Sunday, December 27, 2020

THE BLESSINGS OF FAMILY

Today is the Feast of the Holy Family in the Catholic Church, and it was a true celebration of family for me.  Last night I went to Mass with my oldest daughter and her family and my second daughter and her family. There were 15 of us and we filled four pews of the patio outside where we had Mass.  I thought of the difference between Christmas and Easter. At Easter, I was alone for the first time in my life and could only watch Mass on live stream.  I remember it being a rather somber time with the Pope giving a special Urbi et Orbi  blessing in a rainy, empty St. Peter's Square, and the Easter Vigil Mass filmed in our parish in an almost empty church. Now we can once again go to Mass and receive Communion, and to be able to attend with so much of our family was a great blessing I also will no longer take for granted. I treasure every hug and every chance to talk in person; playing Christmas duets outside with three of my grandsons on trumpet, horn, and trombone was something I had been hoping to be able to do for a long time.

The reading from Isaiah for Christmas has the line, "The Lord has bared his holy arm," not to strike his enemies dead, but to reach down and offer us his son, a baby born to a homeless, migrant family who could find only a cave with a feeding trough where they could lay him, a tiny child vulnerable and pursued by the soldiers of Herod, his fugitive parents fleeing over the 400 miles of desert to Egypt where they had to learn a new language, adapt to a new culture and build a new life.

PASSAGES

I remembered looking down at the star carved

in the stone of the narrow niche hung with lamps

and thought of the long journey to arrive—

the crowds, the smells, the noise,

no hospital, no rooms or beds, or compassion

until someone pointed to a cave forgotten

in the onslaught of winter travelers

with a pile of straw in a corner where they could           rest

for, of all who came, they looked the weariest

until at the child’s dawning they rejoiced

and angels began to fill up the sky,

whose silent echoes I still heard in Bethlehem.

Sunday, December 13, 2020

FIREWORDS

Over the last couple of months, I have been reflecting on the process of writing my chapbook, Portal of Light.  It is curious to see how much it has changed since I began it.  In the early days of its construction, I had done quite a bit of research into ziggurats and flung up scaffolding around the main section of the chapbook as I built up the sections in layers and planted trees, shrubs and flowers as I raised the whole structure into a cohesive whole on which I could drape my poetry like the mythical hanging gardens of Babylon. It appeared to be created somewhat haphazardly; I began with a poem on our fifth daughter and did not proceed chronologically, except in ending with our son, who was sixth.

The sections on meeting the boy who would become my husband, our marriage, and ultimately his death and my widowhood did proceed in order in the chapbook although the years that included his illness and death and my becoming a widow seemed more like an illusory zigzag than an orderly progression of days and months.  

At some point, I was reflecting on a particular day and said that it had been productive but not full of fireworks. When I first wrote that, I said it had not been full of "firewords," which is a good description of what I am writing when I am into full-blown creative mode.

The ending of a poem I wrote for my poetry mentor, Colette Inez, is a good illustration of "firewords."

The poet's spell curls in from the sea,

bellows on billows sizzling foam and spume

forged into dazzling interior flares

so even our fingertips bloom into fire and flight.


Standing here, I juggle your spangled lines

fire-kindled, hammered to amber that sings

and burns:

splash them in clear streams

where they congeal into facets of crystal 

or filaments of flame, lash ourselves to dream

in their distant beauty till we ignite,

breathe them into bubbles, ether, champagne, 

blow them into glass, pour their wild

heat into molten sorcery

throw them on the wheel to rise on air

illuminated with radiant runes

dip our brushes in their dripping oil,

burnish them, weld them, whittle them into wings

to spiral Everest, ski them down astounded

Fuji, swirling calligraphy on scrolls,

enter their icons at door of the eye and shine

                    in aureole.


                            (from "Watching the Minting of Words" ©2020)


When I look back at something I have written and find that it expresses exactly what I hoped to say--and it often develops into more than I originally intended--I feel as if I am suddenly aflame, like a liquidambar tree that overnight exchanges its green cloak for raiment that has burst into garnet and gold, its pointed leaves transformed into tongues of fire.

My soul dances, taking effervescent leaps into the air, twirling trails of sparkling words and reverberating phrases like a gymnast's ribbon streamers, curving about into a spiral of gold and bursting forth into bell-rounded melodies with the ringing resonance of French horns.

As I enter more deeply into "Portal of Light" and submit to my daughter Mary's sculpting away of the dross, including the skeleton of the ziggurat, its heart occasionally leaps into a beat, heat rises in sparse streams of mist, and the wings begin to flutter at the tips. The spirit of creation begins to creep from one verse to another, animating the limp pages, and pouring fresh new color into pale icons.

Such kaleidoscopic pageantry as we head into the last week before the turning of the year and the lengthening of days and the distant light of spring!



