Friday, May 05, 2006

My Absence, and Friday Poetry

I've reneged on my own commitment to my blog, posting less than four times last month, for a number of reasons that (for me) are explanations and not excuses. I'm back on the wagon now. And this is not going to be one of the usual essays, but it is going to be a post, and a new pattern. I've decided that every Friday I will post a poem that I love. Poetry has been a little too far from my daily life lately to suit me (even though I work on literature textbooks ferfuckssake), and it's time for that to be remedied. So every Friday. Including this one.

I present (written in 1958 I should add):

Howard Nemerov

Atlantic City, June 23, 1957 (AP).-President Eisenhower's pastor said tonight that Americans are living in a period of "unprecedented religious activity" caused partially by paid vacations, the eight-hour day and modern conveniences.
"These fruits of material progress," said the Rev. Edward L. R. Elson of the National Presbyterian Church, Washington, "have provided the leisure, the energy, and the means for a level of human and spiritual values never before reached."

Here at the Vespasian-Carlton, it's just one
religious activity after another; the sky
is constantly being crossed by cruciform
airplanes, in which nobody disbelieves
for a second, and the tide, the tide
of spiritual progress and prosperity
miraculously keeps rising, to a level
never before attained. The churches are full,
the beaches are full, and the filling stations
are full, God's great ocean if full
of paid vacationers praying an eight-hour day
to the human and spiritual values, the fruits,
the leisure, the energy, and the means, Lord,
the means for the level, the unprecedented level,
and the modern conveniences, which also are full.
Never before, O Lord, have the prayers and praises
from belfry and phonebooth, from ballpark and barbecue
the sacrifices, so endlessly ascended.

It was not thus when Job in Palestine
sat in the dust and cried, cried bitterly;
when Damien kissed the lepers on their wounds
it was not thus; it was not thus
when Francis worked a fourteen-hour day
strictly for the birds; when Dante took
a week's vacation without pay and it rained
part of the time, O Lord, it was not thus.

But now the gears mesh and the tires burn
and the ice chatters in the shaker and the priest
in the pulpit, and Thy Name, O Lord,
is kept before the public, while the fruits
ripen and religion booms and the level rises
and every modern convenience runneth over,
that it may never be with us as it hath been
with Athens and Karnak and Nagasaki,
nor Thy sun for one instant refrain from shining
on the rainbow Buick by the breezeway
or the Chris Craft with the uplift life raft;
that we may continue to be the just folks we are,
plain people with ordinary superliners and
disposable diaperliners, people of the stop'n'shop
'n'pray as you go, of hotel, motel, boatel,
the humble pilgrims of no deposit no return
and please adjust thy clothing, who will give to Thee,
if Thee will keep us going, our annual
Miss Universe, for Thy Name's Sake, Amen.


At 9:45 AM, Anonymous tyromaven said...

wow. Do you have a book of Nemerov?

At 2:26 PM, Anonymous Sarah N. said...

I like the idea of you posting poems! I anticipate becoming more educated via your blog. hurrah.

At 12:37 AM, Blogger meridity said...

Well, that's MY religion.

At 10:51 AM, Blogger Ammegg said...

Tyromaven: No book, sorry. Though I've been thinking of getting one, given how much this poem's been on my mind lately. I'll happily lend it around if so.


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