Revision

As a writer, what type of relationship do you have with your creations?

Brian’s sense of humor isn’t right…

Revision:

© Joseph Saling and The New Word Mechanic 2013.

For another take — a magnificent take — on a writer and her character, you must see this video of a poem by by Astrid ‘Artistikem’ Cruz. Then visit the project website at the link below.

Here is the site: A Study on Character Development.

For a Few Days More

If you hurry…

…you can still catch my story “Fireflies” in the lead position of the July issue of The Bacon Review. Simply click on the title after reading the editor’s comments on the left side of the front page. If you wait, you’ll still be able to see it, but you’ll need to go to the archives section of the The Bacon Review Web site. Whether you read the story now or later in the archives, there’s space on the site for you to leave a comment. I’d like to know what you think.

In the meantime, enjoy Ennio Morricone’s music.

Pange Lingua

Group portrait of children at their First Comm...

Group portrait of children at their First Communion, Holyrood School, Swindon, 1949 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If you know the words, sing along while you listen to the poem.

On Taking First Communion in the Hospital After He Was Struck by a Car

(March 5)

When he heard the angels sing, they sounded more
Like sirens. Strapped to a board, riding through
The red-lighted city, he called out for
His mother to make them stop. He’d lost a shoe.
His stomach hurt, and their song, he knew, was death.

He couldn’t see her, but he heard her speak
To men up front then say to him, It’s best
To let them be. It’s not that far. Just keep
Holding my hand.
He asked her was he dying.
Of course you’re not. God’s not done with you.

When they arrived, they made her let go her hold.
I can’t come, she said, I have to do what I’m told,
And left him by himself in a room, lying
On a table, afraid to think what God might do.

(March 19)

White walls and sheets, white pillow. Pale white light
From fluorescent tubes. Even his gown is white.
The priest wears a black cassock and white surplice,

Takes out a gold case he lays on the white surface
Of the bedside table, and holds up a wafer
Whiter than the prayer book his father placed there.

What did they say he was to say? My Lord,
I am not worthy
. But only say the word
And my soul will be as white as this room I’m in
.

The body tastes sweet, but not as sweet as the wine
That follows. And when he hears his mother’s voice
It seems an angel speaks and says the choice

To take communion is an early sign
He surely has a place in God’s design.

(April 20)

Days pass, then a month. It seems forever.
Then a nun arranges them two by two.
They march across the street together.
They wait their turn in a wooden pew.

Then a nun arranges them two by two
To go inside the confessional box.
They wait their turn in a wooden pew.
They listen while the sister talks.

To go inside the confessional box,
She says, they’ll need to remember their sins.
They listen while the sister talks.
She tells them how confession begins.

She says they’ll need to remember their sins
To ask the priest to be forgiven.
She tells them how confession begins
With an act of genuine contrition.

To ask the priest to be forgiven
They march across the street together.
With an act of genuine contrition
Days pass, then a month, it seems forever.

(May 19)

Once in the church they stand against the wall
As sister shows them how their hands must point
To heaven and their eyes always look down
As if they were little lambs. Then she calls
Them to the altar railing. When they join
Her there, she makes them kneel. Don’t look around.

First wait, then cross your arms over your chest.
Look up, put out your tongue, and close your eyes.
Remember, remember this. Whatever you do,
Never open your mouth and never chew.
Just bow your head. You’ve the living God inside.
Let the host dissolve and know that for the rest
Of your life God will always be a part
Of you, both in your mind and in your heart.

(May 24)

On Sunday children gather at the school
And walk across the street, like little lambs.

They enter the church where sunlight filters through
The blues and reds of sainted glass. Their hands
Pointing to heaven, they walk down the aisle.

Sister said no first communion a second time,
And so from a place apart he watches while
Each takes the bread and sees none gets the wine.

In the vestibule he stands off to one side.
His father shakes their hands. The nuns delight
In patting heads of carefully combed hair
And call each a vessel where God abides.

He suffocates in all the filtered light
But once outside dissolves in the sun’s white glare.

© Joseph Saling and The New Word Mechanic, 2004, 2013.

The music is from the Medieval Latin hymn Pange, Lingua, Gloriosi Corporis Mysterium, which means “Tell, tongue, the mystery of the glorious body.”

