring insistent
in its taken for granted reliability
but the yellow trumpets could not wait
sprung from deep mulch
on ancient cue
only to bow and bow to late snow
glittering in pre-dawn street lamps
surrounded goose displaced
by development, nesting
among the flowers
stoic periscope of neck
still in the wind
not just stubborn, on guard
grounded in its duty to protect
a thing to be admired
     (“it ain’t natural” – refuge of the
        ignorant believing in blunt force)
adaptation the skill
survivors display and teach
when the arrogance of dominance
lets loose waves
of unintended consequence
ah! changeable weather
it did clear, it did warm a bit
and the gander in the lead
in considerate slow motion stroll
parades the grey poupon goslings
up the driveway toward
last remnants of the wild back lot
little feet all blurry in their scurry
one behind the goose trailing
headlong rush to stay close
just barely managing it …
    
(a silent prayer for that one:
        let try matter more than speed)
leave bread upon the grass
among weeds beginning to flower
an offering to feed the inheritors
of what we’ve done
without the thing most “natural”
to human  kind: thinking.

(Marthe G. Walsh)

Marthe's play with the meaning of words in the poem is very fine.

Pictures from here, here, and here.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

A PRE-EASTER MUSING - POEM BY MARTHE G. WALSH

A Pre-Easter Musing

Just a mist of green at first, as if some
seasonal Vestal fleeing the unwanted grasp
of Old Man Winter had shed a veil from
her layers of promise to escape, left it sheer
and shivering among blades faded brown,
the uncounted bones no one holds dear,
then two days warmth tease real growth from chill muck,
grass and daffodils spiking up from mulch, turning
the dial from frozen/frown to joy/awestruck.
It will be enough, for a moment, this soft breeze
borne renewal, comfort in known cycles,
until the lawn needs mowing, pollen makes us sneeze.
Abundance gets devalued, and Given
gets no respect from Earned in a market system
that treasures rare, prizes trophies riven
from foundations meant for all, but held by just one,
and envy’s seen as flattery by those
so blinded by success they think they own the Son,
would keep Him in their palaces of pride,
bar the rabble access with tests of  purity,
make Love the exclusive lot only they divide
amongst themselves and call it the worthy’s reward
until they catch a glimpse of some pauper’s
dance before the Vigil’s bonfire on the greensward,
unreserved, question if their more is real
or just a well-appointed delusion of joy
even the poor can’t be bothered to steal.
Creatures of habit, accustomed to more and more,
privatize the common rather than share,
deny mystery with logic, call it a score,
because it seems not enough, this one life, we crave
eternity, yet many turn down the offer,
as if it might be crowded in an empty grave.


(Marthe G. Walsh)
Photo from Wikipedia Commons.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

"FLURRY" - A POEM


                 Flurry

Small flakes
barely worthy of the polysyllabic
description: precipitation,
brief interruption
of dull, unremarkable, overcast day,
undecided wisps, erratic flight
set light
crystals dancing as if each to its’ own tune
without masterful direction,
dire orchestration
of epic arctic gale memorable, named.
Just a flurry to you, my love?
Flash of
anticipation, interest, slight worry
that outburst might be harbinger,
first stir,
of landscape changing emotional event
unwanted beyond storied thrills
passion spills
to spoil the comfort of an orderly life,
the fall exciting, landing rough.
Not enough,
scant dusting brushed away without consequence,
no weather alert set to scroll,
the toll
all mine in the storm that changes nothing real,
yet adds to drifts of longing built
in flurries.

(Marthe G. Walsh)
Spring has arrived here in south Louisiana.  Azaleas are coming into bloom but are not yet in full bloom.  I'll post pictures in a few days.  Thanks to Marthe for the poem that describes the scene of what is hoped by many to be the last gasp of a hard winter in northern climes.

