Monday, September 30, 2019

History, Fables, Richard III, and a Patron Saint Day

Narrative poetry, prose, and paintings that tell us about history are constructed in order to teach, persuade, and instruct, and thus they have a very close relationship to poetry, especially the fables and epic poems.

That at least is what Sir Francis Bacon wrote in “The Advancement of Learning” published in 1605. I wonder if he was considering how Elizabethan narratives were actively legitimizing Elizabeth I’s right to rule.  The Tudors were lionized. The Plantagenets, be they Yorks or Lancasters, were demonized.  Shakespeare’s Richard III was considered by those who watched it to be absolutely faithful to reality. Now we know, thanks to uncovering Richard III’s skeleton when digging and constructing a car park, that his scoliosis was pretty minor, and he was in no way the twisted hunchback the play portrays him. His personality was said to mirror his physical appearance.  Another exaggeration? A downright lie?  It is possible.

I think it’s quite fascinating that Sir Francis Bacon clearly sets out a “social construction of history” (which is just a hair away from “social construction of reality”), and anticipates much of the rather earth-shattering philosophical shifts of the 1960s and 1970s.

I love Francis Bacon’s The New Atlantis (published in 1626 after his death), which includes the notion that scientists and knowledge-workers are “merchants of light.” “Light” is science or “natural philosophy” – he says it so well that there is no reason whatsoever to elaborate.  I just love it.

I’ve been trying to replicate the way I used to write in the mid to late 1990s with little or no success.  I have just changed.  I’ve been digging through old journals and I feel depressed that I no longer have the ability to write anguished and philosophically vexed poetry or prose poems.  I’ve been writing a lot, but it has been with a view to clarify rather than obfuscate.  If I’m obfuscatory, it’s unintentional, whereas it was intentional before. I was obsessed with “limit experiences” and mystical dark nights of the soul.  Now I am not. I fear aging and lack of mobility.


You found another way to say it.
    I did not.
    Your words were pink, dusty cantera pulled from an impossible quarry
        a fountain? a statue of St. Michael? A grape-strewn pillar?
            my eye sees none of those possibilities
            hoofbeats clattering at dawn

Four colonial baroque churches San Miguel El Alto
    rosy pink cantera walls and stunning domes
    industrious, proud, peninsulares married amongst themselves

        now after centuries, the same dark eyes, distinctive noses
        slim hips, long lives
            preserving the Spanish heritage
                Patron Saint days in September
                bullfights and blood in the sand
                    music in the streets
                    Spanish pan dulce supplanting tortillas

Tonight, at the edge of the largest church
        a thin young man ascends the “castillo”
        the hand-built fireworks frame
                gangling legs spider up the wire-frame ladder
                half-smoked cigarette burning like a red eye
                    he touches the tip to the fuses
                    fiery kisses that could kill

The Castillo and the Cathedral divine light
 golden lamps and showers of sparks
    Virgin Mary, sacred hearts
        flying crowns, rocketing to heaven
        or the oblivion of night

            Faith, faith, holding my hands in unconscious prayer
            no one ever will be burned

A tuba, a trumpet, and a hoarse whisper of Bruno LaTour
    “nothing is real any more”
            nostalgia? sadness?

            or the belief that this night only
           and only this night

                fiery chthonic heart
                illuminating this stop on the Camino Real
                    colonial road from the mines of Zacatecas
                                   to Mexico City

       is real
        as if anything ever were real

Today was a game day. I was exhausted and took a three hour nap. I did not bother to check the score. Now I will make a trek across town and visit my dad. I may eat part of a grapefruit before I set out.

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