October 12, 2002

Toward an Essay on the

Toward an Essay on the Interpretation of Poetry

Tom Abbot at GoodForm blogged the following poem, among other interesting entries.

A Poem by Robert Frost My friend Steven Riddle (Flos Carmelli) has piqued my interest in poetry. He has posted some good information on how to read poetry that has helped me to see that even I can appreciate poetry.

Anyway, I decided to do a little searching on the web last night for some poetry and I came up with this one by Robert Frost courtesy of The Robert Frost Web Site:

I have been one acquainted with the night.
I have walked out in rain -- and back in rain.
I have outwalked the furthest city light.

I have looked down the saddest city lane.
I have passed by the watchman on his beat
And dropped my eyes, unwilling to explain.

I have stood still and stopped the sound of feet
When far away an interrupted cry
Came over houses from another street,

But not to call me back or say good-bye;
And further still at an unearthly height,
One luminary clock against the sky

Proclaimed the time was neither wrong nor right.
I have been one acquainted with the night.

Afterwards Mr. Abbott asked whether it was proper to treat a poem as a riddle to be solved. In his comment box, this was my answer:

Play with the poem as the poem suggests. If it has for you a puzzle to unlock, then work at the puzzle. If it has a sound to repeat, repeat the sound.

Reading poetry is personally tailored experience. There may be those who have rules and requirements about how you go about it--but the best way to go about it is the way that gives you not just enjoyment, but the great joy of encountering a wonderful work. Frost is a great poet to start with. His lines are lucid, clear, uncompromising. His meanings not always at the surface, sometimes wisps and suggestions.

The poem has engaged you and has suggested to you a riddle. Entertain that aspect of the poem--obviously it has interacted with part of who you are, and speaks to you in the depths. Great art should do that.

Afterwards, Tom blogged a possible interpretation of the poem. He asked whether he was on-target. The following two entries were my replies:

Unless you are the poet in question and you are commenting on how close someone came to your intention, it is sheer pretension to comment on someone else's interpretation.

Interpretation is the interaction of the individual with the poem. In a sense, to paraphrase Harold Bloom, in interpretation the poem reads you.

If what you find is consistent, logical, and satisfying, then one need nothing more from it.

To give you my notion of what the poem is saying (and this is NOT definitive)--I see it as the nighttime lament of the Agnostic looking for God.

He says, I know darkness. I have walked in it again and again. I have walked in the rain and walked beyond any sign of human civilization.

I've looked down the saddest city lane (and seen clearly the evidence that God does not exist)and realizing this hid my face from the person who was seeking to find what I knew.

I have stopped walking at the sound of an interrupted cry--but not one that called me back. etc.

The ambiguity of the time is simply still not knowing--desiring to believe, but in the face of growing evidence not being able to decide to believe.

I'll comment on another reading in the next post.

Now I'll give you a second possible reading, almost diametrically opposed to the first. We'll call this the "St. John of the Cross" reading. (Highly unlikely, given Frost, but very likely considering Steven)

I know the nights of purgations, the darkness of wandering seemingly alone, in penance, in rain. I have wandered far from the things that hold me bound to Earth. I have seen the saddest city street of my soul, a street I am so ashamed of I cannot explain. I have stopped the sound of my feet and heard and interrupted cry. But I am so far called beyond all earthly things, that this temptation does not draw me back from my continual seeking.

At an unearthly height (thus approaching my beloved God) I see the clock against the sky that is neither right nor wrong because I am detached from it. It does not need to mean to me--wrong or right makes no difference to the reality I am experiencing--the dark night of the soul.

Now, given Frost, this is a fanciful interpretation of the work. But the point is that a poem means a million things to a million different readers. And in this case at least a million and one to a million readers, because I have two ways of seeing it.

If you gave me another ten minutes, I could probably come up with yet another possible meaning for it.

That is the joy of good poetry. It has many levels and many possibilities. You read here the man with something on his conscience. I read both the Agnostic and the Mystic. I think elements of the poem can be used to support any of these interpretations.

I would offer for your interpretation the significance of the clock being neither wrong nor right is the sudden realization that you need an alibi and don't know on what to base it.

Ultimately, the joy of poetry is the world that it opens up the the dedicated reader. There are great depths in truly great poets. In lesser poets (among whom I would rank Lord Byron) are tremendous pleasures of language and image.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 07:11 PM | Comments (0)

Back from the Meeting Back

Back from the Meeting

Back from the meeting and I can say that you all had upwards of 70 Carmelites praying for you--some of you by name. It was wonderful and utterly exhausting. I have never seen such a dedicated, serious, loving, concerned, and dynamic group of people. This was my first exposure to the entire Region, and I am stunned and humbled to have been asked to guide this group. Obviously, I am not up to the task, but the Holy Spirit within me will take the lead if only I listen and let Him do what is necessary.

If all Christians could be like these people, we would still have our problems, but there would be the possibility of working them out much more amicably. The day has been a magnificent blessing--I only hope that those who attended were as blessed as I (Acted as MC of the day and gave one of the shorter talks).

Posted by Steven Riddle at 07:05 PM | Comments (0)

Une Piece Surrealiste

I may have complained publicly about so-called surrealist poetry that consists largely of strings of words that together mean nothing. The following, imperfect though it may be, gets at what i would like surrealist poetry to be. So, maybe it's just a different brand of poetry entirely and I'm arguing semantics.

at a lecture

Do we need a synthesis? Sometimes
my ears cannot hear
words and must hear past
words. Then you
wonder which way.
Too much, too often,
and speaking up, the small man said,
"Black please," but they spilled
the milk. And served it
black anayway. It was swept away on the
shoestring of an
old woman's sneakers
as she was shopping through
bin after bin for bargain shoes.
The salesman thought it best to pass
on the bootblack, the season being warm
and the weather turning wet.
Don't you wander where you're going
sometimes, she said, he said, but they doubted both,
and listened to the minister himself.
Where do you find remainders after division has healed
the multiplication of ills? Not as easily
the blacksmith would reply were
he not a

© 2002 Steven Riddle

To paraphrase Eugene Ionesco, from one of the most amusing plays I have read--"Have a lovely cartesian quarter of an hour with it."

Later in the same play, a conversation overheard,

"What about the Bald Soprano?" (La Cantatrice Chauve)

"I love the way she does her hair."