Monday, March 17, 2014

POEM FOR ST PATRICK'S DAY - MARTHE G. WALSH


                                      Just In Case

There’s a leprechaun in my tea – seriously,
a pale green porcelain figurine tucked between
the bags of shredded leaves, no cane on which to lean,
but clearly winking, conspiratorially.

Surprised, read the side of the box – the purveyors
of serenity by the cup appear to think
offering “fine collectibles” will make me drink
ever more of their product, reward conveyors
of mulch as beverage with a brand loyalty
driven by some obsessive need to have all twelve
characters in the series, but they troll and delve
into the psyche at their own risk, pointlessly.

This is no secret decoder ring, no cartoon
hero-movie-marketing-tie-in appealing
to six-year-old susceptible to the squealing
delight of laugh track peers, must-have-now-coming-soon
episode of consumption programming disguised
as entertainment, fantasy wish fulfillment
key to an economy built on discontent,
no precious-memory-by-kitsch niche plan franchised.

The little green men may, might, indeed, be coming
for me, but not through my tea or the Lucky Charms
that would only have set off sugar shock alarms
had they been allowed in deprived youth, and numbing
foiled entirely by sensible nutrition
considerations, thrift, parental volition
dismissing all things magical, mythical, missed
as useless to ponder as the frog left un-kissed.

Not prone to hoard, crave or worship acquisition,
put the elf on the shelf, nod to superstition.

(Marthe G. Walsh)

Thursday, December 26, 2013

'TWAS THE DAY BEFORE CHRISTMAS...


Yeah, That’s How It ‘Twas …
 
‘Twas the day before Christmas and all through the store
The clerktures were stocking the shelves with more more.
The shoppers were whisking their carts through the aisles
With nary a pause for the checker’s wry smiles
For the last minute frantic, seekers of sales,
Deaf to the howling of their lost children’s wails.
And Tasha and I o’er the fryers presiding,
Ignoring the new boss’s chatter and chiding,
Filled orders for chicken by the pound and the piece,
As if breading and oil (please just don’t call it grease)
Were first gifts by tradition, required with zeal,
To note the occasion, poor folk’s holiday meal.
Still, still, still, the union requires a break for us all,
left the tongs to the boys, made the dash to ladies stall
with only slight hope they’d not make a great mess
of our tidy, efficient, order process.
With ten long minutes to fill before punching back in
Snuck the bell ringer hot coffee to offset his gin,
Then wandered past cases I’d soon be re-filling
Thus thwarting the work rules that frustrate the willing.
When back from our rest what a sight we did see,
An ocean of oil from the fryers set free!
The filter valve left open in haste they did leave,
Even no-slippy shoes gave no help or reprieve
From the wading in hot slick they made on our break,
No help their limp shrugging, “it was just a mistake.”
With squeegees and towels and spill-eaze by the quart,
Set them to swabbing, a not so festive new sport,
While we re-filled the wells with fresh bubbly goo,
With orders yet pending, nothing else would do,
Despite visions of mayhem that danced in our heads
And wishing those slackers had stayed home in their beds
(a call-off less trouble than trouble created
By half-hearted work from the uncomplicated).
At the counter the customers gazed on it all
With wonder, amazement, not one wing we let fall
As we skated on tiles to meet the demand
For the fried and the baked and a spit on hand
To spin the rotisserie birds roasted whole,
See grimace as grin, let no feast turn to coal,
Their parties saved in one hundred piece lots,
no disappointing their own tiny tots
expecting fresh drumsticks with cocoa to go
as they wait for Santa in fresh falling snow.
The nameless in kitchens in stores far and wide
Will know what I mean as I set this aside,
Merry Christmas to all as you hustle away,
The store’s closed tomorrow, and yes just for a day,
If it’s chicken you want, call some elderly elf,
Or you’ll just have to make it your own sorry self.
 
(Marthe G. Walsh)

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

ABOUT THANKSGIVING

My friend, the poet, sends two fine poems.  The first made me smile.  The second sounds a more serious note.

