Poetry Friday: “Advent” by Bruce Bond

Gerard van Honthorst Adoration of the Shepherds via wikimedia public domainI’ve heard many people say we’ve never needed poetry more than we do now, but “Advent,” by Bruce Bond, reminds me that poetry has always been vital. The poem begins with a bombing in the Yellow Sea and smoke so thick “you cannot  see your hands,” which sets the reader up for a domino effect of disorientation. This disorientation is reinforced by clever line breaks and images that seem to lean into one another—the earth’s tilt on its axis becomes a man lost in thought, folks sleepily sitting by the fire become “cows in the crèche,” yesterday becomes tomorrow: “the farther back you go/the more it dims into a future.” A holy day becomes ordinary: “so long past / it could have been most any season.” Another dimension of this disorientation comes from lines that seem to have been written just yesterday, although the poem was published five years ago. Consider: “talk that turns bitter as it grows more national in scope.” When the swirling, otherworldly tone of the poem introduces images of Advent (“A child is born / crowned in blood”), the reader encounters an Advent story more frightening and more alluring than the one usually on display in this month of ubiquitous manger scenes. “Advent” highlights the strange beauty of this season, and reminds us that we have always, and will always, need poetry—to shake the dust off our stories and help beauty “bloom through the wound.”

—Christina Lee

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Chimayo and the Bloody Knees of Jesus

56521694_33e573d4a0_z“I want a holy experience!” I say to my companions, Amy and Danielle, leaning toward them in the cafeteria of St. John’s College in Santa Fe. We are all spending a week away from our children and husbands at the Glen Workshop to get some time to write and explore the area.

They seem mildly amused by my outburst, possibly because they are used to my naive, idealistic longing for a mystical encounter. We continue discussing a place called Chimayo—about a forty-five minute drive away—that is supposed to have holy dust.

Ooh, holy dust, I think. I want to touch it. I want to feel the holy. [Read more…]

The Erotic Powers of the Holy Spirit

4kiss1My thirteen-year-old son had seen the Viagra commercials for years, but never understood what they meant, until finally, he asked what Viagra is and does, and I told him. Now he has this new vocabulary that includes the phrase “erectile dysfunction,” and another galaxy of humorous opportunities has opened to him.

He begins to explore the ever-present sexual subtext that exists just beyond child-consciousness. Dear Lord, the sex is everywhere. How many people are having it, this very minute? How many conversations, looks, and touches are about it, even when the word is never mentioned?

Fortunately, he still has much to learn and a lifetime to learn it—or not—which is also maybe an option. There’s a fair chance he won’t pick up on certain realms of sexual metaphor unless someone points them out to him. I don’t know if beyond a certain age, such would be a privation or a precious innocence.

For my own part, sex is the non-sensual monument at the center of nearly everything I do and think and feel and pray. It was the last frontier between childhood and adult life, the primary benchmark between innocence and sin, the portal to motherhood and the ongoing cyclical shadow over my bodily liberty.

Sexuality is still a bit of a bog I wade through regarding every new acquaintance or friendship. And sexual temptations are probably the chief source of any humility I possess, the primary impetus for throwing myself on the mercy of God.

And then there is the flesh and blood doing of it—which, what can I say? It makes the cut. But it does require boundaries, especially since we’re Catholic, and we already have six kids, and you can deduce the rest. [Read more…]

It’s Advent and I’m Done Waiting

This is not an Advent post. There are enough of those out there. Writing of waiting, of expectation, of a light entering the darkness, of hope. I have heard them all before. I am done waiting.

In class, we were talking about emotions. I teach English to refugees from East Africa. Per usual, they were quick to talk about what makes them feel joyous, but were silent when it came to the negative emotions.

What makes you feel sad? I asked, not thinking about the great chasms of human experience that separate me from the class. A man who comes every day and sits in the front, quiet and smart and well read, speaks up. His eyes are wide, and his voice is low.

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Antisuperchrist: How the Man of Steel Saves, Part 2

Guest Post
By Lucas Kwong

Today I want to take up the question that ended yesterday’s post: Is Superman the Übermensch?

As a host of commentators have pointed out, Superman’s conventional morals have never positioned him as the destroyer of societal norms that Nietzsche championed. In Man of Steel, our hero’s forbearance toward his human antagonists make it clear he isn’t about to super-speed beyond good and evil anytime soon. Yet all the loving compassion in Henry Cavill’s baby blues can’t erase the fact that humanity doesn’t want a mangy drifter for a Messiah, or even a clean-scrubbed-but-nondescript farm boy: it wants a demigod.

It’s telling that, in this revision of comic book history, the “S” on his chest actually represents the Kryptonian symbol for hope. Misinterpreting this, the humans dub him Superman. What’s a self-effacing savior to do?

Indeed, the cosmos itself seems hell-bent on forging Kal-El into Nietzsche’s prototype. The collision between Kryptonian biology and Earth’s atmosphere produces Clark’s horrifically heightened sense of perception, such that his childhood memories involve seeing his teacher as a walking skeleton. In his all-encompassing sensorial receptivity, Clark recalls the Overman’s capacity to absorb life’s totality, incorporating Dionysian chaos and Apollonian order into his being without missing a (goose)step. [Read more…]