Friday, March 24, 2017

Jack Scott writes

The Longest Night

The longest night in my darkest life 

was two months long, 
sixty day sentence, 
rosary of thorns 
endlessly repeated. 

My mind squirmed 

like Medusa's snakes 
anchored in thought’s skull 
writhing toward escape 
from psychogenic pain, 
boneless fingers 
fumbling in the dark 
to read a Braille map 
for any passage 
to anywhere away. 
Miscreant Midas, 
the touch of me, 
contagious glance 
a risk to all, 
magic sculptor 
turning all to stone 
or stony-hearted, 
but never, ever gold.

I tore at my rosary, 

darkness hid the bleeding 
as I rummaged through 
the maw of mailbox 
where letters go to die. 
Special delivery, 
an irony, no letter ever, 
no signature required 
nothing to slit open,
no mail to read 

not even memory of a stamp,
 no reply to what 
I thought I’d written 
or recollection 
of what I meant to write.

It seems that you 

were always going to come 
or had just gone, 
time, a stretcher in between, 
bearing wounded promise. 
You barely ever touched the land 
in the briefness of your visits, 
always hovering just above 
where I thought you’d light. 
Where you touched was heaviness. 
No. Who, not where.

Anything was what I pledged to you. 

Anything was my commitment, 
my first of that to anyone. 
I hadn't thought it might include 
being ladder for your elopement 
with a more attractive partner.

In reenactment of rehearsal 

of our unconsummated hymeneal* 
you said that you would marry me. 
Blue is a hue your face turns to 
when you hold your breath too long. 
When we were new, 
I didn't know 
you were the borrowed. 
Oh lord, this gets old fast. 

(*wedding ceremony)

 Medusa by Caravaggio created in 1597

 Medusa -- Michele Angelo Merigi da Caravaggio


  1. Caravaggio's 1596 painting of Medusa was also called "Murtula" -- in a 1603 madrigal the poet Gaspare Murtola wrote in response to the painting, "Flee, for if your eyes are petrified in amazement, she will turn you to stone." (The painting was signed "Michel Angelo Fecit" (Michel Angelo made [this]). Medusa (whose name meant "guardian, protectress") was a monster with a hideous face and living venomous snakes in place of hair; anyone who looked at her face turned to stone. Herodotus claimed the Berbers originated her myth as part of their religion, though she was a Greek literary figure at least as early as Heisiodos in the 7th century BCE. Her sister was the sea nymph Thoösa, by way of Poseidon the mother of Polyphemus, the cyclops in Homeros' "Odyssey." In the same epic poem, Homeros featured another of Medusa's sisters, Skylla, who lived one one side of a narrow channel of water, and Charybdis on the other side; sailors attempting to avoid one of them would pass too close to the other and be destroyed. In the 1st century BCE, Gaius Iulius Hyginus wrote that Skylla was loved by Glaucus, but the jealous sorceress Kirke poured a potion into the sea where she bathed which transformed her into a creature with 12 tentacle-like legs and a cat's tail, four to six dog-heads ringing her waist, four eyes and six long necks with grisly heads that contained three rows of sharp teeth. Much later, in the 12th century, John Tzetzes' "Homerica" reported that Skylla had been a beautiful naiad claimed by Poseidon, whose wife Amphitrite turned her into a monster by poisoning the spring where Skylla bathed. Their brother was Ladon, a serpent-like dragon that guarded the golden apples in the garden of the Hesperides. In the 5th century BCE Aristophanes presented him as having 100 heads which spoke in different voices. By then sculptors and vase painters began to portray Medusa as simultaneously beautiful and terrifying; in an ode written in 490 BCE Pindaros described her as "fair-cheeked." Early in the first century Publius Ovidius Naso retold her story in his "Metamorphoseon libri" (Books of Transformations), portraying her as "the jealous aspiration of many suitors" who made love to Poseidon in Athena's temple, causing the goddess to change her (and her sisters Stheno and Euryale, the Gorgons) into a monster with brass hands, sharp fangs, tusks, and a protruding tongue. In his posthumous "Das Medusenhaupt" (Medusa's Head) [1940] Sigmund Freud presemted her as "the supreme talisman who provides the image of castration — associated in the child's mind with the discovery of maternal sexuality — and its denial."

