Tuesday, February 19, 2013

A Penitential Psalm

Penitential Psalm (a psalm of Tom Bodett)

The First Sunday of Lent, you spend in a Motel 6 (not Six) in Atlanta.
That speaks itself, 
so maybe I should stop.
Or, as they said in 2009, "Word."
Anyway, I slept better last summer in Spain in a room full of fifty pilgrims--
ten of them stinking,
seven of them snoring (eight if I could have slept),
one of them, of the opposite . . . you know
curled up two bunks away as if to say
how dare you sleep and not appreciate the human form divine
made by G*d, etched by Blake, embodied here and now
in this hot, noisy, purgatorial space.
Slept better there, I mean, than here--
this smelly smoke-stained non-smoking room
with the TV blaring against my wall from the room next door,
various children screaming,
sometimes drowned out by adults screaming,
sometimes drowned out by the banging on the wall,
on the doors--their door and my door and what sounds like most of
the doors up and down the hall 
(if we can agree to call that concrete slab a hall).

Of course, maybe I'm jumpy,
this being my fifth day without coffee,
thank you Jesus, Mary, Joseph and Benedict
(although as several thousand evangelical-ish bloggers
have already pointed out, in their blessed ignorance,
Lent isn't really about giving things up).
It might be, though. It just might be. 
And, if so, If, I posit, the saints and Sister Philomena (second grade, Our Lady of Mercy)--
who never said "Word" unless they meant Logos--
knew more than ***** **** *****,
Lent might just leave you a little jumpy.
Or even with scars and blisters and bones showing through.

On the other appendage, things occur on this planet and in one's "life" 
(I'm just using ironic marks to frustrate my editor friends)
not quite so hellish or purgatorial.
For example, my daughter looked absolutely lovely and confident and,
best of all,
today for her scholarship interview and her seminars and such
with a hundred or so other bright, lovely, and, I hope, happy
young woman here for the same reason.
And, in addition, the President of the college,
full of lovely vision and alchemical fire, is a . . .
Her name is Elizabeth and her students and faculty and staff love her,
so, of course, I do too.
And I think, or wonder as I wander,
Does this really happen now? I mean, it's not like it's 2009 or anything.
Is there some damned irony hiding in the wings to kill this lovely fact?
I pray not.

And, of course, the chocolate fountain, obligatory at weddings
and scholarship weekends apparently.
And this gorgeous Day of Heaven
with a sky the exact blue of the Virgin's mantle
like those human eyes I won't forget,
while, obviously, these Georgians keep apologizing--
"too bad you had to come down when it was so damn cold."
(Thus fulfilling the teaching or pious nonsense of Bokonon's 23rd Calypso:
"Even when it's perfect, yes even when it's fine,
People find some problems, 'cuz people love to whine.")

And then, as always, that beauty, like all, falls--

yet unveiling a million brilliant faithful stars
which only seem, now and then and often,
to have disappeared.
Like, in the windy stormy rain all the long way home to Indiana.
Or the moment you re-entered Lenten Cell #248 at Motel 6 (not Six)
because you will someday die and need reminding
that life is more than chocolate fountains, blue skies (and eyes), and
ridiculously dedicated Philosopher Presidents.
For this dark knowledge, they, gracious, keep the light on for you.
And, since they, the monks of Motel 6, care (and not care)
for your soul (which I take to mean your truest self)
and not your ass (which Saint Francis took to mean our pampered flesh)
and for that their desire is not for you to have a frilly evangelical-ish Lent 
with make up masquerading as meditations (saying 
"be pretty much who you already are and know that you are special" and "penance, what's that ha ha ha!"),
they provide you with the screaming television and the screaming children, and the smoke-stained and scented room, and the unpleasant neighbors
bearing, for you, the blessed truth or hope or dream or, possibly, delusion--
all things shall be new.
Or else.

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