augury doggerel

Saturday, December 31, 2005

Fire Works

We call tonight "Sylwester" because this is the feast day of Pope Sylvester I, Saint Sylvester, one of the few early saints who was not a martyr. Sylvester was buried 31 December 335 in a church on the Via Salaria in Rome.

Legend has it that Roman Emperor Constantine had leprosy and legend has it he was about to take the leprosy cure of bathing himself in the blood of children, or legend has it that pagan priests were trying to talk him into doing so.
And for the cruelty of Constantine God sent him such a sickness that he became lazar and measel, and by the counsel of his physicians he got three thousand young children for to have cut their throats, for to have their blood in a bath all hot, and thereby he might be healed of his measelry.
But then, legend has it, Pope Sylvester or perhaps, legend has it, a vision of Peter and Paul, talked the emperor into converting to Christianity instead. And then, legend has it, Constantine's baptism cured his leprosy.

It is not legend that Sylvester and Constantine, pope and emperor, together convinced 318 bishops to gather in Nicaea, Anatolia (now Iznik, Turkey), in 325 to find a way out of the Arian trouble: a theologian in Alexandria, Egypt, called Arius was teaching then that Jesus was not a god, that Jesus was not made of the same stuff as God the father, but that the father-God, the only god, made Jesus and then made everything else through Jesus. Numbers of people were beginning to follow him.

Hoo boy. At the gathering in Nicaea, the bishops agreed on what is now called the Nicene Creed:
I believe in one God, the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible. And in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God. Born of the Father before all ages. God of God, Light of Light, true God of true God. Begotten, not made, of one substance with the Father...
The bishops all went home with this (well, all but a couple who disagreed and therefore were anathematized and exiled), and of course the Roman emperor was backing it, so you'd think things were fixed. However, the next emperor, Julius Constantius, sided with the Arians, and the emperor after that, Flavius Claudius Julianus, said what the hell and went back to the Greek gods. Flavius Claudius Julianus was not nice to Christians, who of course had not been nice to Hellenists ("pagans") like himself. When he died on the battlefield, legend has it that his last words were "Thou hast conquered, O Galilean." A likely story; his successors and historians were Christians.

Where was I?
In this time it happed that there was at Rome a dragon in a pit, which every day slew with his breath more than three hundred men. Then came the bishops of the idols unto the emperor and said unto him: O thou most holy emperor, sith the time that thou hast received christian faith the dragon which is in yonder fosse or pit slayeth every day with his breath more than three hundred men. Then sent the emperor for Saint Silvester and asked counsel of him of this matter...
This dragon has three heads.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Reading Ralph Waldo Emerson's 1836 "Cherokee Letter" to President Martin van Buren, I felt as if I was reading something new. Not that the issue is new. It's an old crime:
The newspapers now inform us that, in December, 1835, a treaty contracting for the exchange of all the Cherokee territory was pretended to be made by an agent on the part of the United States with some persons appearing on the part of the Cherokees; that the fact afterwards transpired that these deputies did by no means represent the will of the nation; and that, out of eighteen thousand souls composing the nation, fifteen thousand six hundred and sixty-eight have protested against the so-called treaty. It now appears that the government of the United States choose to hold the Cherokees to this sham treaty, and are proceeding to execute the same.
What sounds fresh is Emerson's disbelief that the country had sunk so far in so short a time.
In the name of God, sir, we ask you if this be so. Do the newspapers rightly inform us? [...] Will the American government steal? Will it lie? Will it kill? -- We ask triumphantly. Our counselors and old statesmen here say that ten years ago they would have staked their lives on the affirmation that the proposed Indian measures could not be executed; that the unanimous country would put them down. And now the steps of this crime follow each other so fast, at such fatally quick time, that the millions of virtuous citizens, whose agents the government are, have no place to interpose, and must shut their eyes until the last howl and wailing of these tormented villages and tribes shall afflict the ear of the world.

Mahna Mahna

Do doo be-do-do

Mahna Mahna

Do do-do do

Mahna Mahna

Do doo be-do-do be-do-do be-do-do be-do-do-doodle do do do-doo do!

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

No work for me, no school for the kid, no room at the inn, and so many hours to imitate an alien talking to Louis de Funes about cabbage soup and to sing both parts of the Mahna Mahna song.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

I found myself reading the Bible in public.

Catching up.

But I read under the table.

I didn't want to frighten anyone. But it is the mythology of the moment.

