Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Some Kind Of Conclusion


Images: It doesn't hurt. Halfway thru this month, I was diagnosed with a skin condition called dermographism. Even small scratches and little pressure leaves a distinct mark. I decided to write a word or two somewhere on my skin each night, with the goal of having a completed poem for the last night of the month. It itches furiously for a while--it's a histamine reaction--and then it subsides. Pardon the poor penmanship. If I'd been thinking, I'd have made a title card as well.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Penultimate Words

The purpose of the artist is to make beauty
Real to us. The artist needs to be granted peace
And food and drink. We should allow
The artist what's deserved. His pursuit
Is noble beyond the hunt; he is the fruit
Of centuries of counts and is every inch a prince.
Get it? You might train him to dance
On the end of a chain, but he's crafty, that one,
Watch him now. Here is how he
Beckons beauty in: His mother and the whores alike
Rush to his aid. Here is how he makes beauty
Real: By showing us the scuffed boot
And the sugar stipple of dirt along the ruff
Of her petticoat. He should have had
A dozen castles. There's no need to beat the man.
Give him his stick. Pour him a drink,
The poor damned fool; he will never be forgiven,
He will always want for more. Show him
A landscape and the artist will take a shit
On it. Process is critical to the artist's
Creation. His process incorporates his own
Destruction, we'll give him that. Well done.
We won't miss the moment when the trumpet sounds--
That punchline of a last word
When the prey is taken down.

Video: Toulouse-Lautrec's last words were "Le vieux con," generally believed to have been directed at his father.

Turn It Down

The purpose of the cathedral is to have a place to safely
Contemplate. You need enough room to assemble, a vantage
Point, created to dominate the lands around. The structure
Should be the center of the town. All roads flow
To its doors. This is the place designed for you
To flee to in danger. Kneel here, and no one
Need fear that you'll be stabbed in the back. Well,
It has been known to happen, even for all the eyes watching, for all
That every corner is strange to light but holds, like the saint,
Eyes. Watch what you say here. For all can hear. Your voice
Rises to the arches, into all that air and circles
And circles, your words a trapped bird beating to escape.
Oh screech and claw, bright visitor! That this spirit
Created of your breath will fall is fine proof:
There was poison there. The saint's fine devotionals
Spin up to the arches to chase down your voice, her music
Turned mad as a vielle a roue on festival day
Among all those echoes. What you said, and when,
Will be the subject of their inquiry. Who said what,
And what was meant, we can no longer tell. Punishment
Must befall all, and our task to pluck the feathers,
Trusting in our Master to sort each scrap of down.

Image: The incomparable Remedios Varo.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

The Murderous Silence Of The Castle Keep

The purpose of the castle is to have a place to survive
A siege. You need a high vantage point, a way
To get goods in, and a water source. One out of three.
What a coincidence--that's also the number for
Our odds, the ratio of survivors, and the blessed mystery.
Once we could embrace the whole town, piling up
The pregnancies and the bastions, opening new loopholes.
I look back, and back, and count the marks on the wall,
The levels the sun got to at noon, but I can't name the day
The castle turned into a trap. Around and around the walls
I slink and crawl, dodging whatever falls--from our fortress
Or from their weapons; nobody can tell. Once we could see all
From here. We were as a vast iris, the aperture
At the tip of the mountain. Now we know nothing, blinded
By the thick walls. I can tell you there are enough
Marks now that I pray the cats will do their work
And tear me a rush of light, my escape to my true crown.

Image: Found it when I was walking from the market to the train.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Better To Lie On Your Back Than Lie On Your Knees

"A professional model is like a stuffed owl. These girls are alive."
--Henri de Toulouse Lautrec on women in brothels

Pink Cities
Take all the boys to visit Venus, ply her
With sweets and brandy. Five flights up she lives
With a little monkey, a few canvases. The most
Closely regarded for a time became the one
Who owned the gaze. Once the most adored,
Now nailed, with her gal pals--the bored barmaid,
The woman gazing rapt at a plum. Others trafficked
In their images and made the money. She falls
Apart here. Some things never change.
No less than the damned above the altar
Does the black cat and the ambiguously placed
Hand signify. Bend her fingers into this
Text: I see, you see, cross me, blessed.

