Monday, September 30, 2002

Thursday night we had the first murder in Warren County in almost two and a half years. It rained without letup that evening, soaking the body as it lay there in the lot by the river, spreading blood in shallow pools over the gravel like an obscene watercolor. I knew the boy slightly, which is not surprising in a small town. He had committed some traffic infractions which I had prosecuted. He also had some other, more serious, brushes with the law, but nothing that justified the scene Thursday night. I had little sleep that night, the investigators on the case even less. Work on the case in ongoing. We are all angry, angry at the waste, angry at the arrogance of someone who would take another's life for no reason worth a damn. We are angry that all our worst suspicions about human nature have been confirmed again. It is easy to get hard in this job. Sometimes it is even a necessity, to do what needs to be done. And yet . . . I saw one of our investigators, who had handled the carnage of the crime scene seemingly without sentiment, open the trunk of his car and find that a field mouse had nested in his rubber boot, falling out as he up-ended it. She scampered across the parking lot, leaving her three finger-nail sized babies there on the asphalt. The investigator put on a crime scene glove, and gently moved them all to a grassy strip near where the mother had run, having had enough of death of any kind that day.

Looking on me as I lie here prone before you, voiceless and unbreathing, mourn for me, everyone; brethren and friends, kindred, and you who knew me well; for but yesterday with you I was talking, and suddenly there came upon me the fearful hour of death: therefore come, all you that long for me, and kiss me with the last kiss of parting. For no longer shall I walk with you, nor talk with you henceforth: for to the Judge I go, where no person is valued for his earthly station: Yea, slave and master together stand before Him, king and soldier, rich man and poor man, all accounted of equal rank: for each one, according to his own deeds shall be glorified, or shall be put to shame. Therefore I beg you all, and implore you, to offer prayer unceasingly for me to Christ our God, that I be not assigned for my sins to the place of torment; but that He assign me to the place where there is Light of Life.

(From the Orthodox Funeral Service)

Gideon Strauss linked to a poem by Kodojin I posted last week. Kodojin was a near-contemporary Japanese poet (1865-1944) who lived in a time when that nation's ancient traditions were being reshaped to create a modern (and militarist) Japan. Kodojin self-consciously moved against this stream, adhering to traditions of scholarship, art and poetry, that went back thousands of years into Asian history. As one might imagine, this placed him out of step in his own time, and virtually forgotten in ours. Stephen Addis, a noted scholar, artist, potter and calligrapher, rediscovered Kodojin's work and brought it to an English speaking public in the volume Old Taoist: The Life, Art and Poetry of Kodojin. Many of Kodojin's poems were written in classical Chinese, and translated for this volume by Jonathan Chaves, himself a noted scholar of Chinese literature and a fellow parishioner at St. Mary's Orthodox Church. Here is his translation of one of my favorite poems by Kodojin, a description of the good life for the country dweller who also loves literature:

Fertile fields enrich my household;
a good wife completes my home.
Auspicious trees grow along my paths;
wonderful books fill my carts.

I have edited the 9/23 post to include links on Amazon to the books I borrowed the poems from, in case you want to add them to your own cart.