Posted by Steven Riddle at 06:54 AM | Comments (0)

Later Today I hope to

Later Today

I hope to be able to cobble together the first part of a little treatise on the interpretation of poetry. (As a preview--overall I'm against it). And maybe a report on the retreat.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 06:46 AM | Comments (0)

October 11, 2002

One Ring to Rule Them

One Ring to Rule Them All

From Mark Shea's blog--this piece of political commentary.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 06:24 PM | Comments (0)

Blogging Today and Tomorrow I'll

Blogging Today and Tomorrow

I'll be leading a large-area lay Carmelite retreat tomorrow and must soon retreat to reflect and consider what exactly I can say about St. Thérèse that hasn't been said before a million times better. So once I'm done tonight there will be no blogging until Tomorrow afternoon--unless I'm up far earlier than I've any intention of being. But one can never tell.

Please pray for me, and most especially for all the Carmelites who will be gathering tomorrow. We, in turn, shall pray for all of you.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 06:18 PM | Comments (0)

Marian Doctrine Revisited For those

Marian Doctrine Revisited

For those who wondered about the questions asked below, John at Disputations provides a preternaturally clear and apt expalantion of the doctrine of Mary as Mediatrix to offer to our protestant brothers and sisters, if your so inclined. Otherwise, it makes for nice reading and reflection for spiritual growth.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 06:15 PM | Comments (0)

Great Stuff from the Amphibious

Great Stuff from the Amphibious Goat

The blogmaster at Musings of an Amphibious Goat has provided some superb link information for a 32 page version of John Paul II "Love and Responsibility". You may want to take a look at this.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 01:07 PM | Comments (0)

Marian Doctrine Query I may

Marian Doctrine Query

I may be mistaken because I hear from so many partisans, but I thought that Mary was regarded in doctrine as the Mediatrix of All Graces. I've been thinking about this because I have read in places that she has been named mediatrix and coredemptrix. Now, I'm fairly certain the latter title has not been officially conferred, but, once again I could be wrong. Would someone who is more well-versed in these matters, or someone who knows where I could find this in the Catechism or other resource, please leave a comment? Thank you.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 10:59 AM | Comments (0)

Last Post on Dubay's Book

Last Post on Dubay's Book

I have finished reading Fr. Thomas Dubay's wonderful and insightful Blessed Are You Poor (available from Ignatius Press, and highly recommended). This last entry has little to do with poverty, and much to do with the intent of this blog.

from Blessed Are You Poor Fr. Thomas Dubay, S. M.

Pleasures are localized in a particular part of the body. Delicious food delights taste buds but nothing else. Joy is not restricted to one bodily area; rather it accompanies a general well-being of the person as a person. It is compatible with general suffering.

Pleasures are caused by specific material stimulus: food, drink, fragrance, color, sexual contact. Joy arises either from intellectually appreciated stimuli (beautiful music or scenery) or from immaterial reality itself ( a brilliant idea, superb literature, moral goodness, authentic being in love). Pleasure springs from things, for it is a surface phenomenon. Joy springs from beauty and goodness; it is deep in origin and cause and effect.

I would like this blog to, upon occasion, bring joy to one of its readers. I can't hope for every day. But the reason for the blend of reflection, poetry, and other things you see here is to bring some of the beautiful, the good, and the true (note that Fr. Dubay left out the good from his description, perhaps assuming it, but perhaps falling victim to the Keatsian collapse of the Platonic Triad--I would have to ask him). I would like this to be a very calm, very welcoming place--even if it appears a bit daunting--like walking into an elegantly decorated dining room. Please be assured, we are both child-friendly and stain-treated. Have a seat, enjoy yourself. Chat among yourselves or with your host. Hospitality, as any good Benedictine will tell you, is one of the first signs of true charity. Allow me to be hospitable, and tell me how I might better accommodate you.

I recognize that poetry isn't comfortable for everyone. But if you see it often enough, one loses some of that apprehension that has been introduced through the auspices of well-intentioned teachers. It isn't scary, and it can be very beautiful, and very much a reminder that at all times we are surrounded by "clouds of witnesses" and by the loving care of a very personal God.

So please be at home and if you lack anything, please ask it. If it is within my means to offer it, you shall have it.

"Joy is the serious business of heaven."--C. S. Lewis.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 08:32 AM | Comments (0)

An Open Apology I received

An Open Apology

I received a note this morning that suggested that I may have been discourteous or actually rude to some of my guests. If you have received that impression, please accept my deepest apologies and forgive me. The medium of words sometimes lends itself to be misconstrued. Meanings can be derived that were never intended in the original writing. I hope that I have not offended anyone, as that is not my intent and is Anathema to my very core.

If I were to have a difficulty with someone that were to transcend a mere disagreement over terms, ideas, thoughts, or viewpoints, I would never express it in such a way that it would invite comment from others. That is neither charitable, nor particularly polite. So rest assured, if I have an disagreement, or I have been deeply troubled by something, I will take that message off-line to e-mail. I would never involve the blogging community.

I would like this to be a welcoming, open place. If I have in any way made it anything less, please forgive me. Drop me a line in e-mail and I will do what I can to make amends.

Once again, my deepest apologies to any I may have caused harm or difficulty. It is, in fact, the furthest thing from my thoughts.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 08:15 AM | Comments (0)

October 10, 2002

A Tribute to the Hawthorne

A Tribute to the Hawthorne Domincans
A tribute to this group along with some additional comment regarding their fame is available at Disputations. This is a wonderful entry in blogdom. I had always wondered about the Order to which Hawthorne's daughter belonged. (Guess he must have spent a good deal too much time on the Continent?)

Posted by Steven Riddle at 05:35 PM | Comments (0)

Grasping the Truth

I sometimes wonder why we all seem to be so poorly configured for grasping the truth. Why is it that we are so easily led astray? Why do we not focus on what really matters? Why are we always so distant from the Truth our hearts tell us?

I have thought of two comparisons. Many of us think we are mature. What we are, in fact, is aging. Jesus said, speaking of children, that "Unless you come unto me as one of these little ones, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven." I used to view that as a nearly impossible task, having an attitude similar to Nicodemus' when facing the concept of needing to be born again. But now I wonder if Jesus might not have simply been putting things in a very gentle way for us. What I see Him as saying now is, "Look, you can't see it, because your eyes do not see the truth, but every one of you is like these children. You may be adults in body, but in spirit, forget it." In other words, we have no choice but to come unto Him as a Child, because despite our vast knowledge, we keep our eyes and spirits so closed that they do not grow. We are spiritually two-year-olds--most of us.