Sunday, December 6, 2020

OF MASKS AND OTHER STORIES WE TELL

When I woke up early one morning, I was pondering the swirling debate over wearing masks.  I haven't been able to figure out quite why some people are so opposed to them. Yes, they are annoying to wear, but there do seem to be some valid scientific studies that indicate that they can protect the wearer as well as those who are around them from the possibility of spreading or catching Covid-19.

I remember that one of my daughters, who is a biochemist, told me that at one time she attempted to put all the facts together in an article for friends who were concerned that vaccinations could cause autism. She provided the information that the doctor who had published the original article claiming that vaccines could cause autism admitted that he made it up and that there are no peer-reviewed studies that give any credence to the theory that vaccines could cause autism. She was able to convince a  few of her friends who trusted her integrity and her scientific background, but most of those whom she knew just refused to believe it, and instead continued to put their children  at risk by refusing to vaccinate. Apparently, if someone believes a story that later is shown to be false, it is very hard for them to give up their belief in the first story. In fact, she discovered that the more you try to argue with someone, the harder they cling to their unsubstantiated position.

The mask and vaccine controversies, and the unwillingness of some to change their minds in the face of overwhelming evidence had me so puzzled that I couldn't go back to sleep.

However, as I continued to ponder this conundrum, it occurred to me that there is another controversy where the scientific evidence has piled up and yet it is being ignorantly or--by those who are making money from it--deliberately ignored. The most marginalized people in this country are those who can be killed because they are black or female or disabled or inconvenient because their geographic location makes them fair game. When you look at racism in this country, consider the fact that twenty million black human beings have been targeted and killed: that is half the black population of the United States.

From the time that Lennart Nilsson's spectacular photographs of the child in the womb were published in Life magazine in 1965, the "Drama of Life before Birth," gave evidence that what was growing in the womb was alive and human.  Yet those who believe that it is acceptable to end that life hide behind phrases such as reproductive freedom. It is curious that those who not long ago said that abortion should be safe, legal, and rare, now demand that it be accepted up until the moment of birth, and that if a child should somehow escape the abortionist's poison or knife or crushing forceps, the doctor and the mother should decide whether anything should be done to help what is clearly a newborn baby.  It is curious that an ad that showed people who had survived abortions was rejected for the Superbowl. The commercial featured more than a dozen abortion survivors in varying stages of their lives from around the world, who asked, "Can you look me in the eye and say I should have been aborted?" The youngest abortion survivor featured is 7-year-old Zechariah Hagan, one of the first abortion pill reversal (APR, a treatment to reverse the effects of an initial dose of an abortion drug) success stories. The commercial was not graphic or violent in any way; these people were just asking why they had had no rights when someone was trying to kill them before they were born.  In addition, if it weren't for the financial gain, it seems odd that abortionists do not want women seeking abortions to see the ultrasound of the human being they are considering killing. Probably because 75% of those who see the ultrasound choose not to have the abortion, and that is bad for business.  What happened to freedom of choice?  Or why should an abortion clinic not be forced to follow the same safety and hygiene regulations as any other free-standing medical clinic? The clinic where Dr. Kermit Gosnell performed abortions and killed babies who escaped his deadly techniques by cutting their spinal cords was never examined for years although there had been many complaints. For the full horror story, the movie Gosnell: The Trial of America's Biggest Serial Killer recounted the actual events that led to the trial of Kermit Gosnell, a physician and abortion provider who was convicted of first-degree murder in the deaths of three infants born alive, involuntary manslaughter in the death of a patient undergoing an abortion, 21 felony counts of illegal late-term abortion, and 211 counts of violating a 24-hour informed consent law. The film is the true story of the investigation and trial of Gosnell, his 30-year killing spree, and the political and media establishment that tried to cover it up. He was finally sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Now those who believe that abortion is killing are being told that we must pay for it with our taxes, and that doctors and nurses must kill the unborn no matter what their religious beliefs are. I believe we are coming to a point, just as we did before the Civil War, when the slaveowners in the South were not satisfied with being allowed to keep their slaves, but Northerners were being told that they must accept slavery because the slave was less than human. And those of us who object to the indiscriminate killing of human beings in the womb are being told that we must accept it because those human beings are also less than human. 

If we can believe that, it's no wonder that some people don't believe that masks offer some protection against Covid-19. After all, there have only been 270,000 deaths attributable to the coronavirus in the U.S. That number seems very high and we are right to be concerned about it. However, since 1973, there have been over 61 million abortions in the United States.  This number dwarfs the number of coronavirus deaths; while our first responders have been fighting non-stop to prevent Covid-19 deaths, abortionists deliberately cause the deaths of all those unborn human beings and sell baby parts at a profit (Planned Parenthood executives under oath admitted this). 

I have a hard time accepting rage against someone who won't wear a mask while we calmly accept the destruction of millions of human beings in their mothers' wombs. Perhaps it's the fact that we fear someone not wearing a mask threatens us, while an abortion merely destroys an anonymous, unseen child who cannot ask us for help or protection. Where is the mask that will protect that little girl or boy?