"Advice to a Prophet" - Richard Wilbur


 

"Advice to a Prophet" - Richard Wilbur


When you come, as you soon must, to the streets of our city,   
Mad-eyed from stating the obvious,
Not proclaiming our fall but begging us
In God’s name to have self-pity,

Spare us all word of the weapons, their force and range,   
The long numbers that rocket the mind;
Our slow, unreckoning hearts will be left behind,   
Unable to fear what is too strange.

Nor shall you scare us with talk of the death of the race.   
How should we dream of this place without us?—
The sun mere fire, the leaves untroubled about us,   
A stone look on the stone’s face?

Speak of the world’s own change. Though we cannot conceive   
Of an undreamt thing, we know to our cost
How the dreamt cloud crumbles, the vines are blackened by frost,   
How the view alters. We could believe,

If you told us so, that the white-tailed deer will slip   
Into perfect shade, grown perfectly shy,
The lark avoid the reaches of our eye,
The jack-pine lose its knuckled grip

On the cold ledge, and every torrent burn
As Xanthus once, its gliding trout
Stunned in a twinkling. What should we be without   
The dolphin’s arc, the dove’s return,

These things in which we have seen ourselves and spoken?   
Ask us, prophet, how we shall call
Our natures forth when that live tongue is all
Dispelled, that glass obscured or broken

In which we have said the rose of our love and the clean   
Horse of our courage, in which beheld
The singing locust of the soul unshelled,
And all we mean or wish to mean.

Ask us, ask us whether with the worldless rose   
Our hearts shall fail us; come demanding   
Whether there shall be lofty or long standing   
When the bronze annals of the oak-tree close.
 
 
  Richard Wilbur died on October 14 at the age of 96. In 1987 he was appointed the second Poet Laureate of the United States. “I feel that the universe is full of glorious energy,” he explained in a 1977 interview with Peter Stitt in the Paris Review, “that the energy tends to take pattern and shape, and that the ultimate character of things is comely and good. I am perfectly aware that I say this in the teeth of all sorts of contrary evidence, and that I must be basing it partly on temperament and partly on faith, but that’s my attitude.”

"Church with a Groan and a Grin" - Eugene C. Bianchi


 
 
Religion as practiced today deals
in punishments and rewards. In other words,
it breeds fear and greed—the two things
most destructive of spirituality.
     - -Anthony de Mello, S.J., One Minute Wisdom
 
"Church with a Groan and a Grin" - Eugene C. Bianchi
 
The church has always been a gathering
of saints, sinners, the pompous,
the indifferent, crusaders and leeches
claiming to follow what Jesus teaches.
 
A grumpy critic near the end of my race,
I admit to a love-hate relationship,
disgusted by child abuse and rigidity
about women, gays and pelvic theology.
 
Most Christians haven’t come to grips
with Darwin, Jung or cosmic science,
so deeper issues remain buried,
while preachers declaim, blissfully unworried.
 
They keep stuffing fourth-century dogma
and medieval myths into modern minds,
preaching such faith unchanged forever,
dreading new thinkers with ideas too clever.
 
Yet enough good news keeps breaking through
about nuns serving the poor and battling bishops,
new schools in Africa and clinics in ghettoes,
social justice and mystics like Merton and de Mello.
 
If I weren’t born into it,
I’d have to invent a facsimile,
so huge is our need for belonging
to cope with our livings and dyings.
 
I claim no monopoly over gospels that keep
rising from other religions and non-religions.
With a groan and a grin, my conflicted past
frees me to travel a wider spiritual path.
 
(Photo of Gene Bianchi by David Noah)
 

from "Evil is Always Human" - Eddie Whitlock

 
 
 
The characters are on their way to see a public hanging in 1912. The children, riding on back of a mule-drawn wagon, are talking.
 
              “Why they hanging him?”
      “He killed his wife and his two little girls right after Christmas,” Gladys told us.
       Little Carl was listening to her, having a pretty good day that day. “Why did he do that, Gladys?”
       The truth is that Gladys didn’t know at all why the man killed his wife and them two little girls, but Gladys was good at thinking and she thought up a good story and we didn’t much care whether it was true or not, as long as it was good.  You just had to catch her in the mood to talk.  She weren’t always in such a mood.  Some days she would be all blowed up like a bullfrog and wouldn’t say nothing to nobody but Mama and then it weren’t but a word or two.
       I was right glad she was in a talking mood that day.  “He was crazy,” Gladys told us.  “He said the devil had got into them.”
       We didn’t go to church, but we knowed who the devil was.  The devil was who folks blamed when they done something bad and got caught at it.  I didn’t much figure it was the devil getting into folks as it was folks just getting caught and wanting to blame somebody else for it.  You see that a lot. 

An excerpt from Evil is Always Human by Eddie Whitlock. He is October's featured reader at Word of Mouth open mic at The Globe. Sign-up for open mic Wednesday, October 4 is at 7 pm at the bar and readings start at 8 pm upstairs.