  2. Midas (known as "Mita" to the Assyrians) was a king of Phrygia; in the 1st century BCE Strabo claimed that he committed suicide by drinking bulls' blood during an attack by the Cimmerians (which the first century orator Iulius Africanusdated to ca. 676 BCE and Eusebius, the 3rd-century bishop of Caesarea Maritima, dated to ca, 695 BCE). The 4th century BCE philosopher Aristoteles said he starved to death as a result of his "vain prayer" for the golden touch. As usual, Ovidus eventually perfected the story: Aftr the satyr Silenus passed out drunk in Midas' rose garden, the king entertained him 10 days and then returned him to his foster son Dionysus, who offered to give him whatever he wished. Midas asked that whatever he touched would turn into gold. As Claudius Claudianus wrote in his "In Rufinem" in the 4th century, "So Midas, king of Lydia, swelled at first with pride when he found he could transform everything he touched to gold; but when he beheld his food grow rigid and his drink harden into golden ice then he understood that this gift was a bane and in his loathing for gold, cursed his prayer." In Nathaniel Hawthorne's 19th-century version he accidentally turned his daughter into gold. But Dionysus told him to wash in the Pactolus river; when he touched the water the river sands turned into gold, and afterward whatever he put into the water was restored to its natural state. Midas abandoned his luxury and moved into the country to worship Pan, the god of the fields, and learned how to play music from Orpheus. When Pan the pipe player challenged Apollo the divine lyre player to a musical contest, Tmolus the mountain god judged that Apollo had won. Midas protested the decision, and Apollo, in disgust, claimed that he must have the ears of an ass to believe such a claim and changed Midas' ears into those of a donkey. The king's barber, unable to keep the secret to himself, whispered it into a hole he dug. When reeds grew on that spot they revealed Midas' condition. Humiliated, Midas killed himself by drinking the blood of an ox.

    The Rosary (rosarium, crown or garland of roses) is a form of prayer used by Catholics, Anglicans, and some Lutherans to venerate Mary, the mother of Jesus, using a rosary, a string of variously-sized beads or knots to count the components so they are said in the proper sequence. Priests may prescribe praying the Rosary as a form of penance after confession, to encourage spiritual growth. The practice of reciting 50 or 150 Ave Marias had become generally familiar by the 12th century; according to the 15th century Dominican priest Alanus de Rupe (St. Alan of the Rock), who claimed that Mary had made 15 specific promises (such as protection from misfortune and meriting a high degree of glory in Heaven) to Christians who pray the Rosary, his order's founder Domingo Félix de Guzmán (St. Dominic) had received the concept of the Rosary from an apparition of Mary in 1214. Most commonly, the prayer consists of five decades (10 sets of Hail Marys, each set preceded by the Lord's Prayer and followed by one Glory Be) while the worshipper recalls the Mysteries of the Rosary (events in the lives of Mary and Jesus); Dominic of Prussia, a 15th-century Carthusian monk, introduced the practice of meditation during the praying of the Hail Marys. Other prayers are sometimes added to each decade, such as the the Apostles' Creed before or the Fatima Prayer afterwards (added in the 20th century), and perhaps the Hail, Holy Queen after the entire set of five. The standard Mysteries of the Rosary were established in 1569 when pope Pius V (a Dominican) instituted the Feast of Our Lady of Victory (later, Our Lady of the Rosary) and grouped the Mysteries into three sets of five (the Joyful, Sorrowful, and Glorious Mysteries), but Ioannes Paulus II (also a Dominican) added five optional Luminous Mysteries in 2002.


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