Wednesday, 25 January 2012
By the definition given in my course on Fiction and Narrative, a parable is
1) A brief narrative of manageable length, approachable style, and efficient use of language.
2) An illustrative story that shows a principle in action, rather than merely telling about it.
3) A response to some question implied by the experience of life.
4) An oblique presentation that tells all the truth but tells it slant.
In keeping with that definition, I present to you the following:Two NeighborsThere once was an empty house at the deadest end of a dead end street, presiding over a barren, vacant lot. On either side of the decrepit house lived two neighbors, both good men who enjoyed peace and prosperity in the comfort of their own homes. One dry night in summer, the empty house caught fire. Both neighbors ran down their respective stairs and out their respective front doors in their respective pyjamas and slippers to fight the fire. They proved unable to extinguish the fire before it spread to their homes as well. All three houses were destroyed and still the blaze burned on.
The House that Fire Built
The two neighbors battled the flames continually, pouring on water until all that remained on their side of the street was smoke and ash, peace and quiet. The fire was gone.
In the wake of the disaster, both men began new lives. The neighbor to the left of the empty house, having stopped the fire, moved out of the neighborhood, got himself a better job on the better side of town, and forgot about the dead end street and the empty lot which he left behind for better and brighter things. He prospered in a mansion atop Highest Hill, a gated community for the best men in town, praising his good luck; for all that he lost in the fire was nothing compared to the wealth that he now possessed. But he never lived so comfortably as he hoped, because he was always wishing for more comforts than he had, there in the peace and quiet atop Highest Hill.
But the neighbor to the right never left that street. He pitched his tent on the empty lot and hired himself out as a gardener to the more prosperous men on the better side of town, saving his wage until he had enough money to buy the three worthless, burned-out vacant lots. He knocked down the smoking hulks that remained there and built a modest brick house where the empty house once stood. On the barren, vacant lot, he planted a beautiful garden for the whole neighborhood to enjoy. He named his home the House that Fire Built, for though he had lost much in the fire, the little he gained back proved more than enough, since he now lived in a world rich with his own creation.
Saturday, 08 October 2011
I wrote this poem in response to a prompt from a literature professor. He asked that we write about a contemporary issue using the form of a sonnet.
How can I love you, father, from afar?
And is it even possible to love
a father who remains without, above
my questions? Will you sit in the bar
with me or stay contented by yourself,
with tidy answers, tidy system words
fencing the magic kingdom with dense wards,
compiling mystery volumes on a shelf?
Are answers true within my time and place?
Or is my wanderlust, untried (Untrue?)
a way to travel fixed and purposed through?
Unlonesome with my fellows, lost by grace.
Along the wall of paradox and time
I walk. Will you come with me, father, mine?
