Monday, January 27, 2014

Each Morning He'd Anoint the Room's Four Corners with an Arc of Piss - and Then, Until He Was Forcibly Halted - Beat His Forehead Open on the Eastern Wall

I was brought up Roman Catholic (at least until I was thirteen and refused to go any further and my mother grew disenchanted herself with the Catholic Church enough to not fight me). Sunday mass and CCD at St Martins, corner of Summit and Frederick in Olde Towne Gaithersburg Maryland. Here's the thing: while I never bought, even when young, the religion, I dug the rituals. This doesn't surprise you if you know me, the most ritual driven fuck I know. See the gag in the previous sentence. This past Saturday I attended the memorial service for my friend Steven Jackson, a good guy, in a beautiful small chapel on campus, in a beautiful small ceremony full of traditional rituals, candles and stained-glass and deafening silences of communal prayer and reflection. I was blissfully crushed by it. I am the most ritual driven fuck I know.


Albert Goldbarth

Each morning he’d anoint the room’s four corners
with an arc of piss, and then—until
he was forcibly halted—beat his forehead open
on the eastern wall, the “sunrise wall,”
incanting a doggerel prayer about God
the Flower, God of the Hot Plucked Heart; and
she, if loose in the halls, would join him,
squatting in the center of the room and masturbating
with a stolen bar of soap. This isn’t why
they were sent to the madhouse: this is what
they needed to do once in the madhouse: this
is the only meaningful ritual they could fashion
there, created from the few, make-do
materials available. It isn’t wondrous strange
more than the mega-boozhwah formulaic splendor
of my sister’s wedding ten, eleven years ago:
her opulent bouquet of plastic flowers
(for the wilting pour of wattage at the photo session),
nigglingly arranged to match the real bouquet
she carried down the aisle, bloom per bloom;
the five-foot Taj Mahal of sculpted pastel sherbet;
endless “Fiddler on the Roof”; I’m sorry
now I cranked my academic sneer hauteur in place
all night. I’m sorry I didn’t lose myself
like a drunken bee in a room-sized rose,
in waltzing Auntie Sally to the lush swell
of the band. We need this thing. There’s not one
mineral in Stonehenge that our blood can’t also raise.
One dusk, one vividly contusion-color
dusk, with my fists in my pockets and
a puzzle of fish-rib clouds in the sky, I
stopped at the low-level glow of a basement window
(Hot Good Noodle Shop) and furtively looked in:
a full-grown pig was splayed on the table,
stunned but fitfully twitching, it looked as if
it had grasshoppers under its skin. A man and a woman
slit that body jaw-to-ass with an ornate knife,
and then they both scooped out a tumble
of many dozens of wasps, preserved
by the oils of living pig to a beautiful black and amber
gem-like sheen. I saw it. Did I
see it? From inside this, over their wrists
in the tripes, they carefully removed
the wooden doll of a man and the wooden doll of a woman
maybe two inches tall, a tiny lacquered sun
and matching brass coin of a moon, and then
a child’s-third-grade-version of a house
made out of pallid wax: a square of walls,
a pyramid roof, and a real smoking chimney.

1 comment:

  1. Condolences. The consolations of religious ritual reach deep into the silent sadnesses of our hearts. And then there're sacred musics—but, then again, aren't they all?