There's an anecdote that Toulouse-Lautrec knew the model for Manet's Olympia, Victorine Meurent, and would bring folks to visit her. She took to painting and music, but didn't get paid so much at either pursuit as she had at her first career. From the little I've skimmed, it looks like Manet was a real dick to Toulouse-Lautrec; maybe he was to everyone; maybe his arrogance was justified. I read Henry's refusal to let the model be forgotten as a sort of counter strike--even if there was some cold-bloodedness and mockery in his bringing the boys around, he's still seeing her as alive--not as a broken toy once animated only through genius.

Image: "Woman Lying on Her Back."

Friday, April 25, 2014

An Old Protest Song

The prompt today is a classic: the fake translation. You take what a poem in a foreign language sounds like in your own and then tweak it into shape.

Take by permission,
Come fail all they demand of her
No fast sell--
Kill over fear,
Kill all who fail to predict her

Can't predict
It's so specific
You fuckin' bitched-up adjuster
Come on simulacra,
A Cassanova
So predictable of a monster

A little Sonic Youthy, maybe? Peire Cardenal was a troubadour who saw the worst results of the Albigensian Crusade and lived. He was pissed. He was known most for--and mostly wrote--sirventes, political satires. Here's a chunk from his story about how he'd basically tell God to go to hell because God is being all Judgy McJudgmenty. It's translated by W.D. Snodgrass, who's more palatable to me than Pound; the whole is called "A New Protest Song."

"I’ll now compose a brand new protest song
Which I’ll perform on the Last Judgment Day
Telling the Lord who contrived me from clay
That if He’s planning to claim I’ve done wrong
Then stick me down with those devils that scare me,
That I’ll just say: “Have a heart, Lord, and spare me!
I had torments in that damned world enough;
If You don’t mind, keep Hell’s pitchforkers off!”

This is the original of the Cardenal piece I "translated," which I chose for its techno-metal sounding title. I have no idea what it means. I suck at French, much less Occitan.

Tenc per meillor,
Quam fai l'obra que manda far,
Non fas selui
Que l'obra fai
Que als autres vai predicar.

Qui en predic
Met son afic
Lo fach e-l dich deu ajostar,
Car meils lo cre
Aquel que-l ve
Son predic per l'obra mostrar.

Image: The man the myth the legend, from a manuscript. I've been seeing cardinals all over the place for the past week or so, so he should have shown up here by now.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Unspeakable, Inedible

The Hunt

The circus, the races, the hunt, the kitchen--
These are the places human and beast
Have their most honest dialogue. You might add
The castle, the brothel, the dance hall, the studio.

It's an old family recipe:
Stack three thick steaks up just like bricks,
Shove them onto the coals and suffer
The flames to engulf them. The one
Pressed between the two will be
Tender, done perfectly.

The son pushes a hook through the cormorant's throat.
The father waits for the moment the hallali sounds.

A couple weeks back, the NaPoWriMo prompt was to use a recipe to tell a family secret. It's not my recipe, nor my secret.

Image: Henry is hoist by his own canard. And I have no idea who this person is, but this blog is fucking amazing and that's where it popped up.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Monday, April 21, 2014


One of these is a legitimate question asked at the trial of Oscar Wilde. If you can guess which, you may earn a sweet.

