History/Past

At The Site Of Lovers Unashamed

Right there:  two wholly naked lovers pass
by:  adolescents, hand in hand.  Their feet
glide lightly through the thick, and dew-drenched, grass.
Too casual to be in any hurry,
they feel no need to pause for, or to scurry
from, any secret shame or brash conceit.
From last night's slow and lingering love-making,
through cuddled sleep beneath the stars, then waking
at dawn and to each other with a kiss---
theirs is a pristine and perfected bliss.
But someone lurks outside, whose plans now mean
to sow this garden with sin's seeds, obscene
and lewd; whose twisted thought is serpentine,
who thinks pure joy should be his for the taking.

Author's Notes/Comments: 

After Genesis 2 (verse 25 provides part of the title) and the context.

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At The Edge Of Bethlehem, 2

Each of us has experienced the dream
warning last night.  Our circumstances seem
to have been changed.  Much as we wish to stay---
to make a longer inquiry today---
we must depart, and take another way
home.  Herod is unstable:  the condition
and balance of his mind is much in question.
That rage of his is not mere indigestion.
He loves to find a reason to condemn
the innocent.  His soul is filled with gall,
and envy.  When we left Jerusalem,
I had a rather frightening premonition---
of foregone doom---outside the city wall.
Beyond the gate, and down the road I saw
a little hill, where crosses stood, a small
ridge---but it looked exactly like a skull.

 

Starward
 
[jlc]    

Author's Notes/Comments: 

After Matthew 2.

 

I realize that, in his poem "Journey Of The Magi," T. S. Eliot also mentions crosses.  Given the Roman and Herodian reliance upon crucifixion, and Golgotha's designation as a place of execution, presumably crosses (occupied or empty) would be seen on the ridge at all times.  For that reason, I mentioned them; and not to either allude to, or plagiarize from, Eliot's great poem.

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At Pompey's Exit From Jerusalem

To make this work the way we Romans like,
you need to use the choicest of locations;
and not behind a wall, hedge, pile, or dike---
these do not give successful demonstrations.
Procedures like this have a certain cost
(man hours, material security
are all expensive, each in its own right).
Therefore, the full effect cannot be lost
upon the local subjects.  Hence, the site---
one that can be used quite repeatedly---
must be well placed:  like this one I just saw,
only a few steps past the city wall,
on this main road (a major artery
you might say), and they say the locals call
this ridge (that seems to have a face) "the skull."

 

Starward
 
[jlc]

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At The Entrance, 1

Of course until a little while ago,
I would not have expected to be here;
not only that, but free---too---of the fear
that this is only temporary.  Oh,
this vast, far garden is more beautiful
than any ever heard of, ever seen.
(The old, in comparison, is mean,
and crude, and evil; as was, once, my soul).
I thought, before:  I have what I deserve
(and still do), but events took quite a swerve.
I had not thought to die beside the King,
to have, from Him, a promise that would bring
me to this lovely and refreshing place:
not by my works but, solely, by His Grace.

Author's Notes/Comments: 

 Inspired by Luke 23:39-43

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At Rest Before A Statue In The Desert

