You counted days by their cold silences.
…………At night, wolves and men with bleeding hands
colonized your dreams. The last time I visited,
…………you said you trapped a dead woman in your room
who told you to starve yourself to make room for God,
…………so I let them give your body enough electricity
to calm it. Don’t be afraid. The future is not disguised
…………as sleep. It is a tango. It is a waterfall between
two countries, the river that tried to drown you.
…………It is a city where men speak a language
you can fake if you must. It’s the hands of children
…………thieving your empty pockets. It’s bicycles
with bells ringing through the streets at midnight.
…………Come up from the basement. It’s not over.
Before the sun rises, moonlight on the trees.
…………Before they tear the asylum down, joy.
(You can see the original post and listen to the author read her poem here.)
John Mark Reynolds has a very interesting reflection today on the summer that he spent learning to appreciate J. D. Salinger. He confesses that he never really learned to enjoy Salinger as a young man (I’ve had a similar experience), but that things were different this time around.
Why? Partly it was because my childhood was too happy for me to enjoy the books. It is an unfortunate truth of my life that I loved my parents, my country, my school, most of my teachers, and enjoyed almost every minute of childhood. Seeing the troubles of the world and shouldering some well-earned shame, brought on by my own grievous fault, has cured me of that inability.
So, basically he’s learned to appreciate Salinger because he’s now seen enough of the world to understand the sorrow and longing that lie at the heart of Salinger’s writing.
There is a longing at the heart of all Salinger. The young men and women at the center of the book want to be good. They wish to save children from danger, the meaning of the “catcher in the rye” image, by snatching them from a decayed culture. But Salinger never, so far as I can see, tells us to what they will be saved.
Thus, Salinger exemplified a writer frustrated with life, desiring hope and meaning but unable to find it.
The whole post is well worth reading.
The outer ring of Christianity is a rigid guard of ethical abnegations and professional priests; but inside that inhuman guard you will find the old human life dancing like children, and drinking wine like men; for Christianity is the only frame for pagan freedom. But in the modern philosophy the case is opposite; it is its outer ring that is obviously artistic and emancipated; its despair is within.
And its despair is this, that it does not really believe that there is any meaning in the universe; therefore it cannot hope to find any romance; its romances will have no plots….One can find no meanings in a jungle of skepticism; but the man will find more and more meanings who walks through a forest of doctrine and design. Here everything has a story tied to its tail.
G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy (John Lane Co, 1908), 292-293.