A book of prophecies and dreams and signs.

And, of course, an adventure.


Hmm. That seems, even in the circumstances, to be a bit overdoing the joy.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Open all the windows at once and let the cacophony in.

The novella's full title is A Christmas Carol in Prose: Being a Ghost Story of Christmas. The fact that Dickens chose to celebrate Christmas with that most un-Christian of things, a ghost story, is typical of him. Religious piety was not his forté. In A Christmas Carol, there's one rather self-conscious aside about how we should "venerate" the festival's "sacred name and origin", and also a far-fetched assertion that it's good to be a child at Christmas because that's "when its mighty Founder was a child himself". Aside from these perfunctory gestures, Dickens leaves Jesus alone and concentrates on what excites his imagination most: death, grotesquery, poverty, indignity, death, clownish pranks, death, dancing and food. Oh, and did I mention death?
And lechery, which is what always makes me laugh. When he writes, "I am standing in the spirit at your elbow," woman, beware, he's slipping an arm around your waist and nuzzling your neck. In the spirit.
Here, again, were shadows on the window-blind of guests assembling; and there a group of handsome girls, all hooded and fur-booted, and all chattering at once, tripped lightly off to some near neighbour's house; where, woe upon the single man who saw them enter -- artful witches, well they knew it -- in a glow.
She was very pretty: exceedingly pretty. With a dimpled, surprised-looking, capital face; a ripe little mouth, that seemed made to be kissed -- as no doubt it was; all kinds of good little dots about her chin, that melted into one another when she laughed; and the sunniest pair of eyes you ever saw in any little creature's head. Altogether she was what you would have called provoking, you know; but satisfactory, too. Oh perfectly satisfactory!
and (here I think he reveals a fantasy)
There was first a game at blind-man's buff. Of course there was. And I no more believe Topper was really blind than I believe he had eyes in his boots. ... For his pretending not to know her; his pretending that it was necessary to touch her head-dress, and further to assure himself of her identity by pressing a certain ring upon her finger, and a certain chain about her neck; was vile, monstrous. No doubt she told him her opinion of it, when, another blind-man being in office, they were so very confidential together, behind the curtains.

I crave the little cubes of colored 'fruit'.

Another ghost:

Christmas - John Betjeman

The bells of waiting Advent ring,
The Tortoise stove is lit again
And lamp-oil light across the night
Has caught the streaks of winter rain.
In many a stained-glass window sheen
From Crimson Lake to Hooker's Green.

The holly in the windy hedge
And round the Manor House the yew
Will soon be stripped to deck the ledge,
The altar, font and arch and pew,
So that villagers can say
'The Church looks nice' on Christmas Day.

Provincial public houses blaze
And Corporation tramcars clang,
On lighted tenements I gaze
Where paper decorations hang,
And bunting in the red Town Hall
Says 'Merry Christmas to you all'

And London shops on Christmas Eve
Are strung with silver bells and flowers
As hurrying clerks the City leave
To pigeon-haunted classic towers,
And marbled clouds go scudding by
The many-steepled London sky.

And girls in slacks remember Dad,
And oafish louts remember Mum,
And sleepless children's hearts are glad,
And Christmas morning bells say 'Come!'
Even to shining ones who dwell
Safe in the Dorchester Hotel.

And is it true? and is it true?
The most tremendous tale of all,
Seen in a stained-glass window's hue,
A Baby in an ox's stall?
The Maker of the stars and sea
Become a Child on earth for me?

And is it true? For if it is,
No loving fingers tying strings
Around those tissued fripperies,
The sweet and silly Christmas things,
Bath salts and inexpensive scent
And hideous tie so kindly meant.

No love that in a family dwells,
No carolling in frosty air,
Nor all the steeple-shaking bells
Can with this single Truth compare -
That God was Man in Palestine
And lives to-day in Bread and Wine.

Another ghost:

Ceremonies of Christmas - Robert Herrick

Come, bring with a noise,
My merry, merry boys,
The Christmas Log to the firing;
While my good Dame, she
Bids ye all be free;
And drink to your heart's desiring.

With the last year's brand
Light the new block, and
For good success in his spending,
On your Psaltries play,
That sweet luck may
Come while the log is a-tinding.

Drink now the strong beer,
Cut the white loaf here,
The while the meat is a-shredding;
For the rare mince-pie
And the plums stand by
To fill the paste that's a-kneading.