Wild 1, Early Riser 0

something breaking
crunch   scraping    bang of metal
oh! out of the edge of sleep   cold
recognition     awake
just ice removal beyond the window
that time of year now   officially
    screaming   cursing     must get up to see
ha! knew there were some around
further out of town
wild turkey attacking the man
clearing glazed, dusted suv
count nine of them flitting  dancing
annoyed by salt spreading truck
do not speak this dialect
of poultry   just the sound objecting
   “wicked oppressor,  wicked oppressor”
as Tom takes another run at handy human
wielding broom at feathers black and brown
        not connecting
root for the not genetically engineered
sleek and sturdy birds
hatless in a fresh wave of freezing sleet
count his running retreat to lobby
a win for the wild ones

(Marthe G. Walsh) 
 

Most Call It Thanksgiving …

Where there are humans, there are holidays,
celebrations of hunt, harvest, hubris
or just hope that harsh facts will cede to better ways.

With bonfire, sacrifice, feasting and prayer,
remembrance of triumph, thanks given for
seasons or old cycles washed in soap of new care,

the wanted, the wilted, both lost and found,
seem to crave reprieve from unsteady stream,
ordinary existence of life on this ground.

If one does not join in, heed herding’s call,
suspicion abounds, hints that rejection
lurks in lone contemplation, spoils for a joy fall,

but no, no, it is just a choice, a taste
for still moments to reflect and to think,
to note and to notice what was gained, what laid waste.

A Pilgrim is stranger, traveling light,
lost without some injustice to balance,
some truth to discover, some old wrong to set right.

It will not be grim, my Thanksgrieving fast,
for I am glad of many things, and, too,
aware that tradition can help oppression last.

(Marthe G. Walsh)

Thursday, October 31, 2013

BLEEDING HEARTS

Bleeding heart

Bleeding Hearts

On the neglected left side of the house
far from the showy beds of peonies
and iris, gladiolus and lilies,
the perennial drip of white from rose
valentine-ish hearts went on, undisturbed
by a lack of attention, unperturbed
by cuttings, divisions, replanting fuss
or the disdain of annuals primping
for a one-vase-stand, post-teatime limping,
they simply bloomed and bloomed, standing guard each
Spring over the hens and chicks once planted
at their feet to crowd out all unwanted
competition, avoid future weeding,
like delicate strings of paper lanterns,
soft pink light crucial to growing patterns
of the Sempervivum (always alive,
Latin for that common succulent flock,
ignored, but there, steady as the tick-tock
of purpose just beyond the grasp of men
yearning for control they only know how
to abuse in the shady here and now),
accident or plan, gentle harmony.
Whose hand was it first rent the innocent
pendant to make it bleed? By whose judgment
is sympathy unwarranted, wasted,
an inclination to compassion ruled
a shameful fault of the easily fooled?
Assumed dominion of a third party
cannot prevent the blamed from turning feral
when life requires freedom ephemeral.
Neither flower nor heart, no permission
needed to care about the neglected,
no emotion spare, unearned, rejected.

(Marthe G. Walsh)
Sempervivum or houseleek

A lovely poem by my friend Marthe.

Images from Wikipedia here and here.

Monday, September 2, 2013

IN DAVID'S EYES - A POEM BY MARTHE G. WALSH

In David’s Eyes
 for my friend, always “the Broms”

He said wait, at least ten years, maybe more,
if you must tell it, let it age, mature.
And so I have, waited, humored his sure
conviction that time and context restore.

Secretary by day, writer by night,
athlete at university, turned down
by seminary, denied alb or gown
because, for him, lying was just not right.

At the end of our first week, sipping wine,
not that we liked it, concession to chic,
declared us allies, the suffering meek,
destined to outwit the front of the line.

I know you, all edges and sharps, trying
to make porcupines seem positively
cuddly – like it – the mask, deceptively
aloof -- won’t work with me. I do prying.