An editor told me they prefer to use the plural pronoun rather than he or she and be correct.

A Scene from Twelfth Night by William Shakespe...

A Scene from Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare: Act V, Scene i (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Oxford Dictionaries Web site says the use of the plural third person pronoun as an alternative to the “he or she” construction is actually a throwback to 16th century English and is gaining in popularity and acceptance. But I can’t help it. It sounds ignorant or just plain lazy, especially when editors, whose job is to help writers be precise and effective in their use of the language, are the ones advocating it.

Correctness in the use of language isn’t about blindly following rules. It’s about meaning and clarity. It’s about being understood. Consider this:

If your child wants good grades they need to pay attention in school and study.

Who are they? And exactly how are they going to help my child?

An editor recently told me her company (I could have said their company but chose not to) are moving toward making the use of the plural pronoun part of the house style. When I pointed out that the use of they in the sentence above is open to misinterpretation and gets in the way of effective and efficient communication, her explanation was that the copy editor had pointed out that Shakespeare had used the construction, so it is ok to use it now.

I didn’t really have an answer other than to point out that Shakespeare also used “thou” and “hath,” which didn’t impress the editor very much. But then I got to thinking that citing Shakespeare’s use as a justification for unorthodox constructions could solve some problems a lot of people worry about. Here’s a sampling of Shakespearean constructions you can point to when someone tells you you don’t speak good:

English: banner Shakespeare

English: banner Shakespeare (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If you want to use one part of speech for another (for instance you want to google something) Shakespeare said:

  • This day shall gentle his condition. (From Hamlet)

If you want to alter the meaning of an adjective here’s how Shakespeare did it:

  • Wherever in your sightless (= invisible) substances. (From Macbeth)
  • That is deceivable (= deceptive). (From Twelfth Night)

If you don’t want to bother checking for subject-verb agreement:

  •  These high wide hills … draws out our miles and makes them wearisome (From Richard II)

If you’re tired of determining whether it’s he or him or it’s who or whom:

  •  Yes, you may have seen Cassio and she together. (From Othello)
  • Pray you, who does the wolf love? (From Coriolanus)

If you’re not sure of how to form the comparative or superlative and it’s just too hard to look it up:

  • And his more braver daughter could control thee. (From The Tempest)
  • With the most boldest and best hearts of Rome (From Julius Caesar)

If you need to cut insignificant words (such as to or for) to stay within an arbitrary word limit:

  • As deep as to the lungs, who does me this? (From Hamlet)

I found these examples — and there’s more to see — at the Shakespeare Resource Center Web site.

Before you check it out, though, why not join the fray below…

 

The Only Constant Is Change

Even the rate of change changes.

The following poem was originally published in Birmingham Poetry Review, No. 31, Summer/Fall 2005.

(Try playing the video and audio tracks together; just wait for the music to start before starting the audio.)

From the Choir Loft

Singing is twice praying.

On alternating days we sang the Mass
At seven, boys, then girls, then boys again.
Sometimes the only ones who’d show
To sing were me and Hal the organist,
And I could barely hum a note. Refrains
Eluded me, so Hal would sing it solo.

Now Hal had music in his hands and feet;
The organ‘s pipes were a part of him.
But when he tried for music from his throat,
Well, Father said it sounded kind of sweet
If sweet meant scratchy, hoarse, and thin
And not unlike the bleating of a goat.

Mosaic vault showing the Lamb of God, the Patr...

From Kyrie to Agnus Dei, Hal
Sang all the parts, sang treble, alto, bass
And never worried what the music said.
The words were all that mattered. Still somehow
He’d hit the final note then turn his face
And wink at me and proudly raise his head.

Hal quit the church when Kyrie became
The simple English Lord and anyone
Who wanted stood and strummed communal chords
For masses where the singing was the same
As elevator sap, and Hal seemed stunned
To learn that music is in deed the words.

© Joseph Saling and The New Word Mechanic, 2005, 2013.

Experiences in Sound

A photo of the inside of Pisa's Duomo

A photo of the inside of Pisa’s Duomo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Experience in Sound 3

Play both tracks together.