The Questions I Would Ask At The Trial
What do you want to bet the Marquess and the Count
Are kicking up their heels together in hell?
What makes these fathers so vain of how they look?
What lengths won't they go to, to try to keep it up?
Who can sit still for a portrait on a night like this?
Who can remember? Where was that portrait hidden
All those years? How did it emerge looking so fresh,
So new? What is the mystery of its preservation?
Were you cursed by the black prince? Do you dream
Of riding? How many years does it take
To take down a castle? How long can you
Stand a siege? What are the names
Of the other men? Is powder on your hands
Reason enough to be seized? Did you set out
To be a martyr? Is it true that you
Put your head in your hands and walked
To the top of the hill? How many dead
In one bloody week? Why did they forbid
Anyone to add another kiss to your tomb?
Was anything said about a sonnet?

Toulouse-Lautrec was a defender of Wilde and with him the night before the trial. He drew his portrait of Wilde from memory, after he got back to his room, because the writer had been too edgy to sit still.
Image: You can't do this anymore. Stolen from NPR. They took it from someone named MrOmega at Flickr.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Oil On Cardboard

The Bed
He doesn't miss a trick, that one.
Not the face in the crowd or the one
Slumped in the corner or the kick.
A bitter little monster, without
Either youth or age to excuse it.
He's a good cook, I'll give him that.
And you know I never turn down ready money.
He's in the armchair, drawing
Or sleeping, I don't care which, and
I almost forget he's there--but with you,
Once they're gone, I forget everything.
The ones who pay to watch--breath.
The ones who pay to have us--water.
Everything we need, but nothing
We need to hold onto.

Image: Le Lit, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec.

Come On Berbie, Let's Go Party

Sorry to miss a day. I couldn't get this up last night.

Oh stop.

So you get a bonus poem, two cocktail recipes, and a lecture.

Wormwood wants earth that's drained to nearly dry.
The roots are a monster. They'll try to break
Clay pots; they won't be enclosed. In spring,
It is everything you don't want to see--grey,
Kinked, stiff and gnarled, brittle branches
Clutching at any detritus of seasons past
That it can hoard. It has a tremor. Nubs
Of green force their way out of the ugly wood,
And this may be the source of the stories:
They say there is a spirit trapped inside,
A dragon, a hunter, a beauty, its name
A star that falls and turns the river bitter--
Taste what I am made of, it demands.

Various apocrypha attribute the invention of the Earthquake cocktail to Henry (his preferred spelling) de Toulouse-Lautrec. There are several recipes floating around the Internets, but the one that for me combines authenticity and palatability is this: One part cognac, one part absinthe, splash of red wine.

There are know-it-all foodies and … drinkies? What do you call an expert on spirits? -- who will argue this shit to the death, usually in loud voices after they're half in the bag, and tell you a lot about thujones and all, but here's the reality: there's nothing particularly different about absinthe. The ritual and mythology just primes you to think so. Artemesias are medicinal in different ways; medicine is bitter; you get the medicinal properties out of any herb by processing it with alcohol. You use different artemesias in different ways in cooking, drinking, and medicine to get different effects. Way back, people used to make their own absinthes, vermouths, aperitifs and digestifs to their own recipes, handed down and tweaked, so to speak, over the years, and many still do. The traditional use of artemesias was to get rid of worms. I mean stomach worms, not earthworms. Every herb has a tendency to produce a particular effect, but any herb can also produce a particular effect in a a particular person, ranging from puking to falling asleep to hallucination. Medicine is tricky and herbalism trickier, because it's harder to standardize the dose. If you soak lawn clippings in alcohol and drink enough of it, it's going to kill you. You should work with a personal root doctor or similar, and be patient and careful. Southern wormwood, or Sweet Annie, grows wild all over the southeast U.S. If you choose to work with it, you should work with a good traditional Chinese Medicine expert, because they're very familiar with it. All of this is to say that I get annoyed when people talk about hallucinating from absinthe or that it's particularly dangerous. You might as well say the same of Aperol, which I prefer.

It is also to say that Toulouse-Lautrec wasn't killed by the absinthe. He was killed by his father, just like any other normal, decent artist.

