Wednesday, January 26, 2011

418. A Japanese Poem in the Chinese Style

Winter winds
invade from the north
scouring and blasting
the inner walls, rocking
the heavy dark posts
of the temple gate

Last summer
under cicada sounds
and falling blossoms
we sat apart on green
tatami mats, sipping
fresh new tea from Uji

You have gone
to Tokiwa in the north
to the home of your uncle
and I have gone
in duty, as I told you
far south to Kagoshima

Many many leagues
separate our dwellings
and there are no more
blossoms, nor tea from Uji
but the moon understands
and smiles upon us both

Friday, January 21, 2011

417. overseas

Great-grandma (Baby Doo) stayed in her cabin
all the way to Le Havre, she was feeling poorly,
little darlin, while the boys in their navy-blue blazers
drank the goddam bars dry, thank the Lord they brought
some bottles of bourbon: these English yoicks
didn’t know what happened them. Har-har.
Damn won the war and lost the peace, stiff as penguins,
frozen rabbits caught in headlights. All them
Europeans look pretty much the same, have to say,
dessicated bunch of flightless flapping parrots.
Damn right I’ll have another drink.

Darkness at sea under stars
is one of the finest things I know.

Baby Doo got sick on the train to Paris,
threw up all over Barbara Wainwright, who smiled
in a testy Quaker way, East Pennsylvania, and said,
My Lord, I should have opened that window,
but they all just damn well laughed, and she felt,
not for the first time, virginal, foolish, set apart,
alien and separate from her fellow Americans,
like Virgil who was playing with the zip on his pants
and Amelia who was lifting her skirts too high.
It was all very strange and unsettling.

I’ll be happy when I get to Paris, she thought,
far away from these clowns, deep into a world of culture,
and then at last I will be free. No more Mama and Papa
leaning heavily down on me. I need to write to my sister
who hates and loves me in agony and young resentment.
This strangely gives me strength. Virgil seems to have
a cucumber behind that zip but I turn my eyes away,
sort of, is this what it is really going to be like? My
God, do I really have to get married and … allow it?
I can’t live alone, not really, so this penetration, this
unwelcome violation is going to happen and come to me?

I want to be a young girl forever without any damn silly man
here in Paris and Europe for the first and last time, and, maybe,
who knows, I might die. It’s very fashionable to die young,
but I’m not too sure about it. It seems a bit dark and final.
I might pretend to die for a bit so that people get worried,
but it costs a lot, and my father will complain about the bills.
He’s a red-faced burly businessman and he scares me to hell
but I know he loves me and will throw money all over me
while my mother looks on from behind, tight-lipped and silent
and my young sister, dancing in frustration, glares.

Within twenty-four hours of arrival I am ashamed to confess
I have been violated, not once but two or three times, vigorously,
by a young artist and I confess I enjoyed it. Of course he is American,
from a rather good family, not one of the natives, from Philadelphia,
he says he knows some of my cousins. Between physical bouts
we talk about family trees. He is terribly misunderstood, poor boy,
and I feel it is my duty to gather him into the arms of Home, as only
a Real Woman can do. I am rather enjoying my role as a Real Woman
since it is new and feels rather nice among the sights and smells
of this strange, uxurious, and scented spreading city.

Home, home, home, little boy. I'll break you,
take you home to Murrica soon as I can.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

416. Kristallnacht

As rude armed men
shatter the windows,
my cat, forever
feminine, dreams of food
and simple affection.
She leaps upon the page
in want of both,
here and now.

A separate arrogance
lies behind these
eternal scribblings,
I say to the cat, as I
stroke her softness,
hide the parchment,
then head for the door
for what will follow.

Friday, January 14, 2011

415. na Gile an bhróin (the lightness of sorrow)

My blue-eyed beautiful gorgeous mam
dragged three kids through wartime Britain
in search of our father Liam, her demon lover,
lost on some jagged wind-blown building site,
and quite definitely not fighting for anybody,
unless, fair enough, for himself. Historically, you could
award a few points had he not deserted his hysterical
Kerry woman, me mam, a power unto herself,
dragging us through sleet and snowstorms to the next town,
Bradford, Leeds, or some other frightful Midland kip
where news had recently been heard. The day
we came into Coventry the Germans flattened it
and me mam took that personally. They were after Liam,
she said, and he fooled them. They nearly didn’t
feckin fool us, I was about to tell her, gazing around,
but she was never one to listen to peripheral stories.
Lucy, my sister, came down with a cold which got worse
and when she went and died of pneumonia in Yorkshire
I thought me mam would go demented, but she buried
her instead at the side of the road in the loose soil
and me brother Hugh and meself had to say three Hail Maries
for, mam said, the eternal repose of her soul. I missed Lucy.
I was worried about Hugh as well, never mind me mam,
who was away on her own, away with the fairies.

