Monthly Archives: September 2021

After the flood

In the wake of yet another series of terrible man-made storms, it seems fitting to write about Noah again. Some people are building Arks for wildlife to survive extreme heat waves these days – the time for desperate acts is already upon us. And they can only save so few – the tragedy unfolding around us is relentless.

I’m lucky to live in a part of the country where the electric grid is already almost carbon-free, and where the public transit system is robust enough that I don’t need to use a car to get around. I remember how helpless and resigned I felt when I didn’t have all these advantages of place. Now it’s easier to feel angry, and impatient with the rest of the world for not changing fast enough.

Is it really enough, in a global economy, to, “think global, act local”? My “local” goal for this year is to further reduce my carbon footprint by eating more local organic produce and cutting back on internet shopping. My “global” goal is to focus my retirement investment portfolio on financial products that have divested from fossil fuels. What’s yours?

This poem is based on the 69th Psalm.

God of my father, pull back these waters,
for the deluge now robs me of breath.
I have sunk to the basins of the damned,
on my knees in the slime – now all is lost.
I embarked on your voyage, my calling:
the frailty of my own heart failed you.
I am hoarse from prayers of supplication.
My strength gives out – I cannot lead on.
My very eyes dim in this gloamy hell
from straining after signs, bereft of hope.
Harried the whole of my life by the damned,
inexplicable hatred pursued me.
The men who intended to slay us drowned,
yet I see their weakness still, in my sons.
What Methuselah smuggled from Eden
bore fruit – how can I root out our line?
My weakness is not so different from theirs;
though I withdraw with shame, love stayed my hand.
Let these souls hope for grace in spite of all.
Creator, your Word decides each struggle.
Let my reluctance not condemn my sons,
for you are the father whose help they need.
In their eyes, in your name, I stand to blame,
and they turn aside, they avoid my face.
My wife has turned her back on all we once shared –
I became a stranger to my children.
The courage to attempt to do your will
has branded me a traitor to mankind.
I turned from the fruit of the earth and wept –
my own person seizes me with disgust.
I rolled naked in sand upon the beach
to the shame of my sons, who looked on.
Their talk then could only be of reproach,
for the vine and the press left me helpless.
And I – dare I offer another prayer?
In this afterworld, dare we mortals hope?
Creator, the kindness you showed us once
gives me courage – I ask again for help.
Wash away my fault, for it bears me down.
Pull me back from the riptides of despair.
I fear being swept far from those I love,
naked as driftwood on a barren rock –
the alien shore of death would have me.
Answer what poor remnant I am, O Lord,
out of your strange and perfect compassion.
Bare your face to your weary messenger,
for what I built for you is not enough.
Time runs short, and I would be near you.
Those that seemed vanquished corrupted us all.
Only you can plumb the depth of my fault,
I who have failed all those you sacrificed.
My very being stutters from the shame;
I look for a reprieve where nothing is,
and though I would be understood, none can.
Instead I suck on vines, eat bitter fruit,
and slake my thirst on dry, fermented dregs.
Just so, I longed to see Cain’s huntsmen choke,
who dragged each other down when all were drowned.
All this, that men blinded by greed see no more,
all this that men raised without shame should quake.
Torturous anger moved heaven and earth,
a convulsion of hatred engulfed them.
All the inhabited earth is stripped bare,
that of mankind nothing should remain.
The descendents of Cain are now wiped out,
long having hunted the innocent down.
To men who disowned their own guilt, add blame,
deny them the earth, and all that’s in it.
Their ways and their writ are rubbed out for good,
and their wickedness must be unlearned.
But what am I, save wretched and forlorn?
What shelter can I seek from works undone?
How can I sing my grandchildren to sleep,
whose heritage was meant only for God?
Theirs now the oxen, the flocks and the droves –
the innocents under them shy and stamp.
Those that survive now warm to the sun,
yet I cannot tell if they still trust the Lord.
But God alone hears us cry out in need;
when we quaked in his power, he softened.
The gray skies, the blue earth, stir at his touch,
green mountains, sea meadows – all life responds.
The Creator gave warning, saved our line,
to us gave the stewardship of all life,
to husband the fields and preserve the wild.
Perhaps we are equal to this great task,
and can ready the world to turn towards love.

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Filed under Corruption, Economics, False controversies, Noah, Poetry

Recovery

This movie scared the pants off me. I picked up on it because I was in a David Tennant vortex on YouTube (a highly recommended place to be if you need some extra goofiness in your day) and it pulled me right in.

The writing is honest, the performances from David Tennant and Sarah Parish are heartbreaking. As the filmmakers said of the production, what patients with traumatic brain injury asked them not to do was to tack on a Hollywood ending that pretends everything is going to be okay. Because brain damage doesn’t just go away.

Sometimes with a head injury, even the injured person can tell something is wrong afterwards. But most of the time, it’s more subtle than that. And that’s why I needed this film. Because it shows what your loved ones are going through when you, yourself, don’t even realize anything is wrong with you.

