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Exchange of Values

Exchange of Values
acrylic on board 48'X96'

"Structure of Color Perception"

"Structure of Color Perception"
48'X96' acrylic on board

Monday, March 18, 2013


Klediments:  Popes, Poets, and Poverty.  

***  Behold, the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, are crying out against you, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts.  James: 5. v. 4.


Wherever you see poor working you will find angels gathering their sweat and tears like diamonds.




*** I Don’t Know What To Say. (by saint Dom Helder Camara). 

If I could
I would leave dropping money
quietly
in the poor pockets
fallen of fatigue and of hunger
on banks of abandoned gardens.
If I could
I would leave filling of rest and of dreams
the unslept nights of the desperate ones.
If I could
- oh! if I could -
it would drive away of the earth the distrust
that tarnish the clearest glances
and turns cloudy the cleanest horizons...
I don't know what I say, Lord!
If you leave on earth
the poverty, the insomnia and the distrust
it is because they translate a message
ciphered for the men
and they don't enter just by chance
in the life of anybody.
Rio de Janeiro, 04/25/48

I lived half my childhood/teen years doing migrant field and orchard work for minimum wage or less.  I don’t idealize poverty or work that grinds down the body and soul.  Yet, against all our reckoning, ‘blessed are the poor.’  The 30 year old painting above was inspired by fellow workers in the field North of Los Angeles.

*** Langston Hughes

“Hang yourself poet,
In your own words
Otherwise, you are dead.”

*** Meeting the new Pope (same trailer park, different trailer?).

                                  *hugs* (((THE POOR))) *hugs*

"And those words came to me: the poor, the poor. Then I thought of Francis of Assisi. Then I thought of all the wars.... Francis is also the man of peace. That is how the name came into my heart: Francis of Assisi. For me, he is the man of poverty, the man of peace, the man who loves and protects creation; these days we do not have a very good relationship with creation, do we? He is the man who gives us this spirit of peace, the poor man … How I would like a Church which is poor and for the poor!"  Pope Francis.

You know, being poor is something that we (the rich, church) could actually pull off.  Of course there’s a lot of sacrifice involved and it will probably hurt like hell, but it isn’t like turning water into wine or walking on water.  Getting poor is pretty simple, even for people without any faith.  Pope Francis and many others, including many of my ambiguously 'spiritual' leftist friends, seem to sort of wistfully ruminate about "The Poor," as if blessed poverty is some unattainable ideal like world peace, when really it’s as achievable as dolphin-free tuna.

In the book/movie “The Shoes of the Fisherman” the Pope begins the process of really divesting the catholic church of it’s wealth and earthly power to actually feed hungry people (and of course by doing so the church shares more in the power of God which increases through solidarity with the poor.  This is why Mother Teresa, and not the Pope, is the most powerful person in the church for me).  But it’s not just the vatican’s religious industrial complex that needs divestment, that’s too easy of a target and becomes just another excuse for all the rest of us to do nothing.  How many times have I heard/read commentators in the last week saying crap like ‘well, let’s hope Pope Francis lives up to his name sake.‘  WTF?  Francis has already taken a vow of poverty, what about the rest of us? Of course there is something we fear even more than sacrificial charity, it is redistributive justice, because sacrifice without love is driven by ego, but just as true, "Love without justice is baloney" (Cardinal Sin of the Philippines).  How long will it be before disillusionment begins with this new Pope and we realize that we are just the same old unfaithful, broken, hypocritical people we were before all the white smoke?

I’m also wondering when riding a bus become a new sign of sainthood or a charism of the church?  If only the rich young ruler had shown Jesus his bus pass!  Maybe he could have hung on to the rest of his investment portfolio.  Then again, Oscar Romero, another bus riding bishop once said before he was martyred for actually serving the poor and challenging the rich, “We must overturn so many idols, the idol of self first of all, so that we can be humble, and only from our humility can we learn to be redeemers, can learn to work together in the way the world really needs. Liberation that raises a cry against others is no true liberation. Liberation that means revolutions of hate and violence and takes away lives of others or abases the dignity of others cannot be true liberty. True liberty does violence to self and, like Christ, who disregarded that he was sovereign becomes a slave to serve others.”  Is Pope Francis really calling for us to do “violence to ourselves,” to become slaves of others, and to radically dispossess ourselves of our property or is this just fanciful inauguration rhetoric, and all to quickly the “church” will get back to the business of the conformation and maintenance of securing the power of it’s religious super-structure?  Our beloved Kabbalist Tzadik Benjamin warned us against this very danger in his sixth thesis on history:  “In every era the attempt must be made anew to wrest tradition away from a conformism that is about to overpower it. The Messiah comes not only as the redeemer, he comes as the subduer of Antichrist.”  Ad maiorem Dei.

*** So that brings us to the next in my lenten poem series.  It’s sort of themed around Mardi Gras so I’m about a month late, sorry.