At the end of the day, many days in recollection,
didn’t we come to a stop in Scotland, in Edinburgh,
in some dank little kip up in the Old Town, sliding
precipitously off a cliff from their bloody High Street
where the mam took in washing, brought in, strangely,
by broad-beamed gentlemen with drinkflushed faces.
Hugh and I were then urged to run off and play among
incomprehensible hostile local lads in short trousers
who beat the crap out of us until we learned to fight together,
suborn allies, bully the weak, ingratiate the strong,
absorbing all the indelible ways of dealing with people
that served us so well in the yet-to-come IRA.
Hugh took to it like a duck to water, he’s still standing
at the right hand of Gerry Adams, having traded in his overalls
for Armani suits and trips to Brussels and Amsterdam.

Me, I fell in hopeless love. Her name was Jenny Armstrong
from the local bakery, weak in her health, strong in spirit,
and we had a delicate thing, she taught me about books
and we went to the theatre and opera together (OK, only once)
and we kissed once or twice but we never went much further
before she died on me. She was 16 when she left me alone
and I thought my life had ended. The business in Norn Iron
had just about started, the Brits were after sending the Army
and it was my young brother Hugh persuaded me to go over.
He seemed to know them all on the Catholic side, a term which was
never used, you were trained to say ‘Nationalist’ or ‘Republican’
but we knew it was all the same thing. No bleedin poor Proddy
would ever dare stick his nose in the door, not down in Ballymurphy
where young Adams (3rd generation) ran the show like Napoleon.

It was a war, sort of. People really did get killed on a daily basis
but an awful lot of it, to be honest, was sheer noise and propaganda.
You went out with your Armalite (thank you, America!) and had a few
clear shots at the Brits, and they’d shoot back, but the most of it
was nasty political shite, tit-for-tat assassinations, bombings,
euphemistic justifications (on all sides) for sloppy or clinical murder.
I got sick of it. They can sense that; before long I could expect
my own people to be coming after me, torture, interrogations,
because their greatest fear was informers. Brother Hugh was aware,
now cheek-by-jowl with the Army Council, the highest of the high,
getting me shipped off, this really happened, on a mission to America.

(Background, skipping over the boring bits: Leaving aside the gobsmacking fact that the only possible solution to the conflict was political, the leadership continued to seek military victory. One plan was to bomb the hell out of the major banks in the City of London. No need to kill innocents (the bombs went off at night), just gut the British financial centre and destroy international confidence in the country. This nearly worked: it definitely brought the Brits to the talking tables. The second thing, locally, was to destroy aerial reconnaisance and the British Army's quick deployment of troops to firefights: in other words, shoot down helicopters. The Afghans had used hand-held Stinger missiles to tremendous effect against the Soviets and our lot, basically, planned to do the same. Time to go shopping in America.)

America! Oh, God, you have no idea what it was like.
Five war-torn Paddies get off the plane at Kennedy
and run into a cheerleader screen of Irish-Americans
who think we are still fighting the Black and Tans!
They are two, maybe three, generations behind us:
they don’t fuckin know, they don’t care, but sure as hell
they will put their money down. We know we need it.
What follows is a strange peculiar game, because the people
who want to throw their homes open to us, make speeches,
have us appear at their local social clubs, talk about Ireland,
don’t have a clue about what we are doing. They are pillars
of the Irish-American community, and we are modern warriors,
rebels if you like, terrorists (according to the British),
and have already attracted the attention of the FBI. Not good.

Those weeks in New York were giddy, convivial, surreal.
I remember going to the Metropolitan Museum of Art,
alone, just to look at the paintings. A guy sidles up
then quickly slips away; another guy barges in, flips a badge,
says, “who were you talking to?” Fucked if I know.
Shopping for deadly missiles is not as easy as you think.
First, who can obtain and sell them? How to get them over?
The Irish-Americans, obviously, were clueless. The thing
with them was to get the money we needed, say, 200 thou,
either from Noraid or from local donations. Noraid was
stand-offish. They believed in helping widows and orphans
no matter what the Brits have said about them since.
They didn’t help. So we got in touch with criminal elements.
Criminals will supply anything as long as you pay them.
This is one of the things you can really count on in life.
They will try to cheat you, sure, but once threats are understood,
a deal, more or less, will generally go through. So we negotiated
and got a good deal going for about 400 factory-fresh missiles
but you know what happened next. The FBI were all over the scam
and we got out by the skin of our teeth. Through Mexico.

