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De Excidio

    From the Works of Gildas surnamed "Sapiens," or The Wise (c. 516-570)


January saying summer, the news
in the USA saying more shopping
will cure our depression, and in withdrawal

on the web I'm reading Gildas the Wise,
the Welsh monk who hated what was coming
of his country. It's the fifth century,

of course, and church-centered, but consider
this: it's called both "on the destruction" and
"on the ruin." Is he talking collapse,

invasion?—hard to say, at this distance,
but think of him: in his monastery
bent over a table, maybe pausing

now and then to stare out the window at
a farmhouse across a field, speckled sheep
wandering around, everything just as

peaceful and cinematic as the park
at Tintern Abbey looks now, up in those
green-backed Wordsworthian hills, palimpsest

of river (meaning ah, nature), gift shop
(meaning souvenir), and an art student
brushing at a painting that's already,

in sketch stage, very Romantic. Gildas
is disgusted at the "general growth of
evil throughout the land," not to mention

the annihilation of "every thing
that is good," and of course it's nostalgic
even lo these two hundred years before

that usurper the Venerable Bede
begins his reign as the one, the only
historian of the British "early

period," and brother G is not too
forgiving, Christianity-speaking,
of believers who "grovel in dung," who

are filled with "iniquity." It's ranting
hyperbole of course, but consider
this: his title can be translated "on

the fall" too—a different truth—and he's sure
there's no mistaking two things: that "priests we
have, but corrupt ones," and "rulers we have

but they are unjust," and it seems so bad-
tempered, here in sudden spring-like weather
at the heart of winter, as though we have

killed off the cold, the sunshine spreading
like freedom around the born-again world,
the frat boys buoyant in flip-flops and wife-

beaters, and his very words shimmer on
the screen, though they're haloed in ads for post-
Christmas sales, the new year shot through with gold.


Sarah Kennedy

The Gold Thread
Elixir Press


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