Fat Tuesday

I.

Surmounting limitations of poor drainage
New Orleans persistently clings
To it’s Acadian heritage of octaroon of parentage
Situated like an open zipper below the bible belt
New Orleans prospers on the yearly tithes
Of pietist Middle-america
Rome having cut a deal with the devil
Bargained away one week before lent
So that early each spring, like a fat ox
Paraded through the streets of Paris Tuesday
As groundhogs stagger from sodden huts
Dormant sap still frozen in their trunks
That great pulsing artery of river starts pumping
Down to the gulf from distant capillaries
As once it travelled Puritan and Huguenot
Into virgin frontiers today it
Barges oxygen blue zydeco and citronella sweat
Glands budding on danced out pagan skin shines
Swelling from every costume ripped and torn open seams
Come busting out reeling civil servants and ranch hands
Career women counter help feed-store hay-buckers
Combination tractor trailer migrants and junior college deans
Barmaids with chafed elbows and short order cooks
Pumping gas porno star bus driving seed potato plunk-down
Roustabouts and oiled up steel-mill workers
Pentecostal bail bondsmen skinny white boys burning hot
As orange flames for more white powder and all of them just
One mask away from a double vein pop to the farthest shore
And back into the arms of  their black mother saviours
Redeeming the son’s and daughter’s of foreign masters
Guelphs, Gibellines, Wallensians and Cathars
Successive waves  of covered wagon proxies
Until everything wild is annually subdued
And everyone is back to nicely multiplying
Each according to it’s own nature
Plough-shares cutting deeply into furrowed thighs
Absorbing, swelling with more seed each season the
Tectonic spread zone dangerously expanding
Between available and allowable meanings
The face side and faced side of a carnival mask
Until flowing like liquid magma
Onto those big easy streets
Squandering the harvest of a years virtue
To fall as far as half the angels
And half as far as not returning

II.

On average the city sits 5 feet below the water line
By law burial of the dead occurs above ground
Metaphors of actual burials
Visible genealogies and timely
Reminders of bodily corruption
During great floods buoyant coffins float freely
About the Queen city transgressing all boundaries
Between caste and color, haves and have nots
Signified by Canal street the main binary causeway
In every american city regardless of water where
Life is lived on the dividing line of habitable oppositions
The face side and faced side of this place or any place
East where the Creoles first settled
West where later arriving whites invested
North around horseshoe bend
Where the blacks gave early warning that yellow fever
Was breaking from the Mississippi towards Lake Pontchartrain
Heading towards the peach groves of Lake Shore Vista
And Gentilly Terrace located seven miles and
That many virtues from Gretna, Harvey and Terrytown
Parts of the city you already know without knowing
Without having ever been there or anyone explaining it to you
Gentilly Terrace or Terrytown, you just know
Habitual as boulevards changing costumes
Crossing the canal to Tchouptitoula
Where Royal changes to Saint Charles and then to Basin
Basin becomes Elk place before merging into Loyola then it
Becomes Earhart, for just a dint, before
Promoting itself to Simon Bolivar
Keep and eye on the signs
They tell you where you are
And who you are
Gentilly Terrace or Terrytown
You just know.

III.

Our Lady of Holy Cross
Looks down with affection and care
On Storytown and Jelly-Roll Morton
And all those hookers troiling the Vieux Carre’
The Te Deum rises through the fog of scarlet fever hearts
A music only the instruments themselves understand
A full seventh above the installment card laughter
That evens the pain out over 12 sufferable months
One third of a continent deposits it’s sediment on these streets
From it’s headwaters at Itasca Minnesota
Gathering slag and speed from Minneapolis/St. Paul
Mercury and sulfur from the quad cities
Wit and wisdom from Hannibal Missouri
And just below St. Louis outside of Cape Giardeaux
between Thebes and Ware (pronounced Wahray)
On a gentle bend in the Mississippi
The federal marker commemorating the trail of tears
A destination worth a trip in itself some time
But we’re caught in the current sweeping past Memphis
The water gaining stride on the longest stretch
From Graceland to Vicksburg like many Southern cities
it was starved into surrendering, it’s salvation give over to
General Grant who offered a host of sacrifices to Our Lady
Gathering a great victory of bodies into the river
Floating them down across all dividing lines
As far away from remembrance
As the sins of righteous meeting
The baptized souls of Baton Rouge
Mixing in and carried down, down
Flooding through the delta
Pouring onto the streets of the French quarter
Slushing, oozing, and slurping over
A saline tide seeking it’s own level
Until the cauterizing sun draws up to heaven
All the sinful infected moistures into herself
Forgiveness scorched into the hearts of repentant sinners
Until all that remains is the leaven of the pharisees
Pumped each Easter over the Bonnet Carre spillway
Into the available and infinite sea

Obliged.

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