Great Lent in Mississippi
by John Horvath, Jr.
O Lord and
Master of my life,
Take from me the spirit of sloth,
despair, lust for power, and idle talk.
rather the spirit of chastity,
humility, patience and love
to Thy servant.
Yea, O Lord
and King, grant me
to see my own transgressions
and not to judge my brother,
for blessed art Thou
unto ages of ages.
Prayer of St. Ephraim the Syrian
(Read on all weekdays of Great Lent)
Come Saturday we'll
roll the women on their heels
to conclude our wet with whiskey weekend; Spring
clean recesses of our desires overgrown, sooted
after long winter-wrapped cabin fever damn sight
too cursed cold to skinny up against the tavern
back door and drop drawers, too cutting chilled
to hold a poptop long on the lips, too friggin' frigid
not to have the bottle inside the wood shed;
Now, every seed is awakened with sap rising
into blossom and so has all animal life awoke
along with or after Gulf gusts bring on rain. Rain.
Then redclay less inelastic slouches once again
toward seashores of mummyjum nirvana beaches
down from the Delta and heavens farther from.
May Thy Seraphim
May Thy Cherubim enlighten me.
Grant Thy Dominions
Grant they Powers through me.
Grant Thy Authorities in me.
Grant I may dwell
in Thy Principalities.
Grant I may live by Thy Archangels.
May Thy Angels guide me.
days of unfruitful gray coerce
madness onto men and women into prayer;
weak folk spend compressed hours in surmise
against worms and insects of destruction,
ponder how first battles of Spring past
had been fought and recall circumstances
of betrayal at windbreaks in long sight
fields where daughters womaned or sons
womanized. Sins of the father. Mother
who sinned first sin. So, by long night,
undercurrents continental, we all pray.
We can. And we must. So we do.
To exorcise winter flab on the skillet of hell
we make of these days, last of frosts, a penitent
fast. So, toward cities in the south we immigrate
for April's sake. Spring has come.
The earth welcomes the sun's embrace; we result
from that love.
Come, let us worship God, our King.
For we have knelt before, bent the knee
before conquerors from the East, have been
slave, serf, servant to other men and why not
God in our fields and houses and our hearts.
We were bold against change, forbidding
alteration of centuries of changelessness
or amassing fables of perfect antecedents,
golden and saintly pasts from which we escaped
with the yellowed skins of our teeth to be asked
why abandon wife and work, risk life in any season
for catfish in the morning, cat at midday, cat at evening,
everlasting catfish until some morsel of a new season
should come your way. We did not wait or we stood.
Before blue winds plunged from darkened arctic north,
before clouds spunked from the pagan west, we stood.
In the halls of deadbolt jobs we conjured our offices
into light and truth and saved and stood our ground
that this week was ours to be shriven and driven mad
through narrow streets half naked sinless and innocent
as the moment of birth. As it was our father's and before
him his. So, we stand. What few who have not uprooted
like trees untowered or shorn of limbs too weak
for ice, they stand, they march their mardi gras,
they stagger into friendly and unfriendly arms,
they sin. What does it matter, what harm do it when
any day above ground is a good'un; and, if it's Spring,
April in particular, it's just damned grand for bash.
Such is what has become of our pride. They float.
They dance. They drink to stupor. And they sing.
Come, let us worship, and kneel.
There comes a time to purge the soul,
to repay earth for its dull dung. Here
is Noah's time cut off from the water,
to be reborn, both he and his. Here
Are desert's time, solitude and solace,
from others separate. With our vomit, kneeling
before the porcelain tabernacle we are monks
voiceless and remorsed; we pray. Not to tempt,
but time to shed burdens, dust and ort, a bit
collected each and every day until returned to dust;
The dirt, what we were, again to become the dust.
At midnight the horsemen come along and clean
the streets and make us homeward like cattle.
Before Christ, our King and our God,
I have a dry taste for the day's repast, the moment
I surrendered to the knowledge I was man, made
in ideal image of my father agéd, self-sufficient,
possibly annoyed that I must his last days invade
and re-enact myself: Listen, I shout at my offspring,
not as I do should you but as I say. And what comes
echoes tone and tenor off my father's mouth. Not mine.
I once hunched strong against such flat chapter and verse
and planned a terrestrial reprieve from such purgatory.
Thus toward Slidell, Lake Charles, Pontchatrain I turn.
Anywhere but here among the happy faced stupid drunks
who know not times, not seasons, neither day nor hour
when they walk from the to the wilderness--yet, they will
scourge the city with their silliness and brawl celebrations
without purpose and without end though it end at midnight
when horses and hoses are turned on the streets and bars
close almost audibly sighing--o please come back to drink.
No. In the morning there is blood to drink. Wine
we had dreamed in the face of bright lights we dreamed
would stand sin effaced, woe erased, none debased. AH,
we must dream so whether we believe we shall so stand
again or no. Thus, we stand, we walk, we begin to run;
eventually we lay beside green pastures, drink the dew,
listen to the murmuring of brook, of soft worm beneath
burrowing into the soft, warm, dank, sweet earth.
Come, let us worship, and kneel.
Worship with me, divorce from water, savor druid drink;
kneel with me at porcelain altar;
Rose Monday too soon turns to Ashen Midweek.