Because you don’t remember exactly what happened. The you that was the “before” you just isn’t there, not even in your own memories. Major props to the filmmakers for showing that compassion goes both ways between carers and the disabled.

But Recovery is more than a film about loss – it’s also a story about moving on. About learning not to treat your losses as some sort of ‘get out of jail free’ card. About recognizing that who you are now matters more than what you once were, because tomorrow isn’t waiting around for you to get back up again and pull your life together.

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Filed under Acting, Dream Ensemble, Economics

Captain Corelli’s Mandolin

This film takes me back to the beginnings of this blog, when I didn’t have any Russell Crowe fan poetry to show for myself and was reduced to posting leftover poetry from other fandoms… Of course, eventually I decided to make this fansite officially more inclusive, sort of a smorgasbord of poetry for different fandoms with a special preference for Russell Crowe movies (and music).

My longest-running experiment in fan poetry was a series of 100 stanzas about the star-crossed lovers in Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, written as letters from Pelagia (Penelope Cruz) to Mandras (Christian Bale), about the gradually ebbing love she felt for him when he left her for the Albanian front and never wrote back. (This happens before Captain Corelli, played with distinction by Nicholas Cage, arrives on the scene to complete the triangle.) You can see bits and pieces of it here.

This poem picks up where that one left off, with Captain Corelli’s arrival, leading the Italian invasion of the island of Ithaca, all of whose young men have either died fighting or straggled back to their homes in secret to live in hiding under the Axis occupation. Inspired by the 68th Psalm, best known for its breathtaking imagery (“The wings of the dove are inlaid with silver / and her pinions with precious gold”) but actually a rather sprawling Psalm that shifts in tone and perspective many times, much like the film.

Let the victors be named, throw open your gates,
and may all our detractors scatter!
As smoke clears off when there is no flame,
as candlesticks yield to a lighted wick,
may the ragtag rebels and holdouts relent.
And let our heroes parade and exult
before the town, and take pride in their work.
Sing an aria – learn a libretto with us!
If our entrance is not paved with roses,
Verdi will triumph where Wagner fell flat.

Opera, the music of exiles abroad,
sustains us like players in strange concert halls.
Don Giovanni will lead the way home,
where Rossini will greet us, free men, with a shout.
Those who appeal to Das Rheingold, be damned!
For us, sing Bellini, and sing of love,
here in the heat, in half-conquered resorts.
We are ready for earthquakes, explosions,
storms – pour out your wrath, we tell the Greek gods,
Ithaca, too, is subdued by guitars.

A generous sunset, the bells at dusk,
this half-deserted village stirs to life.
The tango is known here, the mandolin,
who knew our poor soldiers could make ladies flush?
The officers beat out the time, make quips –
these women could make our whole army a match!
With long looks they reprove us, yet they smile,
saying our captain would flee from a skirt.
Those who lie with the Germans are warned, shunned.
The caress of my mistress shimmers like starlight,
her breast, like a songbird’s, thrills to the sun.

When at last we broke through the defenders’ ranks,
a chill obscured the zenith of the sun.
This island’s bluffs, like mountains of the gods,
overlook our ships disdainfully and slouch.
What titans are shaking their chains when they stir,
upending great temples of stone with brute haste?
The island remains and makes quarries of graves.

Our army outnumbers this country’s by far,
we came ashore like the breakers of storms.
Though only a captain, I lead these men,
and music is all that defines us here.
Your guerrillas recaptured the island,
you claimed your own hostages, took revenge,
the women who strayed, you hanged like dogs –
all for a certain idea of life.
I pray for our brave quartermaster. Enough.

Music to us was salvation, not hope.
Opera, immortal, helped us accept death.
True, in this war men are butchered like sheep,
or like wolves in sheep’s clothing, skulking and sly.
Our army sought power and patrimony,
to salvage a myth of our destiny.
Why? So our boots could sink knee-deep in blood,
while the dogs roll in offal from misfired bombs?

The villagers saw our parades in style,
my countrymen marching in fresh from the front.
Our singers were followed by brass and drums
filing through throngs of young girls and old men.
Our choruses gave thanks to Rossini first,
then Verdi, the greatest of opera gods.
For a few bars Bellini held sway as well,
Italy’s nobility know their own –
Padua, Naple and Rome sent royal guards.

Conduct our hearts, our wayward dreams – the strength
our music gave us in the breach, the love
this island showed us when our cause was lost.
To you, my muse, I owe not words but gifts.
The war that beat upon your shores is lost,
artillery will scour here no more,
for Germany makes reparations now.
The dogs of war are scattered and subdued.
The next time officers come from abroad
to shelter here, they’ll sue on bended knee.

Ithaca, sing of the loves you have known,
strum the guitar or draw notes with the bow.
Sing of the castaway heroes of yore.
Sound not one bell, let the voice alone ring.
Honor the courage your women have shown,
for strangers, for fellowship, some for pride,
their love as magnanimous as blue skies.
Fierce in the sanctity of their own homes.
Music embraces the woman alone.
Perfect as morning and fine as sea foam.

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Filed under Acting, Dream Ensemble, Music, Poetry