Hey. Why you going to see the Pope, if you got such a chip on your shoulder, eh?

Because this chip on my shoulder has a name.

Because of the damned.
Because of the rammed.
The raped. 
The beaten.
The killed.
The blamed 
for their savage natures, they all had names.

Because I remain.

Because of the stand
And the planned and unplanned
Happenstances of chance 
When the courage and grace 
Descended upon my ancestors
That I might descend

To this place

This place blessed
While the batons keep beating
Their thou shalt not tune

This land unforsaken

Because of the dead
Because of the living.
Because the living carry the dead.

The dead want to fly on.

Because the cycle.

Because it turns.

Because of my love for them
For us
For these chips…

As a matter of fact

This chip on my shoulder
Is a family tree
Among a forest
Axed and bashed and endlessly asked
To get over the fences, and stay in our place.

The name? 
The names?
You know your own roster

4 Comments Add yours

  1. Dan says:

    Did you notice the first reading from Sirach 44 skipped from verse 1 to 10 past verse 9? It reads:

    “But of others there is no memory; they have perished as though they had never existed; they have become as though they had never been born, they and their children after them.“


    1. prairiepomes says:

      How creepy! Thanks for sharing that, Dan. I didn’t, in the event, attend his mass mass, and don’t know Sirach 44, although I assume that’s an Old Testament book?So much for the ‘new and everlasting covenant’… I took my auntie from up north to witness the invitation-only gathering (not a mass as such) at Sacred Heart … more on that shortly.


      1. Dan says:

        It’s sad, to me. I wanted to see what happened since it was just a short walk to the stadium. I’ve never turned down a chance to enter the ritual space of others and listen — belonging to none, familiar with many. So there I was, practicing nothing but being myself, along with a descendent of Scots and Lithuanian Jews, and the Hebrew origins of so many parts of the liturgy hit me because they are often about a future full of offspring and promises of ongoing creation, regeneration. But that first reading, which was read by an indigenous woman, if I recall correctly, it filled my eyes with tears when she started on “Let us now praise famous men, ” because I know where this text ends up. But they didn’t read that part.

        You may know those lines as the title of Walker Evans and James’ Agee’s strange book of photography and intimate life with three dirt-poor white sharecroppers in the deep South in the Depression. The mother and kids with thousand-yard stares. But the text itself in Jewish history is significant for how it touches stories of genocide.

        The ninth verse caps off a list of progressively less famous and prosperous types of ancestors to remember and praise with those who have been lost from memory and perhaps cut off from any future lineage. The desire for an eternal line of descendants is the flipside of Indo-European cultures who engaged in genocide precisely to deny this to enemies. The will to survive and the refusal of memoryless oblivion even for the unnameable is a terrible good in the hands of people who do not move on to the understanding that inter-group struggles for domination are unwinnable hells we ought to put aside. But we don’t.

        Sirach is a weird text with strange stories about its author and origin. It is not in the Jewish canon but is the earliest text to list most of what became that canon. So it became a part of Jewish and Catholic extracanonical books. The earliest scrolls with Sirach in it seem to carry a more despairing version of verse nine than modern translations. Those lost, presumably to genocide, are truly lost. This was or became a kind of Jewish heresy, I imagine, since so many other Jewish prayers call people to remembrance, like the Zikhronot during Rosh Hoshannah, because in memory we can reach beyond time, work through grief, and carry along the tradition and the ancestors.

        The pope’s homily on crudely touched these themes. He and his people should know better — and exactly what their text for the day offered to them as a possibility, which they denied. The earliest scrolls with Sirach come from Masada and Qumran — the mountain fortress and caves where bloody resistance made last stands against Rome before Jerusalem and the temple were destroyed. They were, especially Masada, places of suicide, slaughter, and genocide. But there are always survivors, like those scrolls, which should tell us something very obvious and clear.

        You may also be moved by this short essay from Corey Robin that makes many of these same points very well, in relation to Hannah Arendt and the Holocaust: https://coreyrobin.com/2016/10/05/bowling-in-bratislava-remembrance-rosh-hashanah-eichmann-and-arendt/

        Liked by 1 person

  2. prairiepomes says:

    I had tickets (a funny story in itself), but by the time I found out, I’d walked over to Sacred Heart and talked to a person; we felt that the Monday afternoon would be preferable, easier on Auntie than the early morning… I reckon if the Monday business had merited it, we might’ve picked up tickets to join the mass… but I am glad you were there in witness, and to share this important truth about the readings chosen, as many will not know…


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