Friday, November 09, 2007

A Heap of Berryman


From Berryman's "Eleven Addresses to the Lord" in Love & Fame:

1

Master of beauty, craftsman of the snowflake,
inimitable contriver,
endower of earth so gorgeous & different from the boring Moon,
thank you for such as it is my gift.

I have made up a morning prayer to you
containing with precision everything that most matters.
'According to thy will' the thing begins.
It took me off & on two days. It does not aim at eloquence.

You have come to my rescue again & again
i
n my impassable, sometimes depairing years.
You have allowed my brilliant friends to destroy themselves
and I am still here, severely damaged, but functioning.

Unknowable, as I am unknown to my guinea pigs:
how can I 'love' you?
I only as far as gratitude & awe
confidently & absolutely go.

I have no idea whether we live again.
It doesn't seem likely
from either the scientific or the philosophical point of view
but certainly all things are possible to you,

and I believe as fixedly in the Resurrection-appearances to Peter and to Paul
as I believe I sit in this blue chair.
Only that may have been a special case
to establish their initiatory faith.

Whatever your end may be, accept my amazement.
May I stand until death forever at attention
for any your least instruction or enlightenment.
I even feel sure you will assist me again, Master of insight & beauty.

[This poem does not bowl me over, though I was struck by the collection of "addresses" from a man who was a collossal mess, carrying a colossal burden of years and grief upon his back. I like "this blue chair," while I am less devotional in my theology. But, perhaps I've not carried enough on my back. As big a colossal mess as the novelistically brilliant Mr Barry Hannah spoke of his own post-operative experience of Jesus in the room when he was in a quagmire of terrible illness. It seems to me that these experiences from the least likely apostles bear a powerful witness: these boys ain't talkin' faith, they be talkin' conversation and visitation, pure and simple. Aunt Martha and fried chicken on the stoop.

"Less devotional in my theology": that's an odd statement coming from me, since I am nothing if not devotional in my theology: devotional is about all I've got, when it comes to theology. Perhaps not devotion to a Master, but certainly devotion to Mary and Yemaya and all their sisters. The ladies come in for a much better time of it from me than the holy gents. Neither has come in for the kind of screaming harangues I have lobbed God-way or Christ-way. In my worst of days, I have demanded miraculous intervention as proof of their whereabouts, while from Mary I demand nothing: she needn't prove anything, and quite frankly, I expect nothing from her anyway. This is not an insult: it is a statement of faith, of abiding presence: there is no quid pro quo: the chattering head is turned off: the heart and body simply know Mary is here.

I'm not sure what all this bit of ramble was meant to be, in the first place. I was moved, as I sat in the parking lot of the Thousand Oaks biblioteca, and read JB's broken addresses to his Lord, moved because I had not known of his reaching, in broken damaged praise, to the inimitable contriver.


It's been 30 years since I first hefted JB's Recovery off a bargain table at Waldenbooks in North Star Mall. I'd not met him during my four year journeyman's survey of English & American Lit, instead the predictable ones: WW, ED, WBY, EP, TSE, WCW, WS: Hart Crane was the "obscure" one for me, though hardly obscure. It would not have helped to have found Berryman any sooner: when I did find him, I missed the point entirely, though haunted by his flight from the towering bridge in Minneapolis. Recovery spoke, because I was laboring as a psych tech at the time, amidst broken souls also clamoring for bad coffee in the dark mornings outside Villa Rosa.

In truth, the poems only began to speak in volumes last year, as Henry's rhythms and lusts and obsessions and derangements and desuetudes began to make a deranged and holy sense to me, my own linearity having fallen away long ago. The Dream Songs are in their own way, say, a Book of Uncommon Prayer.]

Dream Song 26:

The glories of the world struck me, made me aria, once.
—What happen then, Mr Bones?
if be you cares to say.
—Henry. Henry became interested in women's bodies,
his loins were & were the scene of stupendous achievement.
Stupor. Knees, dear. Pray.

All the knobs & softnesses of, my God,
the ducking & trouble it swarm on Henry,
at one time.
—What happen then, Mr Bones?
you seems excited-like.
—Fell Henry back into the original crime: art, rime

besides a sense of others, my God, my God,
and a jealousy for the honour (alive) of his country,
what can get more odd?
and discontent with the thriving gangs & pride.
—What happen then, Mr Bones?
—I had a most marvellous piece of luck. I died.

And the sublime:


Dream Song 4:

Filling her compact & delicious body
with chicken páprika, she glanced at me
twice.
Fainting with interest, I hungered back
and only the fact of her husband & four other people
kept me from springing on her

or falling at her little feet and crying
'You are the hottest one for years of night
Henry's dazed eyes
have enjoyed, Brilliance.' I advanced upon
(despairing) my spumoni.—Sir Bones: is stuffed,
de world, wif feeding girls.

—Black hair, complexion Latin, jewelled eyes
downcast ... The slob beside her feasts...What wonders is
she sitting on, over there?
The restaurant buzzes. She might as well be on Mars.
Where did it all go wrong? There ought to be a law against Henry.
—Mr. Bones: there is.

Amen.

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4 Comments:

Blogger San said...

Thank you for posting some Berryman. It's fun to read a couple of "Dream Songs" again, and this is the first time I've read any of "Eleven Addresses to the Lord." Amazing.

2:37 PM  
Blogger murat11 said...

If I may be so asininely bold, I do not believe that western civilization gets any better than Dream Song 4.

7:34 PM  
Blogger Lee said...

Wow, Paschal! Dream #4 is Hot! And it may take me a while to calm down! (G)

Thanks for posting it!

Hope! & Joy!

4:49 AM  
Blogger alt said...

“Unknowable, as I am unknown to my guinea pigs:
how can I 'love' you?”
It acts ridiculous yet it’s so chewy. Thanks, alt

1:55 PM  

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