That is why a Mother Teresa or a Padre Pio seems such a marvel. They've grown beyond the age of two, and they're showing us what has always been there. Think about the way a two- or three- year-old regards their parents. I know my own little boy says to me, "You're my best hero." (Touching the way they express affection--even if ultimately unsupportable--it does make you want to try to live up to that expectation). We look at a Mother Teresa and Padre Pio and we gawp. They are magicians, pulling rabbits out of hats and making people disappear. When, in fact, they simply allowed themselves to be led by grace and to mature. They live in a different realm from the rest of us, because they have entered the Kingdom of God here on Earth. As Jesus told us, "The Kingdom of God is at hand." That means within reach, here and now. Most of us never grow to where we can see the entrance. The great saints have done so, and they constantly try to show us the way. But then, try showing a two-year-old much of anything.

The second analogy I came up with is that we are autistics, but I would call us culpable autistics. An autistic person cannot screen out the figure from the ground in terms of signal. Every impulse has equal importance. A dust mote floating in a beam of light is as significant as a mother's hand. There is no way to filter the sensory data. We have chosen this mode of life. We blind ourselves with the numerous things of the world--the scandals at hand, the improper actions of our brothers and sisters, our new home, our new car, the baseball game, Dharma and Greg, what brand of beer we drink, what kind of food we eat, the clothes we wear. We pay attention to every trivial detail of our lives, and yet we pay no or little attention to those details most important. How am I reflecting God to others? Where do I stand in my prayer life? Do I love my brothers and sisters as I love myself? Do I love God first and foremost, above all and in all? Do I really seek time to pray, or do I flee prayer? We are unable to screen out these motes, from the hand of the Father that beckons us to enter the Kingdom, the door to which is Jesus Christ.

We choose this life, in one sense. We are like Peter Pan's--or worse, like Oskar Matzerath, the vaguely malignant eternal three-year-old of Gunter Grass's The Tin Drum. We refuse to grow up, and we impose this expectation on others, often holding them back. It takes a saint to buck the crowd and to grow despite pressure to stay. It takes courage to walk through the door that is Christ and to live on the other side. It also takes the realization that we are not doing it. We need to drop the lip service and begin the real service. We need to turn to Christ and to not seek out the imperfections of others, but to work with Jesus on resolving our own so that we may help others to see the Door and walk through to new and glorious life.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 09:18 AM | Comments (0)

Work in Progress I wanted

Work in Progress

I wanted to share this for any comments or reactions. There are two points that I am a bit concerned about. First, I realized the title is suggestive of Vachel Lindsay's magnificent "General Booth Enters Heaven." It is not intended to refer to that poem, nor is the content even remotely similar. The second is that it may seem to approach universalism by implication. I am not a universalist, largely because the Church has put the whole idea under Anathema. But let me say that my approach is very similar to what I understand of both Hans Balthasar and, more recently, Richard John Neuhaus. I am somewhat concerned about Jesus saying, "Judge not lest ye be judged." Here I hope I have not judged, but only played out a scenario both possible, and it is my prayer, probable for all us weak mortals.

Jesus Greets Sir Richard Rich

My perjurer,
My chancellor,
my saint-maker,
my conniving fool,
my puppet,
my liar,
my escapee.

Your fine clothes
betray you,
lock you up
again and again.

You ask no
quarter, gave
none. You gave
me a martyr,
and helped to slay
the conscience
of a king
far gone along
that way.

Oh my fellow,
what shall I
do to you?
But for the
prayers of
that merry
one, who twists
words with the rest
of the puzzlers--
with Good Robert
of the Canon Code,
and Jerome
who made me
known to all.
With Thomas
who loved me
with words all straw,
and Francis
who laughs them all
to silliness.
That man, good
friend, has bent
my ear for
year upon year.

So though your case
was perilous
close, my father's
Grace, through my
mother's hands
brought me yet
another bought
with my own blood.

Oh my perjurer,
meet him whom
you doomed and be
welcomed through
his love to
this heaven, though
it be hell
your actions earned.

© 2002 Steven Riddle

Posted by Steven Riddle at 07:45 AM | Comments (0)

October 09, 2002

Camera Obscura Literally. And Like

Camera Obscura


And Like Shadows, Flow Away

Meet me on a plain
of glass.
Fly to me there
we are the only monuments.

Come to me
                        across the water
chasing your reflection
until you fall
                       in love
with a shadow

twin. Together
we will bind
our reflections,
the shadows that chase
us.          And flow away.

© 2002, Steven Riddle

Posted by Steven Riddle at 07:26 PM | Comments (0)

Poetry Offering

Here's my offering for the day. Duck everyone!


Chains bind
and part. They close,
in fences they unite.

My chains burn,

they freeze
and I am part of them,
unwilling to part.

So I wake from darkness
and fall to darkness.
Unclear eyes

refuse to focus
on the world around me.

Seeking to rip
the veils,
I slip on the chains
that bind me.

© 2002, Steven Riddle

Posted by Steven Riddle at 06:54 PM | Comments (0)

More from Fr. Dubay Father

More from Fr. Dubay

Father Dubay certainly write persuasively. Chapter 7 of his book is particularly difficult:

from Blessed Are You Poor Fr. Thomas Dubay, S. M.

Biblical writers were not philosophers, but they knew well enough that material sharing is a consequence of any sincere love. If the goods of earth are extensions of my person and if I love my neighbor as myself, I naturally share my good things. It is idle for me to proclaim concern for the poor, the homeless, for example, and at the same time indulge in elegant dining and drinking, pleasure traveling, and an extensive wardrobe. My life belies my rhetoric.

The third New Testament premise is a corollary of the second. We share with the needy to the point of a rough equality. If I am to love my fellowman as myself, it must follow that I desire that his needs be cared for at least as well as I care for mine. To desire otherwise is not to love him as I love myself.

Our final premise: poverty of spirit is not enough. Availability to others is not enough. A respectful use of creation is not enough. All these are good, of course. They are also convenient and easy prey to rationalization. People who pamper themselves with luxuries can readily convince themselves that they are detached from all they so abundantly use, that they are indeed available to others, that they are dealing with creation respectfully.. . (p. 64-65)

[referring to four New Testament Traditions that "a genuine disciple must share his material possessions with the needy."]
The first is from Luke. When John the Baptist in no uncertain terms demands from the crowd conversion as a preparation for the coming Messiah, the listeners ask what they must do. From the hundreds of precepts in the Old Testament that John could have cited as proof of conversion, he picks the sharing precept: if a person has two tunics and his brother none, he must give one away---and the same with food (Lk 3:10-11). . . (p. 66)

[final excerpt]

Pope Paul VI cited Saint Ambrose when he said:

You are not making a gift of your possessions to the poor person. You are handing over to him what is his. For what has been given in common for the use of all you have arrogated to yourself. The world is given to all and not only to the rich. [Populorum progressio, no. 23)

Once again I am stunned almost to the point of silence by the examples and the argumentation. As much as I would like to resist the logic, and as easy as it might be, I don't see any legitimate way around it. Poverty, in the way defined by Thomas Dubay (and it is an intricate and nuanced definition) seems to be a calling for all true disciples. To quote the title of a Bonhoeffer work, it is "the cost of discipleship." And it is a cost that we often try hard to overlook. However, I truly believe that we would all do better to try to live simpler, more frugal, more sharing lives. Of course, I'm a big one to be making this argument--and I'll be the first to admit it. I need to be first into the pool on this one, but that water looks awfully dark and deep and cold. . .

