Saturday, March 31, 2007

Muse-Tryst In Elysian Field

(**Tribute to Gerard Manley Hopkins)

I look upon the raven hill,
With alders standing stark and still,
Beneath, betwixt my altered will,
Sweet reverence notwithstanding.

There stood for me a buttressed swale,
Inviting me to climb its trail,
Around, among the fall detail,
Glib reference remanding.

It’s there I heard her call to me,
From back, behind an alder tree,
With naught but skylarks there to see,
Still deference demanding.

“Manley Hopkins, I presume?”
Called she, from manses deep with gloom,
Her voice a misplaced autumn bloom,
From high, atop a landing.

How could she dare to mistake me
For one of voice so pure and free
That mention of his name with mine
Might risk the gods’ displeasure?

“I fear that you would chance defame
By uttering so profound a name
That any man would proudly claim,
When taken at his leisure.”

The nymph appeared and stood before
My disbelieving eyes, now sore
So bright became her earthly glow,
Indeed, she was a treasure.

“Are you not he whom all can see,
Who lives in chastened harmony,
With boundless touch of land and sea,
And hint of mist for measure?”

With lowered head and furrowed brow,
I dared a smile’d escape me now;
Humbled, I could not help but bow,
And shake my head, “No, tis not I.
He wrote of Spenser and of Keats,
Mermaids wrought of nature’s sweets,
Sonnets writ in measured beats,
Interchanging eclipse with splendor;

Crossing lines, his words imbue
Cleric virtues in attitude
Reserved for laity to choose,
Certainly not Society of Jesus.”

Plum-purple west with spikes of light,
Speared open gashes, crimson-white,
And doggedly she denied the night
Opportunity to seize us.

She spoke of water-lily flakes,
Clustering on beryl lakes,
Reminding me what nature takes,
When last she opts to leave us.

“Gerard left his touch on you,
With gusts of scented wind that blew,
And antique Latin chants he knew,
He touched your quivering face.

Embrace his words as they were taught,
As they pass your lips you’ll fear them not,
Revere them as you know you ought,
And they’ll lend to you their grace.”

To know dusk-depths of ponderous sea,
Or with miles of solid green, to be
One-tenth as profound as he
Is worthy as undertaken.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Something Pretty

‘Something pretty’ she said to me,
her voice serene if a bit pitchy,
as though my gift might be selected
from reserves of barren ugliness,
lest I be reminded that her sensibilities
should be regarded—
rather than my own.

In her defense, I must admit,
I do possess such ill-conceived proclivities,
as wretched though such reminders find me,
as foul they leave my sense of value,
as bracing is her unintended slap.

My now-red psyche wraps itself
in altered garments,
cloaked in virtue of warm breezes and soft subtlety,
passion’s own heart subdued by suggestion,
dunked in nobility’s mild quench-tank,
soothed in oil and balm and reason’s lotion.

And I wait.

Does she know?
Could she possibly ever understand
the conflict I create within
the barriers confining my head from my heart?
Which do I choose?
Can it be done at all?

So I wait.

Bob Church©2/22/07

Thursday, March 15, 2007

‘Tis Marshly Voravé

‘Tis Marshly Voravé

Muskrim and pelgrave, we dwimble…
Farthing bare for soot so afoot,
Flash sodden! Crash noggin!
Twit! Twit! Twit!

Paramour and belgrade, we gimble…
Nonce put earthling rare agog,
Cinch plodden! Brash scoggin!
Nit! Nit! Nit!

Plethora rare and bodkin’s sweet hare,
Ambience miffed only to pout,
Gregory loggin’, Marbury doggin’!
Phit! Phat! Phut!

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Pixelations and Gas Stations

This morning on CBS Sunday Morning, their news staff chronicled the story of Chuck Close, a disabled portrait artist who is enjoying a return to prominence; not by overcoming his disability, but by reacting to it and learning to function despite the limitations imposed upon him by a blood clot on his spine.

However, my interest stemmed not so much from his triumph but from the manner in which he learned to adapt and to change his work. Once, his portraits were so lifelike that often they were mistaken for photographs, albeit that the canvas stood ten feet tall and eight feet wide. Now, his technique has changed. He scans portraits with his computer and breaks them down into tiny cubes of pixelated color and light. Then, he adapts the colors of the squares.

"The building blocks for my paintings are not symbolic," he told Sunday Morning anchor Charles Osgood. "They don't stand for anything. It's a little bit like an architect — picking up a brick. You stack up the bricks one way, you get a cathedral. You stack the bricks up another way, and you get a gas station, you know."

The results are spectacular and vivid. The emphasis on each square determines the effect in totality, producing a work that can still be recognized as an identifiable portrait, but enhanced to produce the artist's interpretation.

