Saturday, August 05, 2006

Christian Existentialist Creed; The Fifteen Minute Sonnet

I post the next poem for LKD, who has had struggles with faith as I have. It may be minimalist, but for me it's true, a sort of Christian Existentialist Desideratum.


I believe in God the computer
who programs the universe
or at least keeps the trains running
and in Jesus the archetypal man
who was doomed to suffer
but prayed to get out of it
just like I would.

And I believe in God the Spirit
when my hopes are crushed
and an old friend calls out of the blue
and I believe in the forgiveness of sins
because punishment only makes them worse
and I believe in life everlasting
because its alternative, non-being,
I find inconceivable.

Maybe my creed isn't what they teach in catechism, but it's where repeated bouts of chemically-induced suicidal despair have brought me. I frankly admit that I have problems with the second person of the Trinitiy. If I read Paul right, however, we no longer know Christ "after the flesh." He's become the universal Christ through the Holy Spirit. Ever since the resurrection it's supposed to be all about the Holy Spirit--how, by yielding to the Spirit we come to incarnate a portion of divinity. Ultimately that means loving your neighbor because it's your nature, not as a moral exercise.


Rob Mackenzie noticed that I had lamented that poets didn't know the craft anymore and that few could write a sonnet in 15 minutes. He took the challenge and produced one in 20. I produced the one below in ten. Go to Rob's site to play, or follow him to Poetry Free for All where a thread erupted.

Is a ten-minute sonnet like a two-minute egg?

Tectonic Illusions

Arches and blowholes—-it is not the land
That’s being eaten here but sea. Bedrock
Is rising here, a great hand-over-hand
Extending northwest or roughly ten o’clock.
The bedrock’s hard to carve but harder still
For the pacific plate to buckle under,
Submitting to the North American will.
(It’s lucky our state isn’t torn asunder.)
Yet when you look out at all the dark islands
With their tunnels, arches, and mysterious caves
You’d think the flowering meadow of the highlands
Was being assaulted as the sea enslaves.
Things are not always as they appear.
The land is dining on the sea—how queer!

I was at 1 kilorat yesterday. Don't know why. I guess I'm still recovering. The outer personality of my Tootsie Pop looks fine but its center is still dark.

The Melic Poetry Tutorial is open for new students, see the link in my blog's list of links. References on request.




  1. hi ce!! yikes, it's been ages since we last corresponded.

    impressive sonnets both (yours and rob's). takes me 12 hours to get one out and not very good at that either. i'm particularly fond of the petrarchan... capable of doing only that actually. heh.

    and hey, you also have poems at niederngasse ( which date back to 2001, i think ;)

    hope the kilomouse goes up soon!

    sending positive vibes,

  2. Good to hear from you Arlene. You were kind enough to publish both Kathleen and myself in Mefisto before other things intervened.

    And we had the privilege of pubishing you as well.

    Good luck on the license. In Germany it means you can drive as fast as you want any time you want--wonder if the Italians are as bad.

    Strange that Italy and Mexico have the same colors in their flags. Did Columbus fail to tell us something?

  3. Thanks for the poem, CE.

    I was watching Bill Moyers tonight as he interviewed a Buddhist nun named Pema Chodron and their discussion reminded me of how drawn I have always felt to Buddhism. Perhaps I'll eventually recover some sense of my faith and spiritually in that set of beliefs.

    What if I don't love my neighbor? (I don't.) What if that's not my nature? (It isn't.) That troubles me a great deal, CE, and always has.

    I think you said in the other comment box that you feel closer to or have an easier time believing in the Holy Ghost than you do the other parts of the trinity---did I get that right? I've felt an affinity to big bad Old Testament Jehovah because he's almost like the gods on Mount Olympus. Looking down upon us, figuratively and literally. As for Jesus, like I already said, I always believed in him. It used to give me chills to think of him nailed to that cross, calling out: My god, my god, why have you forsaken me. It circles back to my loss of faith during my initial depression years ago. I stopped believing in god because I stopped believing in that potential within me. So, Jesus, crying out to heaven like that was actually an expression of god doubting himself.

    At least, that's how I see it.

    Have you ever read Pinsky's excellent poem From the Childhood of Jesus. I heard Pinksy read it years ago on that Bill Moyer's documentary about the Dodge Poetry Festival called "Fooling with Words" and I recall being riveted. It was maybe the first time since childhood that I'd heard a poem read out loud. And ever since, whenever I read that poem, it raises the hairs on my arms, especially the last couplet.