Posted by Steven Riddle at 05:49 PM | Comments (0)



Stumbling about in my usual politically oblivious fog, I came upon some amusing and piquant remarks at Disputations that I must assume are aimed at either a website (I saw reference to such at Bill Cork and I think Gregg the Obscure) or movement to which I have little or no access. You may find his comments enlightening or infuriating, I've seen both reactions.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 12:15 PM | Comments (0)

Prayer Request Kairos blogged

Prayer Request

Kairos blogged this psalm today with a tribute. Please pray it for Brian (Kairos Guy), Sally, the child they lost, and the rest of the family.

Our child was due April 15. With that in mind, here is psalm 15, instead of a hymn.

Psalm 15
1 Lord, who shall abide in thy tabernacle? who shall dwell in thy holy hill?
2 He that walketh uprightly, and worketh righteousness, and speaketh the truth in his heart.
3 He that backbiteth not with his tongue, nor doeth evil to his neighbour, nor taketh up a reproach against his neighbour.
4 In whose eyes a vile person is contemned; but he honoureth them that fear the LORD. He that sweareth to his own hurt, and changeth not.
5 He that putteth not out his money to usury, nor taketh reward against the innocent. He that doeth these things shall never be moved.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 08:42 AM | Comments (0)

Excerpts from an E-mail from

Excerpts from an E-mail from Father Fessio

I thought some of this may be of interest to anyone who has been following the saga of Fr. Fessio. As the e-mail is largely an explanation and solicitation, I feel as though the information is free to share:

Dear Friend of Ignatius Press:

While continuing to be the Editor of Ignatius Press, I have been given a new assignment by my superiors: to become the founding Chancellor of Ave Maria University, the first new Catholic university established in the United States in nearly 50 years.

The story of what has already been accomplished and what is planned for the future would be exciting and encouraging in itself. But I believe that against the background of the present crisis in the Catholic Church, the founding of Ave Maria University will truly be of historic importance in the life of the Church. Let me explain.. . .

Ave Maria University: The History

In 1998, Thomas Monaghan, the founder and owner of Domino’s Pizza, sold Domino’s and, after providing for his wife and four daughters, placed the proceeds of the sale into the Ave Maria Foundation with the intention of spending the rest of his life and fortune in the service of the Church. The main focus of Mr. Monaghan’s efforts has been education. The Ave Maria Foundation has funded several elementary schools: Spiritus Sanctus Academies; a new law school which at the end of its second year has just received provisional accreditation from the American Bar Association and is already in the first tier of U.S law schools: Ave Maria School of Law; and a liberal arts college which is poised to become a major Catholic university: Ave Maria College.

There is already an Ave Maria campus in Nicaragua, and it was there that I heard Mr. Monaghan explain to amazed journalists why he had chosen to spend his fortune on higher education. Mr. Monaghan’s response was disarmingly simple, especially coming from someone who had achieved the pinnacle of worldly success: "The most important thing in life is to get to heaven. I want to get there and bring as many people as I can with me. The best way to help people get to heaven is to give them a Catholic education."

In the past year, Mr. Monaghan has been concentrating his attention more and more on one goal: establishing Ave Maria University and, with God’s help, making it the best Catholic university in the world. . . .

Ave Maria University: The Future

I am extremely grateful that Mr. Nick Healy, Jr., President of Ave Maria University, asked my Jesuit superiors if I could help in making the dream of Ave Maria University a reality, and that they granted this request. As Ave Maria University’s first chancellor, I have been involved in the past several months with the planning of AMU. The vision is an ambitious one. And even though Mr. Monaghan is committing his remaining resources to the task, it will require far more than even Mr. Monaghan   is capable of providing . . .

The ultimate goal is to have a Catholic university with 4,000 undergraduate students, 2,000 graduate students -- and a major intercollegiate sports program of uncompromising integrity!

Because negotiations are still underway, I can’t disclose the location of the new campus. But the plan is to have a 1,500-acre campus contiguous to a new town which will be built simultaneously with the university. At the intersection of the town and university will be the focal point of both: a beautiful university chapel.

Ave Maria University will have a full range of undergraduate programs, including the sciences, business, nursing, and performing arts -- all with a solid, comprehensive Catholic liberal arts core curriculum. Graduate programs will focus on areas especially appropriate for a Catholic university: theology, philosophy, history, literature, education, communications, law. But graduate programs in science and engineering are being planned as well.

This sounds like a wonderful initiative. As I find more, I will let you know about it. Very probably Mr. Shea or Ms. Welborn have already blogged on this, so more info may be available on their blogs.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 08:17 AM | Comments (0)

On Evangelical Poverty

The following paragraph is one of the most convicting that I have ever come across. It is thoroughly frightening because of its uncompromising straighforwardness. Think of this entry as the companion to "Religion without Sacrifice" below. Because, make no mistake, evangelical poverty to which all are called, is a life of sacrifice.

from Happy Are You Poor Thomas Dubay

Words are cheap, actions costly. The world is full of people who talk about "community." Dressed in the latest styles, men and women, religious as well as lay, are eloquent in their grand statements and convention resolutions about securing justice in the world. We see on television screens and in news magazines pictures of babies who are not much more than skin-covered skeletons, and we solemnly pronounce how wretched and tragic it all is. Ye we continue with our energy-consuming cars, our extravagant amusements, expensive vacations, unneeded traveling, lavish wardrobes, elegant drinking and dining. (p. 62)

Okay, after I catch my breath, I can continue.

