Word Jazz for Corita

 

(I recited this on 9/3 at the Caruso Catholic Center at USC for an opening reception for a show of the art of the late Corita Kent: nun, famous artist, and art teacher at Immaculate Heart College (now high school) in Hollywood.)
 
Seventeen years old in 1970, Santa Cruz, California:
I received a cardboard tube in the mail from Los Angeles.
I was shopping for a college to attend
And my school counselor gave my name and address 
To Immaculate Heart College.
I read the return address 
On the cardboard tube
With deep bewilderment.
How could this possibly be the school for me,
Just old enough to realize my heart was not immaculate?
How could this be the right college for a young leftish wannabe political activist
Who spoke no Catholic?
I opened the tube and inside were two very cool pop-art posters
Signed in a lyrical liberated script by Corita.
They were wrapped by a quirky come-on letter
From the admissions director.
I concluded that he must have been an old beatnik
Wearing a beret, drinking an espresso, while reading Ferlinghetti.
My mind snapped to the beat of the word jazz on the big colorful posters, 
Hip propaganda for peace and love
Copied from the serigraphs of Sister Corita.
So I hung them on the wall of my bedroom
And, admiring them, caught the groove from which they sprang:
A nun with an immaculate heart
Living, I presumed, in a musty monastery in Hollywood, of all places,
Had eaten a funky communion wafer
Or drunk some trippy eucharistic wine
And leapt out of her black and white habit
Into a Haight-Ashbury wonderland of day-glow color
And lightning-bolt visions of the world that could be
If we could turn the nukes into jukeboxes
And make love instead of war
And get the rich to give to the poor.
Her yellows yelled
Her reds bled
Her hues sang the blues
And howled for hope
And jumped for joy.
Her colors were drawn 
From the raw roots
That sprouted Pope John's Vatican Two;
Her images were abstracted theological derivatives
That met the world where it was
And aimed it at the places where Love wanted it to be.
She made graphic Magnificats
For the nineteen sixties;
She laid bright ink with the stone that was rolled away
From the mouth of Jesus' tomb.
 
There was a lot going on
In those Corita posters hanging on my wall
More than met my eyes at the time.
More than meets my eyes decades later.
I did not apply to Immaculate Heart  
But Corita helped me seek one.
 
 
JIM BURKLO

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