Kansas slow
, rippling wheat fields in his speech,
way of being, youngest of eight, like me,
confused by the view of society
that last meant spoiled, ruined, like some old peach.

Let me read his short stories, half the play
never finished, but not the novel, shy
about that, evasive until the why
was too clear to miss, a hospital stay.

No amount of prayer or therapy or
pledges of celibacy were enough
to fix or satisfy his father’s tough
Baptist will or mother’s RC ardor.

He simply couldn’t, with direct question,
say anything other than exactly
what he thought he knew, carefully, aptly,
but true, without guile or wise digression.

He knew what he couldn’t do, so tried not
to hate himself, but haunted by childhood
belief in authority, saw no good
in being fully himself, with sin fraught.

Immune system failing fast, the gay plague
new, frightening, friends disappearing, gone
in denial, fear, means of help withdrawn,
loss of job, insurance, excuses vague.

He did not want me to read of his one,
just one, failure to contain, defeat, hide
his fall, the reason he’d been cast aside
by family, church, not prodigal son.

Let me make the call to the one brother
who might understand, might help, when the first
bout of pneumonia scared us both, cursed
or not, family, surely … wrong answer.

It’s just you, my dear, dear Empress of the
Eternal Ephemera. They think death
is my just reward.
Coughed another breath,
closed his eyes, as if that would protect me.

Retreated into dark laughter, childish
games to pass the time when he was too weak
to write, chutes and ladders with the freak
former altar boy
, bruised, near the finish.

Portmanteau, his favorite word, better
than pedestrian baggage
, imagined
his story fine lingerie examined
by nuns at the thrift store, blushing chatter.

Tried to convince him to unpack, reduce
the weight, the volume, to just a valise
lightly carried, trust God’s wisdom, release
the burden of human error, abuse.

His answer, the burning of the pages
typed in pain, preserved in plastic binders
long stacked on brick and plank shelves, reminders
of hope fading with the AIDS, in stages.

Wept, when I brought an Episcopal priest
brave enough for communion with modern
leper, outcast, sinner, to his cavern
of private despair, in one touch, true feast.

Bathed him, still shyly insisting on swim
trunks for the immersion, demure, proper
but craving the gentle soaping, lather
and warm water defying all the grim.

Wrapped his emaciated six foot two
in blankets fresh from the dryer to warm
the perpetual shivering, the storm
within raging, winding down, but not through.

Made the call, after spreading his ashes
in the Charles, as requested, his mother,
“Oh, if only I had known ….”  A kinder
me would have comforted, spared the lashes,

“That’s what everyone says, to pretend,
soothe their own guilt, knowing full well the lie
of it, your shame in wanting him to die,
to stop being your lost, a wound opened.”

It was not kind, but it was my hand that
wrote his letter, begging, at last, for her
forgiveness, love, one final little stir
of maternal instinct, last words private.

There was no reply. Just a look exchanged.

In David’s eyes there was a knowing,
and I was honored by its showing.


Marthe G. Walsh

"In David's Eyes" by Marthe G. Walsh.  © 2012 Marthe G. Walsh.
Reprinted with permission of the author.

Marthe's two books of poetry, Among the Thorns and Heretic for a Loving God may be purchased at Lulu.

Monday, April 22, 2013

FEAR ITSELF

MICHELANGELO Buonarroti
Last Judgment (detail)
Fresco
Cappella Sistina, Vatican
Fear Itself

