Remains of the Season

Check out this latest post at Roxi St. Clair. (And then spend some time roaming the site. You’ll be glad you did.)
It demonstrates an excellent understanding of the Haiku Sensibility and how to apply it in English poetry. The only suggestion I would make if I were editing the poem would be to consider the word “at” rather than “to” in the fifth line.

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.”

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.

Perseid Remembered

A multicolored, long Perseid meteor striking t...

This past weekend we passed through the peak of the Perseid Meteor Shower, which happens each year near the middle of August. This year is a particularly good year for viewing because of the current phase of the moon. If you missed the show this weekend, you can still look tonight.

This poem was originally published in A Matter of Mind (Foothills Publishing, 2004).

Perseid Remembered

The crow circled once
and fell into the black trees,
invisible bird.

This was on Copper Mountain
where I’d seen the fat groundhog raise its head.

For those who’ll give up the desire to know,
the world is filled with surprise,
like the snake cutting
silently through the water
looking like a stick
or beavers sliding
from the bank where the raccoon
stands splashing its food.

Or that night we sat on a park table watching
unobstructed stars too many to count,
too many to comprehend. We were like children
in front of a store window at Christmas, dazzled
by the dancing lights.
One by one the stars broke free and ran through the sky
along firey trails.
The summer grass moved
and a mysterious form waddled our way —
a white streak on black that seemed to mirror the sky.
And for an instant, before fear rushed us
out of its way and pushed us
back inside our tent,

that wandering skunk
beneath the falling heavens
was a wondrous sight.

© Joseph Saling and The New Word Mechanic, 2004, 2012.