Last night I had a very sweet drink of a spoonful of Few rye (I can't drink very much alcohol; i just fall asleep), pomegranate juice, homemade limoncello, an orange slice, and a grind of a spice mix I make with cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, nutmeg, and allspice. How fucking precious is that! But tasty.

Here's a bitter poem by Anne Bronte. I'm like, yeah baby.

O GOD! if this indeed be all
That Life can show to me;
If on my aching brow may fall
No freshening dew from Thee;

If with no brighter light than this
The lamp of hope may glow,
And I may only dream of bliss,
And wake to weary woe;

If friendship’s solace must decay,
When other joys are gone,
And love must keep so far away,
While I go wandering on,—

Wandering and toiling without gain,
The slave of others’ will,
With constant care and frequent pain,
Despised, forgotten still;

Grieving to look on vice and sin,
Yet powerless to quell
The silent current from within,
The outward torrent’s swell;

While all the good I would impart,
The feelings I would share,
Are driven backward to my heart,
And turned to wormwood there;

If clouds must ever keep from sight
The glories of the Sun,
And I must suffer Winter’s blight,
Ere Summer is begun:

If Life must be so full of care—
Then call me soon to Thee;
Or give me strength enough to bear
My load of misery!

Image: What was the bishop's fortress in Albi was transformed into the Museum of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec.

Saturday, April 19, 2014


It takes 40 days of fighting to earn
An indulgence. The longer the siege goes on,
The greater the chance to save
Your soul. The more stones launched
Over the walls, the greater the chance
Of escape. The longer you suffer,
The more you pray. The more you speak
His name, the closer you draw
To salvation. Kiss the stones, for they
Serve you. Within them lies your legacy.
If the walls fall and let the arrows
Fly at you, this is a blessing. These stones
Are your bread. Every broken tower
Brings you closer to your liberation.
Nine months, and we are perfected.
We deliver ourselves to you without a cry.

Over the past several years, I've been able to play on a trapeze in a castle and with a trebuchet. I'm very grateful for the experience.

Image: Trebuchet stones from Montsegur.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Kick Against The Pricks

I was right about the universe, because if it wanted me to write, it would not put me into hours-long work meetings. I pulled a NaPoWriMo prompt from a couple of days ago to come up with this.

Sin gives us everything that we desire in a home.
Sin's universal appeal is founded on several compelling qualities.
Sin embraces our sense of comfort and well-being, and makes us feel connected to our environment, in beautiful colors that spring from nature itself.
Because it is derived from nature, sin stands up to weather and nature without fading.
If anything, weather tends to enhance the beauty of sin.
Sin is virtually maintenance-free, standing up to the elements year after year.
Sin's proven reliability passes the test of time in any climate.
Hard-fired sin in will not shrink like a substitute.
Modern sin is energy efficient.
Does sin cost more? In many cases, sin is available without extra charge.
There really is a difference in quality between substitutes and genuine sin.
With genuine sin you can dream any design, and transform it into a beautiful, living experience.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Lion Low

Don't feel so good tonight, and that's no lie. I'm on the couch while my child watches her favorite show, Restaurant Impossible. The NaPoWriMo prompt is to write a poem that is a lie--just 10 lines of lies. I can do that. I'm taking down lines from the show. Lying is not one of the seven deadly sins, but Dante classed alchemists with liars. Just my luck.

His presence is still with us.
There are a few people who need to be here.
I couldn't do this alone.
You can really taste the meat.
I think you should let them in.

Welcome home.
She is an asset.
I'll definitely come back.
We know changes need to be made.
I think everybody is very pleased with the way this came out.

Image: Triumph over Monfort.

Queen Of This Realm

On Encountering Fouquet in the Circle
It's the heretics' gift to see what's far ahead
But never what is under her own nose.
But you may ask a question of the dead:

Yes, you are immortal; there are those
Who'll never hear of how the bishop lied
But only hear of songs that you composed,

And how, reformed, you joined the other side
To devote yourself to rid the world of ones
Who with the body said the spirit dies--

So kill their spirits, first, then kill their sons.
No, have no worries they'll forget your name
More perfect than the perfect on their tongues

(More than a thousand with me here are lain)
Or that your deeds might someday come to light
And you, as with your God, would know disdain--

Our tombs are open; yours is shut up tight.

