Thursday, October 19, 2006

For an Unknown Brother

According to my notebooks, I wrote the elegy below on the night of March 30, 1998.

There is a story behind the poem.

A very warm and kind person, with whom I had struck up a close cyber friendship, told me the tragic story of her younger brother who had been a reasonably devout, practicing Catholic.

Unfortunately, it was his lot to contract a debilitating disease -- I think it was muscular sclerosis -- and he did not react like one would commonly think a good Christian or a Catholic, certain of salvation, should.

Being the particular kind of nut I am, I realized at once that his display of despair and agony was as much a demonstration of faith and truth as lighting a thousand candles or saying ten thousand rosaries.

That night, I wrote this poem for my friend and her:

Unknown Brother

He was somebody's brother and he was some mother's lover
-- shall we not remember him?

You, who closed your eyes in shock when he took his clothes off
in the middle of the street:
You pray to St. Francis, who did the very same thing
-- do you not?

And you, who stuffed your ears in fear with sealing wax
when he stood up and shouted his madness in the church...

Are you not the very same ones who sing the psalms
and speak of The Passion
and Christ's crown-of-thorns?

Just what do you know of one lonely man
and his lonely fear, his long and painful slide
into immobility and a slowly suffocating night?

Whatever you know, or don't -- know this:

He who knows "there-is-no-God", also he "knows-the-truth".

Indeed, he knows a most bitter portion of the truth!

And perhaps,
And perhaps more than perhaps!

He savors the Love of God more than most of the host
who boast of Him.

Whatever:

he was somebody's brother and
he was some mother's lover.


Shall we not remember him?



It puzzles me, in fact it sometimes even frightens me when I see how pieces I wrote years ago can have meaning in this world today, a world of increasing chaos, where every thing seems to be slowly coming unglued.

Riverbend, posted yesterday for the first time since last August. In many ways it is a damning critique of us all who live in our comfortable cubbyholes here in WestWorld. Billmon has already been on this, so I won't wax eloquent.

However, I want to stress the point of the poem (elegy?) above. As you noticed (I hope) I used a picture of the Shroud of Turin as the introductory graphic to this post. Some say that it is a genuine relic, that is the actual shroud used to cover the corpse of the tortured and murdered human being we know as "Jesus".

The important thing is not whether or not the relic is "genuine". The important thing is that it is a graphic illustration of what human beings have done, and do, to other human beings.

When the Crazy Bird looks at the wounds of the body pictured on Shroud, he says, "Yes, here I see Guernica, here is Hiroshima, here Fallujah, the Balad district of Baghdad, Rwanda, Treblinka, Kabul, Chechnya, Operation Condor, Phoenix..."

As Billmon points out, we are, in our silence, complicit and guilty in the evil deeds done in our name.

As I wrote in 1994:

"...why don't we complain about the quality of our shame?"

2 comments:

Dianne said...

Thank you Chuck for remembering my brother. He died a slow and painful death from Multiple Sclerosis-MS. How kind and thoughtful of you to share with others his journey. He was and is my brother and I love him still and always will.

Chuck Cliff said...

and thank you, Dianne, from the bottom of my heart!

Rememberance is basically what this salvtion game is all about.

"Remember me" is what the one thief says to the man hanging on a cross beside him.

That all should be fogotten, that all was for naught -- that is the flame that burns in hell