Saturday, April 23, 2005

Saint George and the Red Crosse Knight

Today is the feast of St George, the patron saint of England. St. George is the Knight of the Red Crosse in the first book of Edmund Spenser’s Fairie Qveene. Armed with Jung and Kinsey, I wrote about Spenser in college. Spenser in the Oxford Standard Authors edition has painfully small type, but I recently bought a Penguin edition of Fairie Qveene more appropriate for my fading eyesight. It’s the first long classic poem I’ve read since Byron’s Don Juan. “Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more, Or close the wall up with our English dead,” says Shakespeare’s Henry V:

I see you stand like greyhounds in the slips,
Straining upon the start. The game’s afoot.
Follow your spirit, and upon this charge
Cry “God for Harry, England, and Saint George!”

Monday, April 18, 2005

Pope Ratzinger’s Ass

Is the Pope Catholic? No, the Pope is dead. Does God exist? No, as the Pope now knows.
Do bears shit in the woods? Why do bears eat rocks? Is it Evolution or some sort of Divine Plan? Perhaps it is the Holy Ghost which leads the bear to eat granite. Once, in a men's room at Columbia University, I read the following advice on the wall of a toilet stall: Eat Shit. 10,000,000 do.

Friday, April 15, 2005


Did the Great Powers really cease fire at the eleventh minute of the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918? Football teams do the two-minute drill so that, in a game, they’re easy with the hurry-up offense. Formerly a gun would signal the last minute of play. Now they use a whistle. In the Great War, they’d blow a whistle, and the men would rise from the trenches, and charge, and die by machine-guns. I was named Michael to remember an uncle, a Lieut. Michael Tierney, so killed.

The adjective minute--and I’m quoting the dictionary--means tiny. The noun minute refers to a unit of time, one-sixtieth of an hour or 60 seconds. The minute man was once a soldier, then a rocket, now a premature ejaculation.

The Jack Kennedy minute.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Our Hours

I always liked the pun of ours and hours. It means, to me, all we have, all that is ours, is some mere little numbered morsels of time. What’s ours is hours.

I recently bought an edition of The Hours of Catherine of Cleves. I loved the novel La Princesse de Cleves by Madame de Lafayette; but there is no obvious link. The Hours consist of miniatures, many linked to the canonical hours of matins, lauds, prime, tierce, sext, vespers and compline. Prime is dawn not TV Time. In Islam, do the devout not turn to Mecca and pray five times daily? In this Christian tradition of prayer, you have seven times to pray.

There’s W. H. Auden’s Horae Canonicae and Anne Carson’s Men in the Off Hours.

We seem to make a fetish of the odd hour, of the eleventh hour. Quitting time is 5:00PM. Christ died one Friday at 3:00 PM, or so I was informed by nuns in Catholic school. Catholics still teach the seven virtues and the seven deadly sins; and for the same reason, no doubt, there are seven days each and every week.

Friday, April 08, 2005

John Paul the Great

Robert Creeley, Saul Bellow, Frank Conroy, John Paul the Great--these are recent dead!

A crowd flowed over London Bridge, so many,
I had not thought death had undone so many.

This couplet from T.S. Eliot alludes to lines from The Inferno, which Robert Pinsky translates:

Farther along our course, I could make out
People upon the shore of some great river.
“Master,“ I said, “it seems by this dim light
That all of these are eager to cross over--….”

The dead in Canto III must board Charon’s boat. He whacks the laggards with an oar.

James Wright’s best book is Shall We Gather at the River? This is from that collection:

In Response to a Rumor that the
Oldest Whorehouse in Wheeling,
West Virginia, Has Been Condemned

I will grieve alone,
As I strolled alone, years ago, down along
The Ohio shore.
I hid in the hobo jungle weeds
Upstream from the sewer main
Pondering, gazing.

I saw, down river,
At Twenty-third and Water Streets
By the vinegar works,
The doors open in early evening.
Swinging their purses, the women
Poured down the long street to the river
And into the river.

I do not know how it was
They could drown every evening.
What time near dawn did they climb up the other shore
Drying their wings?

For the river at Wheeling, West Virginia,
Has only two shores:
The one in hell, the other
In Bridgeport, Ohio.

And nobody would commit suicide, only
To find beyond death
Bridgeport, Ohio.

Friday, April 01, 2005

drive, he sd

I Know a Man

As I sd to my
Friend, because I am
Always talking,--John, I

Sd, which was not his
Name, the darkness sur-
Rounds us, what

Can we do against
It, or else, shall we &
Why not, buy a goddamn big car,

Drive, he sd, for
Christ’s sake, look
Out where yr going.

--Robert Creeley 1926-2005

Whenever I chanced in print on the phrase “Drive, he said”, I’d clip it, and include it in my next letter to Bob Creeley. Someone wrote a novel in the '60s called, Drive, He Said, quoting Bob’s poem. Then Jack Nicholson recited the poem in the film of the novel. Nobody paid Bob anything for the phrase or for the poem. In my inbox, there is now a recent headline clipt from the auto section of The Times: “Drive, He Said.” I suppose I’ll forward it to his widow, Penelope Creeley.