Monday, December 9, 2013

"Moonlight and Maggots" by Carl Sandburg

Moonlight and Maggots
    Carl Sandburg

The moonlight filters on the prairie.
The land takes back an old companion.
The young corn seems pleased with a visit.
In Illinois, in Iowa, this moontime is on.
A bongo looks out and talks about the look of the moon
As if always a bongo must talk somewhat so in moontime -
The moon is a milk-white love promise,
A present for the young corn to remember.
A caress for silk-brown tassels to come.
Spring moon to autumn moon measures one harvest.
All almanacs are merely so many moon numbers.
A house dizzy with decimal points and trick figures
And a belfry at the top of the world for sleep songs
And a home for lonesome goats to go to -
Iike now, like always, the bongo takes up a moon theme -
There is no end to the ancient kit-kats inhabiting the moon:
Jack and the beanstalk and Jacob’s ladder helped them up,
Cats and sheep, the albatross, the phoenix and the dodo-bird,
They are all living on the moon for the sake of the bongo -
Castles on the moon, mansions, shacks and shanties, ramshackle
Huts of tarpaper and tincans, grand real estate properties
Where magnificent rats eat tunnels in colossal cheeses,
Where the rainbow chasers take the seven prisms apart
And put them together again and are paid in moon money -
The flying dutchman, paul bunyan, saint paul, john bunyan,
The little jackass who coughs gold pieces when you say bricklebrit -
They are all there on the moon and the rent not paid
And the roof leaking and the taxes delinquent -
Like now, like always, the bongo jabbers of the moon,
Of cowsheds, railroad tracks, corn rows and cornfield corners
Finding the filter of the moon an old friend - 
Look at it - cries the bongo - have a look! have a look!

Well, what of it? comes the poohpooh -
Always the bongo isa little loony - comes the poohpooh,
The bongo is a poor fish and a long ways from home.
Be like me; be an egg, a hardboiled egg, a pachyderm
Practical as a buzzsaw and a hippopotamus put together.
Get the facts and no monkeybusiness what I mean.
The moon is a dead cinder, a ball of death, a globe of doom.
Long ago it died of lost motion, maggots masticated the surface of it
And the maggots languished, turned ice, froze on and took a free ride.
Now the sun shines on the maggots and the maggots make the moonlight.
The moon is a cadaver and a dusty mummy and a damned rotten investment.
The moon is a liability loaded up with frozen assets and worthless paper.
Only the lamb, the sucker, the come-on, the little lost boy, has time for the moon.

Well - says the bongo - you got a good argument.
I am a little lost boy and a long ways from home.
I am a sap, a pathetic fish, a nitwit and a lot more and worse you couldn’t think of.
Nevertheless and notwithstanding and letting all you say be granted and acknowledged
The moon is a silver silhouette and a singing stalactite.
The moon is a bringer of fool’s gold and fine phantoms.
On the heaving restless sea or the fixed and fastened land
The moon is a friend for the lonesome to talk with.
The moon is at once easy and costly, cheap and priceless.
The price of the moon runs beyond all adding machine numbers
Summer moonmusic drops down adagio sostenuto whathaveyou.
Winter moonmusic practices the mind of man for a long trip.
The price of the moon is an orange and a few kind words.
Nobody on the moon says, I been thrown out of better places than this.
No one on the moon has ever died of arithmetic and hard words.
No one on the moon would skin a louse to sell the hide.
The moon is a pocket luckpiece for circus riders, for acrobats on the flying rings, for wild animal tamers.
I can look up at the moon and take it or leave.
The moon coaxes me: Be at home wherever you are.
I can let the moon laugh me to sleep for nothing.
I can put a piece of the moon in my pocket for tomorrow.
I can holler my name at the moon and the moon hollers back my name.
When I get confidential with the moon and tell secrets
The moon is a sphinx and a repository under oath.

Yes Mister poohpooh
I am a poor nut, just another of God’s mistakes.
You are the tough bimbo, hard as nails, yeah.
You know enough to come in when it rains.
You know the way to the post office and I have to ask.
They fool you the first time but never the second.
Thrown into the river you always come up with a fish.
You are a diller a dollar, I am a ten o’clock scholar.
You know the portent of the axiom: Them as has gits.
You devised that abracadabra: Get all you can keep all you get.

     We shall always be interfering with each other, forever be arguing -
you for the maggots, me for the moon.
Over our bones, cleaned by the final maggots as we lie recumbent, perfectly forgetful, beautifully ignorant -
There will settle over our grave illustrious tombs
On nights when the air is clear as a bell
And the dust and fog are shovelled off on the wind -
There will sink over our empty epitaphs
a shiver of moonshafts
a line of moonslants.

Monday, December 2, 2013

For Thine is the Kingdom ...

What words may or may not mean makes all the difference.

But most words are defenseless against the imposition of meaning. They don't shout to us: "This is what I mean."

So we mostly do with them as we please … often by lifting them out of their context, and then telling them to behave, and like a dog, heel, or sit or roll over, at our pleasure.

Yet, some reflection and study can open the joy of a word beyond what we might think it means or even want for it.

So, I've been thinking about the liturgical end of the LORD's Prayer: "for Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever."

More than likely crafted as a liturgical response early on, it's been incorporated into the prayer, and now for most Christians, it's simply how the prayer ends.

And for me, it ends well.

Yet careful thought, I believe, needs to be given to what these words mean.

So let me have a go at it.

"Kingdom" is a good word when read within the context of God's Kingdom so ably expressed by Isaiah's "Peaceable Kingdom" imagery in Isaiah 11. Within the stories of Israel, kingdom often meant what it might well mean for us, and how it's often been used throughout Christian History - kingdom by the sword, with mighty kings going out to battle with storming chariots and charging horses.

But not so for Isaiah, neither for Jesus nor Paul.

The Kingdom of God is one of justice and peace, wherein all have a chance at life, and no one is hungry or afraid. That's the kingdom for which we pray - thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

Power demands some thought, as well. Again, not the power of the sword that brings death, but the power of God's creative energies that create life, sustaining and enlarging it … the creativity of creation, the bringing forth of light and life for the sake of a world wherein all creatures have their place, and the human creature, endowed with great capacity, is called to care for the vulnerable creatures and their habitat - for it's a matter of vulnerability. The human being, created in God's image, has the capacity to raise up or to bring down life and death. When it comes to the vulnerable, to do as God does - and that's to raise up, to protect and to save.

The last word, glory - a big word that encompasses fulfillment of purpose … a human being, fulfilling God's intended purpose in compassion and wisdom, brings glory to God, and like a glorious sunset, or a glorious piece of pumpkin pie, when something is just right, good and harmonious, it's glory.

The last word I consider is Thine - these words belong to God; they are not ours to define as we please. Rather, these words belong to God. Even the word God can mean just about anything we want it to mean; history makes that ever so clear. Yet within all of the stories and all of the history, there's been a consistent image of peace, and a constant call to live these words, not with the power of kings and armies, but in the power of faith, hope and love - that which neither takes nor demands, but gives and restores.

Measured by Jesus, who crafts the Prayer when the disciples ask how they should pray, the church rightly crafted the response to his words - a fitting end to the LORD's Prayer:

For Thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory forever. Amen!