    Jesus, Buddha are one in the same, really. Just a couple of guys showing the rest of us how spiritually evolved any human being can be.

  4. Yes, I feel more an affinity for the HS, which the poem, "Creed" alluded to. Part of my problem with Jesus is that as a middle child I'm envious of the first-born. How come he gets all the attention and glory? I get mostly suffering. It's not fair. Yeah, he suffered but he was only up there three hours.

    Blasphemous, huh?

    I guess the real problem isn't birth order but that I can't bring myself to worship a man. Paul tells us to worship the risen Christ along with the Father; so I get around my hesitation by trying to imagine the universal resurrected Christ, the Obie Wan Kanobee who joined the Force, so to speak. But with all the iconology in our heads it's hard not to imagine Jesus as a man. Even resurrected he took man's form.

    Ah, I've never put that problem clearly before, thanks LKD.

  5. I'm posting the poem below.

    God, that's a damn good poem, although I disagree with the idea of Jesus cursing a human form. Everyone knows the fig tree storpy, that was enough to show his sovereignty in nature. That Pinsky made something so real out of an apocryphal legend is wonderful imagining. But the dark thread, injuring the other child--it detracts from the poem if only because of my preconceptions. Thanks for the reference.

    As for "It's not my nature," that's the problem exactly. Our natures are fallen, incurable. If we believe, the Holy Spirit will dwell in us and bit by bit begin to inhabit us more than we know, so that loving one's neighbor becomes first, not even second nature. But that's God's nature, his gift to us. It's all of grace, all God's power, none of it ours. Have you ever read The Practice of the Presence of God? That book makes Luther's concept of grace palpable. I highly recommend it.

    Maybe the blog will take a religious turn now. I'm open to any topic. I've been called "An expert in search of a subject." LOL!

    "From the Childhood of Jesus"

    One Saturday morning he went to the river to play.
    He modeled twelve sparrows out of the river clay

    And scooped a clear pond, with a dam of twigs
    and mud.
    Around the pond he set the birds he had made,

    Evenly as the hours. Jesus was five. He smiled,
    As a child would who had made a little world

    Of clear still water and clay beside a river.
    But a certain Jew came by, a friend of his father,

    And he scolded the child and ran at once to Joseph,
    Saying, "Come see how your child has profaned the Sabbath,

    Making images at the river on the Day of Rest."
    So Joseph came to the place and took his wrist

    And told him, "Child, you have offended the Word."
    Then Jesus freed the hand that Joseph held

    And clapped his hands and shouted to the birds
    To go away. They raised their beaks at his words

    And breathed and stirred their feathers and flew
    The people were frightened. Meanwhile, another boy,

    The son of Annas the scribe, had idly taken
    A branch of driftwood and leaning against it had broken

    The dam and muddied the little pond and scattered
    The twigs and stones. Then Jesus was angry and shouted,

    "Unrighteous, impious, ignorant, what did the water
    Do to harm you? Now you are going to wither

    The way a tree does, you shall bear no fruit
    And no leaves, you shall wither down to the root."

    At once, the boy was all withered. His parents moaned,
    The Jews gasped, Jesus began to leave, then turned

    And prophesied, his child's face wet with tears:
    "Twelve times twelve times twelve thousands of years

    Before these heavens and this earth were made,
    The Creator set a jewel in the throne of God

    With Hell on the left and Heaven to the right,
    The Sanctuary in front, and behind, and endless night

    Endlessly fleeing a Torah written in flame.
    And on that jewel in the throne, God wrote my name."

    Then Jesus left and went into Joseph's house.
    The family of the withered one also left the place,

    Carrying him home. The Sabbath was nearly over.
    By dusk, the Jews were all gone from the river.

    Small creatures came from the undergrowth to drink
    And foraged in the shadows along the bank.

    Alone in his cot in Joseph's house, the Son
    Of Man was crying himself to sleep. The moon

    Rose higher, the Jews put out their lights and slept,
    And all was calm and as it had been, except

    In the agitated household of the scribe Annas,
    And high in the dark, where unknown even to Jesus

    The twelve new sparrows flew aimlessly through the night,
    Not blinking or resting, as if never to alight.

  6. thanks, ce. let's hope i pass the next test. i heard about the no-speed limit in germany. scary! italy's more "disciplined". in fact, should i get my licence, i couldn't exceed 100 kmh in the freeway for the next three years — which suits me just fine.

    by the way, forgot to mention: you ought to try rattle again. they've got a new poetry editor — who's really nice and also replies in a more timely manner than the previous one.



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