I'm guilty. And the problem with my guilt is that even as I read the words I struggle to justify in some sense the things that I do have, and I am left wondering, where does the demand for evangelical poverty stop. For example, I own a computer. I spent a good sum of money on that computer and there is little that it does that could not be done in some other way--not as efficiently, but people have lived for thousands of years without them, and they do cost a great deal of money. Yes, I own a car and living where I do am subject to some fairly extravagant amusements. The only one of these that I cannot really claim is an "extravagant wardrobe," and even there, by world standards my five white shirts and five pairs of black pants are pretty extraordinary.

What can I reasonably possess without dispossessing others? What are the limits to the concern about evangelical poverty? I have a house full of books (literally full, every room has some). I could go down a long list of meae culpae, but to no real purpose. I know that I live extravagantly by any standards other than those of the few who live even better than I do. I live in the most privileged country on Earth and so partake of some of the extravagance of that advantage.

It is said by Erasmus that St. Thomas More never drank anything other than cold water; that when he attended a banquet he would only touch his lips to the wine as a courtesy to his host, we would not drink it. Is this the kind of poverty we are called to?

Most Americans eat too much. We eat far more than is necessary to sustain life and we eat far more higher up on the food chain than most of the rest of the world. The diseases of our old age reflect this way of living. Extravagance is also costly.

Later in the book, it appears that there is a checklist of items to help decide these issues. But decision is exactly the problem, because I know what Dubay has presented thus far is true and correct. (You would have to read the book to be convinced of the argument yourselves, but please accept for the moment that my statement above is true and valid). How do we answer the following statement by John Kenneth Galbraith, quoted in the books?

"what is called a high standard of living consists in considerable measure, in arrangements for avoiding muscular energy, for increasing sensual pleasure and enhancing caloric intake above any conceivable nutritional requirement." (p. 102)

Now, I am not really trying to convince anybody of the correctness of what Dubay is saying. But I find myself in the position of the wealthy young man who asks how he might serve the Lord and is told, "Go and sell all you have, give it to the poor, and come follow me." Now, raising a family, I know this injunction is not in its fullness meant to me--but then neither am I allowed to completely ignore it. As I read through the book I shall, from time to time, share my convictions--but convicted I am on two counts--lack of detachment and lack of humility, because as Dubay points out, these are two essential ingredients of evangelical poverty.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 08:05 AM | Comments (0)

Consoling Lines for those with

Consoling Lines for those with Fear of Poetry

From Billy Collins, the following consolation. It isn't a particularly good poem--a bit of light verse in fancy dress with a seeming message. Nevertheless, it does address the issue. I include only the last two stanzas. The first five recount the attempts of the professor to get the students to listen to, read, and enjoy the poem for itself ("hold it up to the light," "press an ear against its hive," etc.)

from "Introduction to Poetry" Billy Collins

But alll they want to do
is tie the poem to a chair with rope
and torture a confession out of it.

They begin beating it with a hose
to find out what it really means.

Well, you sure don't need to beat this poem with a hose to find out what it means. Rather than spend the time going over the flaws in these five lines, I will leave you with the admonition and encouragement that meaning comes from reading and rereading, not from some imaginary imposed construct that your Sophomore English teacher told you to use when you read poetry. First read and enjoy, second find meaning, if you must. The difficulty with most poetry is that unlike prose, it does not blossom on first read. The advantage is that most poetry is sufficiently short that you could read the poem ten or fifteen times in the time it would take to finish one medium-length newspaper article. And the vast majority of poetry, even that of Billy Collins is worth infinitely more than the vast majority of even the best-written newspaper articles. Enjoy, enjoy, and get meaning later. Poetry is not frightening. It doesn't need to be wrestled with, merely read and enjoyed.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 07:43 AM | Comments (0)

October 08, 2002

The Ever Imploding Blogworld with

The Ever Imploding Blogworld with Guest Host Mr. T. S. O'Rama

T.S. O'Rama has the following observations on blogdom with respect to Mr. Tim Drake's departure from the world. (How does he [Mr. O'Rama] continue to come up with such interesting and thought-provoking little tidbits. One would think that he was thinking of them particularly for me--isn't that a lovely thought?):

Tim's post certainly offers much to ponder. I wonder if that little SiteMeter isn't the devil in disguise? A fellow would-be author and I were discussing writing. I said, "I wouldn't want to write just to get paid. I have to give them something important. But it can't be preachy...". He said, "To the contrary, you should write because you have to. You should write just for yourself, for no credit, even if no one is watching - that is pure." Interesting....

To which I would respond--his friend is probably at least mostly right. A writer writes because there is no alternative. I write because I cannot NOT write. I have thousands of pages of journals, notes, essays, poetry, half-finished fictions, lectios, you name it. I find the blog world wonderful and fascinating because people write things that you can then write more about. Then you can write about writing about them. And you can go places and find things to write about. Why not write so others can see and respond to it, rather than to print it and keep it gathering dust? But mostly I write because there is part of me that cannot imagine not writing. My day-time job involves a lot of writing, I write for my Carmelite newsletter, and when I am not writing I am thinking about what I will write next.

But then, those of you who read this blog regularly realize that it is literally impossible for me to shut up. Even on an off-day, a quiet moment, I run to three or four entries at a minimum. This is neither good nor bad, it simply is the way things are. Much of what I write is what I need to remember for myself. If others benefit, so much the better--but writing is a way (for me at least) to talk to God, to share with Him concerns, ideas, and reactions to things in the world. Admittedly, I don't do much in the way of current events, but that is because in large part I find them almost all to be tempests in teapots. There is a momentary surge of interest and then the next compelling item of the moment. Isn't it far better to dwell on things eternal--the loveliness of God, the efficacy of prayer, the need for Union with God.

Blogging isn't about expressing yourself--at least very few bloggers I see really use it as a personal forum to advance an agenda or a series of carefully considered observations. Rather it is more like notes for something really important--like prayer, like Life with God. Anyone who can make anything of the ramblings is welcome to enter--but audience share isn't what it is about--not even a little. It is about encountering others as they would like themselves to be. In the blogosphere you can know everyone without the blemishes, you can share lovely thoughts, sermons, notions, inventions, ordeals, and never have to know that the person regularly kicks their dog. And even if you do know it, it is easier to forgive.

The blogosphere can be practice for all sorts of things. When your get the nearly ubiquitous Error 104, you learn patience. When you encounter someone who you would really like to strangle and you bite your tongue and pray for them, you are learning love in action.

I love the blogosphere, I love the people I meet in it and I love many of the ideas I encounter. I love the challenges and opportunities it presents to me.