Monday, 09 May 2011
1. I will never again choose a topic that I have no passion for.
2. I will deposit some of my clothing in the donation box and never look back.
3. I will get a haircut before Friday.
4. I will love without fear of rejection.
5. I will live in this moment, in this time.
6. I will share my dreams.
7. I will not be afraid to ask questions, voice concerns, or let you know when I can't deal.
8. I will write what I know.
9. I will like what I like, and not care about projecting an image.
10. I will ensoul my body and embody my soul.
11. I will walk in the woods and sleep there when necessary.
12. I will cook at least one meal a week.
13. I will continue to choose conversation over procrastination.
14. I will steadfastly choose community over isolation.
15. I will fall head over heels only when I know where the ground is.
16. I will write lists when poems aren't enough and vice versa.
17. I will not substitute affection for intimacy.
18. I will eat the bread and drink the wine.
19. I will learn to dance in perfect time.
20. I will shave.
21. I will treasure the friends that I have.
22. I will keep the treasure house door open.
23. I will live in tradition and pitch my tent in innovation.
24. I will read for pleasure.
25. I will cry and laugh and (even) swear, but only when I can tell the truth.
26. I will sing more hymns.
27. I will play an instrument.
28. I will look at the stars and the moon.
29. I will learn to tie a tie and I will learn to carry my shoes in a bag.
30. I will make an effort to exercise.
31. I will believe in faeries.
32. I will do my best to value the opinions of those I think are dead wrong.
33. I will embrace peace and quiet.
34. I will not be a tourist in my own home.
35. I will make my bed and take pride in it.
36. I will be skeptical but not cynical.
37. I will be winsome but not naive.
38. I will love my sisters and not mistake them for brothers.
39. I will love my brothers and not mistake them for enemies.
40. I will embrace every mother and father God sends my way.
41. I will lose self-consciousness, whenever possible.
42. I will embrace sacred time.
43. I will tell the secret smile in the back of my mind how she makes me feel.
44. I will eat the good stuff.
45. I will take better care of hygeine.
46. I will stop living as a persona and be a naked soul.
47. I will look into graduate schools with hope and not trembling.
48. I will take victory over my fears instead of surrendering.
49. I will learn the difference between significant and urgent.
50. I will be.
Friday, 29 April 2011
This story is about a clever lad named Pandorian, which means, “the one with all gifts” and how he grew up to be a wise man—which we all know really means wizard—named Theodore, which means, “God’s gift to me.” You might be curious has to how such a very clever lad came to be saddled with a name like Pandorian but if that curiosity overcame you, you would have to ask his mother, Chai the wife of Kade the gardener.
“It was Mendel the soothsayer’s doing,” she’d tell you just before offering you a cookie. “Once, he dropped in for tea and before I could stop him it was all star charts and sheep guts and, oh was it ever a clutter, and then he sipped three cups of tea and made me three promises.”
“I want to tell you three things about that boy of yours, because yes, your youngest child is going to be a boy, because that is how the story goes.
“First, Chai—a lovely name that is wholly appropriate given the high caliber of your tea—your boy is going to be good at everything he sets his hands to. They’ll call him a wizard and a puzzler of the highest caliber he will be. You will give him the name Pandorian, which means ‘the one with all the gifts.’
“Secondly, if you ever let him out of your sight and he comes back with pollen in his nails, you’ll know that very soon his name will be changed.
“Last, lady fair—and you must pay careful attention to this point—Pandorian will, if you let him, journey far and build a home on the western sea. The only way you may keep him by your side is to keep him busy with crafts and with tasks and set him to work out the rhythm of earth’s turning.”
So Chai heard the words of the soothsayer and when her child was born she named him Pandorian and spent the best of days with him. But mostly, everyone called him Dori, for Pandorian was after all, such a heavy long name for such a beamish little boy.
Just as the canny soothsayer had said, Dori did all the crafts that his hands desired and did them well. His mother gave him knitting needles and wool and he clothed his village in deftly patterned sweaters. She handed him a spade and a packet of seeds and he raised the roundest, most satisfyingly orange pumpkins then known in that region of the world. With a wooden spoon, he could transform their housebound evenings into sumptuous banquets, and with a paintbrush, he captured the sunset on their wall for always, making his mother a queen of heavens. Best of all, Dori could unravel the knottiest thought snags a teacher could preach him, for he saw words and patterns and knew to the bottom of the well of knowledge, when he had time enough.
He spoke in the laughing languages of the angels and would sometimes go out and dance with them when the moon was right. Or were they the faeries? He was never sure, but the dances they danced bounced with the madcap joy that only the happiest and best dancers in the world can ever find. Dori was like a chest packed to the seams with riches, but always opened up with treasure for the asking. He was the very best boy that ever did live, if I had to guess.
“I was not,” wizard Theodore would tell you, “I was the worst of boasters when I let myself go.
“I always told Ma that I could argue the mukluks off an Eskimo.
“I declared that I could sing a brillig song to make a stone man cry.
“And I once bragged that I could twist a daisy chain that stretched the whole world long, a daisy chain for walking on all bridge-like.”
