Thursday, January 31, 2008

Chess Master at Christmas

...a pattern can stretch for ever and still be a small pattern. They see a chess-board white on black, and if the universe is paved with it, it is still white on black.-- G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy CW1:225

Sometimes the philosopher paints the disc all black and calls himself a pessimist; sometimes he paints it all white and calls himself an optimist; sometimes he divides it exactly into halves of black and white and calls himself a dualist ... None of them could understand a thing that began to draw the proportions just as if they were real proportions, disposed in the living fashion which the mathematical draughtsman would call disproportionate. Like the first artist in the cave, it revealed to incredulous eyes the suggestion of a new purpose in what looked like a wildly crooked pattern; he seemed only to be distorting his diagram, when he began for the first time in all the ages to trace the lines of a form and of a Face.-- G.K. Chesterton, The Everlasting Man CW2:268, emphasis added

The Board
In four axes bound, with four corners square
Four pillars fixed, the boardmen unaware
Of bounds which Board-Source once did hack
The freedom gift of white and black.

The Pawns
Slaved into lines, arranged for war
Pawns against power: hate, death, gore
The ordered bounds of black and white
Turned to disorder in futile fight.

The Queen
From Board-Beyond a message came
(All games, all boards, shall tell her fame)
Pawn to the pawnless, in devotion
Humility has found promotion.

The Queen (again)
She travels far, in haste
Crossing pieceless waste
Finds another, older queen
With a leaping piece unseen.

The Knight
The knight beside the queen in doubt
Considers: should she be put out?
Beyond the Board begotten his spouse
Takes her rightly into his house.

The Knight (again)
A dark piece counting on taxation
To starting square directs the nation
The knight in stern obedience
A free cave finds 'midst piece-filled tents.

The King
The Queen stands, arrayed in gold,
In midnight peace, in winter cold:
The Knight stands too, on guard devoted:
The King, so pawnlike, so demoted.

The King (again)
Immobile piece in peace enwrapped
Between the Knight and Queen entrapped
Who played with stars beyond the Board
Takes lowest place, despised, abhorred.

The Pawns
Above the Board a great light stormed
The watchful pawns were then informed
The King in pawnlike garb they see:
The Highest made like you and me!

The Rooks
That very light the Board illumed
The pieces sleep, alas, emtombed
Yet rooks alert to that new light
Awoke and traversed through the night.

The Dark Powers
The dark side, whining-screaming/cursing
Heard the rook-quest, far traversing;
Sent forth dark troops to snuff the Dawn
To slay this deadly babe-king Pawn.

The Knight
The bold Knight woke then from a dream:
"That dark king's planning up a scheme
-Take thou thy Queen and baby King,
Guard them, them to safety bring."

The King
The rescued king in safety grew
For decades three. But His court knew.
Then out among the pieces went...
Clear, then His path, make straight the bent!

The Pawns
En passant He, among the pawns
Consorted for a thousand dawns
Told of life beyond the Board...
This servant-King was not ignored.

The Dark Powers
Aligned, not allied, the dark powers
Cringing in their palace towers:
"Pawn-power makes the whole Board quake!"
Sought this regal pawn to take.

The Bishop
The bishop by the king-pawn's side
Longed to satisfy his pride
With darkness, lo! a plan he laid:
The bishop hath his King betrayed!

The Gambit
In garden while his teammates slept
The pawn king prayed and sighed and wept...
The Mover's Will be not forsaken:
Must the king himself be taken?

The Sacrifice
The board's four corners wildly quake
The Dark Side moves, the King to take
His blood poured out, his whole life gone
Sacrificed for worst and smallest pawn.


The King Returns
The Dark Side captured this king/pawn
The Board broke open at the dawn...
The King, no piece but Owner of the Board
The Dark-defeater, ever hence be He adored.
Amen. Alleluia.
Note:"hack" (first verse) - the Hebrew "bara" is the verb used to indicateGod's power of creation; it has the human sense of "hack, "throw off,chop off". (See Jaki's Genesis One and other texts)

* * *

Dr. Thursday submitted this for my poem contest. It was too long for the limits I'd placed, so I asked his permission to post it as a regular poem. I like it because it deals with the old story in a new way--new enough, hopefully, for us to see the Incarnation for what it is. Why is it so hard for us to do this?

