First Things RSS Feed - Gail White
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60Into the Firehttps://www.firstthings.com/article/2016/08/into-the-fire
Mon, 01 Aug 2016 00:00:00 -0400Every love counts, the puppy you were given
At six, the tadpoles that you tried to raise;
Even your silly parents and the siblings
You couldn’t stand were loved on certain days.
Sun, 01 Nov 2015 00:00:00 -0400I hear my neighbor smashing his guitar
against the wall. He’s done it once before
when in a rage. This time he can’t afford
to get another. They’re expensive things.
And yet he loved that wooden box with strings
more than his wife. (Their daughters sit afraid
and wordless under his bizarre tirade.)
Should I call 911, report a case
of spouse abuse? He hasn’t touched her face
or body, simply bellows that she keeps him
from his writing, hovers while he sleeps . . .
She wouldn’t thank me. She remains unmoved,
shelters her little girls and simply waits
while he destroys the only thing he loved
rather than strike the woman that he hates.
]]>With the Bath Waterhttps://www.firstthings.com/article/2015/02/with-the-bath-water
Sun, 01 Feb 2015 00:00:00 -0500 When data started to accumulate,
we didn’t think the end would be so tragic.
Facts were such fun, we could eliminate
non-facts. And so we threw away the magic,
the charms, the spells, the powers that removed
all obstacles, the sacred images
that won our wars, brought lover to beloved.
Then we threw out the demigods, the muse,
the spirits in the fountains, planets, trees,
followed by symbols, sacramentswhat use
did modern myth-free mortals have for these?
Our reason set no limit to our pride.
Did we kill God, or was it suicide?
]]>Saint Teresa’s Fairy Talehttps://www.firstthings.com/article/2013/08/saint-teresas-fairy-tale
Thu, 01 Aug 2013 00:00:00 -0400 A castle made of a single diamond
Stands in a courtyard choked with thorns.
In the house are seven rooms.
In the seventh room is love.
Cutting down the clinging thorns
And severing the heads
Of snakes and rats that clog your path
Requires a sun-bright sword.
When you have crossed the courtyard
And climbed seven flights of stairs,
In the last inner chamber
What will you, seeker, find?
There, where Love bends above her,
Lies the Beloved wrapped in sleep.
And in the mirror of her mind
You have become both Love and Lover,
The snake and the crystal keep.
]]>I Come to the Gardenhttps://www.firstthings.com/article/2012/04/i-come-to-the-garden
Sun, 01 Apr 2012 00:00:00 -0400 I can name so few flowers. This is why
Im not a better poet. Shakespeare knew
oxlip and gillyvor and eglantine,
while I, beyond camellia, violet, rose,
and lily, am reduced to saying, There,
those crinkly yellow things! Out on a walk
with mad John Clare, Id learn a dozen names
for plants, and bless the wonders underfoot.
More servants wait on man, George Herbert said,
than hell take notice of. I know its true,
although Ive never had observant eyes.
Would I care more if my hearts soil were deep
enough for herbs and loves to take firm root?
Mine is a gravel garden, where the rake
does all the cultivation I can take.
]]>St. Clare of Assisihttps://www.firstthings.com/article/2012/03/st-clare-of-assisi
Thu, 01 Mar 2012 00:00:00 -0500 Her parents tired of locking her up
before she tired of running away.
Love mocks the locksmith, and love
drove her on till the convent walls
closed around her strong as a castle,
and poverty made her as safe
as wealth makes a queen.
Francis the merchants son
should have died in the streets of Assisi
known as the local beggar, Crazy Old Frank.
Who knew that young men would flock to him,
poverty-mad, throwing away their future
to live this way? And Clare after him”
luring a princess from Hungary
to cast aside royalty and wealth for a winter
heated by no fire but love.
Could it happen again? Parents hope not.
Children should make (and be) good investments,
while faith and fanatics are out of fashion.
But all it takes is a whisper, a change in the wind,
a trick of the light,
for the sleeping coal to flare up
and sons and daughters come running,
scattering fellowships, law school,
the Army, the arts, their engagements,
brimming with glorious news for their families:
Im begging! Isnt it wonderful?
]]>Dear Juan de la Cruzhttps://www.firstthings.com/article/2011/03/dear-juan-de-la-cruz
Tue, 01 Mar 2011 00:00:00 -0500 I gave my class your dark night poem to read,
not telling them who wrote it. They were quick
to name adultery as the midnight deed
the female speaker runs to, in a thick
burqa of darkness. And the poor thing gets
her just deserts, being wounded in the neck
by a vampire lover. My best student bets
her husband locks her out. I tried to check
these thoughts by pointing to her night of bliss
under the cypress trees, but they were cold
to ecstasy”young puritans who kiss
in condoms nowadays. And when I told
them who you were, it didnt change their minds.
They dont know darkness comes in different kinds.
Tue, 01 Dec 2009 00:00:00 -0500 At first it’s like a painted teacup
inverted, this gold-scalloped dome
containing an apotheosis
of saints triumphant heading home
to God”a Beatific Vision
made relevant to mortal eyes
Then we discover in each cornice
angels, grotesque in shape and size,
in imminent danger of descending
onto our heads, their Sunday-best
huge wings precariously suspended,
hoping the tourists are impressed.
Faith is not like this, needs no laser
sculpture, no cheat-the-eye designs.
Baroque device is insufficient
to baffle unbelieving minds.
Faith was a gift that died with Gothic.
Only the rich medieval heart
(dazzled by love and drunk with logic)
could train the wild stone rose of Chartres.
]]>A Complaint of the Timeshttps://www.firstthings.com/article/2007/10/001-a-complaint-of-the-times
Mon, 01 Oct 2007 00:00:00 -0400Continue Reading »]]>