Folquet de Marselha was a troubadour who had a sudden change of heart and became a monk. It was a fine career move, because he eventually became Bishop of Toulouse; just had to help kill off a lot of his former party pals to get there. The prompt for today from NaPoWriMo was to do a terza rima. I tried to work in some of Canto X, which is about chatting with the heretics and has a disputed line.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The Laziest Gal In Town

I missed a day yesterday, so I wrote myself an absence note. The altarpiece of the Albi cathedral depicts a last judgment complete with the Deadly Sins--except they forgot Sloth. So it's the Six Deadly Sins. Doesn't have the same ring, does it?

The Sin of Omission
How could anyone neglect sloth?
On seeing your altarpiece, I feel a flicker of hope
That this poor fool might dodge the flames on a technicality.
I confess to lapses from time to time in all six other sins,
But it is in sloth that I excel. At night, when others find peace
In their beds, I'm too lazy to do the same, and can't be bothered
To leave the table, or the fireside with the bottle, or the dance.

At best you'll find me on my back, with other sins having their way,
But still I won't have the gumption to lie down and pursue dreams.
Of sloth, I am a mason and a scholar and even a king--
By great industry I steer clear of plans and goals,
Letting the day take each of my songs where it may,
Singing what the spirit moves, and thus exploiting
Even the energies of the muse, but never, God forbid, my own.

The work of mending my pockets is too much,
So I am scolded for letting my coins fall to the road,
Where beggars pick them up. I can't stir my mind
To recall where I last put that bread or bottle down;
If you should find them, please take them as you need.

And fashioning an end to this song is more effort still
I will not make, not for you, though you might whine:
Fool, your song is endless, what is your point?
I won't trouble to leave a trail for you to follow my wit;
Sloth, now named a virtue by the priests, determines it.

Now, if I were brought before the Inquisitor, I'd be too
Indolent to answer a single inquiry, but would swat my hand
As at a fly and volley the questions back at him. Why,
I would ask him, have you chosen to curry favor with sloth?
You yourself seek your comfort, giving the truth
To my grandmother's proverb: For every ass there is a seat.

Any penalty you devise serves only to magnify
My indolence: Hang me, and you put another man to work,
With the earth itself pulling at my heels, and even
That last discipline, that of my bowels, relaxed. Burn me,
And a bigger pack labors, for the sake of the stake,
The ropes, the tinder and the cart. Have mercy,
And let this altered liturgy be your guide, as sin
Has guided me, and praise this fool now as a saint,
Pope Sloth the First the name that I should take.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Tower of Power

The Riddle of the Wall
What would they say if these bricks could talk?
They'd tell of the secrets sealed up by their strength
By its rosy reach and its wretched length
If these bricks could talk.

Where would they go if these bricks could walk?
They'd clamor and clump up the spiral stair
And pitch from the top of the bishop's lair
If these bricks could walk.

What would they ask, if they could desire?
Not to witness the evil that men conspire
But if they must serve, to avoid the fire
This is what bricks desire.

Image: Depiction of the building of the Tower of Babel.

Saturday, April 12, 2014


Not so well thought out. Tough day.
Epic Man
Rock wall on your left, river on your right
Right hand full of vitamins, your jumbo
Coffee in your left. Rolling down the highway,
Steering with your knees, oh, Epic Man.
You may call me a train wreck,
But my broken scrap is going for more than your
BMW in this market. Epic Man wants to show me
Everything I've missed. I'd be raking it in,
Hand over fist. A romance for the ages.
I'd be in a granite castle now if I'd stuck with you.

