Bourgeois Martyrdom

Bourgeois Martyrdom

For St. Edmund Campion, etc. 

They have painted my door jambs in purple,
and placed roses on my pillow.
My life is a splayed hand in a darkened den of thieves.
Time goes by, like the wind over a reed whistle,
and I sweat knowing a calm will come.
I ball up in self-pity.
Then the Vendée nuns, headless
in the land of the horseman,
flow into the gutter in a blood rain.
They sing as they go by.
Yours is a Wrigley stick wrapper martyrdom,
that gets caught in the grate
on streets whose heroics
were stickball.
This is too true.
It is to the right of my equal sign.
What a way to go.
What a thing to amount to.

3 comments

  1. Mark,

    “Yours is a Wrigley stick wrapper martyrdom,
    that gets caught in the grate
    on streets whose heroics
    were stickball.”

    That quote is going in our new Bon Mots. If you were to be remembered for nothing else on this earth (Ha!)
    that is enough to cement your place. It is a gem that happens only rarely. Then, I look at every line of
    the poem and each is crafted by the hand of a master craftsman.

    I was enthralled by this poem before I knew who St. Edmund Campion is/was. Having quickly read a short piece on his life and death, my first reaction was ‘I shall bite my tongue before I complain again’. Then it occurred to me that those saintly souls knew that their sacrifice fell in shadow before the suffering on the Cross.

    This poem puts me on my knees.

    “It is to the right of my equal sign” That, too, a unique and memorable quote.

    A new favorite from your pen. Absolutely the kind of poetry that will keep poetry alive forever.

    Sarah

    Like

  2. Hi Mark

    I have read this marvelous piece several time and in each round, it resonates with something haunting and intense about the human condition. I sense there is this parallel between the tantamount suffering of martyr/saint and that of the modern individual from the upper middle class. In today’s times, we are often isolated by technology, corporate greed and self angst. We suffer from our own sense of futility and uncertainty about our place or the place of others in our immediate world. In a way this is a kind of martyrdom, prevailing through the trials and often, the vacuity of life. I can feel the narrator’s sense of frustration and fear in these startling lines —

    “My life is a splayed hand in a darkened den of thieves.
    Time goes by, like the wind over a reed whistle,
    and I sweat knowing a calm will come.”

    I think of the worker’s hand reaching out into the greed of Wall street or another aspect of the business world. Time passes but what he fears most is confronting himself in a still and quiet silence. At that point, one comes to realize what he or she will or has amounted to. The apocalyptic taunting of the nuns echoing his “Wrigley wrapper martyrdom” works brilliantly and chillingly in this poem. It questions the quality of salvation and significance, especially when a person is insulated in a sense of conformity and what society deems “normal accomplishments”. As always this Is fine writing and thought-provoking!

    Best
    Wendy

    Like

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