Before Christ Himself, our King and God.
This word is a place. A streetcorner after midnight almost abandoned
where boy meets girl. It is the bed of their experience and a damp garden
for their dreams. It is the foundation of their ideals. Under a lamppost
under whose fluttering light the dots of their eyes find meaning between
near indiscernible nods of their heads toward agreement: I will come
with you tonight. I'll remain at your side, touch the wound, but not
into domestication, will not be wed to lifelong serial accidents. I
here. My kingdom is not of this earth. We hear them. We know the words
but not the faces; we know the walking toward us late at night, the
the fear and the loathing and the thrill of descent. And, with none
darkened rooms would not crave light, empty eyes would not desire sight.
For them. For us. the buildings are unknown, the streets unknowable
though named, the city itself and the green swath around unknowable
alien as we are one to another, estranged so unknowable.
Come worship what?
This virtuous scene breeding mixing stirring covering feeding
the worm the soil the heart the stone the worm the root and trunk
the branch the leaf the sparrow in its harmless nest the hawk
the huntsman's bow its arrow arching toward the hawk
at the table his woman fertile as a vineyard hours before harvest
around the table his seed as many as the olive sprouts; the sun
beats, strife outside, the peaceable within. All of it strange to our
striding, rising. Morning wind like death in silence comes; howling
clouds, the wall of dust,
the sulfur tinctured dusk,
the hole within the sky
whence pours down rain.
The blind eyes whirl 'round about
and gaze at our command
to look into the eyes of storms--
in the hurricane of lust and debauch
blank to blank gaze turns
to seek control. We cannot gain control
but learn to sympathize with hurricane.
Howling preludes peace.
let us worship, and kneel before Him.
Give the wheel another turn, choose a letter, solve the puzzle, live
peaceably this night while the hermit down the street in his garden
mocks us all dizzy in the streets until the midnight but alone in crowds,
plants, disturbs the bed to plant again, late at night and digs it up
to display the seine of roots like hair spread out through savage fingertips.
The monk among the souls who've lost their bones must likewise plant,
the rosebuds from the bush, clips the chamomile, makes evening tea then
falls asleep; he dreams himself good, framed at dinner by family,
his true love in the foreground brings broth to table:
"Why so long faced," she will ask. She asks
as if she had not seen the background of his thoughts--
what I ought never dream, I've come to dream;
so, I will not dream, I am ashamed of dreams.
He rises from his bed to say a prayer.
Bless the Lord, O my soul.
Blessed art Thou, O my Lord.
Bless the Lord, O my soul.
Turns from the unreal city that he dreams,
turns from the false community of thoughts,
the whining distance through the dusty
trees, Provençe sands, then to Carthage came
after the burning sun had baked Roman wages into the sands.
"Anytime," he says to his prayer, "Anytime; but, not
now, not now."
My Lord, how great Thou art.
She blasphemes without knowing blasphemy.
Something perhaps some time ago someone suggested.
Hast du feuer, mensch?
and brimstone too?
bun in the oven?
Hast du feuer?
I shall not come this way again.
I shall not lean against this post.
I shall not breathe this word again.
This mortal angel
that I love;
This fallen angel at my feet;
This unperturbed radiance that
enters unbeckoned into the soul
to feast on pleasures turned to guilt
while I for lent have surrendered meat.
It is a righteous meal I make:
the eaters of the soul drink from my cup;
the eaters of the soul devour my bread of flesh.
I shall know this
boy and that girl now; and, then, forget.
Forget how they summoned for a moment all that is divine.
Blessed art Thou, O my Lord.
It matters not at all what you say nor how you say it nor what you mean.
A word takes on its own life; lives apart like a child grown ill of
A word forever lives; it is regret.
The breath of life--
had I not him suscitated
he would have died
he might have died
someone would have passed
him up from dead--
I am not responsible--
my brother's keeper not--
and he no brother nor
he kinsman mine, so let him rot.
He rots. He stinks,
his neighbors say.
The dead and sleeping dogs, let them lay.
In preparation for the burial of the dead--
and are we dead?--white sheets cover
those who would partake of another burning
against the broad miscegeny of Mardi gras.
Thou art clothed with glory and majesty.
Blessed art Thou, O my Lord.
The waters stood above the mountains.
The mountains burst.
The ship, upon the rooftops where the heathen danced.
The mountains walked, the valleys rolled. Mardi gras
prepared for jubilation the unprepared and unrepentant.
Glory are Thy works, O Lord.
when Moses struck the Negev stone
and there, from stone, the water gushed.
Such the hurricane, the midwinter, late hurricane.
December indeed when the hood-shadowed
matchstick girls of memory froze for maternal
lamentations. January is the cruelest month
when at playoffs and the superbowl, free-agency
or the bench about to change the team; coaches gone
muddled retire with cheerleader babes after fumbling
with their quarterbacks. A brew can last through February
into March; the best potato chips go stale; dips sour.