Fear itself …
that is the thing explaining
why bombers bomb
why we cannot control guns
why the Pope suppresses nuns
speaking “radical” humanist words
why “real men” loathe nerds
and arm themselves against
delusions of apocalypse.
Fear is the power of coercion
trumping all notions
of civility, compassion “fittest” assumed to mean
the ruthlessness of nihilists
protecting their own small niche
at the expense of all “soft” targets
“not my problem”
“take care of our own”
dismissing the thoughtful
the adaptive, the truly strong
who mean it when they say
life itself is sacred.
Fear is the tool of men
protesting too much, claiming
to be defenders of liberty
when what they are protecting
is their consumption of advantage
their right to shoot, to profit
to procreate any way they choose
but not you, not you
you must be frightened into
compliance with their rule
their privilege, their proprietary
fist enforcing the lie of superiority
“emotion” labeled “girly” “useless”
except when it is “manly anger”
an excuse to pretend the violence
is just … but it is just their fear
their adrenaline addiction
raging, tolerated, “just the way it is”
not inevitable
just the way things will be
until the greater we
says no
passes the laws that prevent
paranoid bullies from expecting
and getting
our cooperation in their death industry
fear itself.

(Marthe G. Walsh)
Image from the Web Gallery of Art.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

PENCIL - MARTHE G. WALSH

 


pencil

there is something satisfying
in the friction
the drag of graphite
across a blue lined page
reassuring, the slightly slower
pace of pencil
translating synaptic surges
into symbols meant
to convey the thing
I was not supposed to say
   (erase the worst of it
   the jarring jagged bits
   too painful for response)
feel the sharp shaved point
soften under it
this pressure to covey
in loops and strokes and dots
all the woulds and shoulds
and swollen knots
of life sharpened and ground
and sharpened again only
to shorten into nubs
   (rubber long gone to
   endless hesitant revision)
I do not toss away
sentimental fool
to keep the spent penny tool
of impermanence
never mind the humility
inherent in the reluctance
to commit to ink
   (brush away pink and gray
   lint of things best not to think)
the world it seems
has no use for either
random longhand thought
or the scratching glide
on rough recycled sheets
analog obsolete profitless things
unlikely to go viral
privacy maintained by
disinterest, not firewall
the 2.5 preferred to the
more common No.2
for a small pleasure
whole generations will not know
the future’s quill
my Ticonderoga
shorter now
 
(Marthe G. Walsh)

I obliged Marthe by picturing her favored 2.5 pencil.  The poem is in response to Elizabeth Kaeton's post on her blog, Telling Secrets, on using pencils.  If I were on Facebook, I would definitely click "Like" upon reading the poem.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

ASH WEDNESDAY - THE LIGHTNESS OF LOVE

It is necessary that at the beginning of this fast, the Lord should show Himself to us in His mercy. The purpose of Lent is not so much expiation, to satisfy the divine justice, as a preparation to rejoice in His love. And this preparation consists in receiving the gift of His mercy—a gift which we receive in so far as we open our hearts to it, casting out what cannot remain in the same room with mercy.

Now one of the things we must cast out first of all is fear. Fear narrows the little entrance of our heart. It shrinks up our capacity to love. It freezes up our power to give ourselves. If we were terrified of God as a terrible judge, we would not confidently await His mercy, or approach Him trustfully in prayer. Our peace, our joy in Lent are a guarantee of grace.

And in laying upon us the light cross of ashes, the Church desires to take off our shoulders all other heavy burdens—the crushing load of worry and guilt, the dead weight of our own self-love. We should not take upon ourselves a “burden” of penance and stagger into Lent as if we were Atlas, carrying the whole world on his shoulders.

Perhaps there is small likelihood of our doing so. But in any case, penance is conceived by the Church less as a burden than as a liberation. It is only a burden to those who take it up unwillingly. Love makes it light and happy. And that is another reason why Ash Wednesday is filled with the lightness of love.

From Seasons of Celebration by Thomas Merton.

The emphasis is mine.  The words in bold text struck me like a thunderbolt because they are so very true and wonderful as applied to the beginning of the season of Lent.  Let us pray that our hearts may open to receive the lightness of God's love.

And then from my friend, Marthe: 
Ash Wednesday

Rituals, meant to teach, can become
public piety, for show
gloom, dismal fasting, tests to divide,
exclude, not repair the breach
greed and error tears in mortal souls
too weary to hear blessing.
Let these ashes signal life, not threat.