Image: From a really nice website about the gardens in Albi.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Mission of Burma

Today's prompt from NaPoWriMo is to write a Burma Shave poem. This is handily done from my phone and a good thing too, because the pay work is hell.

Contract Vehicle
"This plane's the bomb--
"You're dyin' to try it!"
I write these ads
But who will buy it?

Image: Me. Not making someone else do the work for a change.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Safety Is Joy

They’re putting up a new tomb across the street;
It’s bigger than mine. They all are, these days. Good times!
Say the bearded boys as they clink their beer mugs.

While I can’t decipher the surveyors’ neon calligraphy on the streets
I do get the writing on the wall. It’s more than 10 feet tall.
One of those new pharaohs. He’d like to get us in there
But only if we make the cut. Bless his munificence;
He’s given the bums a new place to piss.

Old men, idling, speculate--
Guess how much bone is in each brick,
How many eyes wired into the walls.

For us women, it’s just another hazard.
A place to catch a heel, or bump your baby awake.
When it’s standing tall, and when it falls to ruin,
It’s all the same. It's another place to hide us.

Image: St. Cecilia, Albi cathedral

Tuesday, April 8, 2014


So I had in mind to write a country song. Maybe, if your country is Westeros. Verse, chorus, ran out of time. Back to worky work at the jobby job.

Building a castle to keep your sins
Stacking the bricks in the wall
Scaling your way to a lofty perch
You've only got farther to fall

Mighty and high is the rampart view
Keeping an eye on us all
But the number of backs that you climb upon
Are the number of miles you will crawl--
You've only got farther to fall.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Sufficient Unto The Day Is The Evil Thereof

Really sick today. Need some of the above. Left work early, and I don't know how I'll finish up. But I am keeping to my one-a-day pledge. Where are my priorities? How dare I write poems when I should be working for the Man. And if I have any time left, I should be serving someone. Who do I think I am?

But the truth is, poems are short, and this took about 10 minutes and likely shows it. I took the first words down the page of a book by the bed and shuffled them around.

I started writing poems instead of fiction because they're short. I could write them on scraps or on my phone while my child was playing, and no one would be the wiser. I hardly ever rewrite or revise, and I usually take about 10 or 20 minutes to write anything. Part of this is being an impatient, careless person, and part of it is having only scraps of time to work with. There are a lot of us in the same boat.

Bordering the island, we made fast the preserve,
While eight gazed in such short formation,
Mobile but straight on this side. From
The deserted city to the cold brook wheel,
Gone, run down the blue winter road.

Image: Culpepper. British and from the wrong century, but rights-free.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Past These Mountains And To Seaward I Am Called

Warning: In days of old when knights were bold they had some filthy language. If that troubles you, the poem below just might be best avoided.

Me, I'm just going to watch the Blogger analytics hit the sky and tell myself it's all thanks to my irresistible poetry.

Courtly love was not much of either, but it sounds like it could have been fun. Here's a link to a lot of poetry about courtly love in English translation. Another thing the Albigensian Crusade did was put the clampdown on this whole elaborately drawn out system of fun and games. F the PoPo!

Denial Being So Fully In Your Fashion
Denial being so fully in your fashion--
It's the only way a woman's given
To direct and deflect the winds that push her--
I won't turn against the trending here.
If all say to close my ears to all entreaties (but their own to attend),
And I say this pierces my heart, but I am told
How it should not, and that I must improve my understanding
And feed not pity (but bring the dish to them), nor see your eyes that want,
Rebellion won't serve me, nor pass a glass to you.
Let's tie our hands ourselves and save them the trouble.
I will teach you as I have been taught. Repeat:
You do not want this. You do not want this.

Below is by Guilhen de Peiteu He was quite the Drama King. As the name indicates, he was from Poitiers, but he did a land grab on Toulouse and was himself a crusader. Lots of troubles with the women. Ezra Pound, that asshat, liked him.

Comrades, I have had so many bad receptions
that I cannot do without singing and grieving about it;
however, I don't want people to know my business in many things.

