The Chinese word for poetry is made up of two characters: word and temple. That's what I'm thinking about as I sift through my poetry books, looking for something to memorize, to think about, to ring a bell, because before this, before the sifting, I had read of Cardinal Mahoney, the repugnant former archbishop of the Roman Catholic diocese in Los Angeles, the powerful Cardinal who shuffled the priests around, the priests who had preyed on the flock. The Cardinal, whose morality is less than the bird's, whose scarlet plumage (those robes! those ridiculous hats!) served as a cloak for hubris and his flock (those that weren't raped or sodomized, those that didn't retreat from his Church) bowing and apologizing, his and their words weak, as ineffectual as the index cards he professed to carry around with him (index cards!), the names of those he'd wronged on the faint blue lines, at his craven lips as he fingered his rosary beads in prayer.
I have no idea what the Chinese characters mean that symbolize absolution (above), but should there be absolution for this man and for those who defend him, still (both literally and figuratively?). He lives comfortably, somewhere, here in Los Angeles, for all we know cloaked in scarlet, fingering those index cards of names, surrounded by sycophants who live and work and breathe to protect him.
|Cardinal Mahoney, Olvera Street April, 2007**|
His Prayer for Absolution
For those my unbaptized rhymes,
Writ in my wild unhallowed times,
For every sentence, clause, and word,
That's not inlaid with Thee, my Lord,
Forgive me, God, and blot each line
Out of my book, that is not Thine.
But if, 'mongst all, Thou find'st here one
Worthy thy benediction,
That one of all the rest shall be
The glory of my work, and me.
Robert Herrick (1591-1674)
**I took that photo many years ago when I brought my children downtown to see the Blessing of the Animals. It nearly makes me sick right now, to have been so close to such a terrible, terrible man.