These are the irascible months before and after doom
when all bets are off; it's time to pay the price, grow fat
and dull at work and realize too late it's almost Spring
when we will rise again in the light of holiday wardrobe to jog the
through the unreal suburbs of our dreams, the cracked earth of dried
and under all of this the decayed, the harmless, the troubled cobbled
behind the chapel where he lay himself down, under a flush of lightening
rain, to dream obituaries, to sympathize with storm, to drink the fires
of his life,
to quench the water of his thirst, control the prayerful day with dreams
or to control his dreams--but that was another country, another game,
another highlight, another replay, or worse. Screw the monk, the hermit
The drunks lay down themselves along the curb in Bourbon street.
Their ladies sauced with wine display their breasts.
Then go to church in Easter finery. A month and thirty
is all it takes to forget and then repent for crimes.
Such are our times.
In Wisdom hast Thou made them all, made them all.
Ah April, that was
another country, a country much like youth unetched by time,
and all the love letters I had written I had stolen from a bindle in
ancient writing table, unwound the tarnished ribbon and randomly selected
after time so often she could not but have known her lover's poems had
into my hand become my speech; apprentice hands thus often will become
the Master's, a student's range the teacher's insistence to sing well.
Glory unto Thee Who hast created all, created all.
In this final letter I write the words I know she waits,
the time and place after we celebrate where we will meet
beneath a lamppost on some deserted street.
Blessed be the man who walks not in the counsel of
The I will turn to this mortal angel that I this moment chose to love
And she will stretch naked, no nude and unashamed, a fallen angel
at my feet. Two geometrically opposed loci. I alive sought life; she,
Life on Earth, Death
in Heaven. We have a presence in these words,
A word is a place. With these words an absolute, a space I shall create.
With me to her I take my father along and she with her mother comes.
And we pretend for this short act to be a husband with his wife.
Thine own for thine own, we offer up the sacrifice.
And what is space
absent time; I'll give her time--
an absolute, none other than the present absolute,
neither today nor yesterday, not yet tomorrow--midnight,
shortly after, not a minute past to spare then be gone at dawn.
Please meet me there. I write to her in the sepulchre I call my home.
This gift, these words, my mother's lover's wit become transcendent
prayer--not to die, to cheat, but live forever in the moment of her
The Lord knows the way of the righteous
and the way of the wicked shall perish.
Will you be there when I am there?
Will you wait for me if I linger at the bar
to kiss another on the cheek?
Would you sleep whilst I pray alone in fear?
Serve the Lord with fear.
Rejoice in Him with Trembling.
Waste no time collecting trinkets
cast aside for fools.
Gather up the coins and beads
; sweep away the memoirs
left by lovers and revelers
in parts and in the streets.
At midnight come the horsed
police, the Cossacks of Lent.
Watch the hour like a thief
who knows the moment of return.
Wait in that designated time
under the lamppost in the
dead of night.
This from he
Who yearns for morning to be with you
Present absolute space
in which we are,
without force, together--somewhere near abandoned streets,
ghettoes full with dark black dangers and blank drunk stares
where the horse and hose have driven off the cattle I shall see
your eyes. Present absolute space in which we are. Hear
your heart throb with illicit expectation.
The tree swings in
the March breeze which strips its limbs bare,
under the lamppost having taken three swigs of four roses I wait,
a leaf fallen in solitude survives winter, fills the present space.
Defies the notice that it is Spring indeed; Persephone returns.
Up and down the street
off Bourbon Street newly coupled couples couple
late past the curfew of Troopers on their jaded steeds. They've seen
and all too much have seen where once a garden grew. They homeward ride.
They homeward ride to feast upon their opulent wives grown fat on figs
in Paradise the winter after flood and hurricane and cheap tribute paid
their husbands to look aside, no see the costumes that they wore.
So begins great lent;
in the dead lands, our white eyes met.
It is like this: we are the bent forms of our prayers, our supplications
neither prayer nor questions are, nor answers be, but present, absolute
captured with our God. And what of our God? There were no eyes
to watch us there and then groping, avoiding each the other's gaze.
There was no thunder in the skies,
A smile briefly reappears out of darkness, a sigh almost audible
in the wind among the treetops, then disappears.
Forgive us our passion, O my Lord, these passions
Thou hast given as a test.
Such thoughts. Such memories become the pea beneath the mattress
of a princess, drive the monk to shred the soil with his bare hands
in the moonlit night. It was darkness only that we loved.
is the Lord Who is Salvation
And His blessing be upon us all.
From this garden, Paradise, I have tasted fruits of enviable decision;
From this garden, Holy Space, I have taken gifts of ardent passion.
One day. Perhaps Ash Wednesday, perhaps Good Friday,
perhaps Christmas, or Saint Stephen's Night, Epiphany perhaps.
Time without space.
Space without time.
Time without space.
Each in memory, in ideal possibility--
Here Now and There Then
our prayers transcend.
Always, what I know, only place and one time in one place at a time.
That place where we sinned is the landscape of my soul; I carry with
that one place and in that one place at that certain time the sin perpetual.
Now, ever, and unto ages of ages.
happy man will have the attribute of permanence
unlike the journey that I take twixt then
and now when
you enter this house of stone and statue, paint that glitters on the
a false gold, a house now dedicated to the tourist trade, the ins and
of come-to-see imbibe-the-past to say "I had been there" where
your God, a memory of childhood long passed. You enter my coffin-like
confessional. Have I power to forgive the whore her whoring acts when
I had been the first to sin and turn my back and walk away? Contrition
seems to lack a permanence. It is more likely fortune.
