Friday, April 6, 2012


The wounded surgeon plies the steel
That questions the distempered part;
Beneath the bleeding hands we feel
The sharp compassion of the healer's art
Resolving the enigma of the fever chart.

  Our only health is the disease
If we obey the dying nurse
Whose constant care is not to please
But to remind of our, and Adam's curse,
And that, to be restored, our sickness must grow worse.

  The whole earth is our hospital
Endowed by the ruined millionaire,
Wherein, if we do well, we shall
Die of the absolute paternal care
That will not leave us, but prevents us everywhere.

  The chill ascends from feet to knees,
The fever sings in mental wires.
If to be warmed, then I must freeze
And quake in frigid purgatorial fires
Of which the flame is roses, and the smoke is briars.

  The dripping blood our only drink,
The bloody flesh our only food:
In spite of which we like to think
That we are sound, substantial flesh and blood—
Again, in spite of that, we call this Friday good. 
Our culture values positivity to its detriment, not that wallowing in a sea
of sorrow is somehow better but, the people I know who seem most disturbed by my 
tendencies towards melancholia as some kind of spiritual ailment and exhort me to be 
more positive, because God wants me to be happy, because this is what's taught to us
from birth it seems. 
And yet, since my lapsed-Catholic soul is still attuned to liturgy, I think of 
the verses of the Lord as a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief, who agonized
and sweated drops of blood seeing the impending pain. There's nothing in there
about keeping one's head up, but an acknowledgement of the reality that shit is 
fucked up and something needs to be done to put it right, and this sentiment is borne
out in psalms and lamentations and cries of rage and grief from prophets and regular folk.
Because there is only so much much that we can do besides the golden rule basics 
so hard to follow as it is, and it seems that every other religion tells you to 
suck it up or just try harder and hope that maybe things work out because you're 
not as bad as that other person. 
If we pretend that this pain and suffering and just plain wrong things aren't there,
we simply deny the reality of human existence in a world wracked with entropy,
where we all see through the glass darkly though some try to tint that unknowing
with shades of green and rose. And maybe I'm just crazy, but I can't help but wonder
if I'm in good company here. 


  1. Gardening is often a measured cruelty:
    what is to live and what is to be torn
    up by its roots and flung on the compost
    to rot and give its essence to new soil.

    It is not only the weeds I seize.
    go down the row of new spinach—
    their little bright Vs crowding—
    and snatch every other, flinging

    their little bodies just as healthy,
    just as sound as their neighbors
    but judged, by me, superfluous.
    We all commit crimes too small

    for us to measure, the ant soldiers
    we stomp, whose only aim was to
    protect, to feed their vast family.
    It is I who decide which beetles

    are "good" and which are "bad"
    as if each is not whole in its kind.
    We eat to live and so do they,
    the locusts, the grasshoppers,

    the flea beetles and aphids and slugs.
    By bad I mean inconvenient. Nothing
    we do is simple, without consequence
    and each act is shadowed with death.

    "The good, the bad and the inconvenient" by Marge Piercy

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