Now for a lad that sung with angels and knit with the best of the minor textile deities, these may seem simple and natural stories to tell. And indeed they were, as it turned out. But Dori rarely gave a thought to the jests he spoke, since he spoke them so well.
Not that is, until one day upon a time when he went out into the fields to the west of the small village. This was the year, as the story goes, of his sixteenth birthday, and Dori was ripe as any gardener’s boy at sixteen was for just the sort of adventure he stumbled upon.
“I told him to go out and teach some trolls about Pythagoras,” his mother would tell you and that would be the truth, “keeping him busy, like Mendel the soothsayer told me. Then he had to go out and meet her. Oh don’t get me wrong, I know, I know, that is as the story goes, but I still miss my beamish boy.”
When Dori walked back in the door from his afternoon ostensibly enlightening the trolls of Umbridge, his mother noticed the traces of pollen under his nails.
“What have you been up to?” she asked, whisking him a bowl of cream to whip.
“Making daisy chains with Abigail.”
“What happened to the trolls?” Chai asked. “And who in the name of the seven seas is Abigail.”
“Oh she’s wonderful,” the boy said, skipping over the first question entirely. “She knows the alphabet in thirty different languages and can draw the light in a ladybird’s eye and her daisy chains are the twiniest I’ve ever seen.”
Now some mothers I know would have smacked him with a ladle and sent him to his room to think things through, but Chai just hummed a little hum and told her polymathic boy to go chart the orbit of the moons of Jove while she finished the shoofly pie she had made for Kade the gardener’s dinner. For she was a wise and canny mother and knew just what to do.
“Oh I was nothing so calm as all that,” Chai would tell you with a flick of her apron strings. “I practically fainted right there. It was just like old Mendel said it would be. And what else is a mother to do with a mooning boy who, for all I knew, was ready to sail west right that minute?”
Dori, of course, like most gardener’s boys at the age of sixteen, was incorrigible. Instead of pulling his star charts and compass and best graph-lined paper, Pandorian the puzzler bounded up the stairs to his bedroom and promptly traipsed right out the window, back to the daisy field where he met Abigail.
Little did he know was that Abigail was the princess of the western sea and so, as the story goes, Dori went back out after her to weave another daisy chain and she had gone. There in the field where the two had sat and laughed and recited the alphabets of the countries they most wanted to visit, was old Mendel the soothsayer, smoking his most aged of pipes.
“Where is my friend Abigail?” asked Pandorian of the man who had named him, though he had not a notion of this.
“Oh didn’t you know?” Mendel asked wide-eyed. “Abigail is the princess of the sunset islands. When night falls, a winged horse comes to carry her back to the labyrinth at the heart of the sun-kissed city. You may speak with her by day, and I certainly would if I were you, but if you want to see her any other time, you must complete the three tasks she sets before you.”
“Do tell me, sir, what will these tasks be?”
“First, you must argue the mukluks off an Eskimo and bring them to her.
“Next, you must sing a brillig song to make a stone man weep a rainstorm.
“And finally, Pandorian the puzzler, you must twist a daisy chain for walking on all bridge-like. This is the daisy chain that will guide you through the labyrinth in the heart of the sun-kissed city.”
Dori gulped. He was unused to hearing his boasts returned to him, such a well-spoken lad was he. But he nodded to Mendel the soothsayer and turned his face toward his own house. For Dori was a clever lad, as the story goes.
When he was still a long way off, his father Kade the gardener ran out to meet him.
“Son, your mother says to please come back inside and eat the pie she made for our supper.”
“Da...” he began, but the gardener interrupted.
“Pandorian,” he said, “no doubt you’ve stumbled upon some grand adventure and no doubt that adventure has the prettiest face you ever have seen. And it is for this reason that boys grow old and set out to find their fortunes. But right now, there’s a pie waiting to be sliced along the perfect ratio that shares its phoneme. So be a good lad and let’s get back inside.”
And being both a clever and a good boy, he did as he was told and sliced the pie, eating the piece his mother set before him and cleaning his plate.
