First in a New Cento Series: Seven Deadly Sinners

I’ve been reading the early Church fathers quite a bit for some of the graduate classes I’m taking. Last night, I found myself greatly enjoying one particular book and I thought “some of these lines would make a great cento.” I decided to take seven of the Church Fathers, write a Cento for each based solely on one of their works and fit them into the seven deadly sins schema. *G* Here is the first. Kudos if you can not only tell me who it is, but what work this is from:

 Lust

I came to Carthage
and all around me hissed
a cauldron with illicit loves.
Clouds of muddy concupiscence
filled the air.
The soul fornicates.

I rushed head long into love
by which I was longing to be captured.
I was glad to be in bondage,
tied with troublesome chains.
I loved to suffer
and sought out occasions
for such suffering.

I pursued a sacrilegious quest for knowledge,
which led me down to faithless depths
and the fraudulent service of devils.

How I burned, how I burned
with a longing to leave earthly things
and fly back to you.
My error was my God.

Who am I?

(from lines: 3.1,2.2, 2.14, 3.1,3.4,3.5,3.8,4.12)

Yep. LOL

“Latin is the best thing that ever happened to humanity. It leaves you zero room for nonsense. You don’t have to be a genius. But it requires laser-sharp concentration and total maturity. If you don’t know what time of day it is, or what your name is, or where you are, don’t try Latin because it will smear you on the wall like an oil spot.”

                                –Reginald Foster (Quoted in this piece). 

Exactly why it should be required in middle, high school, and college!

Story Magic

onceuponatime

All this year has been about story, its power, and Story as a living thing. There’s a Greek word μῦθος, from where we get our word ‘myth’ that captures something of it’s nature: it is something worth being recorded, remembered, and retold. But even that falls short in true. Story is what sustains us. It’s what provides continuity throughout the triumphs and nadirs of our lives. It’s what connects us with everything and everyone that has come before. It’s what enables us to connect to those in our world now; and yet, it is so intensely personal.

I’d burn down the world to preserve the tales I tell myself. They’re that important to me, the stories I weave in the darkness of the night when I’m lulling myself to sleep, or the tales that enfold me, spinning out from day dreams. I have come to cherish my Stories enough that I’d sacrifice just about anyone or anything to preserve their integrity. It doesn’t matter how seemingly irrelevant or simplistic our stories are, they are precious and sacred.

I’m not talking about religious experience. I’m talking about our imagination’s ability to engage with storytelling, to experience through words another life, to be moved emotionally by another’s words, to create in our minds doorways to other places.

I value my interior life deeply. I always have. There is nothing more precious that I could share with someone. There is nothing more important save the Gods and the work I do for Them that I share. It has a value that goes well beyond the here and now, these threads of imagination and creativity that sustain like nothing else. They are, like the arts, the best part of our humanity.

We can remake ourselves through the stories we tell. This is partly why it’s so incredibly important to steep children in fairy tales and fantasy and literature. It provides nourishment on a fundamental level. Years ago I remember an argument with a fundamentalist Christian relative. She was dead set, adamantly so, against children being allowed to read any type of fiction especially fantasy. Imagination might free them from the chains of their monotheism of course. I was viscerally horrified at the mental and emotional paucity of what she would have encouraged in children, a type of prison for the mind, a crushing of the spirit. We need our stories to enable us to survive in the world.

Story has the ability to teach us. We gain power through their telling. It is an arena where we can fail and learn and grow and hopefully succeed gaining knowledge, power, and healing that we can bring back to this world to transform our lives. Story is how we pass on the knowledge and wisdom of the ancestors. It is how we forge connections to them to our Gods, to ourselves, to our world.

This is in part why I share my stories with very few people and why I grow so enraged when I’m reading and someone, however well meaning, insists on talking to me. I may not show my anger – usually it is either people who are lonely and want to connect or people who themselves don’t like to read who do this. I do my best to be patient and respond with kindness however painful the interruptions might be. When I am about to lose myself in another world, to crawl into another world where I can live and breath, love and thrive and someone forcibly drags me back to mundanity, it’s a very special kind of agony.

So tell your stories. Fall in love with certain books. Write your fanfictions. Keep a poetry journal. Take a stab at nanowrimo. Day dream. Become the hero or heroine of your own tale. Fall in love with words. It’s important. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

A Cento for December 2016

Hiding my face I fled,
and the grey wind hissed behind me.

He revealed His mysteries,
so the dreamer went blushing into battle and died.

