Saturday, April 03, 2010

This Petal The Earth

Photo by Art Beck, San Francisco

—Charles Mariano, Sacramento

while i’d never be
of scaling mountains
or skyscrapers
tall-telling tales
of youthful hi-jinks,

there was a few times
back there
where my skill
and expertise
beyond a doubt,

by a well-timed
over a cyclone fence
with cops
in hot pursuit,

was damned near legendary

as i gaze out the door
at the cold and doubt
of this latest
spring rain

the annoying aches
and pains
my leg, my knee
(i forget which),
that demands
some useless medication,
creeps in

i’m reminded
of those high-flying
good ole days
the world
spread wondrously
before me

in a non-stop thrill
of steely-eyed dare
youthful invincibility,

and the fence
that last fence,

i failed to clear


—Art Beck

It doesn’t matter.
Easter comes to everyone,
those who keep Lent,
and those who stagger into April
with Christmas still
reeking on their breath.

The dead Greeks, who believed in
inescapable Aphrodite, believed
that in silky spring her whisper’s
impossible to deny:
those who willingly follow

she leads gently
into her thorny dreams,
those who foolishly resist, discover
the nightmare of their
lives. Sweet or bitter
anarchy. The season’s

the same. Another new voice, a sudden
mouthful of rose petals, clothes
that won’t ever fit
until they’re torn to rags.


—Art Beck

San Jose, California, 1987

Jesus, this is no place to bring blond
Protestants. None of your modern nuns with blue
bonnets and stylish stockings here. The two
lurking in the shadows behind the organ,
wrapped up like black widows of Christ and
smelling like paper, have the faces
of winter oaks. The priest must have been born

with that bushy eyed Slavic scowl. And even though
the wedding party’s dressed in white, pink and baby
blue and strolls up the aisle to Mendelssohn,
the ceremony still begins with the medieval ritual
of churchly guilt.

“Examine... repent... confess... Lamb
of God who takest away...
O Lord I am not worthy... Now and at the hour of
our death... “ Old men from the terrible old
country nod their heads, cross themselves,
and ask the inlaid floor for mercy.
Old women with vicious memories mutter their mea
culpas, but know it’s not their business to forgive.

Outside the open doors on the sunny lawn, the wedding
lamb relaxes on its spit, crackling tubs of ice
wait patiently for whiskey. The orchestra
makes whispery, testing noises under the ribboned trees.
A baby begins to wail in the corner.
The saucy two year old, three rows up, lifts her skirt
to show the boy behind her something interesting.
And the groom, his eye on the door, but as
serious as Jugoslavia, begins to read an excerpt from
Genesis to the congregation. He winces as if it were his
own rib God was taking. His nineteen year old, American
bride—eight months pregnant and worried she’ll
lose her water—also has to go to the pulpit.
She shyly works her way through St. Paul’s tongues
and angels, wants to giggle once but hides it
with a cough. Father Janos (he tolerates but

can hardly approve) takes charge again.
He quickly marries them and then the mass
begins. His mind is on sin, grief and wine.
He sermonizes on the feast at Cana: Jesus
rushed by his virgin mother into the wise world before
his time like any tragic draftee. Doing a light
hearted bit of magic to impress the crafty waiters,
but knowing—like a vague toothache—this
was going to lead to nowhere but pain.

The brown robed altar boy brings cruets as
large as table decanters. Father Janos waves
away the water and watches sternly while the gold
chalice is filled to the top with fortified altar wine.

In honor of the convert bride and the groom’s
great, adopted California home, the mass
is said in broken English rather than Latin.
Father Janos’ voice at the consecration is solemn.
“And knowing His hours were numbered, He asked
for his disciples to eat and for to drink with
Him one time more. He began to tear at bread—
Here, eat this, it is my flesh torn from my bones.
And later, after the meal, finishing wine-
This wine is my blood you are drinking.”

Father Janos raises the enormous chalice
to his lips with trembling hands.
His Adam’s apple dispatches the transubstantiated
wine like a machine gun.
All fourteen stations of the cross stare down with bloodshot
owl eyes on the trembling bride and groom. The dissolving
wafers stick to their tongues like glue. Their new rings
squeeze their knuckles. The bride’s about to faint,
the groom only knows he needs a drink. July’s invaded
the packed church and they’re sweating as much as the night
this all started with the fogged car windows shut
tight at the summer drive in.

And then the organ sets us free. The nasal Balkan voices
of the powerful nuns lead the congregation
in a processional whose words only the old country
initiates understand. Father Janos, still feeling his double
slug of consecrated wine hums along while he walks
with his arms around the captured couple.
His good day’s work accomplished he can already

taste cold beer. Christ, whose first miracle
was to make water into wine for man’s happiness,
has been ritually betrayed, crucified, and buried again.
But the warm wine in his belly (and the tiny
bride, holding her swollen belly out like a tabernacle)
remind the priest in a sudden Eucharistic revelation
that it wasn’t proud Peter, loyal John, or the perfect
Blessed Virgin—but sweet, slutty Magdalene,
who was first to be entrusted
with the news of the resurrection.
Without love, we’re nothing.


Today's LittleNip(s):

So fragile this petal the earth,
as fragile as



what happens to the scale
when love
holds it.



Photo by Art Beck