A Preview and Some Poems

A Preview and Some Poems September 26, 2012

I’m working on a long post about the fragment of papayrus, announced by Professor Karen King of Harvard, that contains the line, “Jesus said to them, ‘My wife . . . ‘” That is definitely going to force revision of the theological landscape. In the meantime, here are three more poems.

Another Triptych

In the Country of the Young


Alan, it’s cruel to be so reasonable.

When your son rebels,

You weathered storms

On those very seas

Where we’ll go no more a-roving

In these landlocked days.


How much more vivid

Our feelings were,

How much more things hurt

The young sailor steering his frail craft

On the inward sea

Where reason’s a whirlpool, and compassion

The lifeboat you supply.


To grow up is to grow flatter.

The price for not falling so far down

Is not to get so high.

Never again will there be songs as new

As those we danced to

Or any love that can so renew the world

As that first, young love.


Yet it’s not a loss to leave the chop

Of wave after wave:

There are harmonies on land that can’t be heard

When the stormwind howls.

Highlands seem dull to the young;

So they must wander.

Mother and fathers, watching the children play,

Sit, or walk, and talk,

But the quiet’s an illusion,

For here’s the mystery:


To the young the young sing in passion,

But the old to the old in wisdom.

The first is the fire of intuitive spring,

The second the fire of string quartets

Consumed by consummation,

A gnostic music, all between the notes,

Ancient voices resting in the silences,

A song as motionless as hummingbirds.


How else explain the impersonal passion

Of reason wrestling the angel for wisdom?

No life begins except in spring,

But our seasons move in seasonal quartets,

And winter finds their consummation.

After the ecstasy of Dionysian excess, notes,

Dropping one by one, ripple through the silences

And the soul is content, for a while, to watch the birds.



Continuous Creation

(For Sir Fred Hoyle)


Sir Fred, I once said    To you that I’d seen

You as a hero              Since I was fifteen,

But I did not explain.

Now that I know you I’ll say what I mean.


You are a hero for not surrendering the universe

To a failure of imagination: the Big Bang is dull!

It is a voice in the wilderness, crrying,

“Be serious! Be serious!”

It is a vision of the same old Armageddon,

Closed, pointless, final, and uninteresting.

In brief, the old Christian fatalism, just writ large.


Your quilted universe is the bedspread of the Gods,

Whose work is their playfulness—and what

Is more serious than the laughter of the Gods?


Those who accept the Big Bang do so on faith,

Since you have proved there are other explanations.

In your theory all opposites are true.

It is all real in each neighborhood,

It is all unreal taken as a whole,

And there is always more,

Another universe next door.

You are a warrior of the spirit, defending

Not the universe, which can take care of itself,

But the human capacity for vision.



The Warfare of Plato with Aristotle


“Truth did not come into the world naked;

It came in forms and images. . . .

Truth bore names into the world for our sake,

For we cannot learn it without names.”

  Gospel of Philip, 67 and 12

Here are Plato’s idols, ranked

Precisely on the heady heights;

There, Aristotle’s, stolid, flanked

By logical plans for any fight,

And dug in firmly to the ground.

They clash:

the campaign goes round after round,

For neither can win, and neither will yield.

And here’s my soul: their battlefield.


Oh, not just mine: their battle rages

In the souls of fathers, mothers,

Aunts and uncles, sisters, brothers,

And will until impoverished ages

Come to steal our memory

Of walks and the academy,

When mankind will no longer know,

As is above, so is below.


Fire and water, love and strife,

Air and earth, from death to life:

The triangle halves of David’s star

Represent the holy war

Between the wisdom that descends

In forms and images of fire

And the passion that defends

The right of mankind to desire

Both the joy of copulation

Under our conscious transformation

And the peace of simply sitting

With the children and the knitting,

Knowing that the door is barred,

With Aristotle standing guard,

Against peremptory invasion

By the forces of creation.


Even our illusory free will

Keeps angels waiting at our sill

Until we choose to ask them in—

Then wonder how we thought to sin.

So daily I thank old Plato’s ghosts

For reminding me of Heaven’s hosts,

But thank, as well, old Aristotle,

That today I haven’t touched the bottle.


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