Fortune brings many things to pass. Some great; Some small.
She is reborn.
The dead are risen from my memory
and make to walk as if they never had been dead
beneath the topsoil returning unto dust.
The words we speak;
speak only the word and I will leave my wooden bed,
the hair shirt, the vows I made in haste, the surety unto death, my
the soleless step, and return unto you. Speak but the word. The word
has independent power to reveal the point, the time of saying it will
me there, to your side, there where you lay. End our exile. O my belovèd,
what have I done to thee? Unseal my lips. O my Belovèd,
this be war, then cherish it.
Take sides against the flesh,
or set me free.
There, in the tree,
the cherubim chant your name, your belovèd name.
In deserts from under every stone the seraphim sing your blessèd
You in this space, in this time, and I in this tincture of written word,
my thought, your eyes, we are one again at the seaside of Provençe
when we had no words to share, we shared touch (When was it?
A mundane month when there were no celebrations, no feasts nor such,
only lassitude, an eternity to watch a tear run down a cheek, evaporate
upon a lip, leave the taste of salt, fall from the clouds, run along
into the sea, amid the wake of some advancing ship to board. Carthage
bound? Carry its Cross away from your soul, to quench an émigré's
in the coal dark where he slept, in steerage, away the night);
O that was another country--we belonged to another age.
It was before your carnal breasts, hot and bare, came to rest upon
Within my dreams.
Unseal my lips and my mouth shall mouth
Such necessities of space and time, There and Then, do make our lives
forever lives inseparate. Be not my enemy. Choose not to war against.
Come with me.
This then is my cross in my Kingdom of
the Cross. Greatlent? ha!
I laugh at shriven souls Shrove Thursday
already having forgotten.
So, here I dwell. Now, I dwell. I do not live at all, but dwell on having
In another country. It was a place soft as youth. Where men with broad
shoulders hew the trees that grew upon such spots as lovers fertile
with loving care from one generation unto the next.
In the Kingdom of the Cross,
where no such place exists.
I plant our seed with care.
I am missionary to the wanton, servant to the sissified and sycophant,
Monk among moronics. Hermit of my own Cross, I plant with care.
Slava Tebe, Bozhe.
Bless the people, Lord.
From heaven into the
country of high wheat whose golden shoulders brawl
across vast fields, from heaven onto this country of rich marl, millennial
washes and granite outcrops, where onetime tall rivers marched frozen
into shallow seas, or as from heaven, angels down among low hills fell
where aboriginal broods were drawn 'round campfires in cathedrals of
wood for ritual sacrifice, themselves the sacrifice. Give unto the people
for they have hunger; give unto those who follow wine, for they thirst.
And slowly each who has come this way a while turns and makes his way
toward home. The smile of a secret gift each Magus takes from this place.
also among these angels fallen have fallen.
Angels assembled now amazed
beholding Thee among the Dead
amid the Unreal City of the Dead
Thou Who conquers Death by death.
come to the setting of the sun
And beheld the light of evening,
We praise the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
So ends our visit.
So ends our all too
brief encounter with the soul.
So ends the surety of sin and the fact that we indeed live.
Now back to rat race, to the grind, the deadly nine to five.
They are industrious, cold, ambidextrous folk
whose large hands wipe grimaces off half faces
blank and cratered dark beneath shadowing caps.
Wells around their eyes brim with water of their labors.
What have they seen with these eyes watchful for work,
what might they have seen beyond the workplace, seeking
beyond where they're defined by tasks not of their choosing.
These are farmers, peasants, woodsmen cleft from nature.
They walk like timbers marching over fallen brothers--
slow, stiff, menacing, sad. I have seen them in the winter
hugging drifts for warmth when the sun sets, the night
expires, and their children cry starved for their touch.
This is nowhere, where I have been too long among them,
hidden from them, clothed in five-and-dime-store righteousness,
have become them from my fear of them, welcomed them
into my heart. So misguided pity lets them march.
They are what they do and nothing more: movement
toward where they march, when they menace, what
iron melted, steel forged, gear machined; boasting,
loveless, selfish in their industry; thing-makers
And the makers of all things
good and small and wondrous, right.
They are industrious, the artists of moment, tall, hard-
shouldered, ambidextrous, blank faced, ignorance-booted,
grown stupid solid as a fallen trunk, but useful, rugged
as bark in old-growth forests. Walk with me among them;
hold their frozen fists in yours; taste the sad sap
loveless selves compassionless they think is fine wine
vat-aged, cellar precious. O my America, who are these!
I'd come a monk among with a mission zeal to heat with
words their brutish hands, to have them feel those who
they'd crush beneath their March of making -- progress
unholy to wherever they must sense an urge to march.
They have been marching from their shores to these,
as I have marched unknowing that I march -- a walk from
point to point, each point a center to a circle in which
I march along with them. How have I among them come
wearing this gray suit and bland tie of un-tonsured-ness?
But did not come, was walking in parade though what
was passing at my side I thought parade, a mad parade
of clowns, of cast-off burden (some), of souls like mine.