Marthe G. Walsh
Amen and amen. 

Saturday, February 2, 2013

FAILURE TO TOAST

 

Failure to Toast

The blue flash particular
to a circuit fried
wisp of smoke, the smell
half charred crumbs
half wire sheathing burning
on the day the toaster oven died.
A small thing, familiar
UL certified
no whistle or bell
or grand sums
spent on “status” baking
just bagel warming at morningtide.
Here beneath the floorboards
of security
where we soften scapes
long past thrift
with twenty-five watt light
the “expired appliance warranty”
is epitaph the wards
of prosperity
hear as time to traipse
options sift
at the mall where no right
exists but the harsh rule of plenty.
To the bin, the broken
trash the obsolete
count as lost, beyond
repair those
who failed to court with toasts
network or successfully compete
of these no word spoken
judged human sleet
as if to respond
would impose
on best kept private ghosts
hold in abstraction cold bread, defeat.

(Marthe G. Walsh)
Well done, Marthe. 

Saturday, January 19, 2013

"TENSE" - A POEM

Tense
What was or is or will be, no sense
in this craving certainty
facts on which to safely stand, defense
the default pose of wisdom
as if all imperfect past pretense
of knowing could guarantee
passage through high reeds or forest dense
tangle of conformity
assumed, silent threat of violence
individuality
an idea, in practice the province
of lone eccentricity
tolerated in rare great talents
muffled in society
where ritual mutes the mass conscience
to accept disparity
as the price of managed turbulence
balance of security
held in place by a gossamer fence
decorum of brevity.
The perfect, not without flaw, complete.
Some believers claim just one
error free leader, teacher, God’s Son
fret that he/she/it with us is done
indulge the urge to compete
mark clear grace with penitence
as if the gift was some short-term loan
a debt re-paid in fragments
pain the test of unearned interest
currency of consequence.
Love, the real thing, is given, not lent
no tensile integrity
of high wire show, by no human rent
just response ability
the impulse to pray, a need intense
to veil the fragility
of subjunctive, iffy existence
in terms of nobility
power vested in high thrones
armaments, mobility
secrets glorified, the work of drones
scorched credibility
on the altar of the last unknowns
what shall not, cannot, should never be?
To lose the true living sense
present tense, that life is, is holy
each and every one intense
precious, not some beta test worthy
only if one can convince
some self-appointed authority
eager or reluctant prince
to hold Love bestowed as surety
against the void, the absence
of even one, small, humanity.

(Marthe G. Walsh)

"Love, the real thing is given, not lent..."   True and lovely words.  Thank you for the poem, Marthe.  It is all good.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

FOURTH SUNDAY IN ADVENT

 
           An Advent Pantoum

We treasure light lessened in seasons of sleep,
an axis tilting toward beginning,
“and darkness was on the face of the deep”,
light candles on a wreath, imagining.

An axis tilting toward beginning,
restart anew from the first and best resource,
light candles on a wreath imagining
all that is and was and will be in due course.

Restart anew from the first and best resource,
the raw material from which God made
all that is and was and will be in due course,
the dark that was all before it was shade.

The raw material from which God made
earth and sky and sea and a precious Son,
the dark that was all, before it was shade,
now know in the flicker of stars set to stun.

Earth and sky and sea and a precious Son,
we have need of this, this stuff of creation,
now know in the flicker of stars set to stun,
guide us past our fear of last devastation.

Set four wicks ablaze in anticipation,
“and darkness was on the face of the deep”,
study the ways of holy incubation.
We treasure light lessons, in seasons still, steep.