So many winged creatures
sculpted out of flight to peer from a ledge

wine is spilled on promiscuous lips

tiny dried up men speaking pure light

Do not go gentle.
Do NOT go gentle.

I will not die like the shadows of those mountains,
who are cast down by the body of the nighttime sky.
I will not die…
Dark is better for devotion.

I collect small things.
Within my bones and atriums
I can hold your pieces.
The lance of my eyes is unsheathed.
Terror has rent the fabric of the sky.
I am at the mouth of the cave. I am willing to crawl,
from death to resurrection.

Immortality exists under the World Tree, where three roots pierce the ages…
The clock will always strike midnight and history repeats.

From the thunder and the storm,
I alone tread the red circle.
I celebrate our old eternal custom,
our purifying rites.
I won’t run off.

My thoughts have a spirit’s wings,
my memories a desert wind;

Down on your knees, Achilles,
a fresh grief will flood your heart.

[With respect to Alice Oswald, Ada Limon, Mina Loy, Amy Lowell, Cynthia Manick, Marianne Boruch, Ptahmassu Nofra-Uaa, Marilyn Hacker, January Gill O”Neil, Euripedes, Etheridge Knight, Dylan Thomas, cairo mcflarlane, Andal translated by Ravi Shankar, Edgar allen Poe, Christopher Logue].

Cento by G. Krasskova 

Conclusion of my 2 day Ancestral Pilgrimage

Processed with Snapseed.
A photo of Warrington Meeting House — i’m standing at the far back of the cemetery. The Meeting House was built in 1769.

I came back to NY today and on the way I stopped in Wellington, PA. There is a Quaker meeting house there off Rte. 74 (Warrington Meeting House) and my sixth great grandfather Rev. Alexander Underwood was one of its key, founding members. He helped raise money to purchase the land and was a very well known minister within the Quaker community.

Alexander was born in 1688 in Maryland and died in 1767 (on Oct. 31) in Wellington, Pa. He is buried in the cemetery of the Warrington Meeting house (part of which, along with the original meeting house, you can see in my photo above). I wasn’t able to find his stone, which was frustrating. I thought that I had found that of my fifth great grandmother – his daughter Ann Ailes Fraizor, nee Underwood (I’m descended from her via her husband S. Ailes) but it was the wife of another Underwood (tangentially related). It was a sad fact that many stones were worn almost to illegibility and many of the oldest stones were quite simply unreadable.

That was actually one of many frustrating parts of this visit. Now it may simply have been that St. Luke’s cemetery was such an intense experience and that I was simply still bowled over from that, but I got absolutely nothing – no contact at all—from the Warrington graves.

Now this is my biological mother’s paternal line (her father’s paternal line specifically) and that entire line is a bit vexed. There have been many challenges and blockages as I try to uncover ancestor information. I’ve made some strides (identifying Rev. Underwood for instance as my sixth great grandfather) but it’s still frustrating and very slow going when compared to my mother’s maternal line.

I spent a significant amount of time today walking through the cemetery searching pretty much all the stones (the cemetery was not that large). I spoke with members of the congregation as they were setting up for a morning Meeting. They weren’t sure which of the Underwoods were buried there or where and the person who knew wouldn’t be in today, but I received permission to wander to my heart’s content through the cemetery. Even better, I got the chance to walk into and see the meeting house that my sixth great grandfather helped found. That was pretty damned cool. (I’m sure they would have allowed me to remain for the service but I’m not Quaker and I refuse to be one of those people who ogles other religious practitioners like they’re specimens under a microscope. I’ve experienced that too much as a polytheist when visitors attend our services to do it to someone else. I moved my car so that I wouldn’t bother anyone when my friend MAG and I left and got down to the business of making offerings). Not being able to find the graves, I found an old tree in the cemetery, one that I liked, prayed, poured out offerings and eventually left.

I tried to suss out why there was so much silence tonight once I got home, but div was inconclusive. Part of it may have been that I always have a cadre of military dead with me and Quakers are pacifists (though there were several in the cemetery who served in the War of 1812 or the Civil War); part of it may have been that there was a Meeting in progress, in fact I got a strong sense that was significant; and I’m sure there were other reasons too. It was, however, frustrating. I had a feeling last night though that this particular leg of my visit wasn’t going to be particularly productive. I considered just going straight home but I didn’t want to be disrespectful. It’s just not time for that line to open up to me yet and that’s ok.