They did not know they marched with me, would be drawn
along as I had been, unseemly, in my dream. Now I with them.
time to every season
A cadence to each step
the cruelest month,
Thou art worthy of praise in songs
At all times, in all places,
O my Lord, Giver of Life.
I pray morning for
you after sunset, red light against
the adversary's night; I pray you dance as you had dreamed to dance.
That bright wish that love vanished from your soul.
I kneel for you; I bow before the power of the wish, the weight of it
to hold you and to bring you back; the burden of desire, the sinew
and musculature of this wish I wish for you; the strength, the character,
the amplitude not to be what you have become in order to destroy what
you would not be made but had been made by fate and me.
I pray you a dawn to follow night.
These concrete fingers raise the sacrifice nearer Heaven's gate.
These concrete fingers raise the smoke of sacrifice nearer to His gate.
These mirror surfaces Himself the Sacrifice as sacrifice reflect, we
Him up: as Abram Isaac would surrender
so we Him with His own death do praise.
die. We die. You die. They with us die.
It matters not. Death is the common lot.
What differs us from beast is that we know we die.
Forgiveness knows no brothel cheap
No cantank'rous crowd of fair celebrants
Neither hill upon which to fall asleep
Nor slip to slumber at midnight when men's voices
have none of that!
This blasted triumph-tree
this disMay morning Malvern tower
this woody is all I have, at best.
this yellowed sticky spot,
this ineloquence on mundane experience confessed,
this maudlin rot.
Just the fats, the straight skinny, the vulgar dope,
the stark bare contrast 'tween black and white, the cool and hot,
the bluesy folksome demotic twosome of those who and who aint got.
spectacle spectacular and it sure aint cheap to make--
TV, radio, VCR, eight-track, CD, video, the handler and the snake,
the online emptiness in which we all and each alone reside
until the wires break.
Field, fen, mountain
realm, catacomb and mausoleum we obliterate.
The dead upon the fetid streets do congregate; whoremasters of the opiate
withheld will barter for their souls though have they none; He to Him
we sacrifice; we He Him in Onan's and in Mamon's likeness make.
Lusty in the evening of our time bereft of souls, we raise up Sacrifice:
The still-tot beauty queen, the teenybopper tart,
debutante, the trenchant tease, the child vamp, and
The Victim of the Victimless we must become; Thine Own of Thine Own,
the Holy Things unto the Holy Thing, we sacrifice. This earth,
this garden Paradise, this strip of time, this footpath and this bower,
all of it.
The very heritage of hope we do amend--
nothing is worth dying for or worthy to defend.
The souls of science and machine have made men beasts
or worse, an intricate of wires, pulses, molecules
attached. We are the worm, the slug, compost in the
of our own defeat.
I pray for you a dawn to follow night.
Yes. As I must. I
must. I pray for you a dawn to follow night,
a sun to peek around the edges of a cloud, a star in heaven bright
enough to lead you out from wrong and show the way, the way that I have
This way, then.
Whatever you say, there you go.
Wherever you go, there you are.
now Thou servant let Thee depart.
After lights dim at the monastery of saint christopher sans currency
Brother Tom tolls beads at his bedside and, as he recites "Hail
For an instant so brief he does not know himself but is transformed
Alliluya Alliluyevna into whom he met aboard the cruise ship from Provençe
some years before when he was still a boy almost a man but, having known
no one at all and nothing of importance, a boy. She wears white; He
her. He writes to her. She visits during Holy Week.
Movement: Time, in which brief moments of eternity are caught.
Second Movement: Experience of Time, in which the
He had given his word. He was not there. Where was he? In an instant
he remembers the bar, back door, the whiskey full of women. The act.
Of such slender deeds
unheralded, unheeding, and unbidden come our sins.
How choice of word and each word given is not ours, becomes a place
of shroud and mask and camouflage which no-one can escape but visit
and re-visit in synapses and lapses day-to-day and in diurnal praise
at night. Had I this-or-that just then what might have been is naught,
the court of fate is moot; the writing hand has writ, the jug of wine
and thou is all that's left. It isn't right. It's fair.
The Future of All Time,
in which the world is divested through purgation,
created soul expresses freedom from an Uncreated Past.
In the garden with his bare hands by the sweat of his brow
the boy become a man digs his own tomb.
This is where he plants roses for his mother,
where he plants the fig tree for his father,
the grapevine for them both.
They praise him, tell of his deeds.
The Future of the Future of All Time,
a lyric prayer for, an affirmation
of the need for intercession.
This then--this jimmyjazz
not even a handful but much for an old man--
this then is what it all comes to become. The preacher set aside to
himself his own punishment: to dream himself her assailant alone under
the lamppost's fluttering light; to imagine himself it was bold and
with his whiskey breath breaching her cummery. Then discover the stain
that symptoms Hail Mary after Hail Mary late toward dawn and even dawn
damned dawn, the Light you know, betokens that bungled teen tête-à-tête.
Had he a sign; had he a warning; NO; there it was half through his beadsong.
He takes upon himself the sins of the
in which Time immortal merges with mortal
the Spirit of the Time we shared made
This way, then.
