Guest Poet Ginger Murchison

Go in Peace

It was as if you just agreed to stop
your life; as if you'd said, "Enough! Enough!"
Requiem aeternum dona ei, Domine.
and giving in, you closed your eyes and sighed,

but this was not at all what I expected--
like when you quit smoking, a decision;
Et lux perpetua luceat eis.
you just eased out; made it look so simple.

It wasn't even an impressive sigh,
sort of like the times I begged to drive
Ad te onmis caro veniet. Requiem.
or disappointed you again somehow.

There was no storming out triumphantly;
no one said, "take up thy pallet and walk,
Absolve, Domine, animas omnium fidelium defunctorum.
no fight to "not go gentle into that goodnight."

No rays of sunlight slanted through the glass;
no ascension; no cherubim nor seraphim,
Cum Laxaro quondam puapere aeternam habeas requiem.
no throngs, no songs, no angel voices raised.

I'm twice participant to birth
I've seen the superbowl, the Olympics, and the pope,
Libera me, Domine, quando caeli movendi sunt et terra.
all flash and fanfare lighting up the skies,

but this, the highlight of your struggles here,
monumental moment of undoing,
Dias illa, calamitatis et miseriae; dies magna et amara valde.
just you and I to choke on soft goodbyes,

and outside, last week's dirty snow oozes gray-black scum,
the traffic hangs and snarls,
hard set faces move thick-overcoated against their promises,
and a daughter left to wonder what it's for.

December, 1998

Ginger Murchison's Questions:

Knowing Latin is not essential to reading this poem....The Latin sentences come directly from the Mass for the Dead and serve as the poem's setting rather than contribute anything to its meaning. The High Mass Latin is intended to serve merely as interruption into the girl's simple and human grieving, but my question is that as readers, we want to know and as soon as we feel "outside" the intellectual understanding of a poem, we give up on it ...

Could someone who does not know Latin get hung up on not understanding the Latin or is it clear that Latin is the setting? Would "Mass for the Dead" be a better title, since it might imply the Latin's purpose in the poem? I wanted the title of the poem to be Pax Vobiscum, (Peace be with you) that last blessing at the end of the Mass for the Dead, speaking to the girl and the people on the street more than to the dead father, but will the Latin title again put readers off?

I appreciate your consideration both to publication and to my questions....

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The Albany Poetry Workshop