But when you boil it all down to the essence, I write because I cannot do otherwise. When there was no audience, I wrote. When my audience share declines to zero, I shall probably still write--whether or not it is done here, I cannot say. But I can say that there is one other very important opinion about writing to consider. Samuel Johnson is quoted as having said, "No one but a blockhead ever wrote for anything other than money." Oh well, maybe I should change the title of my blog to "Welcome Blockheads."

Posted by Steven Riddle at 05:53 PM | Comments (0)

For Those with Non-Life Sunday

For Those with Non-Life Sunday Churches

Hie thee to Amphibious Goat's blogging of the Kathy Ireland interview on Hannity and Colmes. (Direct linking not working, but it's the blog for Monday, presently the first on the page.)

Posted by Steven Riddle at 04:52 PM | Comments (0)

A Plague of Unblogging Mr.

A Plague of Unblogging
Mr. Robert Gotcher of Catholic Classic Literature has announced that he too has a life and will be taking a hiatus from blogging. Horrors, if this keeps up I will have nothing whatsoever to read. I hope that Mr. Da Fiesole of Disputations and Mr. O'Rama of Video Meliora. . . don't come down with a similar affliction. And Mr. Core has taken far too long to treat us to his observations. Oh, woe is me, the blogosphere threatens implosion, and soon shall become the blogohole--I see the event horizon and don't even desire escape from its exotic and luscious gravity well!

Posted by Steven Riddle at 04:49 PM | Comments (0)

About 90 Years Ago.

About 90 Years Ago. . .

Or, maybe to go along with our guitar masses that should read, "It was 90 years ago today, Washington taught the country to play..." Kairos (peace be upon him and his family) returns to the blogworld with a wonderfully apt, beautiful jab at the deadly flatness of the ICEL translations (you've heard me whine perpetually about these already, so no more for the nonce). Visit the ICEL approved "translation" of the Gettysburg Address

Posted by Steven Riddle at 01:04 PM | Comments (0)

Prayers Requested I'm delighted to

Prayers Requested

I'm delighted to note that Brian (Kairos Guy) is back. Please continue to pray for Brian and Sally in this difficult time. Please continue prayers for Dylan. And please add prayers for my friends Katherine and Franklin as they await news from the endless government bureaucracy--peace and a swift resolution to the current indecision would be very good, but strength to bear with God's Will, however it may be expressed, is always in order. Thank you.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 09:14 AM | Comments (0)

We Are All Passersby

We Are All Passersby

We are a pilgrim people, set on Earth with Heaven at the end. I do not claim to understand this, but the knowledge is burned deep into my bones and as much as I set my mind to deny it, I cannot do so and remain rational. Though I have spent a great deal of my journey wandering down side paths and into alley-ways, I have never once been tempted with the thought that there is no God. Now when I say tempted, I mean not that the thought hasn't crossed my mind, because it has, but that the thought had absolutely no weight in crossing and left no mark. I have never once in my life doubted the existence of God, but I have doubted, and continue to doubt my ability to recognize. Him. Even if I cannot see Him, I will love Him nevertheless by proclaiming to any who will listen that He cannot be doubted without a serious compromise of our ability to operate intellectually and emotionally in the real world. And thus--this imperfect poem--about a pilgrim people.

Finding the Way
Steven Riddle

Pilgrim feet wear flat the coldest cobbles
of a country lane. Bare feet have long trod
and worked the way of water on these bold
markers. Once white, now mottled blue, the veins
of Earth rise with wear. Off this path weary
travelers have rutted clotted red clay
roads to runnels, ditches, paths and dreary
dead ends. An Absolute balm--endless day
lilies embedded in the banks wave heads
heavy with bowing blossom, salute those
who pass but once and walk straight, scent the thread
of people who weave to and fro, who choose
not one step, but a warp and weft--going
and coming, not certain of direction.
These poor souls who wander without knowing
destination, look for benediction
in their motion. Some day these feet will wear
away any sign of stone, and yet they will
not know which way to go--never nearing
the end of the journey because they still
seek the assurance that comes only from
taking one step at a time in the dark,
not seeking light, not trying to see. Home
is as foreign as this unknown, this stark
reality some embrace. Cold stone chills bone
but the dark-opened heart is never alone.

© 2002, Steven Riddle

Posted by Steven Riddle at 09:05 AM | Comments (0)

Theodore Roethke--The Waking God speaks

Theodore Roethke--The Waking

God speaks in the beautiful things around us. Imperfect though they may be, they are all like a million little fragents of mirror reflecting the Divine Mercy and Light. This poem by Roethke is one of those fragments. It is a beautiful, imperfect, stumbling and yet apt villanelle that tells us a great deal about the Journey to God. Every moment we should be thanking God for His tender mercies in bestowing such wonders upon us. I love the wonderful ambiguity of the first line--"I wake to sleep and take my waking slow." We wake from a deeper dream into kind of a waking dream, that brings us closer to the reality that is around us. There is such a beautiful surrender in the last line, "I learn by going where I have to go." This is the way we all learn of God's incredible (literally) love for each one of us. We go where we have to, and arriving there, find Him there already.

The Waking Theodore Roethke

I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
I feel my fate in what I cannot fear.
I learn by going where I have to go.

We think by feeling. What is there to know?
I hear my being dance from ear to ear.
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.

Of those so close beside me, which are you?
God bless the Ground! I shall walk softly there,
And learn by going where I have to go.

Light takes the Tree; but who can tell us how?
The lowly worm climbs up a winding stair;
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.

Great Nature has another thing to do
To you and me, so take the lively air,
And, lovely, learn by going where to go.

This shaking keeps me steady. I should know.
What falls away is always. And is near.
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
I learn by going where I have to go.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 08:44 AM | Comments (0)

October 07, 2002

Religion Without Sacrifice This excerpt

Religion Without Sacrifice

This excerpt from the homily by Fr. Gordon Bennett at the closing Mass of the Ninth Black Catholic Conference says almost everything that needs to be said:

Today's Gospel comes to us from the Gospel of Matthew, the Gospel that reveals Jesus as the great teacher, as one who says, "Take my yoke upon you and learn from me." In Matthew, we see Jesus take his disciples to the mountaintop and teach them, in the Beatitudes, what his values are and what it means to live in the consciousness of the kingdom of God. In Matthew, Jesus teaches us in the parables the method and the process of God's own heart as it is laid open and bare before us. And in Matthew, Jesus teaches us that most important lesson, the one about love consisting more in deeds than it does in words, and that the most important manifestation of love is one's willingness to bear the cross, to suffer, to sacrifice for the beloved.

None of Jesus' teachings is more important than this one; and none of Jesus' teachings makes any real sense without this one. It is no wonder we find this particular teaching so difficult, so worrisome, so irksome.