And I shall tell you my opinion about this:
I don't like a warded cunt nor a pond without fish,
nor boasting of base men, as if there weren't records of their actions.

Lord God, who are refuge and king of the world,
why didn't the first cunt-warden drop dead?
Because there never was service, or watch, worse than that.

Therefore shall I tell you the Law of the Cunt,
as a man who's done badly and has been repaid worse:
if other things dwindle when you take of them, the cunt grows.

And he who will not believe my teachings,
let him go see by the wood, in a reservation:
for each tree people fell, two or three grow.

And when the wood is cut, it grows back thicker
and the owner doesn't miss his profit, nor his income:
one complains wrongly about the loss, if no harm is done.

It is wrong to complain about the loss, if no harm is done.

Image: Courtney Love photographed by Paola Kudacki for the Fall 2013 Garage magazine. Yes, that's her today.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Secret Supper

I'm so demanding. I want to know everything.

He said: Ask me anything. Ask me
Who will betray me. Ask me
How good he used to have it,
And how he liked those fancy clothes.
Ask everyone how much they owe me.
No, him, him too: Ask him how much.
Ask him what he does when he has no hope.
Ask him what he thinks he's doing,
Turning everyone against me. Ask me
Where he went after I threw him out.

He went off and he built himself
A whole wide world, and through
All that time, no one
Asked any questions.

Then I asked him why people
Talk the way they do, telling
No account stories. And why they act
The way they do. And I asked
How long this would go on,
And what it would be like.
I asked him why people believe
All those lies, and why they won't believe
What he says. And then I asked him
If love is always like that,
And I asked him when all this
Was going to be over.

Image: Can't track the sucker's source down, sorry.

Friday, April 4, 2014

My Heart Is Cold

Not a good day, health wise. Not a lot left. Still a lot of paying work to do.

I am babysitting two girls who just made up a poem over their pizza:

My heart is cold
Because I left it in the refrigerator
I'll heat it up
And eat it later.

I would like to claim it for my own, but that is not the poem of the day. The NaPoWriMo prompt is a lune. I hate lunes.

Little Ice Age
In the warm
Years, the wheat grew tall.
So did shadows.

Image: I have no idea where it came from or if it's even real. I liked the stars.

Let's Hear It For The Heretics!

Most think of troubadour lyrics and imagine songs of love, but political satire, or sirventes, were also popular. This might have had something to do with the troubles.

I'm not qualified to talk
Of our Emperor's mighty forces
But I'll give it a try. He drives such
Droves before him, and with such
Eagerness they go, that they are often
Several counties ahead, while he surveys,
With the eyes of eagles, from a vantage
Sometime thousands of miles away.
Overlooking their homes, their children
Who turn the dirt and throw stones,
In eager practice for the day,
If they live to see it, that they
Might join the next crusade.
And know he keeps his forces
In fighting trim; no fat duck,
No boar, no honey for them. Our Emperor
Reserves these to his table,
Thus preserving the sharpness
Of their palates for blood in battle.
The wisdom of Our Emperor is clear:
Just look at the numbers that advance him!
See them teeming forth in such abundance
That it goes unnoticed when some fall,
Drunk, trampled in the roads, or fall
Mad with fever or the flux, or fall
Upon their fellows with their knives,
Premature to war, and kill their own,
Or adorn the trees at the end of a rope,
Or scatter their bones on the mountain crags.
Nevertheless! Their remnant marches strong!

The Song of the Cathar Wars is a puzzle in itself. The epic (written in Occitan in Alexandrines) detailing the conflicts of the era has two distinct authors. The first third is attributed to William of Tuleda, who took the point of view of the Crusaders and the Pope, a prudent if still contemptible choice. Then, two-thirds through, an anonymous author hijacks the manuscript and turns it around, and the rest of the story is told from the point of view of an author sympathetic to the people of the region invaded.

