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Friday, July 23, 2010

Saint Nicholas

How do they call you,
those who’ve passed through unmarked
twin doors for the shy
side of one century?

Is it as Nicholas
of Myra,
or of Bari,
or as an unlocated saint,
working wonders in
this home of trim white-stone
block, with three tiers of black-
arches, frowning up at
the merciless
grids behind?

Rows, rows, rows, they float
on glassy, steel-blue oceans,
and these oceans will fall in
violent,
cascading,
millennial
waves unlike any with foam
caps that once lapped
the rocky coast of lost Lycia--
your see
our maps don’t contain,
and our licit hosannas won’t reach.

Who are they?
Who pray here?
Bakers,
sailors,
bankers,
all whose sighs
rise with the torrent of immigrant chants
liaison rafters
fracture in echo-song,
the old coinage that plies your favor.

To which patron can they turn
when your cross crowns not
the work of masons
but one day’s
rubble,
a tongueless bell,
the charred
relics of unnameable acts?


This week at Big Tent Poetry, Carolee Sherwood suggests we use a favorite poem. Often, when I get stuck, I'll return to a work I admire for inspiration and perhaps an idea on how to move forward. That was the case for the above piece, which is the second of three that I hope to recite at a friend's upcoming art exhibition. The poem that helped me with it was The Hollow Men by T.S. Eliot.

14 comments:

Unknown said...

This is powerful, Francis. I have read it several times, looked up St. Nicholas and have decided you're talking about 9/11. Is that right?

Anonymous said...

Unusually bleak picture of SN; interesting and thought-provoking.

http://thelaughinghousewife.wordpress.com

flaubert said...

Francis I agree this is thought-provoking and powerful! I read it a couple of times, too. Are you talking about 9/11?
Pamela

gautami tripathy said...

Powerful and Thoughtful.

cut and dried

Francis Scudellari said...

@Derrick Yes, you're absolutely right. My friend George has created a piece for the exhibit that is called "September 11 - Saint Nicholas Church". It was the small Greek Orthodox church that sat at the foot of the towers and was destroyed when they collapsed.

@tlh The view of SN is bleak because of the association with what happened to the church. It was also interesting for me to look into the history of the saint.

@Pamela Yes, 9/11. The art installation focuses on that day.

@Gautami Thanks so much.

Rallentanda said...

Bravo Derrick for working this one out. I had no idea that there even was church there.I don't think it was mentioned in international news. Your poem really does have the ring of T S Eliot about it.I just read T S Eliot and yours again.The dead land ,the cactus land, could be describing the TT site or Australia:)
I think it is fantastic that you are going to read at that exhibition. Wish our little group could all be there and whoop and cheer you on although you would probably be embarrassed by a bunch of international fruit cake poets!
A very good poem Francisl

brenda w said...

Strong words, Francis. The portion from waves to hosannahs is gripping. And the last stanza! Well crafted piece, it reaches deep.
~Brenda

Ande said...

So strong. I really like your sense of splendor, this takes such grand stands.

Francis Scudellari said...

@Rall International fruitcake poets are my favorite kind :). Maybe I can arrange a remote feed...

@Brenda Thank you... it's an intimidating subject to try to address.

@Ande I think Eliot's language helped to elevate my own.

Elizabeth said...

Honestly? I bounced back and forth between your poem, Elliot's, and back again, til I found the key in this comments section: 9/11, and it all fell in place. It is the curse of being a North Wisconsin hillbilly, and none of your fault. My ear was not trained at a young enough age to do much other than mumble, "Come again?" The North Wisconsin hillbilly would like to rip off her fishing hat, wave it in the air and shout,"Damn and Supercallafragilisticexpealadoshus!", while the language loving, word fanatic and poet, just wants to bow her head and whisper, "Amen!"

Tumblewords: said...

Remarkable piece. I recently read a mystery novel which used The Hollow Men as the jump off point - I love the way you moved this to a contemporary scene in such an admirable fashion.

human being said...

and you are putting up the audios on your blog so that we can hear them too?
:)
it is always a treat to hear a poet reading his own poems...

this one is also very powerful...
i read that 3rd stanza several times to myself...

rows, rows, rows, they float...




so beautiful!

Francis Scudellari said...

@Elizabeth Poetry was not a focus for me until relatively recently too, so I'm still training my ears, eyes, hands and voice. I probably have a bit of an unusual cadence in the way I write, not to mention some madness in my methods.

@Susan Thank you... Eliot's piece has much more depth than I could ever hope to achieve with mine.

@hb I should probably record myself practicing so I can hear myself read it. Sometimes the sound of my own voice surprises me :)

flaubert said...

Francis I have nominated you for one lovely blog and you need to go to my blog and pick up the logo and info

Here is the link:
http://flaubert-poetrywithme.blogspot.com/2010/07/lovely-blog-award.html

Pamela