Apr. 24, 2010

Ode to Chocolate

by Barbara Crooker

I hate milk chocolate, don't want clouds
of cream diluting the dark night sky,
don't want pralines or raisins, rubble
in this smooth plateau. I like my coffee
black, my beer from Germany, wine
from Burgundy, the darker, the better.
I like my heroes complicated and brooding,
James Dean in oiled leather, leaning
on a motorcycle. You know the color.

Oh, chocolate! From the spice bazaars
of Africa, hulled in mills, beaten,
pressed in bars. The cold slab of a cave's
interior, when all the stars
have gone to sleep.

Chocolate strolls up to the microphone
and plays jazz at midnight, the low slow
notes of a bass clarinet. Chocolate saunters
down the runway, slouches in quaint
boutiques; its style is je ne sais quoi.
Chocolate stays up late and gambles,
likes roulette. Always bets
on the noir.

"Ode to Chocolate" by Barbara Crooker, from More. © C&R Press, 2010. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

It's the birthday of English novelist Anthony Trollope, (books by this author) born in London in 1815. Many of Trollope's novels originated from daydreams that he had as a child.

When Trollope was 19, he began working as a clerk for the post office, eventually being placed in Ireland as a postal surveyor. In addition to his literary achievements, he is credited with inventing the modern British mailbox. It was in Ireland that he began writing novels, churning them out regularly at a rate of three books every two years. He would write 1,000 words an hour before breakfast; he said, "A small daily task, if it be really daily, will beat the labors of a spasmodic Hercules." He wrote realistic novels about the daily life of ordinary people, including The Warden (1855), Barchester Towers(1857), and Framley Parsonage (1861).

Anthony Trollope said: "There is no human bliss equal to twelve hours of work with only six hours in which to do it."

On this day in 1916, the Easter rebellion began on the streets of Dublin. The British police extinguished the rebellion a few days later. Called "the poet's rebellion," it was led by six patriotic poets and men of letters, including Patrick Pearse and James Connolly. They organized a group of about 400 dissidents, dressed in makeshift uniforms and carrying antiquated rifles, to march through Dublin's main streets to the imposing General Post Office at the center of the city. They barged inside and read their "Proclamation of Independence" to a baffled crowd.

The rebellion seemed hopelessly unsuccessful until the British government valorized many of the rebels by executing them a few weeks later. The executions set in motion a movement for Irish nationalism, and in 1921 Ireland finally achieved independence from Great Britain — except for the six northernmost counties of the island, which comprise Northern Ireland.

It was on this day in 2005 that Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger became (the current pope) Benedict XVI. Besides being head of the Roman Catholic Church, he's the sovereign of the Vatican City State. He's the 265th pope. He succeeded John Paul II, who'd died three weeks prior.

When a pope dies, cardinals from all over the world convene in Rome to elect a new successor to St. Peter, whom Catholics consider to be the first head of the Church. The cardinals meet at the Vatican, in the Sistine Chapel, which Michelangelo painted. The meeting is called a papal conclave: "conclave" is Latin for "with a key." Cardinals have traditionally been locked in seclusion until they've decided upon a new pope. Seclusion is meant both to shield them from outside influence and to discourage prolonged delay and deadlock.

On the first day of voting, the cardinals process to the Sistine Chapel, while singing the Litany of Saints and then a Latin hymn, "Veni Creator Spiritus." Once inside the Sistine, there are speeches about the issues facing the contemporary Catholic Church and what sort of leadership qualities are needed to address these issues. The Master of Papal Liturgical Celebrations stands at the door and proclaims "Extra omnes," meaning "Everybody else — out!"

The new pope will be somebody in that room, one of the cardinals voting. To vote, the cardinals write on a notecard the words "I elect as Supreme Pontiff" and the name of the man they want to be pope. It takes a two-thirds majority to elect a new pope.

For the next three days, there are four ballots held per day — two in the morning and two in the afternoon. Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was elected Pope on the second day of the conclave, after four ballots. Once there is a decisive vote, white smoke is emitted from the Sistine Chapel's chimney to let the outside world know that a pope has been elected. Then the Basilica's bells ring out.

The newly elected pope assents to his papacy, chooses a papal name for himself, goes to a small room in the Sistine Chapel to dress himself in his papal vestments, and is formally introduced (in Latin) by the Cardinal Deacon on the balcony overlooking St. Peter's Square, where the pope-elect gives his first papal blessing.

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




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