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Das lied von der Erde.

Moving like great prehistoric icebergs Those clouds bring in the dawn Over our loft on Ada Street today As Chicago yawns and stretches in its bed of wild onions Daniel Burnham's dream Of the city as an Athens or a Pads on the prairie Dissolving in the light of common day

Elegant and thin as hieroglyphics The clouds at noon Drift above the Oak Street beach Like messages from a god whose name has been forgotten

No cloud at all As far as eye can find Here from the observatory at Sears Tower As twilight moves among us wearing its false whiskers of electric lights Like a million fallen stars Yet absence can have a beauty of its own The empty sky tonight Is empty as our notions of divinity Still

At least we can give a god a belly laugh This earth given as a gift each dawn Wrapped in tinfoil tied by big red ribbons And laid beneath the Christmas tree that is the sun Containing the everyday miracles The trees and seas the holy bees of Ephesus the mallard ducks and dogs the flowers and the happy fucks and the old alchemy of fire the perpetually changing art exhibition of the clouds above And how do we behave beneath the tree? How often are our attitudes and actions like that cellist Who during a rehearsal Sir Thomas Beecham was conducting Kept picking apart the music with her bow In a kind of anal retentive snit Till Beecham finally blew his stack and said "Madame God has given you a precious gift between your legs And all you do is scratch it" A rain can be delicate as a black widow's web Or mysterious as a kiss that comes from love Yet we often damn it as "this fucking rain" Or snow descending can resemble the footprints of the angels Or gallop about like a wild crack Cossack cavalry Yet how many snows are "a son-of-a-bitch" to you and me? While all the while we're busy as a beehive hitting on The trees and seas the holy bees of Ephesus the mallard ducks and dogs the flowers and the happy fucks and the old alchemy of fire the perpetually changing art exhibition of the clouds today Or we're busy as Platonic beavers building Bigger better bombs Any one of which can bitch up This Christmas present of an earth and send it packing in bits and pieces Back to the starlight whence it came

At the Introit to the Mass tonight Here in Holy Name Cathedral on Chicago Avenue Where the Near North Side begins or ends An old arthritic priest hobbles from the sacristy to sing In voice cracked as Basho's frog "Introibo ad altare Dei: ad Deun qui laetificat juventatem meum" ("I will go up to the altar of God: to God who giveth joy to my youth") O may I learn to walk that way myself With mouth of praise that rises from the ocean at the bottom of the heart Before I turn into a cloud again
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Author:Carroll, Paul
Publication:Chicago Review
Date:Jan 1, 1998
Words:513
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