Feb. 5, 2006

Life of Sundays

by Rodney Jones

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Poem: "Life of Sundays" by Rodney Jones from Salvation Blues: One Hundred Poems, 1985-2005. © Houghton Mifflin Company. Reprinted with permission.

Life of Sundays

Down the street, someone must be praying, and though I don't
Go there anymore, I want to at times, to hear the diction
And the tone, through the English pronoun for God is obsolete—

What goes on is devotion, which wouldn't change if I heard:
The polished sermon, the upright's arpeggios of vacant notes.
What else would unite widows, bankers, children, and ghosts?

And those faces are so good as theY tilt their smiles upward
To the rostrum that represents law, and the minister who
Represents God beams like the white palm of the good hand

Of Christ raised behind the baptistery to signal the multitude,
Which I am not among, though I feel the abundance of calm
And know the beatitude so well I do not have to imagine it,

Or the polite old ones who gather after the service to chat,
Or the ritual linen of Sunday tables that are already set.
More than any other days, Sundays stand in unvarying rows.

That beg attention: there is that studied verisimilitude
Of sanctuary, so even mud and bitten weeds look dressed up
For some eye in the distant past, some remote kingdom

Where the pastures are crossed by thoroughly symbolic rivers.
That is why the syntax of prayers is so often reversed,
Aimed toward the dead who clearly have not gone ahead

But returned to prior things, a vista of angels and sheep,
A desert where men in robes and sandals gather by a tree.
Hushed stores, All day that sense a bell is about to ring—

I recognized it, waking up, before I weighed the bulk of news
Or saw Saturday night's cars parked randomly along the curb,
And though I had no prayer, I wanted to offer something

Or ask for something, perhaps out of habit, but as the past
Must always be honored unconsciously, formally, and persists
On this first and singular day, though I think of it as last.

Literary and Historical Notes:

It's the birthday of playwright John Guare, born in New York City (1938). His first job after college was with MGM in Hollywood but he hated it and joined the Air Force so he could travel around Europe. After a couple of years he hitchhiked from Paris to the Sudan, filling dozens of pocket-sized notebooks with drafts of plays. It wasn't long after he got back that he had his first big hit, with House of Blue Leaves (1970).

Guare's biggest success in recent years has been Six Degrees of Separation which opened in 1990. The title of Six Degrees of Separation refers to the claim that it takes only six steps to link any two people on earth.

It's the birthday of the man who wrote Naked Lunch (1959), William S(eward) Burroughs, born in St. Louis, Missouri (1914). One day in 1946 Joan Vollmer introduced him to two young Columbia University students, Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg. It was the beginning of the Beat movement in literature.

It's the birthday of writer, director, and comedian Christopher Guest, born in New York City (1948). He's best known for his mock documentaries such as This is Spinal Tap (1984), which follows the tour of a fake heavy metal band, and Best In Show (2000), in which he makes fun of the world of competitive dog shows.

Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®




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