Two adolescent Hebrews with their child
pause for a brief rest in the shade cast by
your massive statue (although half concealed
yet in the sand).  Its peaceful, granite face
looks calmly from the desert toward the land
where lust for idled idols and the power
their priesthoods wielded cast you out, then down
to death.  That common upstart Ramases
(the second of that name) thought he had built
the most colossal images, but he
did not know of this one.  And those who carved
your name off all the monuments---therefore
from Egypt's history and afterlife;
or so they thought, as so thought Horemheb
(that peasants' son who you had once called friend)
who marked his reign as Pharaoh from the night
your father died.  But this memorial
(out of the reach of all who had betrayed
you and your vision) stands alone out here,
a gift from Ankhesenpaaten in the days
before she fled with Tutankhaten (her
beloved for all time) from seethng Thebes
(his double's death, unfortunately, gave
them opportunity to save their lives).
And now these adolescent Hebrews sit
in your cool shadow, with their child; barefoot,
the three of them and weary.  As you seem
to look upon them, they cannot have known
that you had been a prophet of the same
God Whom their prophets spoke of in that land
(called Israel, once, and Judea now;
but know to you as Canaan).  In the sun's
light, you perceived His presence and to show
it as an image, you had added to
the solar disc rays terminating in
hands that held out the cross of life to all.
He---the source of all life and the point
to which all destinies proceed; Whose light
creates, restores, refreshes and revives
all that has dwelling on His fecund earth;
Who placed the fixed stars and the moving stars
upon flawless canopy of sky---
bid you declare him to the world of flesh
and blood, and with a holy zeal desert
the darkened temples of the old, false gods
to worship, with simplicity and truth,
in new pavilions, sunlit, filled with flowers,
and open to the sky from which, above
it and all things, He looks down with a glow,
and beam, and smile of love and loving care
upon the living and all He has made.
And, for His glory, you abandoned Thebes,
and built a new and splendid city in
a place where none had ever dwelt before;
the city that, too soon, wroth Horemheb
had broken and dismantled, stone by stone.
But Ankhesenpaaten, who had been a scamp,
the boldest of your daughters but, as well,
the humblest, always barefoot (she despised
shoes, hypocrites, and stifling protocols)
commission this last tribute---thus designed
and carved in utmost secrecy and placed
where Horemheb and those who followed him
should be too proud, or else too stupidly
clueless, to look where she, a shoeless girl---
a clever minx whose unshod footsteps' tease
brought Tutankhaten peaks of fierce desire,
and peeks and glimpses of her beauty traced
beneath sheer, gauze-like gowns---had set the site.
And now, long centuries and more since then,
this barefoot Hebrew girl lifts up her son
(who is a little more than two years old)
to look once more on your stone face.  Then with
her husband (oh, the joys of teenaged love),
she and her son will travel on a while
to Alexandria, and there, among
the Jewish quarter, find a place to live,
a shelter from the fierce wrath that had sought,
lately, to slay the child.  Three special gifts---
gold, frankincense, and myrrh---will help provide
for their domestic needs through their stay
in that fair seaport city at the Nile's
mouth, safely sheltered there until the God,
whom you believed embodied in the sun
shall send for them again as God had once
and long ago foretold, set forth in these
words:  "'Out of Egypt have I called my Son'"---
the Day star now held in His mother's arms.

 

Starward

 

[jlc]

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At The Reassignment And Relocation Of Duty

They cannot quite live with the evidence,
and so they asked us, rather, to admit
falsely that we had been asleep on duty---
a dereliction worse than negligence
in battle; punished always, absolutely,
by forfeiture of pay and rank, then death.
But they have spared us from that with a bribe
to Pilate and---part of their plan, designed
to silence us---we shall be reassigned.
They gave us money too (I shall describe
the sum as generously more than fit).
Despite what they prefer---pretend---presume,
I know we all beheld the emptied tomb,
and in it no dead man from Nazareth.
 
Starward
 
[jlc]

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The Misery Of The Old Scholar, Justus

1

Jerusalem has fallen in battle with the world.
All the stones, once standing, have been torn down;
the holy places, once known, are not apparent.

Imperial Hadrian reconstructs from the ruins a Roman city:
to please himself, a temple to Zeus where God's temple stood;
to please his lover, a boy, a temple to Venus

where Christ's holy cross once stood, on Calvary,
the place of the skull now displaced to a temple to Venus, in
Antinuous' name dedicated, to the goddess revealed in the boy.

And I attend by commanded invitation
(protected, with all of mine, by the emperor's obligation)
compelled to witness his absent desecration.

They did not know Golgotha's location,
and none to tell, among us Christians,
much to the emperor's builders expressed frustration.

Where Christ, emptied on the cross, left an empty tomb:
the supreme and holiest of spiritual memory
should not be lost beneath the emperor's pederasty.