(Marthe G. Walsh)
Collect - Fourth Sunday in Advent
Purify our conscience, Almighty God, by your daily visitation, that your Son Jesus Christ, at his coming, may find in us a mansion prepared for himself; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.
Many thanks to Marthe for permission to use her pantoum.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

FROM THE CHURCHLADY - FEAST OF ST NICHOLAS

"The Dowry For Three Virgins"
Gentile da Fabriano

Churchlady (aka Marthe)

The St. Nicholas Clause

Q: I’m really tired of the whole Santa Claus version of Christmas and the pressure to buy our way to bliss.  Why does the church play along with that whole marketing nightmare?

A: The Church, Gentle Inquirer, doesn’t endorse Santa Claus and hasn’t had much effective control over daily life for a very long time. You must be longing for some “good old days” that exist mostly in myth and, as much as we sympathize with your yearning for simpler days and a focus on the actual birth of the Saviour, any attempt at de-mythifying Christmas (yes, we know that’s not a real word – humor us) is highly unlikely to succeed. Look anywhere in the world and you will find people who cling to their myths and legends with fondness and perpetual vigor. The Church does endorse peace, generosity and expressions of good will to all (which includes tired, cranky, reluctant shoppers).

Q: Can’t we at least ditch Santa Claus and stick to St. Nick? That at least suggests some religious tie to the real meaning of Christmas.

A: We are sorry to disappoint you, but St. Nicholas is an Advent (the season of anticipation, beginnings, hope) saint, celebrated on the 6th of December, not a Christmas figure, and his very existence is disputed by some scholars. He is said to have been Bishop of Myra (currently part of Turkey), renowned for his generosity to children, and an attendee of the Council of Nicea (325 ad) although there are no mentions of him on the surviving documents from that important meeting. The patron saint of sailors, early images showed him arriving by ship or traveling on a white horse to deliver small anonymous gifts to sleeping needy people.

Sinterklaas
The Netherlands
Q: So modern marketing guys morphed him into a fat guy on a reindeer powered sled arriving on the
wrong day?

A: Basically, yes, but let’s not put all the blame on anyone; as vile as modern advertisers may be, they didn’t invent popular culture or myth making! The early church sainted quite a lot of fairly normal, admirable people to be examples and role models for believers. The stories of their lives got bigger and saintlier with every re-telling, eventually including miracles to qualify for sainthood. Surely, this tendency to embellish stories doesn’t surprise you, now does it?

Q: Maybe not, but isn’t it just wrong to keep feeding our children silly stories that kind of scare them into thinking that if they aren’t “good” they won’t get presents?

A: While Gentle Inquirer’s instinct to avoid manipulating children with threats is laudable, most parents will laugh (a hearty ho, ho, ho!) at the notion that one must not use tangible incentives to encourage positive behavior. Do we detect disappointment of your own in your tone? The pony never materialized? The fire truck with all the bells and whistles never arrived despite your sincere efforts to stay out of trouble? These aren’t reasons for canceling a whole season that encourages peace, good will toward all people and the sharing of gifts as a remembrance of God’s gift to us of a Saviour, no matter how garish the packaging of the message may have become. Celebrate without Santa or the Grinch if you like, but do celebrate the Christ child’s birth with all the joy you can muster!

Pictures from Wikipedia.

Note: St Nicholas is also remembered for being generous to poor virgins in need of dowries.  Padre Mickey has a splendid post on St Nicholas, which includes the story of the three virgins depicted in the painting at the top left.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

ADVENT YOU'RE HERE AGAIN...

Asperatus clouds - Scotland

   Partly Cloudy With A Chance of Seeing

Low clouds slumped, lingering, leave a thin sheet
of white on glass, metal, bowed grass and asphalt
just wet and shimmering, no need for salt,
brace for winter closeout, a year end retreat
except in the vault of the soul’s heartbeat.

Advent, you’re here again, begin anew,
back to page one, annual re-booting
of what is meant or real or just fragment
of divine texting by star re-routing;
but first the penitence, the harsh review
the wardens of faith inflict to deny
any foolish expectation of clean,
cleared slate, repent or miss out on pardon
that is the point of birth in stable mean,
gift for which they insist we must apply.