If you don't believe me, would you please raise your hand right now if you like carrying your cross; raise your hand if you like suffering.

You see, one of the desires of our fragile and fickle hearts, if we are honest, is that, as much as we want to have religion in our lives, as much as we profess that we value "walking by faith and not by sight," the religion we want is a religion without sacrifice, a religion in which we can experience the ecstasy of spiritual union with God without having to endure the intense and agonizing purification which makes that union possible.

In that sense we are so much like Peter in today's Gospel, who spontaneously blurts out this response to Jesus' teaching on suffering: "God forbid, Lord, no such thing will ever happen to you." This is equivalent to Peter saying: "Jesus, you don't have to suffer and neither do I." Peter, the first pope, knows very little, as Jesus harshly reminds him, about the perfect wisdom of God. He does not yet know that a religion without sacrifice is really merely useless posturing. In fact, a religion without sacrifice is an impossibility. Peter does not yet know this, but he will learn. And he will learn from Jesus.

I know how true this is of me, and I wish it were otherwise. But I'd prefer to get to Divine Union via the shortcut, whatever that may be. St. Thérèse speaks of an "Elevator to God." That is, you simply allow God to lift you up in His arms. That sounds easy enough, but how long does it take until we can abandon our own preconceptions and gladly enter God's arms and allow that elevator to work. For St. Thérèse it happened within a span of 24 or so years. But few of us start our journey with the advantages of family that St. Thérèse had. It is, however, no excuse for our reluctance to progress. We are far too busy filling our heads with ideas about God, notions about who He is, and how He works, while brothers and sisters around us go homeless, hungry and cold. As Fr. Bennett says above, love is not merely feeling, it is about action. St. Thérèse made this point over and over again; a point parallel to St. James point about faith--just as with faith, love without works is dead.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 08:07 AM | Comments (0)

Poem du Jour

Not a spectacular poem, but a nice introduction to what may become a theme for the next few days as I read Fr. Thomas Dubay's superb book, Happy Are You Poor. Holy Poverty is, in a sense, the ideal tonic for nearly all that ails me spiritually. And it has consistently been a calling that I stubbornly resist. Perhaps because I don't understand it, or perhaps because I undertstand it all too well. Anyway, we draw up the curtain on the theme with this poem by Evelyn Underwood, noted writer on spirituality and particularly Mysticism.

The Lady Poverty
Evelyn Underhill

I MET her on the Umbrian hills,
Her hair unbound, her feet unshod:
As one whom secret glory fills
She walked, alone with God.

I met her in the city street:
Oh, changed was all her aspect then!
With heavy eyes and weary feet
She walked alone, with men.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 07:29 AM | Comments (0)

Once Again, Silence Once again,

Once Again, Silence

Once again, I am surprised by how quiet it can get here. Of course we have lost one blogger, and we have another who also needs our prayers. (PLEASE be sure to remember in your prayers Brian and Sally aka Kairos Guy and his wife, through this particularly trying time in their lives.)

But surely the absence of two does not account for the sudden, complete silence that seems to descend like a shroud. What could it be? Oh, I've got it--people have lives outside of blogging. Yes, strange but true. It eludes my understanding, but I suppose I'll get better as time goes on. Thank goodness for Kevin Miller who blogs on weekends or I might just go crazy.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 07:18 AM | Comments (0)

Prayers for Dylan Please remember

Prayers for Dylan

Please remember Dylan of La Vita Nuova in your prayers as he discerns God's callling in his life. I'm sure he can use not only all of our prayers but also all of our well-wishes and our good thoughts as well.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 07:11 AM | Comments (0)

New Responsibility--Skillfully "Passing the Runes"

New Responsibility--Skillfully "Passing the Runes"

You have undoubtedly seen that Dylan has announced his departure from the Catholic Blogosphere. While a cause for great wailing and gnashing of teeth, it is even more frightening for those of us who care for poetry. It would seem that the sphere has shrunk to a mere handful of poetry posters. It lays heavily upon my shoulders as I feel that I must fill in the void left by our honored colleague. However, I have decided otherwise. I am no expert in modern poetry, so we shall just have to wait for one to wander through. In the meantime I shall do as I have done since I've started--post what I know, more or less and continue the discussion of spirituality, art, and Carmelite Matters. We shall be without much in the way of modern poetry for a while, but it shall be all fine in the end.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 07:08 AM | Comments (0)

October 06, 2002

Fr. Thomas Dubay, S. M.

First let me display my enormous ignorance of the alphabet soup of Catholicism. Would someone please advise as to what the S.M. stands for?

Second, let me say that Fr. Dubay has to be one of my very favorite writers of the day. His works are never easy reads, but they have been, for me, enormously rewarding. That is why I delight in a very promisingly title book reissued by Ignatius Happy Are You Poor. Apparently the first edition was released in 1981 and Fr. Dubay has added enough material to get a second copyright for the second edition. Generally this means that the revision contains about 20% new material. The book professes to be about the simple life and spiritual freedom. I know that this is one of the main themes of my reading--so much so that I have abandoned the simple life simply in persuing my reading about it.

Father Dubay's magnificent study of John of the Cross and Teresa of Avila, The Fire Within must be one of the most profound, but unfortunately not easily digested works on the two saints. I thought about having people read Fr. Dubay's book before we started talking about The Ascent of Mount Carmel but I felt that Dubay's book was, in fact, far more difficult than attacking the writing of the Great Poet-Doctor himself. So too with the remarkable Evidential Power of Beauty and Authenticity. No question but that the good father's books are well beyond the apprehension of a great many who could profit from reading him cover-to-cover. However, they are wonderful, well-written, and quite worthwhile for any who wish to take the time and effort.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 04:14 PM | Comments (0)

Soliciting Advice/Comments--Paul Claudel Ignatius Press

Soliciting Advice/Comments--Paul Claudel

Ignatius Press has a new book out by Paul Claudel entitled I Believe in God. The book evidently consists of passages from his works arranged as a reflection of the Apostle's Creed. I am unfamiliar with the work of Claudel, although I know the name. Does anyone have this book? Does anyone have any comments on Claudel in general? Cautions, compliments, approbations, or stern disapprovals all solicited and welcomed.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 04:05 PM | Comments (0)

John Keats It is commonly

John Keats

It is commonly acknowledged in the poetry world that Keats composed 5 major odes, in shorthand--Nightingale, Grecian Urn, Melancholy, Psyche, and To Autumn. "Ode to a Nightingale" may be my favorite for a variety of reasons (much having to do with an introduction by someone who truly loved the poem). But "To Autumn" is a wonderful, short and sumptuous taste of Keats. Some have said that the poem is almost too perfect in rhythm, imagery, cadence, and meaning. To that, I cannot speak, but I do think it a wonder, and it is poetry like this that makes me wonder what of our present crop will see survival into future eras. Nearly all of it pales in comparison.