Upon reflection, I decided to stay in Mexico for a bit,
working hard on my Spanish, in Chiapas. Brother Hugh
seemed to encourage these language aspirations, hinting
that further undocumented travel was possibly advisable
and that an early return to Ireland might not be the best
idea in the barrel. Since when I have not been home more than
seven times (Ireland, Jayz, do what you like) and, recently,
don’t feel the need. Hugh’s on his way to becoming Taoiseach.

Mammy’s off in a home in Beaumont, she’ll be 93 next March.
She keeps talking to a person called Liameelucy.

Monday, January 10, 2011

414. Mrs Poole

Hang on, Mrs Poole, and you'll be all right,
as the building crashes down in showers of dust
around you and you are, like, somewhere in there, and I
have to say I never liked you much Mrs Poole, for you were
a right screechy bitch, when me fambly and me
came down for the holidays.

Oh, so you're dead now. They'll be giving you the Albert Medal
posthumously. So very sad. HA! But I want to be sure
you are really really dead: I can see you coming back again
as a ghost, something not too far away from you ....

The worst possible facet of failed communication
is murder, face to face. But it has its place and time.

I step out into the narrow thronged alleyways, sure
of my way. Canals, canals. It doesn't take that long to learn
the ways of this city, the water taxis, no, I can walk,
I can walk, but the matter of escape is a different thing.

There is no escape.

The Furies they can come roaring after me
times, times, some day they will find me
either here or there, it doesn't matter.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

413. The Act of Succession

Sophie von der Pfalz, later Electress of Hanover, painted by her sister c. 1644

Few people know or even care that no Roman Catholic can become the King or Queen of England, and by extension, the United Kingdom of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland; and by further extension, since the British monarch still remains the Head of State, the Commonwealth countries of Canada, Australia and New Zealand. There might even be a few smaller dependencies, colonies and territories thrown in there:
Crown Dependencies
Isle of Man
Channel Islands: Baliwick of Jersey, Baliwick of Guernsey (includes Guernsey and its dependencies)
Overseas Territories
British Antarctic Territory
British Indian Ocean Territory
British Virgin Islands
Cayman Islands
Falkland Islands
Pitcairn, Henderson, Ducie and Oeno Islands
St Helena and St Helena Dependencies (Ascension and Tristan da Cunha)
South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands
Sovereign Base Areas of Akrotiri and Dhekelia
The Turks & Caicos Islands 

These are the last little pink bits scattered over the globe from the once farflung British Empire, mainly in the Caribbean and the South Atlantic, although Gibraltar and Bermuda stand out as historically significant.

So what, and who cares?

Well, Catholics.  All those who might happen to live in the UK, Australia, Canada and New Zealand, not to mention all these other areas listed above. It's a bit of a smack in the gob to be told the religion of your birth if not your out-and-out allegiance is such anathema to the home country that your King or Queen has to avoid it like poison. If any member of the royal family even marries a Catholic, they get bumped from the Line of Succession:
Since the passage of the Act of Settlement, the most senior royal to have married a Roman Catholic, and thereby been removed from the line of succession, is Prince Michael of Kent, who married Baroness Marie-Christine von Reibnitz in 1978; he was fifteenth in the line of succession at the time of his marriage. The current most senior living descendant of the Electress Sophia who is ineligible to succeed due to the act is George Windsor, Earl of St Andrews, the eldest son of Prince Edward, Duke of Kent, who married the Roman Catholic Sylvana Palma Tomaselli in 1988; he would have been 25th in the line of succession if he had not lost his place. His son, Lord Downpatrick, converted to Roman Catholicism in 2003, and is the most senior descendant to be barred as a Catholic himself. More recently, Peter Mark Andrew Phillips, son of Princess Anne, Princess Royal, and eleventh in line to the throne, married Autumn Kelly; Kelly was a Roman Catholic, but converted to the Anglican faith prior to the wedding. Had she retained her Catholicism, Phillips would have forfeited his place in the succession upon their marriage.

Excluding those princesses who have married into Catholic royal families abroad, only one member of the Royal Family (i.e., with the style Royal Highness) has converted to Roman Catholicism since the passage of the act: the Duchess of Kent, wife of Prince Edward, Duke of Kent. The Duchess converted to Roman Catholicism on 14 January 1994, however, her husband did not lose his place in the succession, as the Duchess was an Anglican at the time of their marriage. (source:Wikipedia)
 How did it all get started?

