Tuesday, September 27, 2011
Monday, September 26, 2011
In the news again:
The end is near — or so it seems to a segment of Christians aligned with the religious right. The global economic meltdown, numerous natural disasters and the threat of radical Islam have fueled a conviction among some evangelicals that these are the last days. While such beliefs might be dismissed as the rantings of a small but vocal minority, apocalyptic fears helped drive the antigovernment movements of the 1930s and ’40s and could help define the 2012 presidential campaign as well.
What we need, I believe, is a startling, shocking sight, an image that shakes us and shocks us out of our rut! If not the pull-back of the camera lens that reveals the land around us with greater clarity, then perhaps its all-seeing eye pausing for a moment and focusing in on something bizarre or jaw-dropping.
Yet we're all used to, you might say, innured against the push-in and the pull-back of the 'camera eye' aspect of our vision, real, critical or otherwise. What if the lens of our reality revealed some freakish blend or mix of realities? This is what the poet Paul Muldonn calls 'immarrhage,' which he defines in his book, To Ireland, I as "the tendency towards the amalgam, the tendency for one event or character to blur and bleed into another."
Muldoon's long poem, "The Old Country", does this brilliantly. I quote only the first two sections here.
The Old Country
By Paul Muldoon
Where every town was a tidy town
and every garden a hanging garden.
A half could be had for half a crown.
Every major artery would harden
since every meal was a square meal.
Every clothesline showed a line of undies
yet no house was in dishabille.
Every Sunday took a month of Sundays
till everyone got it off by heart
every start was a bad start
since all conclusions were foregone.
Every wood had its twist of woodbine.
Every cliff its herd of fatalistic swine.
Every runnel was a Rubicon.
Every runnel was a Rubicon
and every annual a hardy annual
applying itself like linen to a lawn.
Every glove compartment held a manual
and a map of the roads, major and minor.
Every major road had major road works.
Every wishy-washy water diviner
had stood like a bulwark
against something worth standing against.
The smell of incense left us incensed
at the firing of the fort.
Every heron was a presager
of some disaster after which, we’d wager,
every resort was a last resort.
Every resort was a last resort
with a harbor that harbored an old grudge.
Every sale was a selling short.
There were those who simply wouldn’t budge
from the Dandy to the Rover.
That shouting was the shouting
but for which it was all over –
the weekend, I mean, we set off on an outing
with the weekday train timetable.
Every tower was a tower of Babel
that graced each corner of a bawn
where every lookout was a poor lookout.
Every rill had its unflashy trout.
Every runnel was a Rubicon.
* Gulpin: one who swallows without question whatever he hears; a simpleton or credulous person; among sailors a ‘marine.’
NOTE: With apologies to Michael McKee for using the photo of him as himself and Frank the Rabbit.