In the days that followed, Pandorian would rise in the morning, begin work on the argument of the mukluks, tune his fiddle up and fine-tune the melody of his brillig song, then as the sun crested the peaks of noon, he would set off for the daisy field and Abigail.
Those afternoons were frabjous with conversation and such words they shared as they wove daisy chains while the sun shined. Abigail would always have the smartest things to say and Pandorian would have the upper hand in a debate one moment only to realize she had made a gambit to turn his opinion her way. And some days they would walk the oak woods near the fields and draw the leaves in fine detail. And on others he would show her the faerie rings and the secret places of the fauns. And she would parse Latin verbs and teach him the inward turns of Spenserian rhyme. And day by day they would weave the chain and it grew longer and stronger.
But night after night the dusk would fall and the inexorable winged horse of the twilight would carry her to the far distant labyrinth of roses that sat at the heart of the sun-kissed city. And Dori would return to his father’s house and eat shoofly pie and mope with the widest grin this side of the hereafter.
Two years passed this way, with the twisting of a daisy chain and the whiling of the hours with the sweetest of intent and nothing of agenda. And Pandorian the puzzler began to parse the pattern of Abigail’s eyes and translate the meaning of her shrugs and he memorized the best details of her smile and treasured them in his heart.
And to be certain there were days when the chain seemed almost to break from the thoughts they thought while weaving. There were hours when Dori wished never again to see the princess from the sunset islands. And surely there were moments when Abigail could see that the clever lad was nonetheless an utter dolt and she couldn’t stand to speak to him. And the both of them often ached the nights before the noontimes when they could make up and speak of dappled things. For that is the way of things, during the summer of life, when the names that parents give still hold small feet steady on the ground.
At last came the day when Pandorian’s logic was unassailable and his fiddle most fit and the daisy chain at its strongest and longest. Pandorian the puzzler kissed his mother and embraced his father and set out to seek his fortune.
He walked to the frozen north where live the Eskimos and he met an Eskimo whose name in Eskimo meant Snow, and by snow, I mean of course the first snow of the long winter when you are nonetheless overjoyed because, by Jove, it is snowing and you know that despite the later darkness, you are going to have no small bit of fun on this the best of the shortening days. And with the strength of his argument and by the wit of his will and perhaps because he was carrying a great honking daisy chain, Snow pulled off his mukluks and gave them to Dori. They fit him perfectly, as the story goes.
“Snow, my good man,” Dori said, “would you very much mind tossing me a bit of that reindeer fur? I’d like to stitch another pair of these mukluks.” Being a clever lad, Pandorian understood two things: first, there are few things that a woman loves more than a new pair of shoes, and second, that it is no small thing to be a provider of good things.
His new friend the Eskimo gladly parted with the best of his reindeer fur, perhaps because of the honking great daisy chain or perhaps because he was in awe of the logical skills of his new friend Pandorian, but I think that it is most likely because Snow knew the difference between the flush of cold cheeks and the glowing cheeks of a gardener’s boy head over heels for a princess.
From there he followed the road south to the easy chair of a stone man, where he tuned up his fiddle and began to play the most brillig of brillig songs, the song written by a man himself which he sings with the most heartfelt of convictions because he himself chose the words for their meanings and could write them in thirty alphabets if he had the inclination. And before he knew it the granite heart of the stone man burst open and he began to cry a flood of salt tears.
Dori had come prepared. He opened a copper salt-cellar he had once made as a Father’s Day gift for Kade the gardener and caught a tables-worth of tears to carry across the sea. For, being a clever lad and a good one, Pandorian knew two very important things: first, he knew that any man worth his salt would certainly make sure to keep some on hand and second, he knew the importance of remembering each moment, joyous and dolorous alike, and treasuring them close in his heart.