It goes back to the Reformation in Europe and the split between the Old Church (unquestionably corrupt, but later to reform) and the protesters, i.e. Protestants, the most famous of whom was Martin Luther in the early 1500s. There had been earlier protest movements before him particularly that of Jan Huss in Bohemia, now the Czech Republic, in the 1400s. In England the monarch Henry VIII was initially supportive of the papacy. If you look on your British coins today you'll see the notation "D.F" after the monarch's name which was a papal title accorded to Henry as Defender of the Faith (Defensor Fidelio, or some such in Latin, same initials). Henry was married to Catherine of Aragon (Spain) but she couldn't give him a male heir. After years of trying they had only one daughter, Mary. Henry met a fine young piece called Anne Boleyn, probably had his way with her, and then decided to replace his aging wife with this young and "fruchtbar" (fruitful) little pillow pal so that their subsequent children (preferably male) would be "legitimate" and thus in line for the throne. This is the business of kings: fuck like rabbits and fight like lions, ensure the succession and wage winning wars, or in the case of the Habsburgs, fuck and flee, run away to live and fuck again. Unfortunately for Henry, Catherine had major connections since her nephew was Carlos V, the Emperor of Spain, and no way was the Pope going to offend such a major player. He turned down Henry's application for a marriage annulment. Henry in a rage broke with Rome and started his own national church, the Church of England, and married his sweetheart anyway. Thus did the Reformation come to isolated England:

Henry VIII in better times and the young Anne Boleyn

O the regal Church of England
in all its pomp and state,
celebrates a firm foundation
on the balls of Henry Eight.

In the event, Anne only gave him another daughter (the redoubtable Elizabeth, probably the finest queen England or any other land has ever seen) and after a while he got rid of her in favour of another woman. I think a form of madness came over him because he executed Anne and two more of his subsequent petrified young wives. By now he was a violent obese gouty stinker raddled with disease. His last wife outlived him. Mary, his daughter by Catherine, succeeded him as Queen and tried to turn the clock back to Catholicism. She went in for burning "heretics". She died and the young Elizabeth whose life had been in great danger during Mary's reign became Queen of England in 1558.

Elizabeth and the Stuarts
Elizabeth I, reigned 1558-1603

Elizabeth was a Great King ("with the body of a woman") who saw off threats from France and especially from Spain -- the Armada of 1588 -- and who oversaw a burgeoning political and cultural renaissance in England. This was the era of Ben Jonson and William Shakespeare, and also of Sir Francis Drake and Sir Walter Raleigh. Trade increased and new colonies sprang up in the New World. Elizabeth oppressed the hell out of Ireland, the bitch, in order to close the Catholic backdoor to the French and Spanish (an early example of geopolitics) but she was fascinated by court visits to London by the pirate queen of Munster, Grannuaile, and by the dramatically handsome, and seen from Irish eyes, reptilian Shane O'Neill. Her last years in power were spent in a lengthy war in Ireland against Shane's nephew Hugh which after nine years her forces eventually won thanks to the incompetence of his Spanish allies. Click HERE for link.

 Hugh O'Neill, Earl of Tyrone, who led an Irish war against England from 1594-1603

Elizabeth never married -- The Virgin Queen -- so the succession went to James VI of Scotland upon her death in 1603, a connection through her cousin Mary, Queen of Scots, whom she had signed off for execution along the way albeit not without reason. This brought the Stuarts into power. James VI of Scotland became James I of England and is best remembered for the King James Bible. By all accounts he was a crotchety bad-tempered bisexual who persecuted Hugh O'Neill (see above) after he fled to Europe, but to little effect. His son Charles succeeded him in 1625.

 James VI of Scotland and later James I of England, son of Mary, Queen of Scots

Charles got his head chopped off, the only English king to have managed that feat so far. He antagonized the Parliament to such an extent that a civil war broke out. He lost and was tried and executed in 1649. His sons Charles and James fled to France where they were succoured by the young Louis XIV, then dependent on his advisor Mazarin. England underwent an Inter-regnum under Oliver Cromwell, the leader of the Parliamentary army. Theatres were closed and the Jews were allowed back into England. Cromwell pacified Scotland and massacred about one-third of the population of Ireland. His reign comes under mixed reviews. He died in 1658. By 1660 Parliament was prepared to restore the monarchy under strict guidelines.

