POEM: “The Road to Little Gidding”

In 1626 C.E., an Englishman named Nicholas Farrar left London and public life for a remote village called Little Gidding. There he and his mother, brother, sister, and in-laws repaired the chapel and formed a household that lived a quasi-monastic life; without a formal rule of life or vows, they observed regular prayer times, did acts of charity, and occupied the chapel with the continuous recitation of the Psalter. When Farrar’s good friend George Herbert was on his deathbed, he sent Farrar his manuscript of poetry, asking him to publish it if he thought it worthwhile. We owe to Farrar Herbert’s contribution to English poetry.

The Anglican church in England, South Africa, and the United States honors Nicholas Farrar as a minor saint. His life and the community at Little Gidding also, of course, inspired one of the greatest poems (I think) in the English language, T.S. Eliot’s “Little Gidding”, the climax of Four Quartets. I didn’t come to love Eliot or to know anything about Farrar until I discovered them on my own as a teenager, but once I discovered them, they became mine forever: “You are here to kneel/Where prayer has been valid.”

I was still a teenager, I think, when I wrote this poem, which certainly owes a lot to Eliot, but I still like it.

cherry-tree

The Road from Little Gidding

The ruin of this idea straddles

the feast-days of despair:

The Psalter is a seven-spoked wheel

revolving between light and dark.

 

Aleph, beth, gimel, Beowulf:

Water is precentor of this

midwinter summer; the stones

are wet of this small, human dwelling

built by human hands, cemented

with antiphony’s acoustical

relations; one stone

clings hard upon another

in our memory.

 

That was our City,

foundationed in God–

a little, ruined village,

a little home of little men.

Walls lean together

like deacons in a sanctuary;

a hole through a stained-glass

window obscures the light.

 

And after this our pilgrimage

a memory: measured music

under vaults. The Psalms revolve

from Coverdale to me.

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POEM: To Tolkien on his birthday

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An icon by Robert Lentz

You wandered among the trees, pipe gripped
between your teeth, dreaming of elder days,
when you might have been a poet singing
in a firelit hall. Instead you wandered among
the trees and told your tales to friends in pubs
and wandered back to dreary students
grubbing at the ancient roots of language.
Every language a mythology, every mythology
a universe: Your languages, your mythology,
your universe endure, your memory enshrined
along with Homer, Virgil, Dante, Amergin
and Taliesin and the lost poets of the North,
Ent-namer, mythmaker, word-lover, Elf-friend.

Requiem for the trans dead, movement eight

VIII. In paradisum

Imagine there is a city.

Imagine there is a city which is also a garden.

Imagine that trees grow in this city

which flower and fruit at the same time.

Imagine that a river runs

through this city

and four rivers spring out of it

and the waters run out

to the four directions.

Imagine the streets of this city

are broad and clear,

paved with white

or inlaid with mosaic.

Imagine the windows

of the houses are open

to the light and the air,

and the doors

of the houses are open

to visitors and guests.

Imagine that fountains flow

in the parks, and the pigeons

eat from your hand, and the dogs

play without aggression

as the cats look on

from the window sills.

Imagine the people

walking there, walking in

the street, singing

in their doorways,

cooking at their hearths.

Imagine them in all colors,

imagine them in all genders,

imagine them in all races,

imagine them in all sexualities,

imagine them in shining robes,

in glorious hats, in golden shoes,

in jewelled sandals, in shimmering veils.

Imagine that you are welcome there.

Imagine being led into the city

through the gates that are never shut

while trumpets blare on the towers

and flash mobs dance in the streets.

Imagine there is a house for you

and in this house is every thing

you ever wanted and every person

you ever loved knows the address.

Imagine what you would call this city.

Jerusalem? Antinopolis? Alexandria?

New York? Shambala? London?

Imagine that you are going there, now.

Imagine that you are home.

Requiem for the trans dead, movement seven

VII. An ancient dirge

On this night, on this night,
every night and all,
fire and fleet and candlelight,
and gods receive your souls.

If shoes and stockings
were taken away,
at the first gate
put them on

If skirt or trousers
were taken away
at the second gate
put them on

If shirt or blouse
were taken away,
at the third gate
put them on

If hat or wig
were taken away,
at the fourth gate
put them on

If jewels or gauds
were taken away,
at the fifth gate
put them on

If cash and cards
were taken away,
at the sixth gate
take them up

If hungry and thirsty
you may be,
at the seventh gate
there waits for thee

food and drink
fire and friends
light and a guide
on this night

on this night
every night and all
gates stand open
for the trans dead
gods receive your souls

Requiem for the trans dead, movement six

VI. Libera me

O Antinous the Liberator, deliver us.

Deliver the living from transphobia

and the trans dead from their fears.

Deliver the living from the fear of Eros

and the trans dead from their unrequited loves.

Deliver the living from the tyranny of gender roles

and the trans dead from the tyranny of the body.

Deliver the living and the dead alike from all evils

that would harm the body, that would assault

and deform the soul. O Antinous, liberate us!

 

May Panprosdexia free the minds of the living

and the souls of the trans dead.

May Panhyle free the bodies of the living

and the remains of the trans dead.

May Paneros free the hearts of the living

and the hearts of the trans dead.

May Pancrates burn the bonds of the living

and likewise of the trans dead.

May Paneris contest with all hatred among the living

and defend and protect the trans dead.

May Panprosdexia succor the living

and find all the trans dead, wherever they may be,

and lead them home to the light.

Requiem for the Trans Dead, movement five

V. Communion

Lux aeterna
May light eternal shine on the trans dead
and may the light of judgment shine upon their murderers.
May light eternal shine on the path they take
and may the light of condemnation shine upon their bullies.
May light eternal shine for them, a beacon in their darkness,
and may light like a laser search the consciences of the bigots.
Light can be a blessing, sunlight, moonlight,
a candle in the darkness, a string of tiny bulbs,
but light can also be a curse, probing, searing,
burning, cauterizing the wound so it will not bleed.
May the dead walk safely into the light.
May the living walk safely under the light.
May the guilty find no rest, only the torment of light.
When there is justice, then may the trans dead
rest and remain in peace.

Requiem for the Trans Dead, movement four

IV. Offertorium

Domine Jesu Christe, Rex Gloriae

O Antinous, Liberator of souls,

Navigator of the Boat of Millions of Years,

Lover and beloved of the queers, the homos,

the fags, the dykes, the trannies,

the green carnations and the pink stars:

Deliver the souls and spirits, the bones and shades

of the trans dead from the wandering road,

from the unhallowed place.

May Panprosdexia lead them

out of the deepest pit.

May Pancrates rescue them

from the lion’s mouth.

May Paneros draw them

from the bottomless lake.

May Panpsyche guide them

through the restless winds.

May Panhyle protect them

and their bodies’ resting-place.

O Antinous, beautiful, just, benevolent,

gather them aboard

your Boat of Millions of Years

and take them to the afterlife

of their heart’s desire.

 

Hostia et preces

To the gods we offer sacrifice and prayers

on behalf of the trans dead, remembered

and unremembered, to all the gods

in all the heavens, in all the hells,

in every purgatory and limbo, on behalf

of all the souls, male or female or both

or neither, that they may be welcomed

onto the Boat of Millions of Years

and taken to the afterlife

of their hearts desire.