Ignore the frantic forecasters warning,
a new cloud, undulatus asperatus,
rough waves perhaps disturbing the status
of science known or a sign, wind fresh forming
old verse, “Lo, he comes with clouds” upending.

It makes no sense this ritual attempt
to bargain with the firmament, appease
some imagined angry God with sorrow
and self-flagellation, a show to please
One who knows just how messy and unkempt,
adventitious, disorderly ever
the course of those created with free will,
not quite exempt from seasonal forces,
yet prone to agitate waters made still,
restless, testing the limits of never.

Adventure is a chosen risk the bold
begin with trembling wrapped in joyful hope
that aspiration can uncoil the rope
error ties to souls trapped, seeing only cold;
set out again for Love meant to enfold.

(Marthe G Walsh)

See more pictures of asperatus clouds here. 

Sunday, November 11, 2012

UNLESS THE LORD BUILDS THE HOUSE...

Washington National Cathedral, Washington DC
proper 27 meditation

Oh hear now how the proud claim, “I built that!” –
smug in abundance, demanding of praise,
no credit to the carpenter,
anonymous hands bought and bruised to raise
temples of conceit on the habitat
of the wild, the poor, the stranger.
“Unless the LORD builds the house,
their labor is in vain who build it.”
The tests and triumphs of mere mortal rule,
at best, may imitate a discerned
intent of our one Creator,
at worst, displace eternal gifts un-earned
with fleeting fragile robes consumed as fuel
to warm bare greed’s known successor.
“Unless the LORD builds the house,
their labor is in vain who build it.”
Oh Lord, oh builder of The worthy home,
let not our eyes be blinded by false pride
or the bribes of an oppressor
tempt a hungry soul to forsake the guide
of Love that feeds and shelters as we roam.
Praise to Thee, one true confessor.
(Marthe G. Walsh)


St James' Episcopal Church, Bear Creek SD

Sunday, November 4, 2012

IN CASE YOU HADN'T NOTICED...

...we have an election coming up.  I can't think of better commentary than the poem below, once again by Marthe G. Walsh.  I guess I should name Marthe poet laureate of Wounded Bird...or something. 

                                                 Imitations of Morality

The scratch of gust blown leaves, stubborn yellows, brown
the last of reds rusted on their way to mud
            just beyond the pavement’s crown
               of civility, the thud
of campaign weary feet tracking voters down
in last gasp desperation of fanatic
            assertions of perfection
               possible in election,
    ignore the gush of faulty candidates erratic.

The patch of virtue tended, meant for harvest
by the flame of ultra-conservative torch
            is but withered interest
               in protecting those who scorch
the very fabric of the soul to invest
with new authority a male government
            not just hostile to women,
               dismissive of each human
   without a suit of cash to cover raw resentment
of all “those people” living their own way,
without permission, without the “guidance”,
            rule of oppressive patriarchs sway,
               smug and proud of their own ignorance
that in secret makes them nervous of prey
turning to stare down the profit stalker,
            challenge the right of a small elite
               to take, to hoard, to gorge on red meat
   while masses starve at the table of the slick talker.

The long, slow fall of a losing argument
turns to an early, ancient, mean, strategy
            of claiming to know God’s intent,
               noblesse oblige theology
that strips away a woman’s right to consent,
to control her own body, the intimate
            used to intimidate, shame, unhinge,
               the tactic of unholy fringe
   threshing force from rape to see sacred seed proximate.

The thatch of suspect false ideology leaks
and rots in the rain of words worth remembering:
            Truth from clouds of glory peeks,
             trails the liar dissembling,
clings like the stench of death while greed prevails and speaks
as if justice were the exclusive property
            of any self-proclaimed elect.
               Truth shines, the timid to protect,
   through fog of moneyed might to reveal equality,
       not some fleeting, fashionable stance or politic,
       just neighbor loving neighbor without fright dogmatic.