Not toward action
but to purge us of the will to act; to seem in meditation
without thought past, present in our future, timeless ourselves redeem,
we and our deeds en masse abstractions,
symbols for heaven we re-present the Ancient Scientist,
our alchemy, a symbol for Wisdom forever present
in the moment, circle and its center point.
What can this mean? What can words do?
'O' says the squeaking little Thrush,
'My sorrow now begins afresh'!
The hunter comes to capture me, to take me home, devour me.
Lord, be a fortress for me. Hide me there.
The axle of my soul
unbidden turns the flesh, involition
as with eructation, heightens the dull experience--come,
last Sup with Me Sunday do keep Holy and Saturday for Sin.
Say that I have slept among the saints and drunk their precious wine,
say that I have silly gone to the tomb as Hamlet's virgin did for him,
say the State of Longing After, craving--call it 'appetite' or 'passion'
if you must--
did swallow me. Say what you will say; but say also that Caesar is not
That was in another country, another time than this now here when lust
shadows every bridegroom in the evening of his parting from loved ones.
Knowledge, not enough; reason fails; say beyond belief and unbelief
To love the sinner and to be the sin itself is faith; to become wretch
Say that my art, thievery and escape, is a comely bitch, a hot slut,
an Immortality of a Kind, a golden kind still at its mother's teat
not drinking much. Say all the pages writ
are meaningless, a diatribe of smut,
an Argumentum ad Populum, except admit:
This gift, my mother's mother tongue expressed so well,
this juncture of Word, my thought, your eye, in it we do unite.
We love a mystery;
A mystery is love.
This way, then.
Around this corner, then
So Christ too must
have been discrete with words--
to claim His all and claim alike all of nothing to be His.
And we could not come to comprehend the absoluteness of the claim:
The very All of Nothing to be His. This is my Kingdom of the Cross,
to be its birthday King. Its only prince.
Such is the Progress
of His Kingship
from Tan Town jukes to Memphis blues
along this hot asphalt line that is a road
beside treeless fields. The Passing Prince
a beggar seems thumbing towards oblivion,
where women for trinkets bare themselves,
a place where feasts are set before a fast.
His Fool Fatness and His Mister Bones
accompany. Accompany. Accompany.
A crowd alone; no auto stop.
He comes to walk among the dead
at Mardi gras, a sign above his head
that reads IN THIS SIGN CONQUER
(a tautology of mockers follows him).
It IS Mardi gras, a time to ease up
in Big Easy in the delta of a land long
ago already surrendered God. Among
the very worse expect Him come again.
hast prepared for me
a light to illuminate before all others
Some the living always seek among the dead; in another country
my beloved lay still within her grave; her tomb my mind encompasses.
This myrrh mine I thin for me.
Happy in my life, unhappy in profession--
Too many bitter little prostitutions,
repeatedly smiles and redundancy
of commonplaces we exchange;
too few confrontations, denial of the notion that we've more
than moment to share. I might prefer mad monks grazing
on their mischief come marauding out of their monasteries
and accost us sinners in the streets or spit in our ears over
our daily bread than have them flog profound truth with their
being most certainly alone. What good is alone? What good
is the dessert? when it's too late. We are not merely passing
one the other; from each we learn; and each we teach.
We all and each of us alone and ignorant.
Blesséd Thou Uncreature Creatured for my sins.
Teach me Thy statutes.
Where might be born,
to whom they may, such consideration matters not.
nor are they blessed before burial, if at all they must be buried.
Herod has not decreed a time for soul to enter into the innocent
whose souls on ancient pagan wanderings must go among the dead.
Only the first and the smallest of such Babi Yars over time, and so
Did one among them who would save not save them.
Were they not saved by one among them who would save.
Or He among the dead this time.
He bombed Serb or Albanian Refugee
Or Him among the corpses strewn in Africa
He upon a hillside in Hazarat
Or slain by terrorist attack in Jerusalem
He the drive-by random senseless dead
A condom or a scalpel
ends return; a child of a virgin re-virginal.
Missing her at our
pre-appointed time and place takes on such dimensions.
The lamppost is the sun and she the earth, her waiting is our history.
Or so we'd think; dead ourselves living so him living among the dead.
Isn't that how it goes? Who knows. I dread today He is among the dead
unborn whose father is unknown, whose mother is unwed;
What greater debt than burden of this One have they--too little sense
to be retrained,
too little cash to pay for Him, too great a guilt to carry on, perhaps
or, might his father carpenter be out of work. Who really gives a shit?
To each some ample reason--if nothing else, so this season's swimsuit
style will fit.
No Herod call, no critic Chaiaphas, no thirty-weight of silver for his
Just Ol' Doc Principublicus at County General
inserts the siphon at skull base
and vacuums salvation out
The thought that precedes
the act, itself condemns.
We, all of us, condemned to death eternal now
it's televised and radio accessible too.
(Prose is the devil's tool to break the rhythms
of our lives and bear false rhyme).
I crave solitude from
Satan, from machinations great and small,
whether by kilo or by ounce, by crushing tax or petit fraud, for all
the boys who should not wake erect but dream their dreams until
proper hour when they can contain themselves and be ten-foot tall
as each was meant to be--erect with character, still virginal.
