Saturday, June 1, 2019

Charlie Brice writes

I Think Her Name Was Sadie: A Threnody
   -- After Ace Boggess, “Why Would Anybody be Bad,” in Prisoners (Brick Road Press, 2014)

I’m so glad I wasn’t there
to see the six-foot seven center
on our basketball team
hold her skull in drunken glee
at the Owl Inn -- a drive-in joint
on Central Avenue in Cheyenne.

I’m glad I wasn’t there when
he and several others opened
this poor woman’s grave,
disturbed her bones. Even now
a chirr of shame deafens --
these were my friends!

“Why would anybody be bad?”
Kurt Vonnegut asked in Jailbird.

These grave desecrators
were athletes from my high school,
products of twelve years
of Catholic education. 
The Baltimore Catechism,
which we had to memorize,
never mentioned where to bury
honor once it was destroyed.
Image result for owl inn cheyenne


  1. During his lifetime Kurt Vonnegut published 14 novels as well as numerous short stories, 5 plays, and 5 works of nonfiction. His output was only moderately successful, but his 6th novel "Slaughterhouse-Five, or The Children's Crusade: A Duty-Dance with Death" (1969) made him famous. "Jailbird" (1979) detailed the story of Walter F. Starbuck, a fictional participant in the illegal actions that led to the resignation of US president Richard Nixon in 1974. Though John Leonard in the "New York Times Book Review" called the book Vonnegut's "Sermon on the Mount," Jesus' longest sermon as preserved in the "Gospel of Matthew," Vonnegut was far more pessimistic than Jesus, reporting thaa "all human beings were evil by nature, whether tormentors or victims, or idle standers-by. They could only create meaningless tragedies ... since they weren't nearly intelligent enough to accomplish all the good they were meant to do.” Furthermore, "even the most intelligent human beings were so stupid that they could only make things worse by speaking their minds. It was thinkers, after all, who had set up the death camps. Setting up a death camp, with its railroad sidings and its around-the-clock crematoria, was not something a moron could do. Neither could a moron explain why a death camp was ultimately humane.”

  2. "Katechesis" means instruction by word of mouth, especially by questioning and answering. For centuries Christians relied mainly on brief formulae, not infrequently set to rhyme, which were committed to memory and handed down from generation to generation, to teach the basics of their faith. However, Martin Luther's break with the Catholic church in the early 1500s, and his "Der Kleine Katechismus" (Small Catechism, 1529), stimulated an effective Counter Reformation. Pope Paulus III convened the Concilium Tridentinum (Council of Trent) in 1545, and it continued until 1563 under the papacies of Iulius III and Pius IV; among its accomplishments were the recognition of a standard Latin version of the Bible and a call for a standard catechism, but these projects were not completed until the 1590s. Clemens VIII commissioned Marcellus II's nephew Roberto Francesco Romolo Bellarmino, the rector of
    the Collegio Romano of whom Clemens said "the Church of God had not his equal in learning," to prepare a new catechism. The "Dottrina Cristiana Breve" for use by scholars appeared in 1597 and the "Dichiarazione più Copiosa della Dottrina Cristiana" in 1598 for use by teachers. Clemens prescribed it for use in the Papal States, Urbanus VIII directed its adoption by all the Eastern missions in the 17th century; in 1725 it was made obligatory throughout Italia; and the Second Ecumenical Council of the Vatican (1962-1965) proposed it as the model of a proposed universal catechism. Bellarmino was made a cardinal in 1599 and archbishop of Capua in 1602; he died in 1621 and was canonized in 1930.
    In 1829 the 1st Provincial Council of Baltimore sought to made the Bellarmine catechism the basis for its own, but it was not until 1885 that Januarius De Concilio created, in 10 days, "A Catechism of Christian Doctrine, Prepared and Enjoined by Order of the Third Council of Baltimore," but John Lancaster Spalding, bishop of Peoria, abridged it from 421 questions to 208; his edition was referred to as the Baltimore Catechism Number 1, while the De Concilio version was Baltimore Catechism Number 2 and became the standard American text until the late 1960s, though other catechisms were also in use. In 1941 a number of theologians produced a series of revised editions for different ages, but in 2004 it was officially replaced by the "United States Catholic Catechism for Adults," based on the revised universal "Catechismus Catholicae Ecclesiae" promulgated by pope Ioannes Paulus II in 1992.

  3. A threnody is a wailing ode, song, hymn or poem of mourning composed or performed as a memorial to a dead person.

    Ace Boggess is a poet whose 1st collection ("The Prisoners," 2014) reflected his last year of the 5 he spent in a West Virginia prison, his year on parole, and his 1st year of freedom. He has said that if he could choose someone to write about his life it would be the existentialist novelist Albert Camus: "Absurdity, detachment, meaninglessness -- if Camus came around just a few decades later, he could perfectly capture the Gen-Xistential hero of my me-book."

    Why I Can't Go Back to Prison

    The block smells like sewers,
    brushfires, opened vials of sweat.

    The noise —- my God, the noise:
    radio static at 2 a.m., constant talking,

    shouting, hands slapping tables,
    fists clipping chins.

    Every wound is a spider bite or staph infection.
    Everyone cheats at cards.

    All men are guilty,
    no matter what they didn’t do;

    lonely whoever they’ve met in their lives outside.
    Better to rest in a rattlesnake pit &

    wait awhile to be devoured,
    knowing the tension never lasts too long.


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