Saturday, May 28, 2011

Sunday Sabbath Poetry: R. T. Smith (II)

Here is one more from Smith for good measure. Let's see if I can keep it up with a third in a row next week.

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Full Moon with Bells

By R. T. Smith

As the solstice moon
with its Latin landscape
rises waferlike
above the quay,

moonlight and frost
embroider the slate
with a guidebook
Irish beauty, and I shut

off the radio's report
of your sad story --
rape by a neighbor,
the court forbidding

a foreign abortion,
the power of Rome.
Where is mercy?
The boats are in,

the city still, the priory's
new bells summoning
all of Galway to vespers.
Now I imagine you

moongazing through lace
curtains as the tides
of your body ossify,
the first blue milk

forming intricate
as snowflakes high
in the winter air.
I want to reassure you,

but the words fail me,
and neither sweet
litany nor the Host
glowing can show me

anything holy
in the bishop's decree.
The faraway moon's
ancient names I whisper --

Mare Serenitatus
and Lacus Somniorum --
offer no solace,
while worshipers approach

the altar, their eyes
too filled with piety
to see. In Dublin
the state ministers

caucus over blue cigar
smoke and brandy,
but no absolution
echoes in the bronze

of those vernacular
bells, as the country
ices over, Patria
, cold core

of the heart, dark face
of the moon.


  1. What would be really cool would be a poem about mercy from the unborn baby's perspective -- no?

  2. No doubt there are plenty out there already. I know that one of Franz Wright's most powerful is a poem written in remorse about his girlfriend's abortion years earlier.

  3. I guess my point is, this poem is real shit.

  4. Well then. I didn't feel that the poem took a "stance," i.e., "not from the unborn baby's perspective," but instead portrayed the ambiguity and no-win situation of the intersection of profound abuse and hierarchical power.

  5. Amen Mary, solstice moon and Latin landscape, pretentious rubbish.

    I had a quick shag the other day
    Was rough but we did it anyway
    Well the rubber split but I did my bit
    And now it seems we're in the shit.

    I'm only joking with you see -
    It's thank God for the NHS
    They'll soon clean up the mess
    And now I pray no STD's

    Now don't blame me it's not my fault
    It's cheap cider or a pack of three
    And living in a good country
    It'll always clean my mess for me

    Oh you sometimes think what if, what if
    But drown those thoughts with a spliff
    And find another bird to bed
    More babies sucked out dead
    I'm so glad Jesus died for me
    And this Christ-like liberty.

  6. Really? It's a poem about rape, people. Not on-demand abortion-for-fun.

  7. Yes Brad it is, but the logic is the extreme case justifies the murder of the unborn, which from a non-Christian perspective is fine, that's the cost of secularism, that and an economic system leading us straight to catastrophe, but the Christian attitude mustn't be that our 'feet are swift to shed blood.' Isn't this where the Christian should be displaying that long suffering of God by practising it themselves. Whereas the poem is attempting to make the Church evil because it won't negotiate on an issue, it's not the rape it's pissed at it's the dogmatism of the Church's position. The real issue being that vaunting of choice which is the imperative of a consumer culture.The notion of rape is used far too cynically and badly to make this point. Ireland will pass the law eventually though, She's being swallowed by Europe. Centuries of resisting the ontological superiority of the Englishman, and now crumbling under free trade, or rather the free movement of capital. 'The fear of the LORD is a fountain of life to depart from the snares of death'.

  8. Thanks for sharing Brad.

    It seems no small irony that a poem that so evocatively depicts the impassive chasm between a victim and political & especially ecclesial hierarchy, can result in a christian reading that is, once more, impassive of the victim. But perhaps this highlights the very problem expressed in the poem.

    I'm also interested by the ease with which victimhood is shifted from the person of the woman, to the potential person of the fetus. Now I'm not so much interested here in ethical implications of personhood in the abortion debate, but in the mechanics of a christian's attribution of victimhood and sympathetic identification... some sort of depersonalised abstraction seems to be at work. The particularity of this character and this problem in the poem must be abstracted to a greater doctrinal problem, or the reworked into a scenario in which a new character of the guilty woman is created in her place. Wolf would probably have something to say about this!

    Random thoughts out loud...