Sunday, August 06, 2006

Sunday Thought: That Kingdom Coming Business

The anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima falls this year on the Feast of the Transfiguration of Our Lord; and of Nagasaki on the day honoring Sr. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein).

The deep chill of Bungo Suido
coating the skin of our ship
in a cold Japanese dawn,
ship gray as fog
sliding across water,
hull full of rockets
that kingdom coming business,
a thief with a nightlamp
smelling of diplomacy at two-thousand feet
sullying hot blood on beaches
that knew a hand in the chest cavity
forever tasted of blood
to be worn on the sleeve
boasting of a powerful thrill
but dawns come reminding
blood-soaked minds
of the city of peace.
They did not go to kingdom come
but a remembered face
looked like New Zealand
on top of Mauritania
on top of you
and me...
You who have Queequeg on your face
will now
thoroughly chastised
know enough not to chase white whales
without first building your deathbed.
But you are safe
for there are no white ones left
no white at all
just a series of grays
moving through a whale mist
under early morning cover
bringing history like a dutch treat
with sons of open hearths
of Bessemer converters
that changed earrings
into surgical tools...
...for he was catching cool deliberate water
from two-thousand feet
and hearing little jokes
about little people
faces clean as ivory
stumbling into bomb sights
crucified on cross-hairs
begging to be pinned
against a frantically shifting earth
with the weight of half-tracks
and the American body
cut in a dozen pieces
bleeding the world's blood
back on the world
speeding under cover of a false night
into choppy Bungo Suido...
and power below the heart
sent the captain's head
breaking through the mist
with eyes which saw the squinting
coming from the sun
before radar fully knew
there was a universe to come,
a face with its own territory
free from history
but charred enough for cocktail talk
peerings into suns long covered
together in war talk
drawing safe circles
away from the wind,
confident circles of men who knew
that the air which helped planes save blood
would not bloody a ship
on a mercy mission to reach the hungry
in beautiful Nagasaki
who lets sailors give their blood
to keep Hiroshima clean
and off the map
off someone's face,
a peace village in the heart of Japan
letting tourists sleep late
so they won't see
rockets from a gray ship
with the wind in its face
shaking legs from Kansas
breaking crockery from small towns
sending sons as delivery boys
who secretly implore Christ
to do his walking trick...
and chaplains
huddled on the 02
harness men's prayers,
a majority plea in all the right words
to a willing wind that answered
telling all that waters can be calmed
and blankets can still muffle bombs
on the way to an explosion.
They stopped wind and rain
hard by Nagasaki's shores
so men below could tender bombs
due to print territory
on other people's faces;
the blood of fifty states
shed deliriously
like an oil blanket
leveling waves
but making sure
that if Christ be on his way
like a flame from the East
faces from all nations
will be welded like a veil
of Bessemer smoke
on mushroom clouds
rising high over the city of peace.

From "That Kingdom Coming Business" by James C. McCullagh
©1973, The Sewanee Review

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