Awash on the flood of salt, Pandorian the puzzler was carried to the western edge of the world. Once there, the lad secured his daisy chain to a spar of rock and tossed it beyond the horizon. The chain became taut and he stepped out on it and began to walk, nimble as an angel on the head of a pin. The water was frigid and the waves buffeted harder than anything he had reasonably expected and, as the story goes, there were a great number of sea monsters to be faced, all of whom, with the exception of one very grouchy drake of a serpent, turned out to be hardly monstrous indeed when he recited the quadratic equation and chanted the songs of thirty alphabets.
At last, Dori reached the sunset islands and set off for the labyrinth of roses which lay at their heart. He went into the thorns without sword or shears or any horticultural equipment at all, for if there was one thing the lad had learned from his father Kade the gardener, it was that the choicest of all roses must be left on the bush for a good long time until they are ready to bloom. And the roses of the labyrinth were choice flowers indeed.
Into the labyrinth he strode, still balancing on the daisy chain which he and Abigail had spent many a long day twining. The chain held firm. Though the labyrinth twisted and turned and reversed itself, Dori trusted the path would lead to the center and the island’s heart. The sky grew overcast and burst forth with thundering storms, but still he walked forward. The cone of the mountain of fire rumbled and the ground beneath him radiated waves of immense heat, but still he continued. At the very last he reached a thorny wall, through which the daisy chain passed.
“If I go on,” Pandorian thought, “I will surely become the most scarred of lads.” So he waited, for he understood that there are perils requiring a different courage than the courage of a thousand faces.
At last he called into the heart of the island, “Abigail? Are you there?”
And she replied, saying, “Of course I am here. Come in, Dori.”
Pandorian took one last look at the wall of thorns, then closed his eyes and walked forward on the daisy chain. For, being a good lad, he trusted that the thorns of the labyrinth would not scar an invited guest, who had woven the chain and walked the straight path to the heart of the island.
And, as the story goes, the way parted before him and he opened his eyes to see Abigail, standing in the heart of the island holding the daisy chain in her right hand. For all his long voyage across the western sea, she had been his anchor beyond the veil and his trust in the chain had not been in vain.
“Here I am,” she said, “Abigail.”
“No,” he replied, “From this day I will call you Amy, which means ‘beloved,’ for the delight of your father’s eyes shall be made something entirely new in the years of our home.”
“And you,” Amy said, “will be called Theodore, for as surely as the sun sets, you have become God’s gift to me.”
And in the years to come, Amy and Theodore would raise a house in the heart of the island, for everything that Mendel the soothsayer says comes to pass in its time. And Theodore was renowned as a wizard of surpassing wisdom, for he had puzzled his way to the heart of the sunset islands and been given the name more beautiful than any he had heard on the tongues of men and of angels.
Sunday, 24 April 2011
Make no mistake: if He rose at all
it was as His body;
if the cells’ dissolution did not reverse, the molecules
reknit, the amino acids rekindle,
the Church will fall.
It was not as the flowers,
each soft Spring recurrent;
it was not as His Spirit in the mouths and fuddled
eyes of the eleven apostles;
it was as His flesh: ours.
The same hinged thumbs and toes,
the same valved heart
that–pierced–died, withered, paused, and then
regathered out of enduring Might
new strength to enclose.
Let us not mock God with metaphor,
analogy, sidestepping transcendence;
making of the event a parable, a sign painted in the
faded credulity of earlier ages:
let us walk through the door.
The stone is rolled back, not papier-mâché,
not a stone in a story,
but the vast rock of materiality that in the slow
grinding of time will eclipse for each of us
the wide light of day.
And if we will have an angel at the tomb,
make it a real angel,
weighty with Max Planck’s quanta, vivid with hair,
opaque in the dawn light, robed in real linen
spun on a definite loom.
Let us not seek to make it less monstrous,
for our own convenience, our own sense of beauty,
lest, awakened in one unthinkable hour, we are
embarrassed by the miracle,
and crushed by remonstrance.
The sunrise baptism post to follow, once I have my reflections in order.
barefoot_nomad by Connor Park is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License