 Charles II, son of the beheaded Charles I, who was restored as king in 1660

Charles II was restored as the King of England in 1660. Parliament now held the upper hand but the intent was to create a form of post-civil war reconciliation. Partisans of both former sides found their way into government. The theatres were re-opened and upper class society went a bit mad. Charles himself was a gay blade fathering something like 11 children and not a single one of them with his wife, a sad little Portuguese princess. He gave all his royal bastards titles of one kind or another and the late Princess Diana is a direct descendant from Charles and one of his mistresses. The Royal Society was formed under his patronage in 1662 and attracted some of the finer scientific minds of the period including Robert Boyle, Robert Hooke, Sir Isaac Newton and the astronomer Flamsteed. There was a great plague and a great fire in London in the mid 1660s and Sir Christopher Wren went about rebuilding much of it, including the present day St. Paul's Cathedral.

Charles died without legitimate offspring in 1685 and his brother James (James II) took over. James was a Catholic. The civil war puritans were horrified by this and so were many of the new commercial classes, now formed into a political faction called the "Whigs". The landed classes and old aristocracy who had supported the monarchy in the civil war were now known as "Tories". James could reckon on Tory support but was hated by the Whigs. When in 1688 his wife gave birth to a male heir the Whigs decided to act against him. They called in the Protestant Stadtholder or Leader of the Dutch Republic, William of Orange (who was married to Mary, James' daughter, thus his son-in-law) to replace James as King. William accepted. One wonders what Mary had to say. James fled to Ireland where he hoped to drum up support among the majority Catholic population -- for which he had done very little since coming to the throne. William chased after him and at the Battle of the Boyne (July 11, 1690) King Billy's Dutch and English troops delivered a crushing defeat that sent James (Seamus the Shit, as he is still known in Ireland) hightailing it off to France, leaving the Catholics of Ireland to endure punitive and irrational Penal Laws that lasted until the Parliamentary Reform Bill of 1832. These laws were the model for Hitler's Nuremberg Edict against the Jews in 1935. (Click HERE for a quick runthrough of Irish history from the Normans to Michael Collins.)

 James II, younger brother of Charles II, a Catholic, deposed as king in 1688

William of Orange became William III of England. His wife Mary died in 1694 and he died himself in 1702. No children. Stories abound he had an eye for the young lads. Mary's younger sister Anne became queen. Her only son had died and she was old and ill. She died without issue in 1714. What to do next?

What happened next and why

James II sitting over in France was definitely out and so was his son, also Catholic. His grandson later attempted a romantic comeback through Scotland in 1745 ("Bonnie Prince Charlie") but the poor Highlanders who supported him get knocked to bits by the Duke of Cumberland's cannon at Culloden. In the meantime, Parliament looked for good Protestant successors to the Stuart line and came up with Sophie, the granddaughter of James I, who was married at the time to the Elector of Hanover in Germany. Sophie died but her daughter's husband, a chap called Georg Ludwig, got the nod and was invited to become the new King of England. The Whigs were all for it and the Tories basically knuckled under in spite of some lingering ("Jacobite") support for James. The New Regime took over and their descendants became the British Royal Family of the present day. During World War One, owing to rabid anti-German sentiment, they changed the family name to Windsor. Big deal. The terms of the Act of Succession are still in effect. No Catholic can become the King or Queen of England to this day.

From time to time there has been debate over repealing the clause that keeps Roman Catholics or those who marry Roman Catholics from ascending to the throne. Proponents of repeal argue that the clause is a bigoted anachronism; Cardinal Winning, who was leader of the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland, called the act an 'insult' to Catholics. Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, the leader of the Roman Catholic Church in England, pointed out that Prince William, "can marry by law a Hindu, a Buddhist, anyone, but not a Roman Catholic".[9] Opponents of repeal, such as Enoch Powell and Adrian Hilton, feel that it would lead to the disestablishment of the Church of England as the state religion if a Roman Catholic were to assume the throne. They also point to the fact that the monarch must swear to defend the faith and be a member of the Anglican Communion, but that a Roman Catholic monarch would, like all Roman Catholics, owe allegiance to the Pope. This would, according to opponents of repeal, amount to a loss of sovereignty.

In the 2005 British general election campaign Michael Howard promised to work towards having the prohibition removed if the Conservative Party gained a majority of seats in the House of Commons. In any event, the election was won by the Labour Party, led by Tony Blair, who made no moves to change this law, despite his own conversion to Catholicism after leaving office.

In 2008 plans drawn up by Chris Bryant were revealed which would end the exclusion of Catholics from the throne, and end the doctrine of cognatic (male-preference) primogeniture, in favour of absolute primogeniture, which governs succession solely on birth order and not on sex.[12]    (source:Wikipedia)