New year. New year. Nothing new. Forever old, forever new.
Something borrowed, something blue.
Diane near tears, no, in tears New Year’s Eve because she does not want the other goldfish to die. We both have COVID. Half the world, at the moment, has COVID. Perhaps it is the little misery inculcated by the virus that makes her tearful and unhappy, not merely the life of a goldfish. I feel it. And I don’t want the goldfish to die, either.
There were two goldfish in the AquaGarden mini-pond. They were the two out of four that survived, the other two disappearing instantly. Disappeared in the five-gallon ocean. Where did they go? Into the abyss.
The remains of one turned up when I probed the waters deep in the dark rear of the small bowl-shaped tank, feeling blindly, because the area is covered by the plastic semi-circle wedge of garden above it, from which spills a little waterfall. That’s why I wanted this aquagarden — for the sound of that waterfall out there in the Florida room.
I wanted a piece of the fabled Garden of Eden in my Florida room, with its little bar of subaqueace light, like a ray of penetrating midnight sunlight, even in the unlit room.
I am going on — on the first day of the near year — about two fish in a plastic bowl of water. Somehow, it seems fitting. Should I write of the wildfires sweeping Colorado? Of the virus? Indirectly, I am. I am speaking of, writing of, the fear and despair it is possible to feel along the smallest ranges of our paltry existences. We express it, unawares, when we speak of the smallest things.
The nature of despair, said the Norwegian philosopher, is that it is unaware of being despair.
God, I’m in pieces today. I fear I’m about to waste another year.
Wait…as the carol asks, ‘do you hear what I hear?’ It will seem a fake and cringe-worthy deus ex machina…but…
I hear bells. I hear the bells of the consecration from the television mass playing in the other room.
William Carlos Williams:
Tho’ I’m no Catholic
I listen hard when the bells
in the yellow-brick tower
of their new church
ring down the leaves
ring in the frost upon them
and the death of the flowers
ring out the grackle…
ring for the ringing!
the beginning and the end
of the ringing! Ring ring
ring ring ring ring!
Catholic bells –!
I kneel. The world would see a fool, if it could see me, kneeling to bells. At the very idea of — incarnation. God Incarnate. One God in Three Divine Natures. Kid’s stuff.
Baltimore Catechism. Who made us? God made us? Who is God? God is the Supreme Being who made all things.
This is under Lesson 1: The Purpose of Man’s Existence
(Oh, yeah? What about “Woman Existence?”, I hear someone, a man, formerly a woman, but now married to a woman who was formerly a man, snidely bellowing in protest from out of the dark galleries of 2021, now ever darker in 2022.
Hoc est enim corpus meum
Religion is for fools. A radio reporter colleague of mine, now semi or fully retired — and a very decent guy — once uttered, in passing, that religion is for sheep. I happened to learn later that his daughter was going to divinity school.
Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi…
The pope, the holy father, the boss has gone to war with those who pray Latin at mass, traditional people. He’s obviously, by slow measures, wants to cancel their tradition. We wants us to be modernists. He is spreading despair — the holy pontiff, smiling, spreading despair and division in the name of God. The world loves him, but wonders why he fails to change everything, bring the whole rotten Catholic house down, since it is clearly only some cruel, anachronistic resurgent soviet empire in need of repurposing as a kind of Red Cross or club. He needs to say gender is a choice. He hasn’t, and won’t. He’s Catholic, after all. Every fool is a Catholic, right?
The smaller of the two goldfish is, perhaps, dead somewhere in that murky pool below fake lilly pad and rocks I bought at the Florida rock and garden store. (One must BUY rocks in Florida.) The water may have grown toxic, maybe killing the fish. Perhaps global warming has come to the Florida room, killing off species.
Diane loves the fish. She loves the birds. She is a loving person. She loves me, even though I ignore her like the vilest of sinners, like some cold fish. I guess I model my religion by being insufferable.
Happy New Year.
Fish in the little artificial pond, birds that too seldom visit the almost exhausted feeders out in the scrub of the little back yard — here is sorrow, perplexity and despair.
The choir is singing in the other room.
Robinson Jeffers wrote in 1928 in the poem “Meditation on Saviours” (sic), I pledged myself awhile ago not to seek refuge, neither in death nor in a walled garden,
In lies nor gated loyalties, nor in the gates of contempt, that easily lock the world out of doors.
What does he mean? It doesn’t sound good. Poets can be so deliberately and passionately ambiguous. But I guess that’s life. What’s clear? Life’s an ambiguous poem that we all wish went, simply, roses are red, violets are blue, the goldfish swim in brown, dirty water — and I love you.