Note the unusual eleven line stanzas--it is one of those quirks that make this accomplishment that much more magnificent.

To Autumn John Keats

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;
To bend with apples the moss'd cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For Summer has o'er-brimm'd their clammy cells.

Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
Or on a half-reap'd furrow sound asleep,
Drows'd with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers:
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
Steady thy laden head across a brook;
Or by a cyder-press, with patient look,
Thou watchest the last oozings hours by hours.

Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,--
While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day,
And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
Among the river sallows, borne aloft
Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
The red-breast whistles from a garden-croft;
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 08:27 AM | Comments (0)

The Glorious Seventeeth Century--Henry Vaughn

The Glorious Seventeeth Century--Henry Vaughn

I truly love the wonders of seventeenth century poetry. It seems a rather arcane taste shared by relatively few. T. S. Eliot liked a few of the poets (the Metaphysicals) with a particular fondness for John Donne. But I like most of them--Metaphysical and Cavaliers, and part of the reason is that they wrote in a time when Spirit and Flesh had not the enormous division that grew in western culture. You were not body and spirit, but you were body/spirit. The ramifications are enormous, and largely lost to us. All that said, the following poem has nothing to do with the question (well, not nothing, but little enough).

by Henry Vaughan

WITH what deep murmurs, through Time's silent stealth,
Doth thy transparent, cool, and wat'ry wealth,
Here flowing fall,
And chide and call,
As if his liquid, loose retinue stay'd
Ling'ring, and were of this steep place afraid,
The common pass,
Where clear as glass,
All must descend
Not to an end,
But quick'ned by this deep and rocky grave,
Rise to a longer course more bright and brave.

Dear stream ! dear bank ! where often I
Have sat, and pleased my pensive eye ;
Why, since each drop of thy quick store
Runs thither whence it flow'd before,
Should poor souls fear a shade or night,
Who came—sure—from a sea of light ?
Or, since those drops are all sent back
So sure to Thee that none doth lack,
Why should frail flesh doubt any more
That what God takes He'll not restore ?

O useful element and clear !
My sacred wash and cleanser here ;
My first consigner unto those
Fountains of life, where the Lamb goes !
What sublime truths and wholesome themes
Lodge in thy mystical, deep streams !
Such as dull man can never find,
Unless that Spirit lead his mind,
Which first upon thy face did move
And hatch'd all with His quick'ning love.
As this loud brook's incessant fall
In streaming rings restagnates all,
Which reach by course the bank, and then
Are no more seen : just so pass men.
O my invisible estate,
My glorious liberty, still late !
Thou art the channel my soul seeks,
Not this with cataracts and creeks.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 08:21 AM | Comments (0)

Another--The Space Between

The Space Between
More often than not,
the space between
dominates. You cannot be
closer if there
is no distance
to begin.

More simply:
the space between seconds
makes time flow evenly.
Measure it down to
size unimaginable

        there is a break
when one second spills
over into the next.

More importantly:
the breathing
spaces, the living

     never/always filled,
the space where
I wait

for you. Because some

places were made to be
filled. You complete
the pattern as
no other.

The frozen instants
when nothing is
and one second flashes
over into another.
Those strained spaces
flash on and off
with passing time
so fast no one can see.

I say
say you love me
in the space between
the soup and meat
between myself
and the cool sheets.
I say show me
as space turns on
and off. I'm sure
you can't

        fill the space
between us.

So I'm surprised
again and again
as you never fail to
fill the empty spaces
your lips against mine,
our bodies bending
the space between.

© 2002 Steven Riddle

Sorry, can't get the spacing exactly right--proportional font with exact spacing just doesn't work out and I don't want to put this in some ugly courier face.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 08:05 AM | Comments (0)

Poem Appropriate for October

As with many this is old and needs a bit more shaping than the swift brush up it is getting in retyping, but, all of that said, it seemed particularly apropos to October. The poem is build on productive ambiguity of phrase that helps by resonance to expand the poem.

Ars Poetica
Steven Riddle

Let's not talk words
though I am armed
in this escalating race

with books that tell
me how to pull shape
from shapelessness

and how to tell the sound
of a silver bell from a brass.

Sharp words slice the enveloping
sac and lay bare fragile flesh
to scouring sand, wind, and sun.

Words turn on those who utter them
and exact vengeance
for being loose and free

in a world that scarcely
notices a cyclone of them.

Words wrap around the blasted heath
descending to the body of the poet
spent with rage
and hope and feed there.

Promethean in their vengeance
eumenidic in their exactions

they rest forever
outside once uttered always
eating a way in.

©2002 Steven Riddle

The two lines that begin with Greek references seem somewhat weak to me, so abstract as to be flabby and unnecessary, so likely in subsequent renditions they will either be cut or transmuted. I hesitate to bore you with the details, on the other hand, some find the process of growth and revision, particularly of a type of writing they are less familiar with, to be of interest. I'm sure, all of you being quite courteous, I sha'n't hear any complaints, but if you would prefer to hear only perfect and polished gems, drop me a line. I am certain that I can find some somewhere in the works of the 16th-17th century! :-)

Posted by Steven Riddle at 07:51 AM | Comments (0)

Neologism from my Son My

Neologism from my Son

My son, as with every parent's child, is the cleverest, most adorable, most pleasant, and most wonderful child on Earth. All that said he is still in the mode of acquiring language and when he does not have the proper word, or, as in the case that follows, when he has forgotten the proper term, he develops his own.

We were at Mass yesterday morning and he was doing his usual fidgety craning and casting about for amusement. The Priest and the altar-boy had gathered at the back ready for the processional. My son suddenly grabs my shirt sleeve tugs and whispers, "Look a Jesus Broomstick." I looked at him with that look and said, "What?" He replied and pointed at the processional crucifix, which is different from that in the church we normally attend in that the figure of Christ is similar to that of the crucifix of the Holy Father. My son is used to a plain cross. "Look a Jesus Broomstick." It was all I could do not to burst out laughing or give any indication I thought this was amusing. I told him the proper name for it, but I'm not sure it stuck. We may be stuck with a "Jesus Broomstick" for another few Masses.

Posted by Steven Riddle at 07:32 AM | Comments (0)