By Disposition of Angels by Marianne Moore

Here’s a poem by Marianne Moore 1887-1972 appropriate for the season of absence and anticipation known as Advent. The title is a bit of Acts 5:7 …who have received the law by the disposition of angels, and have not kept it.

A thing is known in contrast. The law is known in violation. Here is precise bold language in a piece of art that does not fit expected sense but fits imperfect and limited perception and understanding: “ darkness a star is perfected.”

By Disposition of Angels by Marianne Moore
Messengers much like ourselves? Explain it.
Steadfastness the darkness makes explicit?
Something heard most clearly when not near it?
    Above particularities,
these unparticularities praise cannot violate.
   One has seen, in such steadiness never deflected,
   how by darkness a star is perfected.
Star that does not ask me if I see it?
Fir that would not wish me to uproot it?
Speech that does not ask me if I hear it
     Mysteries expound mysteries.
Steadier than steady, star dazzling me, live and elate,
   no need to say, how like some we have known; too like her,
   too like him, and a-quiver forever.

Funny how thinking about one thing leads to memories of others. Marianne Moore grew up in the home of her grandfather, a Presbyterian minister. She taught at the Carlisle Indian School in Pennsylvania when Jim Thorpe was a student there. Maybe it was as a young teacher of the greatest athlete of the 20th century that she developed interest in sports. She never married and lived what must have been the life of a mysterious, black-robed minor celebrity in New York City. She was a Brooklyn Dodgers fan and one time threw out the first pitch at a Yankees game. She wrote the liner notes for a spoken-word album by Cassius Clay, later Muhammed Ali.

As a beginning reader I must have had the Guernsey Van Riper, Jr. young reader biographies of Jim Thorpe, Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and Knute Rockne memorized, I checked them out so many times. At the moment I am reading Richard Hoffer’s Bouts of Mania about the Ali/Frazier/Foreman era in boxing which was right in the heart of my sports-infused childhood and adolescence.  I always pulled for Frazier.

Bouts of Mania: Ali, Frazier, Foreman: And an America on the Ropes Cover                           Clay, Cassius - I Am The Greatest!

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