A bride and groom against the world base. I crave a solitude
wherein the passing thought, each word I speak I know is mine alone,
that I have said with certainty or let it pass as does to me alone seem
to be, without a doubt, completely mine alone; I want to be alone. Left
to myself. In solitude, time harvests space. Where time harvests souls
I wish to be monasticized amid the crowd, blind among the city sights,
and deaf to its cacophony. How madding is the crowd, the unreal city
carnival fat with jazz pouring from bars onto Bourbon Street.
Gomorrans and Sodomites dancing in the street.
And its nomadic populace
of selfsame folk a hundredfold, ignorant
of Principax and principle whose thought is measured 'gainst
some others thought--'where'd you read that'? 'who said it first'?
An urban lady gave it me or maybe was her beau (I loved them both);
it wasn't mine originate as sin but hand-me-down, and I but stretch
to fit or stitch or patch as can the garment royal that I wear as new
('tis all the rage--I heard it on the Radio--it's been on TV, too).
'Tis all a man can do. No island on the avenue, no stranger met--
'Am I' 'I am' I hear them conversate, they mutter in due course,
they curse the curb, the concrete repetitions of a wall unclad
that echoes what they spit upon the street; they pass their gas;
they breathe polluted air, drink from cisterns of accepted thought.
They think I think
No island unto me
myself, no gilligan, no gulliver, no adam lonely edenesque.
No Iesu isolate walks desert dunes, Narcissus can't get to water at
but time erodes our myths and ritual. Our coasts are unflabbed nudities.
The hermit crabs contained
within their houses carried on their backs
scurry 'cross the sands when seas have ebbed, each seeks the solitude
The common cold is symptom of our multitude.
Be plentiful, but
sane, and multiply increase proliferate and amplify.
I simply can't believe she wasn't there because she had to wait.
The garden must be planned.
The garden must be weeded out.
Time harvests even space, the mountains lowed, the shores reshaped,
the continent itself beneath our grounded feet, it crawls away.
SHE couldn't wait.
Why do you women
dilute the myrrh
with your tears?
So I have said into empty goblets, chalices of common beer and bock,
and heard the echo mouthing me in canyons empty of another soul. Back
to that woman I return in thought, the woman that I left behind but
was in another country and at some other time. She mimicked and mocked
with love the words I wrote for her; she could not know those words
stolen from a bindle of my mother's lover's letters I'd found
useful being unused and useless in my mother's ancient writing table
In my mother's tongue they were. I only translate what I know
from others' thoughts into which I was baptized: my words are not my
no word is ever new. Each word has its precious place--been there, done
Each nuance, every meter, each rhyme, each stanza--not mine though
Mine alone--sloughs off the serpent's back;
the serpent sheds its skin, I call it mine.
Transparent cast aside, I take it up; I make it dull; I call it 'mine'.
it is not true, but what of it? I crave a solitude, a space in time
every word I speak, each thought I think I know will be my own, all
original; each utterance, each futile gesture that I make, each sin
should be unique.
Kommst du, schatzy; mushy den, mushy den, spiel mit
Bin gar nicht Rus', aus Kleinstein, echt deutsch.
Call me, "Klaus"
Since Satan would not supplicate, since Adam would not state, and back
to when the Word began--each that we say, each thought we think is ours,
is only some mistake.
Do not weep, women,
your sorrows cease.
N'Orleans is a city
great with jazz.
It rolls from bars unto to the streets
along the houses made of flesh.
He is risen,
so He walks
among you now.
There's a cow in the
backyard; dancing in the garden on the bones
that souls have lost. The Wu Li master does not teach
but with his students dances as universe must dance. So, dance.
This krewe and that
trinkets for your troubles
toss 'em from their empty hats.
Peter Marmaduke, my
neighbor down the street, a saint, my friend,
he lost an eye (he plucked one out) and has no tongue or nothing left
The coochy gal--a married stewardess with kids--she gave me kiss.
The bottled wine is watered down; the beer is cut with piss.
The crowds and krewes they move along; it's nothing you should miss.
mardi-gras! Fat Tuesday for the thoroughly depressed,
the beggars whose hands outstretch for baubles, beads,
the flotsam of the passing rich and famous aboard
Christ Savior neverending
walks among the madding crowd,
asks a handout from a stranger,
bids partiers their kind of peace, wedding waters turn to wine now,
wine to blood, the ring's complete.
Jesus Very of the Very, Son of God as Man, down on his luck
finds a corner
Waits for morning--no
announcement--He is Coming! He's Plus-discrete.
N'Orleans is a city great with jazz that pours from bars on Bourbon
He thinks the party is for Holy Week, his entry on an ass though the
but checks the clock and calendar; it is not time;
no, not his time.
I was born with a
beard and a hard-on
but that means nothin' to a guy like me.
And I was dunked in the River Jordan
but that just made me meaner than pee.
and all my nurses played poker with me.
At eighteen, tried
found sane enough to die for country
did it airborne--coming from the sky
to burn and pillage but this place takes the cake...
Sodom and Gomorrah NOTHING, losers
in the scheme of things; Gotta go to Mardi Party
see and hear the sideshow fleshy.
the Midway to the Carny
watch-t'-shellgame; find the pea; give your savings up t' me.