 

2

My granddaughter, Lady Irene---
in wisdom somewhat older than her years (sixteen),
and in beauty much observed, and desired once seen---
rose early at dawn; and, from her bath,
clothed herself in a robe of purple and gold brocade,
and drew upon the line of each leg
silk stockings---black opaques---recently shipped from Cos.
Sandals (polished, smoothed wood, with just a slight heel)
she wore only for the path strewn with rubble---
she being, most usually, disdainful of shoes
(but not, as you guessed, of her many silk stockings).
She gathered, from the grass beside her tent,
a few of several wildflowers, for a small bouquet
(here where only the heartiest survived the devastation).
And with her boy slave, whom she calls Cherished
(and him the descendant of slaves African and Britannic;
but Paul said, In Christ are neither slave nor free),
in devotion to her somewhat older than his years (seventeen),
she went---before I could detain her or object
(as if anyone can detain her or object)---
to offer her bouquet where the cross once stood.
And Cherished with her---bare from the waist up,
his torso and limbs in perfect dimension
glistening copper in the morning sun---
walked beside her barefoot and unafraid.
The guards, bored at duty, casually parted for them:
"The granddaughter of that miserable old scholar, Justus,"
their ennui briefly enflamed by coupled adolescent beauty;
then, not long pausing, roused the engineers and surveyors,
who watched the Lady Irene and her boy-slave Cherished,
making their way among and around the rubble,
over toward, a hill, a hill somewhat far away.
And there, kicking off her sandals,
at the stripped bare foot of the slope;
and feeling, again, true earth beneath her stockinged feet,
she knelt in prayer with Cherished beside her,
and laid the flowers upward at her arms' length,
and left her shoes where they lay in evidence
(that all might interpret) she stood on holy ground.

 

3

We left as soon as we were permitted,
days later when construction had begun.
(They tell me the diggers tossed a pair of sandals,
made of polished, smoothed wood, into the foundation trench.)
We stopped for a stay at the inn, outside Joppa.
Lady Irene and Cherished spent each day by the pool,
clad only in their lounging robes
(with hers, of course, sheer, golden stockings,
that she did not mind---there wading---to wet in the water).
And I, relieved of my misery,
and revived in spirit by holiness not desecrated,
thought back to the place of the skull we had seen
just before we arrived at Jerusalem's ruins:
a little ridge---when faced, like the face of a skull, I mean;
noticed first by Cherished and Lady Irene,
nowhere near, now, the site of the emperor's rude erection---
because of my granddaughter's sense of humor and direction.

 

Starward

 

[jlc]

Author's Notes/Comments: 

In the late Spring of 1991, while visiting briefly in Cleveland, Ohio, I first considered the hypothesis that the site of Calvary, or Golgotha, as determined by the Empress Helena (and now preserved within the Church of the Holy Sepulcher) might be incorrect because Helena relied upon the location of the temple of Venus, built two centuries prior by the Emperor Hadrian, with the deliberate purpose of desecrating the place of Christ's crucifixion.  Helena, being the first amateur archaeologist in recorded history, did not question the data that Hadrian's builders considered in selecting the location.  Jerusalem, torn to the ground after long siege, must have lacked all but major landmarks; and, in Hadrian's time, Christianity, still very much a condemned faith held by the despised classes, had not established public recognition of its sacred sites.  With the city being smashed to broken stone, at Hadrian's order, the holiest site of a yet small and detested faith must not have been easy to discover.  And, since the 19th century, Gordon's Calvary presents a more plausible candidacy for the true location of Supreme Event that secured the Salvation of all real Christians.  To the best of my knowledge, we cannot prove that Helena's research considered the possibility that, two centuries prior, Hadrian's builders had been misled, either deliberately or by random circumstance.