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Finalists for Christmas poem contest

All right, I've finally managed to narrow it down. Not an easy job. Choosing the winner would be even harder, so I'm leaving that to you, my Gentle Readers. We have an earnest, modern verse (though ordered, as you can see, by anaphora--that's the matching beginnings), a satirical poem in a strict meter, a brief "nonce form" poem (that's one that's in a form only used for this specific poem, as opposed to a "received" form like a sonnet or ballade) with a minimalist touch that suggests more, and a triolet--always a favorite with me. All have some original thought, a nice turn of phrase or two, some neat images, and/or a touching moment. So there's no bad choice: just pick your favorite in the poll I've set up on my sidebar. If it doesn't work for you, you can go ahead and post your vote in the comment box. Please vote only once for your top favorite; I think picking your first three choices would be too complicated for Blogger and me to keep up with.

"Upon Hearing the Gloria, December 25th, 12:15 am"
by Ibid

Just needed to clear my head,
Just walked out side for a second,
Just walked down the street,
Just walked for a while, sniffing the air.
I wanted to find a reason for all this,
I wanted to see what it was all about.
I wanted to open my eyes and see all
I wanted from the night.It was a silent night alright,
It was quieter than I've ever seen before.
It was an even quieter church. Strangely,
It was open later than normal.
I wanted to go back and get in bed.
I wanted to know why I was out so late.
I wanted to turn and go home, but
I wanted to go inside.
Just stepped through the door,
Just noticed the stillness of the Church
Just heard the intonation, and then
Just fell in love.

by John

Where is the meaning in bustle and shopping,
Where is the blessing in material greed,
The shoving, the running, the mindless store-hopping,
For all that we want in disdain of our need?

The radio stations play 'seasonal' rock,
With Frosty and Rudolph on loop;
"The big man is coming, so hang up your sock,"
And those awful chipmunks want their hoola-hoop.

Students come home for three weeks of break
Just to slowly watch parents go mad.
The cards and the wrapping, wreath and fruitcake,
And the lights must be "in" with the fad.

The kids sit in the corner with video games,
Glad to be far from their book,
While parents obsessed with tagging and names
Will grace them with nary a look.

The tree must have lights and not lean to the right,
Garland and ribbons will fly!
"I love this whole season, it's merry and bright
(one week more and I think I would die)."

It's the holiday season, and here's your receipt!
Twelve more items to fill your collection.
If there's holly on the door and snow in the street
Then our day will have reached its perfection.

Oh, little do they know of love!
They run so hard while life goes by,
For weeks they crowd and push and shove
While He is born who came to die.

by Maureen

And in that hour
The trees of Eden all burst into flower.

And on that night,
The angel's flaming sword glowed candle-bright.

They miss us there,
Await the homecoming of Adam's heir.

Their blooms won't fade
Till earth and heaven are at last remade.

And on that day,
Through Paradise's walls will come a Way.

by Dr. Thursday

Christmas for us in Christendom has become one thing, and in one sense even a simple thing. But like all the truths of that tradition, it is in another sense a very complex thing. Its unique note is the simultaneous striking of many notes; of humility, of gaiety, of gratitude, of mystical fear, but also of vigilance and of drama. It is not only an occasion for the peacemakers any more than for the merry-makers; it is not only a Hindu peace conference any more than it is only a Scandinavian winter feast. There is something defiant in it also; something that makes the abrupt bells at midnight sound like the great guns of a battle that has just been won.
(GKC The Everlasting Man CW2:312)

The bells ring out at midnight,
Like a battle that's been won!
The Word leaped down to join the fight...
The bells ring out at midnight
The Darkness cannot grasp the Light
And God-the-Word is Mary's son...
The bells ring out at midnight,
Like a battle that's been won!

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

In the Orient

by St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus

In the Orient a star appeared
And we follow its mysterious course.
Blessed star, its brightness discloses to us
That the King of Heaven is born on earth.

Heaven protects us,
And our procession
Follows the brilliant star,
Braving rain and snow!...

Let each one get ready...
The star is coming to rest!...
Let the celebrating begin,
Let us adore the Child!...

* * *

Christmas isn't over yet--we still have at least till the Baptism of the Lord! Right now I'm thinking about Epiphany, about those magi who left their homes and traveled a long journey with no knowledge that there was only a humble dwelling and a poor child at the other end. Yet in the divine scheme of things, gold, frankincense, and myrrh don't seem out of place in the poor home of the Holy Family. The Child made everything right.