No mention of the common cold
October 3, 2011
During elementary school we were taught the Baltimore Catechism. Being Roman Catholic. By objective standards you’d call it propoganda. We called it religion. It was filled with questions. And their answers. I remember the first question. It was “Who made you?” And the answer, “God made me.” The questions and answers got more complicated after that. To get a perfect mark on a test you had to give exactly the wording of the text. Not the meaning. The wording. My father kept me up many hours grilling me on this text.
I wrote a book of poems called The Baltimore Catechism. It was almost published in the early 1970s. But then the publisher backed out. I put it away. I found it yesterday. And decided to expose it to the free world.
The preface is a quote from Hegel, a very important German philosopher. Who I based my master’s thesis on. He is a very difficult man to read. In English. I can’t imagine he is any easier in German.
Here is the preface:
“Consciousness knows and comprehends nothing but what falls within its experience; for what is found in experience is merely spiritual substance, and, moreover, object of its self.
Mind, however, becomes object, for it consists in the process of becoming an other to itself, ie. An object for its own self, and intranscending this otherness.
And experience is called this very process by which the element that is immediate, unexperienced, ie. Abstract – whether it be in the form of sense or of a bare thought – externalizes itself, and then comes back to itself from the state of estrangement, and by doing so is at length set forth in its concrete nature and real truth, and becomes too a possession of consciousness.”
G. W. F. Hegel
Preface to the Phenomenology of the Mind.
Fun reading, eh? I struggled through Hegel for 8 months. Learned some things. About human nature. Like pretentiousness. Which I was tainted with. I think I’m still a bit of a snob. (I like Starbuck’s coffee.)
The first poem is called Antemath. Its supposed to be some overriding opus on the condition of man. How his journey into consciousness was a mixture of madness and accident. No mention of the common cold.
our sires were sitting around a fire
pokin’ the ashes
shufflin’ the flames
just passin’ the time of day
when one jumped to his feet
and as bold as life itself, he screamed.
The others cast their eyes on him
in a mixture of surprise and contempt.
One spoke as if for all,
‘with your words it is plain
your destiny is not with us.’
shoulders huddled around a head bowed
he slipped into the darkness
on the border of their sight.
‘oh father’ he cried
‘what shall i do?’
the dust picked up
and carried his scent
and the creations of the garden
picking up the message
turned their heads toward him in fear.
And through the tall grass
his steel thighs carried his body
his hand like a vice carried his spear
and pounding after a fleeing fawn
he lifted the ground to her ear.
And with the night
he carried a torch
guarding his children against
the game that the darkness
transfigured into beasts.
Not fearing the haze he rode
his metal ships
their coldness memorized muscle,
carried on through echelons of time
til the future was lost
and the past was warped
and the maps ran out of lines.
Tired and weary he spread his spew
colonizing solar systems
filling the emptiness
with the hum of his lonely vessels
prodding and feeling their way into oblivion.
Through the ages the thirst had been spent
the drive that carried him so far began to wain
and the liquor heat turned bitter and sour
in his mouth.
The wilderness, homeless, seeped inside.
The newspapers carried the story on the front page
there was a picture
of a wailing man
his face against the rains,
slinging his arms at the sky
black to white
with surprise and contempt
the caption seemed to say
“These are the forms I only lend
just doin’ my job.
It is not me that formed these words,
only the bungling of chance
and some mad man’s lungs.”