The poem, as it is now, was actually inspired today by a reading of Wallace Stevens' poem, "From The Misery Of Don Joost," and I have tried to allude to the eponymous hero's name in the title of my poem.  Lady Irene and Cherished are based upon two actual people with whom I am, only slightly, acquainted; and to the best of my knowledge, they are not lovers (although, given the mutual compliment of their beauty, they should be).

I ask the reader's indulgence for the shameless puns and word-play.

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Nocturnes: Whitechapel Woman

They say a pregnancy will change your life,
and I have found---this morning---just how true
that is. My friend, not even you can guess
the awful horror I have just been through,
or why I have so much blood on this dress.
She came into my house, swinging that knife.
I knew, right then, she killed the other four.
(Odd, that I noticed, too, she looked like me:
as stout, same hair, same eyes). She slammed the door
and lunged. Something in me just snapped---a wild
instinct that I must save my unborn child
and myself, too. (A mother's love, you see.)
I kicked, and hit, and scratched, and finally grabbed
her hand to wrest that blade. And then, I stabbed
her with it, venting all my anger on
her body. And I left it, just at dawn,
on my bed, in my garment. That is Jack
the Ripper there, not me. Dare I go back?---
not with this little person in my belly.
The corpse in there?---let them think, "Mary Kelly."

 

Starward

 

[jlc]

Author's Notes/Comments: 

The poem was first published in Poets At Work (Jessee Poet, editor), in the March/April 2001 issue (no volume or issue # given), p. 18.  It also appears on the great scholarly website, Casebook Jack The Ripper; and, there, it was my first poem published on the internet, and the first of my historical hypotheses.  Therefore, it is included in the group that I consider my most important poems; or the poems for which I would like to be remembered.

 

The fifth murder features five anomalies that no previous theory has addressed in total:  many of them address one or two, but none that I have seen address three or more.  For the reader's convenience, I will list them here.  1)  The murders stopped suddenly, even though, in one of the authenticated letters, the murderer said this spree was not stopped until the killer was "buckled."  2) The venue of the fifth murder was indoors (the other four were outside in the streets), and the extent of the mutilations required hours, and not a few minutes like the others.  3) Mary Kelly was seen alive, the morning after the murder, by two (officially recognized) witnesses, and possinly three others whom Scotland Yard refused to interview.  4)  The door to Mary Kelly's apartment, 13 Miller Court and the scene of the fifth murderr, was locked from the outside, which would violate the Ripper's desire to have immediate display of the murder, and would be an action more appropriate to the resident of the apartment than the intruder.  5) The fifth body's uterus had never contained a fetus, according to the coroner, although Mary Kelly had admitted, a couple of months earlier, that she was pregant at the time.

 

Between February 13, and April 3, 1981, while I was visiting friends in Los Angeles California, I experienced two unusual incidents in which, alone in the room, I felt myself being transported away to a vague place where I felt that I was communicating with Mary Kelly, and receiving, from her, an indication that the actual facts were not fully known and that, if I continued my interest, I would uncover something of importance to her.  I assure the reader:  I had not been using drugs (which I never, ever touch); nor had I been drinking (what little experience I had of that ceased after graduation in 1980).  After returning to the mid-west, I dismissed these two encounters as the products of bad dreams.  In December, 2000, while I was reading about the ripper murders, the five anomalies just fell into place, pointing to Mary Kelly as the perpetrator of the fifth murder in self defense.

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At Routine Duty On Friday, About Noon

That garden, yonder, is remarkable---
both for location and such beautiful,
lush foliage, cultivated thick and tall.
Fragrance arises like an exhaled breath
and wafts across the ditch, over the bridge,
on to this rock-patch, like a bony ridge
of sorts, resembling (distantly) a skull
(its nickname here).  We are here.  Crucified,
three hang above us, writhing.  Just beside
that yonder garden's fountain is a tomb
(what irony---to put a place of death
amid that blooming life).  Someone must die
to fill that niche.  Oh, look:   the southern sky
shrinks from the sunlight into darkening gloom.
 
Starward
 
[jlc]

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