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Saturday 23 February 2013

Chance has its Favourites

Hey then,
what should a young priest do:
first church,
first congregation,
almost -- but not quite --
his first communion with them,
entering the chancel by the vestry door
between the altar and the choir stalls,
heaven, if you will,
and hell,
eyes flicking left to clock
the crowded pews before
he turns to genuflect
and sees (or rather, doesn't see)
the chalice of pure gold, sees in its place
a shining, spinning roulette wheel?

What should a young priest think?
A prank? A hoax?
The choir boys?
Surely not the altar boy? And then he notes:
the absence of a ball; the rate of spin
is constant, the wheel's
not slowing down; and where the wafers
of unleavened bread should be,
a pile of gambling chips...

What should a young priest think?
There is no precedent to answer that.
But this one thought:-
of Marcel Duchamp
moving a urinal
into a gallery, converting it by that
into a work of art... might this unholy thing
by method not dissimilar, become
a found and holy joy?

But then he thought -- we'll blame the spin --
his mother's dressing table,
and her music box:
and incongruity upon more incongruity,
the handle of the spinning wheel became
the ballerina there...
no, not the ballerina on his mother's box,
a dancer, male, wild and wanton, spinning yes,
but leaping too, and hanging in the air.
More sexual even, than a ballerina,
his dance was breaking all the rules,
all conventions,
prohibitions, inhibitions. Out of the church,
into the night he spun and jumped.
A moment later, back he came,
a long leap from the transept,
landing light as air, a mere squeak
from his dance shoes on the floor.

What should a young priest do
about to celebrate communion?
He wanted most of all to join the dance.
Called to the barr,
he saw the two of them in pas de deux.
Two male dancers in a pas de deux!
When did you last see one of those?

Well, finally, the last remaining strands
of reservation broke, and he -- quite unbeknown
to him -- was on his points... Fading now,
the roulette wheel, the chancel arch,
the altar, choir stalls, choir boys:
all a blurr... and he had spun his way
along the nave and through the great east door
out into the night, into the cold and dark
among the grave stones and upon the pure
white frost... and no, my friends,
sad to relate, he is not spoken of
these days in those same tones
of reverence as is his hero, Marcel Duchamp.

The image is from Wikimedia Commons here


Anonymous said...

Ha. Now this is a fanciful poem! Quite lovely. I am thinking of Billy Elliot grown a bit old and perhaps more middle class. It is very funny - I am glad Chance took him by the collar, as it were! And danced him out the door. If he goes on into performance, he may get a few Duchamps kudos! (I hand them to your poem instead.) k.

Brian Miller said...

ha....rather intriguing...took me back...my first pastoral duties were in the midst of scandal and helping the congregation to navigate them...having been there that he escaped into the night might not be a bad thing...smiles...love the dance references...

Mary said...

I enjoyed the story in this, Dave! I guess the lesson is one is often faced with temptations hard to resist. In the young priest's case, perhaps it was for the best that he left the church / profession early! For his sake and for the sake of others.

Gerry Snape said...

hat a mystical and mysterious one this is today Dave....there is quite a story behind this and the tantalising thought that maybe we know this freed bird!!

anthonynorth said...

I wonder if he later went to confession. Excellently surreal, just like that artist.

Helen said...

My goodness! How you gathered me up, took me with you on this flight of fancy!

Young man, quite conflicted ..
run young man, RUN!

Claudia said...

i love that he followed his heart...the right thing to do me thinks...

Tommaso Gervasutti said...

This is a joyful, sublime, digression and reflection. Lines that, I felt, could go on foreven spinning a tremendous web.
A young priest reading your poem would feel first embarassed but not much later honoured!

Cloudia said...

Unfortunately, only one is permitted such Duchamp license

ALOHA from Waikiki
Comfort Spiral
~ > < } } ( ° > <3

Elephant's Child said...

I also love that he followed the harm minimisation track and left before inflicting damage on others. Chance - such a risky business.

Dave King said...

Once more I have to thank you all for a rich collection of responses. I have enjoyed reading them. In fact, I do believe that they are now a large part of what makes me continue to blog. I have now gone on for much longer than I had intended when I set out. Then blogging was a means to an end. Almost it has now become an end in itself. Perhaps truer to say a means to a slightly different end.

Our comments on this particular post were so varied and intriguing as to be even more delightful than usual. Thank you all so much.

Ygraine said...

I love the way he followed his heart.
I think the only way is to be true to yourself...or else your entire life is a lie! :)