Friday

Mar. 7, 2003

Descending Theology: The Crucifixion

by Mary Karr

FRIDAY, 7 MARCH 2003
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Poem:
"Descending Theology: The Crucifixion," by Mary Karr.

Descending Theology: The Crucifixion

To be crucified is first to lie down
on a shaved tree, and then to have oafs stretch you out
on a crossbar as if for flight, then thick spikes
      fix you into place.

Once the cross pops up and the pole stob
sinks vertically in an earth hole perhaps
at an awkward list, what then can you blame for hurt
      but your own self's burden?

You're not the figurehead on a ship. You're not
flying anywhere, and no one's coming to hug you.
You hang like that, a sack of flesh with the hard
      trinity of nails holding you into place.

Thus hung, your ribcage struggles up
to breathe until you suffocate, give up the ghost.
If God permits this, one wonders how
      this twirling earth

manages to navigate the gravities and star tugs.
Or if some less than loving watcher
watches us scuttle across the boneyard greens
      under which worms

seethe and the front jaws of beetles
eventually clasp toward the flesh of every beloved.
The man on the cross under massed thunderheads feels
      his soul leak away,

then surge. Some windy authority lures him higher
till an unseen tear in the sky's membrane is rent,
and he's streaming light, snatched back, drawn close,
      so all loneliness ends.


Literary Notes:

It's the birthday of novelist Bret Easton Ellis, born in Los Angeles (1964). His first book was Less Than Zero (1985), which documented the substance abuse and sex lives of teenagers in California. His third book, American Psycho (1991), is narrated by a Wall Street executive who tortures and mutilates women and homeless people.

It's the birthday of writer and environmentalist Rick Bass, born in Fort Worth, Texas (1958). He has adopted the remote Yaak Valley of Montana as his home, and has written several books on his life there, including Winter: Notes from Montana (1991), The Book of Yaak (1996), and Colter: The True Story of the Best Dog I Ever Had (2000), as well as a number of short stories and a novel, Where the Sea Used to Be (1998).

On this day in 1923, Robert Frost's poem, "Stopping By Woods On a Snowy Evening," was published in the New Republic magazine. He said he wrote the poem in a few minutes and struggled only with the ending. He eventually decided to repeat the famous last line, "And miles to go before I sleep."

It was on this day in 1965 that a Civil Rights march was held by about 600 people attempting to walk from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama as part of a voter registration drive. The group, made up mostly of African Americans, was driven away by more than fifty Alabama State Troopers and a few dozen possemen. That night the ABC network interrupted its feature film Judgment at Nuremberg to broadcast footage of the police suppressing the march and people falling on the highway. It was about a week later that, President Lyndon Johnson addressed a joint session of congress in which he embraced the cause of the voter registration drive and used the phrase "We shall overcome." Dr. Martin Luther King was watching the address on television, and at the end of it, he burst into tears. He had stayed home from the march because there was word he'd be assassinated, but he led a second march from Selma to Montgomery, after he was granted permission by a Federal judge. The second march began with a group of 2500 and ended with about 25,000 marching into Montgomery. When King arrived there on March 25th, he delivered a speech in which he said, "I know that you are asking today, 'How long will it take?' I come to say to you this afternoon however difficult the moment, however frustrating the hour, it will not be long, because truth pressed to earth will rise again. How long? Not long, because no lie can live forever. How long? Not long, because you still reap what you sow. How long? Not long. Because the arm of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice."



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