As I watched and listened, I realized that in many ways, my writing mirrors his technique, or at least I hope it does. Perhaps I shall never gain his excellence of interpretation, but I suspect that my selection of material and writing style differ from his only in this aspect. Chuck Close was a fine portrait painter before his style evolved--therein lies the difference. Even so, for me there is victory. After all these years, I finally understand that I am not demented, psychotic or crazy.

I merely interpret the data from a different spectrum of light. My pixel squares may just reflect a unique translation of the colors-- maybe I just build gas stations in the shape of cathedrals.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Her Last Mardi Gras

Party streamers. Luciana LaBalenciaga surveyed the balcony meticulously before proceeding, taking great care not to step on any of the colorful beads and paper shards that only recently had been blasted onto revelers who’d poured out of the apartment for a prime position at the rail. Not that she really feared twisting an ankle; it was more a matter of respect for the spirit of the past and the dignity of the dead, even if the departed amounted only to a few beer bottles and strips of crepe. After all, Mardi Gras, with all its pomp and ceremony, floats and New Orleans marching bands, served only as a masquerade for people’s hidden agenda, drinking and obscenity. Women who’d never dream of revealing their breasts in a public setting would, for the price of a few strands of worthless beads and an equitable amount of exotic alcoholic beverage, stand on the balcony and, to the exhortation of the multitudes, bare their feminine finery for all the world to behold—and hoot. How many of the same people would find themselves on their knees tomorrow waiting for the priest to smear chrism in the form of a cross on their foreheads, reminding them of their sinful ways and asking them to search their conscience, to rededicate themselves to the banishment of iniquity from their lives?

No matter… it wouldn’t be her. Not tomorrow, not ever again. This balcony would be her last. The dark, cool dampness of the late March night weaved its charms through the fine loose hairs at her temples, tickling her cheeks and whisking her to a simpler time when the breezes foretold only a storm of the natural variety, the spring rains that threatened daddy’s pirogue and made a walk through the bayou a muddy mess. Thoughts of mama standing at the screen door in her simple housedress and apron pushed their way past all the others, demanding that she concentrate, insisting that she listen. Luciana… you come on in now, chil’, de supper ready an’ you ain’t washed yo’ hans. A girl ‘most fo’teen years ol don’ need to be tole more’n once. You hear me, Luciana, don’t dawdle now, come on in.

“I’m comin’, Mama,” she whispered, “I’m comin’.” With few regrets and malice toward no one, Luciana LaBalenciaga quickly scaled the ornamental wrought iron and stepped off the balcony. Somewhere in the sixty feet between balcony and destiny she took her last breath of New Orleans honeydew and joined mama and daddy in the ageless memory of days gone by.

Bob Church© 3/9/07

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Just another restful night... no big deal, really

Last night, I dreamed I’d been abandoned in the Komodo dragon habitat of the Reptile House at the San Diego Zoo. I recalled watching an Animal Planet travelogue featuring the vile, disgusting creatures and I seemed to remember that their bite is nearly always fatal to humans because of the abundance of harmful bacteria in their saliva. Several of the lizards had begun to stalk me, using their well-documented ‘scurry about the area like you’re totally nuts’ group-hunting maneuver, hissing and growling and generally making total asses out of themselves.

That’s when Larry King jumped over the railing with his cameraman. My first reaction was amazement at the agility of the seventy-seven-year old, but my awe quickly dissipated and turned to disgust as he put his arm around me and asked me if I’d like to see the genitalia of an elderly Jew. When the cameraman had completed his “In 5…4…3…2…1…” countdown, Larry stuck the microphone in my face and asked me, “So tell America, Bubba, how does it feel to be identified as the only person on the planet who thinks Ray Combs was Family Feud’s best host?”

I’d go on, but frankly, the rest of the dream gets a little strange, given the fact that I couldn't pick Ray Combs out of a one-man lineup.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

A Thought In Passing

Is there anything more intimidating than a blank canvas? This morning I clicked my mouse on the blue “W” icon located on my lower task strip and my computer flashed for a second as it interpreted my command and faithfully brought up a page with some funny-looking symbols on top and the vast majority of the page bathed in pure white. There, at the upper left margin, blinked my inexorable enemy, the cursor. At a speed slightly slower than my own heart, I could hear it beckon; I sensed it mocking me. Well, come on, you claim to be a writer… prove it.

Suddenly, the thoughts stopped. Now, what was that great idea I had in the middle of the night that offered a credible solution for my unfinished story about BillyB that sits mired in oblivion? I really need to recognize that my recall has been recalled, that I can no longer make a mental note to store information and hope to re-create it on a whim. My number one source for story ideas, my unconscious, has either burned out or rusted shut.

It’s probably not much of a loss, actually. Judging from the response rate here on my blog, no one will notice, and that’s okay, too. I guess I’m just tired.

Sayonara, Reader-San, it’s been real.