Another ghost:

Mistletoe - Walter de la Mare

Sitting under the mistletoe
(Pale-green, fairy mistletoe),
One last candle burning low,
All the sleepy dancers gone,
Just one candle burning on,
Shadows lurking everywhere:
Some one came, and kissed me there.

Tired I was; my head would go
Nodding under the mistletoe
(Pale-green, fairy mistletoe),
No footsteps came, no voice, but only,
Just as I sat there, sleepy, lonely,
Stooped in the still and shadowy air
Lips unseen - and kissed me there.

Another ghost:

The Oxen - Thomas Hardy

Christmas Eve, and twelve of the clock.
"Now they are all on their knees,"
An elder said as we sat in a flock
By the embers in hearthside ease.

We pictured the meek mild creatures where
They dwelt in their strawy pen,
Nor did it occur to one of us there
To doubt they were kneeling then.

So fair a fancy few would weave
In these years! Yet, I feel,
If someone said on Christmas Eve,
"Come; see the oxen kneel,

"In the lonely barton by yonder coomb
Our childhood used to know,"
I should go with him in the gloom,
Hoping it might be so.

Another ghost:

The Burning Babe - Robert Southwell

As I in hoary winter's night stood shivering in the snow,
Surprised I was with sudden heat which made my heart to glow;
And lifting up a fearful eye to view what fire was near,
A pretty babe all burning bright did in the air appear;
Who, scorchëd with excessive heat, such floods of tears did shed
As though his floods should quench his flames which with his tears were fed.
Alas, quoth he, but newly born in fiery heats I fry,
Yet none approach to warm their hearts or feel my fire but I!
My faultless breast the furnace is, the fuel wounding thorns,
Love is the fire, and sighs the smoke, the ashes shame and scorns;
The fuel justice layeth on, and mercy blows the coals,
The metal in this furnace wrought are men's defilëd souls,
For which, as now on fire I am to work them to their good,
So will I melt into a bath to wash them in my blood.
With this he vanished out of sight and swiftly shrunk away,
And straight I callëd unto mind that it was Christmas day.

Tonight I have eaten an entire fruitcake and three kinds of jellied fish, listened to twenty-five Bing Crosby songs, watched a ballet and a Dirty Harry movie, overtipped a taxi driver, helped to assemble a tortoise and unearth a triceratops, stressed the importance of finding a bra that fits, discussed the merits of becoming an archeologist, and kissed two men, two women, a girl, and a couple of cats. The kid has gone off to a grandmother's house for the rest of the evening, the woman has fallen asleep, and it's left up to me to catch Santa.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

"der Bingel"

A man in the park with a bloody face is explaining to two women. The larger of the two women tells him in a voice I hear across the park, "Either the police or the hospital," but he is thinking of some middle ground, looking at the trees.

Pa rum pum pum pum

I read, I think, that the simulation of happiness can induce happiness: something in the musculature of the face and how it traces back to where laughter comes from. I push the car, jump in, and pop the clutch.

'Ha, ha!' laughed Scrooge's nephew. 'Ha, ha, ha!'

The ghosts have come and done their work and gone, but I need a higher dose each Christmas. More ghosts!

And so, in a shop under the railway station, near where the old women beg for themselves and their dogs, I bought a fruitcake.

Now half of it is gone. I mean to describe it in detail if a piece holds still on my plate long enough. As I recall, though, this fruitcake has chunks of alien-sweet green and yellow and red, and gooey dark blobs that could be anything – bakers's thumbtips, lost mice – cured with a deep, deep, trance-inducing sweet.

But just now, while I type this word and this, from the radio on the bare wooden table in the kitchen, a violin plays "'tis a gift to be simple, 'tis a gift to be free," and I will take it for a sign to be quiet and to make the morning tea this Christmas Eve.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

I sleep all day under a quilt and two blankets and a cat.

I dream I go to a whorehouse for Christmas. This is a quaint country whorehouse with bare wooden floorboards, with landscapes on the walls. I am sentimentally teary as I look through a drawer of past Christmases, little stickers printed with snow, years, and stars.

There is a desk here and a door behindthroughwhich appears Santa from his office. There is a bed now behind me with a shiny paisley quilt. It is here where Santa and I will have sex, and this doesn't phase me.

But when I turn, there is Santa, lying on the bed, dressed in a reindeer suit, his head propped up on one hoof.

I have to unspool this thing awhile. No titles. No subjects. See what comes of the reformation.