The Miracle (from A Matter of Mind)

The Miracle

It’s as if the statue moved — just a hair
But moved. With my own eyes I saw it turn,
The gold glitter of the crown dance then spurn
All sense to leave its place in the sun. The air
Was charged with stained light and I knelt down there,
Half in fear — yes — but I felt my soul yearn
To touch a marble hem and thereby learn
A secret of God that would be mine alone to share.
There should be, I thought, music, but there was none.
Only the wind through the choir loft — and my breath.
All was as it had been, and I, the only one
To see it, stood alone as at my own death.
With dread I stepped forth, and yet I did so believing
That no loving god could ever be so deceiving.

© Joseph Saling and The New Word Mechanic, 2004, 2013.

A Poem for Spring

Morris dancing in Minneapolis, Minnesota on Ma...

Morris dancing in Minneapolis, Minnesota on May Day morning 2007. Team is Bells of the North. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This poem is the opening poem from my book A Matter of Mind (Foothills Publishing, 2004.) It has just recently been set to music by Chris  Harford who has included it on his new album. I am of course pleased, although there are some unsettled issues about permissions that need to be resolved. I’ve told him that once the issues are worked out, I’ll add a link so you can find it easily and download his music.

Morris Dancing

The morning and the evening glimmer.
Heaven turns and the earth’s heart swells.
Dancers in their ribbons shimmer.
Peepers sound like Morris bells.

These people have their drums and horns.
They have their songs and watchers’ eyes.
Callers tell them of their forms.
And with their simple faith in earth and sky

The dancers’ feet repeat the sounds
Of new life stirrings underground
And with their steps and songs awaken
Ancient legends the world’s forsaken.

They dance for Demeter‘s cyclic plight,
And the earth responds with green delight.

© Joseph Saling and The New Word Mechanic, 2004, 2013.

Zipporah

Zipporah (left) from Botticelli's Trial of Moses.

Zipporah (left) from Botticelli’s Trial of Moses. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The following poem is from A Matter of Mind (Foot Hills Publishing, 2004).

Zipporah

(I)
Egyptian, why’d you come if all you want’s
To sit and stare at cracks that climb the walls?
My breast that longs to feel your hand caress
It lies here bare while you ignore my needs.
You might as well not stay as make me feel
I have no husband. Tell me what I’ve done
To make you turn your face away from me.
Please help me understand, Moses, why you
Have shut me so completely from you life.

I wish I knew your dreams. Each night I lie
Beside you while you toss and cry out names —
Egyptian names I’ve never heard you say
But names demanding terror even here.
I want to see the things you see, but how?
Aren’t I your wife? And didn’t Father take
You in, make you a son, and give you all
He has? Then why do you reject us now
With silence, Moses? Tell me what I’ve done.

(II)
Zipporah, near Mt. Horeb, where I take
The sheep to feed, I found a bush still green
And unconsumed by desert sun. The sheep
Won’t touch it. And as I wondered at it, I
Removed my sandals. I felt as if I stood
On holy ground. Then to this place a man
Who’d fled from Egypt came and asked
If I could give him water, and I did.
And while he drank, he told a brutal tale

Of evil winding in Egyptian sands,
Of Hebrew bodies covered with raw sores,
Of babies starved because their mothers, not
Allowed near wells, go dry. And as he talked
I raised my hands to look at them. Look here.
This skin, Zipporah, it’s their skin. Their sores
Have covered both my palms. I dropped my staff.
I stared at him. I stammered. Then I asked
Could no one help, and all he said was, “You.”

(III)
No, Moses, don’t think that. Come here and lie
Beside me. There is nothing you can do.
You left them long ago. Lie here with me.
We are your kin, and you’ve become like us.
This desert land, Egyptian, is your home.
Let Pharaoh answer for his sins. Don’t take
Them on yourself. The people there don’t want
Your help. They ran you off. They’re Pharaoh’s slaves.
You have your life. Leave justice up to God.

© Joseph Saling and The New Word Mechanic, 2004, 2013.

Pain Shadow (on exhibit)

Congratulations to Robyn Lee on the acceptance of her fine work for exhibit by PainExhibit.org. Go see her post entitled Pain Shadow (on exhibit) on her Through the Healing Lens blog, But don’t just stop with the one post. Take the time to read her story and then wander through the images and words. It’s time well spent.