I, on the other hand, have been correcting and grading all weekend. Tomorrow, I will rise at my normal time, stumble through the dark to the bathroom, and start my day as usual. A bowl of Honey Nut Cheerios. A few minutes of the morning news. Then, out the door to face the icy world.
Last year, it was Easter weekend. I was getting dressed for church. Setting out some carrots for the Easter Bunny. Anticipating the lights of the Easter Vigil:
March 26, 2016: Easter Vigil Mass, Flickering Candles, Billy Collins, "Catholicism"
I owe my disciples a few Billy Collins poems. I will offer no excuses for neglecting the former Poet Laureate of the United States. But, I intend to make up for my negligence today.
Of course, Billy Collins is Irish American, so he has all of the Catholic trappings that I have in my background, as well. The poem I have chosen to share with you is about guilt and redemption (in a way). Totally appropriate for Holy Saturday.
Tonight, I will be playing the pipe organ and singing at the Easter Vigil Mass at my church. Lots of darkness and candles and fire and incense. Two hours of celebration. This may not sound like a fun way to spend a Saturday night, but the Easter Vigil is the most beautiful worship service of the year. It causes me great stress--I have three pages of Gregorian chant to sing. But there is something about seeing the church filled with the night and then slowly filling with flickering candles that moves me deeply.
Saint Marty is ready for the light.
by: Billy Collins
There's a possum who appears here at odd times,
often walking up the path to the house
in the middle of the day like a little ghost
with a long tail and a blank expression on his face.
He likes to slip behind the woodpile,
but sometimes he gets so close to the window
where I am standing with a glass in my hand
that I start to review my sins, systematically
going from one commandment to the next.
What is it about him that causes me
to begin an examination of conscience,
calling to mind my failings in this time of reflection?
It could just be the twitching of the tail
and that white face, but his slow priestly pace
also makes a contribution, as do the tiny paws,
more like hands, really, with opposable thumbs
able to carry a nut or dig a hole in the earth
of lift a chalice above his head
or even deliver a document,
I am thinking as he nears the back door,
not merely a subpoena but an order
of excommunication with my name and a date
written in fine Italian ink
and signed with a flourish of the papal sash.
And a poem from another Poet Laureate, this one not quite so famous or rich or talented:
Empire of the Ants
by: Martin Achatz
I remember the film vaguely:
Joan Collins battled an army
Of mutated ants, big as African
Rhinos, things still driven by insectile
Instinct to gather food, store it
For cold months, for a ravenous
Queen and her blind larvae.
Ants swarmed schools, houses, boats,
Like Greeks laying siege to Troy.
They carried off victims to tunnels,
Chambers of sand and decay,
Moved fast, in a perpetual state
Of urgency, because they somehow
Knew it was only a matter of time
Before Collins and her crew
Invented a magnifying glass
Big enough to fry thorax, antenna,
Wreak Armageddon, restore
The planet to its proper, human
Balance. This summer, ants overrun
My house. From a June and July
Filled with heat, drought, they find
Sanctuary in my cool kitchen,
The dust of sugar on counter,
Peach residue on bowl and rag.
In the mornings, I flip on lights,
Watch ants scatter like shadows
Across sink, floor, garbage can.
I press my thumb on stragglers,
Feel them curl, burst under
My pressure. Most retreat until
Darkness returns, until they sense
Safety, like a crumb of brownie,
A core of apple, calling them out.
The way toxic waste called the mutants.
The way the horse called Trojans.
The way sirens called Ulysses,
Made the rocks soft, inviting,
Sweet as Penelope’s thighs.