Thursday, March 6, 2014

Whose Good Night?

For years, this painting has haunted me.  (click the link to see the whole painting; the image above is only one part of it).

It hangs in my office at Washington and Lee University, a gift from my partner, who knows my warped sense of justice.  We found it in a local antique shop.  It's just a print, not an original, but I loved the ferocious Indians, the dispatch of Jesuit Catholic priests whose brethren the Franciscans prsided over a reign of terror reduced California Indians to remnants of our formerly rich culture.  I'm just telling you history here; it's just the truth.

But being baptized as a Catholic when I was a baby didn't automatically trigger any latent Catholic school blood memory into my head, so I've never known who these guys were, or why they deserved such glorification.  Recently my colleage Harvey Markowitz visited my office for the first time since I hung this painting, and he was able to give me enough information to make some identifications.

You can find the "Other Side of the Story" at a Catholic website called, appropriately, "Atonement Online."  

But here's my version.  I know.  I'm going to several different hells in several different languages for this one.  Not to mention the Dylan Thomas fans who are going to report me to the FBI.  Oh well.  I never promised I'd be nice.

Whose Good Night?

The Jesuits do not want to go gentle into their good night
even though it’s a fastrack to martyrdom and halos;
they hold up crucifixes to show they’re in the right.

Those wise men stand firm, let the tomahawk take a bite,
say their prayers at the stake as flames nibble their toes -
but they’d rather not go gentle into God’s goodnight.

Pierced with Indian arrows still full feathered in flight,
struck dumb by wooden warclub’s brutish blows,
the Jesuits hold up crucifixes to show they’re still in the right

See, already they ascend into heaven, a glorious sight
treading soft fluffy clouds with their heads all aglow;
already it’s worth it, going so gently into good night.

Brave men far from home, faith your only might,  
let go, let God, above all let baptismal waters flow!
Hold up your crucifixes (gold) to show you’re in the right  

Attend your Father, your angels, look down from new height.
Forgive us, we’re savages made simply, from clay.
We refused to go into colonization’s good night.
We gave up our bodies, we’re martyrs too - right?

      - Deborah A. Miranda

1 comment:

  1. i'd say that's at least six hell's worth. and worth every one.
    of course, i would say that. i bought you the picture. been waiting for this poem to come for years.
    love it.