Wednesday, April 25, 2007

The Cruelest Month

"April is the cruelest month, breeding lilacs out of the dead land, mixing memory and desire, stirring dull roots with spring rain...."1.

But wait! That's the wrong American, the wrong Englishman. It's the word of the wrong man.

No. In casting my mind's eye back to the mountains of my youth I see what I recall rightly: the poisoned madness of heavy metal miners choking in their cups, gasping and expiring in the smoke-filled darkness, nothing above and beyond but poverty and meanness of spirit. No escape but the rusted rungs of futility and despair and perhaps resignation. Disaster! I remember the ascent of the blackened bodies of the dead. In my mind I see the wasteland covered in corpses. Ah, my old home. Home sick, I call it.

Is it better now, friend? I don't think so. I think it's only different. I think the dead are dead and that the living fake it. There is caring, there is sharing, there is grief counseling.

We carry on, carry on our backs our burdens even to Jerusalem.

In my minds eye I see a boy grown walking up the hill and gazing into the sandstorm to see the sun shining on the city. Glory, glory, glory. Here two men, there a flaming car, and beyond a leg or so. O, Jerusalem! Who could imagine to go so far from the depths of the mountains to the heights of the Holy? I -- me -- I won't go back. I will not be buried with the living.

Some have climbed from a terrible darkness, and some of us will not be shoveled back. We might look around ourselves and see the carnage of our time and we might despair. I listen to that American, that Englishman, the right one:

"Among and beneath the rotten weeds and garbage of the old systems and abuses the new seed was being sown, but England saw no sign of the new crop...." 2.

I see the signs, having lived underground for many years and being sensitive to the nature of the darkness and its tremors. April, the season of resurrection, cruel.

Our own have risen from our deepest depths, and our own have fallen from our highest heights. Outside my window I see the gloom of the North, the fog and the cold gray mist. Deep inside there is the smoldering fire wherein my own are laid.

I won't go home again.

"The April sun was now well up in the sky, shedding its glorious rays on the teeming earth. Life was springing from her fertile womb, buds were bursting into leaf and the fields were quickening with fresh green grass. Everywhere seeds were swelling and lengthening, cracking open the lain in their upward thrust for warmth and light. The sap was rising in abundance with whispering voices, the germs of life were opening with a kiss. On and on, ever more insistently, his comrades were tapping, tapping, as though they too were rising through the ground. On this youthful morning, in the fiery rays of the sun, the whole country was alive with this sound. Men were springing up, a black avenging host was slowly germinating in the furrows, thrusting upwards for the harvests of future ages. And very soon their germination would crack the earth asunder." 3

We meet each Thursday evening from 7-9 p.m. in the atrium of the Vancouver Public Library by the Blenz coffee bar. We sit in the Covenant Zone. Please join us.

1. T.S. Eliot, Selected Poems, "The Waste Land." London: Faber and Faber; rpt. 1990, p. 51.
2. Winston Churchill, The River War. London: Landsborough Publications ltd.; rpt. 1960, p. 88.
3. Emil Zola, Germinal. Trans. L.W. Tancock. London: Penguin; rpt. 1968, pp. 498-99.

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