Isn’t reading a poem or living a life a leap of faith, a leap into the abyss? What’s an abyss? Webster calls it anything too deep for measurement. Sounds about right.
Jeffers, when he invokes the name of Christ, calls His followers “apes.” Sounds about right where I’m concerned, anyway. Can someone make an angel of this ape that is you and me? Isn’t that the promise?
I see the monks, the world over, at prayer on this New Year’s Day, which the Catholic Church, even its divisive, autocratic and quirky pontiff, observes as the Solemnity of Mary, The Mother of God. Who among the millions waking with hangovers knows that? Or cares?
Damn that church with its Mary stuff! Its Mother and Father stuff.
The apes of Christ itch for a sickness they have never known; words and the little envies will hardly
Measure against that blinding fire behind the tragic eyes they have
never dared to confront.
What the hell is old Robinson talking about? Damned if I know. But I feel, however ambiguously, an indictment poking out of the poet’s 1928 mind filled with the sorrowful rubble of bombed out cathedrals and temples. It was, after all, just ten years after that cataclysim — that abysmal (WORLDWIDE) War To End All Wars and just ten year before the start of the Next (WORLDWIDE) War. Virginia Woolf was in such despair over the march to a new war that she filled her pockets with rocks and drowned herself in a stream, in death joining the fish, ungolden, in their gray element.
…and the young Jew writhing on the domed hill in the earthquake, against the eclipse (Jeffers)
The infant Jewish child, the Savior, is still in the manger of my little creche. I must now put Him away, with the shepherds and magi. I must march into another year…
I must learn to write 2022 on the checks. And I must go and spend a great deal of money to fix a tooth that fell apart when I bit into a submarine sandwhich on New Year’s Eve. I must go back to the hard-driving “sponsor” who is pushing me through the “steps”. Up the steps, or down down the steps — to a cement floor somewhere at the bottom of that measureless — abyss?
In 1851, Matthew Arnold visited the famous Carthusian monastery in the French Alps — The Grand Chartreuse. Through Alpine meadows soft-suffused/ With rain, where thick ther crocus blows, / Past the dark forges long disused…..
Robinson Jeffers, not unlike me, would have preferred to stay out there with the flowers, not in the dark, prayerful interior of that retreat. Arnold, too. Can’t blame them.
There were images of the suffering Son of Man on the walls and by the knee-w0rn floor
Noone, to this day, in that same monastary or wherever one finds Carthusian monks, sacrafices more, isolates more, prays more, works more in solitude and silence, producing the famous Chartreuse liqueur. How many monks? I don’t know. (I recall, in dimly remembered Cambridge day in my small redoubt, adding sweet Chartreuse to a solitary drunk, wishing to enchance it however slightly to something beatific. It didn’t. I recall darkness only.
It is a hard calling, a hard life, the monks life, that much of the world, like Robinson Jeffers, saw only as a tragic case of simean fools in slavery to an illusion.
Jeffers seems to embrace mortality, the inevitability of entropy, of the beauty of nature though it all, fish and fowl and plant must die, after which comes the the dark abyss — the grave unconscious depths that lie beneath the shining, roaring blue surface of the Pacific beside which he, Jeffers, lived and loved and wrote.
Arnold, contemplating that Alpine cloister, proclaimed, we are like children rear’d in shade/ Beneath some old-world abbey wall,/ Forgotten in a forest-glade…
Two apes unawars, perhaps. Three, counting me. Or, perhaps, we’re aware, as I am on this New Year’s Day – that January 2nd is coming quickly. I’ll watch some fellow, much younger apes play football on my electronic devices with their big screens and colorful images and voices simulating distant reality, real only in some remote way incomprehensible to me as I sit in my cloister, recovering from infection by a headline-making pathogen invisible to me — knowing I’m looking at paying over a grand to get a broken-down tooth crowned and that it sits right next to another tooth that fell apart years ago and also needs to be crowned for another grand, or more.
Right now, I feel like I’m just dripping paint on a canvas. My Pollock.
Salve Mater misericordiae/ Mater spei et Mater veniae…
Hail, Mother of Mercy, Mother of hope and of pardon, Mother of God and of grace, Mother full of holy joy.
Her feast. My failures to love, my faltering faith. God, forgive me. God, help me.
God, in 2022, I must trust in You. But I don’t really know You.
I believe you can pull me from the abyss.
There is nothing I can explain to the poets. My poet’s soul, my child’s faith flies me over the abyss — toward home….
We stand about in open spaces
And shiver in unlit rooms
T.S. Eliot, Choruses from “The Rock”
Pray for us.