You can see how this chunk of the Songs (trans. Jan Shirley and posted on the amazing Midi-France website) does that turnaround even within itself. It tells of the death and remembrance of Simon de Montfort, the crusade leader whose actions included burning 140 people at the stake. It refers to his original tomb in the Carcassonne, where up to 20,000 people were slaughtered.

"The epitaph says, for those who can read it,
That he is a saint and martyr who shall breathe again
And shall in wondrous joy inherit and flourish
And wear a crown and sit on a heavenly throne.
And I have heard it said that this must be so -
If by killing men and spilling blood,
By wasting souls, and preaching murder,
By following evil counsel, and raising fires,
By ruining noblemen and besmirching paratge,
By pillaging the country, and by exalting Pride,
By stoking up wickedness and stifling good,
By massacring women and their infants,
A man can win Jesus in this world,
Then Simon surely wears a crown, resplendent in heaven."

Image: Discontinued, but I bet you could get it on eBay.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Nice Red Uniforms

The Language of No
I'm standing in the square
And I'm thinking, there must be a way
I can game this.
Even a child knows what they want to hear.
Even a child knows that old trick, too:
If you just tell the truth
You won't be punished.
If yes,
Then penance. If no, penance,
And where is your brother.
Advance to the second round.
No child can point and say
Look, he has no clothes--
This time, they have stripped us.
This time, the square is smaller
And the sky is the top of a box,
Coming down. If yes, death.
If no, death, and where
Is your sister. The sky
Is a stone slab.

The Albigensian Crusade saw the development of the systematized, capital-I Inquisition, with sets of rules that could be applied broadly and were designed to ensure any action on the part of the accused or not accused would be a losing move, and the Inquisitor would always win. The invaders first came in and asked for simple public confessions of heresy; if you confessed, you would receive a minor punishment, but the punishment for a second offense was death, and refusal to confess as well as refusal to implicate others was an offense. Pwnd!

And it was all, of course, quite unexpected!

Will leave you with a found poem of sorts, from the translator Jan Shirley, also apparently the only translator into English of the Song of the Cathar Wars, a poem with a whole backstory in its own right. Maybe tomorrow. This is from "The Inquisitors Guide," written by a professional inquisitor, Bernard Gui, who plied his trade about 100 years after the crusade.

"There are some among them,
As fraudulent as they are cunning,
Who in order to mask
The truth and conceal themselves
And their accomplices
So that their error and falsity
Are not discovered, give ambiguous
Or obscure answers, reply
In a general and confused way,
So that no clear truth can be gathered
From what they say. For this reason
The inquisitor must use energy and skill.
People like this can and must be forced,
Compelled, to respond
Clearly and to say
Exactly what their answers mean."

Image: Wiki Commons, Expulsion of the Albigensians from Carcassone in 1209. Image taken from Grandes Chroniques de France.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Well, I'll Be Damned.

I'm STILL pissed about the Albigensian Crusade.

Brick is the characteristic material
Of the bishopric. They stacked that shithouse
High and millions strong,
The buttresses submerged in its mass.
Every effigy he could order
Stood up like fence posts against the walls,
But dig as you might, the Tarn won't
Shake loose one useful stone for your purposes.
Lots of jobs in erecting that fortress,
And still no shortage of fortresses
To storm. But you know,
He couldn't get anyone in to paint it.
Had to send pretty far afield
For the anonymous masters to conjure up
The torture scenes for the walls.
These parts had seen enough of that.

Poor Cecilia, sweet fake saint;
They say the stroke of the sword
To your neck birthed harmony.
What a laugh, your castle, what a big
Joke! 8 million bricks, and it's not over yet.

Here is the song she sang for her supper:
She would meet the angel in secret,
At night, on the road, meet him
At the third milestone, but she will not wed.

The inquisitor clicks his castanets.
You're like every daughter
Of this county; he will have you
Sing for him too.

Image: Albi Cathedral, Wiki Commons. Big boy, huh?