Sunday, January 29, 2017

January 29: A Poem for the Outcast, Busy Work, Hell Days, Classic Saint Marty

I find myself preoccupied with thoughts of refugees from war-torn countries at the moment.  Innocent people caught in the middle of political violence.  A while ago, I wrote a poem about this subject:

Surviving the Bomb

by:  Martin Achatz

At 2 a.m., I wake from dreams, nauseous,
Sweaty as my daughter’s breaking fever,
Convinced I was in Hiroshima just after
Little Boy detonated in resurrection light,
The air, wave after wave of heat, took
Breath and buildings away, left
Skeletons, black fingers pointing
Heavenward, at the ascended Jesus,
At God, accusations blasted into skin,
Kimono flowers, leaves,
Fat keloid blossoms across spine, shoulder.
I rise, stumble to kitchen, sit on floor,
Remind myself of date, year, time.
Over and over.  August 6.  1945.  8:15 a.m.
A prayer.  A chant.  To bring me back.
My fridge.  My table.  My house.
My life.  I swim, kick to surface,
The cells of my body not weak
With charged atom, not in process
Of firestorm, decay.  I breathe
Breaths, hear my son cry out
In his crib.  My son.  My daughter.
My wife.  I remain in darkness, aware
Of winter air on my arms and legs.
Grateful.  I think of how Hiroshima,
One month after, cracked, opened
With goosefoot, morning glories, sesame,
Spanish bayonets and day lilies,
How ash and bones grew green,
Everywhere, grass, bean, weed.
Green, green, green.  Everywhere.  Green.

It has been another day of busy work.  School work.  Grading.  Lesson planning.  Now, blogging--the most pleasant part of my afternoon.  Time to be a little creative, feel connected with somebody beside myself.

I'm going to hit the ground running tomorrow.  Mondays are my hell days this semester.  I work, teach in the afternoon and evening.  Three hours of second semester composition.  I love the class and students, but, by 9 p.m., my brain has been converted into pea soup.

However, I'm grateful for the classes that I'm teaching.  There are quite a few contingent professors in the English Department who did not get teaching assignments.

Four years ago, I was focusing on the Feast of the Presentation, which occurs on February 2 in the Catholic liturgical year.  It's all about celebrating light and joy,  The Prince of the poor and outcast.  Pretty apt for our current times in the United States . . .

January 29, 2013:  Jesus, the Kettle Drum, Simeon

...The thing Jesus really would've liked would be the guy that plays the kettle drums in the orchestra.  I've watched that guy since I was about eight years old.  My brother Allie and I, if we were with our parents and all, we used to move our seats and go way down so we could watch him.  He's the best drummer I ever saw.  He only gets a chance to bang them a couple of times during a whole piece, but he never looked bored when he isn't doing it.  Then when he does bang them, he does it so nice and sweet, with this nervous expression on his face.  One time when we went to Washington with my father, Allie sent him a postcard, but I'll bet he never got it.  We weren't too sure how to address it.

Holden has ended up at Radio City Music Hall.  He watches the Rockettes kicking their way through the Christmas show, and, of course, he thinks it's a load of crap.  He doesn't buy into all the "Come All Ye Faithful!" holiness.  In fact, Holden is sure it would make Jesus puke if He saw it.  Instead, Holden finds inspiration in something a lot simpler--the guy who plays the kettle drums in the orchestra.  As the passage shows, both Allie and Holden find this drummer completely authentic.  When he isn't playing the drums, he's focused and serious, and when he does get to play, he makes a sound "nice and sweet."  He doesn't show off.  He just creates a beautiful noise.

February 2, this Saturday, is the feast of the Presentation.  That's the day Mary and Joseph brought the infant Christ to the Temple in Jerusalem for purification and dedication.  As a sacrifice, they brought the standard offering of poor people--two turtledoves.  Of course, the Holy Family are met by Simeon in the Temple, and Simeon recognizes the Baby as the Messiah.  He takes Jesus in his arms and declares Him to be "the Savior, the Light of the Gentiles and the Glory of Israel."

The thing that amazes about the Presentation is that it isn't someone rich and important who knows the Christ Child.  It's an old man, nobody of consequence.  Like the shepherds of the Christmas narrative, Simeon sings the praises of the Baby.  It's always the humble and poor who first know the Son of God.  I think that's what Holden appreciates about the kettle drummer, as well.  His nervous humility.  As Holden might say, he's not "show-offy."  I agree with Holden.  Show-offy people make Jesus want to puke.  Simeon is not show-offy, either.

On the feast of the Presentation, candles are blessed in the Catholic Church and carried in a procession.  My Lives of Saints explains, "[t]he blessed beeswax candles typify the humanity that God the Son assumed, and signify that Jesus Christ is the True Light of the world..."  The True Light, born in a stable, praised by shepherds and old men.  King of Humility.  Prince of the Poor.

Saint Marty thinks that's something to beat the kettle drum for.

Time to make a joyful noise

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