Set in rural Louisiana, Udayan Prasad’s tender, affecting road picture The Yellow Handkerchief combines a coming-of-age narrative with the tale of a man driven to seek the salvation he believes he no longer deserves.
There is no damping of betrayal’s guilt, The little deeds of virtue cannot serve; They niggle at the structures time has built, Unwilling to admit what they deserve. Even the grasping at the words of grace: "Come unto me, and I will give you rest,” Become the tempter’s taunt, thrown in your face, Counting betrayals of this fair behest. And still it comes, this welcome to the feast, Albeit shadowed with the guilt and sin; Strange Love reminds that this is freedom’s test, And given so, the grace must follow in. So there is damping of betrayal’s guilt, On Calvary, when Covenant blood was spilt.
Things go unnoticed around here while we do the important stuff the singing praying sermonizing baptizing. We don’t read the instructions want to get on with it insert the batteries push the button watch the screen light up. Script stage directions steps one two three are all fine print we think, or don’t until we find ourselves at home watching rain soak the garden and notice that the screen has gone dark. When is it that we turn to face the back of the church? Do we stand or sit at the Psalm and is there anything at all about bowing as the cross makes its leisurely progress? What words are to be said while earth is cast upon the coffin and who was it after all who was supposed to meet the body
The feel of awl and augur in his hardened hands, the rough hull rimed with salt, a whittled plug he made himself, so tight he set his teeth! His handiwork behind him, Norway a miniature carved in the distance, he watched the gray Atlantic like a ravenous whale devour everything between.
The story ends, and yet begins again. Here in a foreign port, his touch begins to read each sign, the curves and swellings, splintered keel and patchwork. How his heart quickens when he finds his father’s fishing boat, familiar as his name, the family build, their house nailed fast above the rocky harbor.
And yet begins again. How the found word both fits and startles, an oracle recovered just in time, just when it’s needed, just before faith slips away like my great-grandfather’s wedding coat, ruined in a flooded basement with old books and portraits, speckled sepia like a gull’s egg, water-marked and too far gone to keep.
Nathan Eckstrom teaches English in the Boston Public Schools, one of the most diverse school systems in the country. Its more than 9,000 students come from about 100 countries, and they speak more than 80 languages. Instead of taking a vacation this past summer, Eckstrom went to Haiti to find the places where several of his students live and to visit their extended families. He knows that he will be able to make better connections with his Haitian students after learning about their culture and country. Over the past ten years, Boston teachers have made similar trips to Cape Verde, the Dominican Republic, Vietnam, and other countries. Fund for Teachers, a Houston-based nonprofit, helps fund these trips (Boston Globe, September 12).