Get-yer-red-hot-slogans-hollered-ditto: cottoncandy jingles free!
Let-t'-kiddies ride the passin'-brazen juggernaut! Itsafad!
See the zealous undertaking! See a guy, wecall'imdad!
Buy a tickey to the sideshow--tall-'n'-skinny-twins-in-suits!
Gotta see it! Gotta been there! Gotta KNOW before you think!
Fourth o' Julie turkey costumes, Halloween's new Pilgrim Drink!
Sugarcolor'n'somewater--buy-it-here! with NewYear bunnies!
Win a springtime harvest kit, fireworks for common folks!
Lectric airwaves to your head, headaches ever overpowered.
Take no action send no postcard sit there like a lump o' lead!
Be at peace can't-be-all-bad, millions spend their lives on this.
By the morning be a moron, nothin'-toot! stop that chatter and that
We got words you haven't heard of, fancy phrases to not mean a lot!
Barkaslogan! Voteajingle! See the kids who won't be pro-found,
Getyer tickey! won't las'long now! See babiesbabbling, fishesdrowning!
Love the Carny; see the Midway! Cottoncandy for sweet-toots!
Blow another buck at ring-toss! You can't win so what's the loss!
'Tis the season to be jolly, gobble turkey with the oldfolks;
Catch this sale! used fireworks! Cards for Kwanzaa, cards for Druids,
witches got their Sabbath too! Kids in schools dressed hollowmeanies,
Got no Xmas-scene--that's 'gainst the rules--Pagans TWENTY, Saints at
Bark and barter for your meaning; call a psychic--don't take physics--
thousands online sittin' waitin' just to tell you what to do!
Blues and jazz and
the mummyjum beaches of the coastline;
Victims victimless of crime; Get a dime bag for your troubles;
Hug her righteous; wear your rubbers; I got mine now you get your'n;
heard the Rapture's on the news, dear; want to go to Mardi gras?
Seems as if there's something missing;
seems as if something's lost its meaning.
Can't recall it.
Must not matter.
When you come home,
you sit down, sober, contemplative,
not uncharitable frame of mind, and apply yourself to your business.
Blues and jazz and boozed-up bar-rags; jimmyjazz, it's in your hands
Victims victimless and crime; Get a dime bag for your troubles; Hug
heard the Rapture's on the news now.
Then occupies the lowest places.
Each day erodes. The mind meanders. Then occupies a lowest point.
A river is a mind, a river polluted.
Mississippi is my
soul, a sense of place, an attitude in time,
Mississippi is my soul, a sense of place, an attitude in time,
Mississippi is my soul, a sense of place, an attitude in time,
The river and its
banks, its populace around its bends dependent
on its flood and flow here with levee, by dam, or there with lock
mastered but free, receding from its fingering the gulf, raging
to undermine mound and concrete, bridge and span with shaping current,
bars and oxbow severance from and into single path. River and its folk
direction. So my soul. In water and in blood, vein encased in thick
of bottomlands, seepage and sewerage nourished, channeled through,
taxed and irrigated by some far off source whose weather is not mine.
We come to love that which we hate
and fear that which we do not understand
or understand too late
Mississippi is my
soul, a sense of place, an attitude in time,
this state of time, this place of sore words, this rich
vast and frontier twine of souls, this knot of change, this fevered
that rubs its hinds against the city dogs who lick its flanks, this
of stock branched and tributaried, separated by their single-
mindedness and singularly mindless desire to tide toward or out
from mainstream, to inundate, to sediment a deep for future to sift
through muck, to ferret them, unearth them, decipher and decide
for them who they'd been, who are they now, and what thing they might
have been. My soul. And they. Unfathomed like the sea whence they rose.
Now foot upon each bank or steadfast on one shore against its flow--so
each separate like the other--contrast in their comparison, correlate
in their so great contrast. This Mississippi. This, my soul. I know
it by season: the flood of Spring that from a winter's tears must rise,
summers redundant in abundant lush with promise for autumn harvest
pregnant with comfort before cold season. These, appearances.
Mississippi is my soul, a sense of place, an attitude in time,
this movement through space and time. This endless. This ceaseless.
This Flow. This friend. This foe. This soul. This, my soul.
Do not swim; do not immerse;
Stand not near. This Mississippi.
This cross we bear.
When I arrived, she was not there.
I mistook another for her then.
This Kingdom outside time.
Yes. This, my soul. This river cleansing.
Seasonal in Confession. Eternal in Penitence.
This I know. This Mississippi. That which nourishes and binds us.
Mississippi is my soul, a sense of place, an attitude in time,
This broad belly. This bitch spreading her haunches.
This wide hollow sunders the ranges that make it one,
one wide valley whence one valley folk.
This day Salvation saves to the world.
In this place.
Let us sing to Who rose from dead.
Who Authors Life.
In this time.
Among this folk.
Having destroyed death by death.
is granted victory and great mercy.
O My soul.
O My soul.
leader of triumphant hosts,
Delivered from evil, We,
Sing praises unto thee
O My soul
O My soul
we'll all hum hymn 269
copyright John Horvath Jr