Arts+Culture

Arts+Culture

We Are the Eighth Day, © Melanie Weidner

Film

The Class

A marvelous new film by the French director Laurent Cantet sits on the cusp between fiction and documentary.
Poetry

One time

1. Canyon de Chelly, Arizona

Then I looked down into the lovely cut
of a missing river, something under dusk’s
upflooding shadows claiming for itself a clarity
of which my eyes were not yet capable:
fissures could be footpaths, ancient homes
random erosions; pictographs depicting fealties
of who knows what hearts, to who knows what gods.
To believe is to believe you have been torn
from the abyss, yet stand waveringly on its rim.
I come back to the world. I come back
to the world and would speak of it plainly,
with only so much artifice as words
themselves require, only so much distance
as my own eyes impose. I believe
in the slickrock whorls of the real
canyon, the yucca’s stricken clench,
and, on the other side, the dozen buzzards swirled
and buoyed above some terrible intangible fire
that must scald the very heart
of matter to cast up such miraculous ash.



2. 2047 Grace Street

But the world is more often refuge
than evidence, comfort and covert
for the flinching will, rather than the sharp
particulate instants through which God’s being burns
into ours. I say God and mean more
than the bright abyss that opens in that word.
I say world and mean less
than the abstract oblivion of cells
out of which every intact thing emerges,
into which every intact thing finally goes.
I do not know how to come closer to God
but by standing where a world is ending
for one man. It is still dark,
and for an hour I have listened
to the breathing of the woman I love beyond
my ability to love. Praise to the pain
scalding us toward each other, the grief
beyond which, please God, she will live
and thrive. And praise to the light that is not
yet, the dawn in which one bird believes,
crying not as if there had been no night
but as if there were no night in which it had not been.







Poetry

And afterward, repenting

Wasn’t it Augustine who said, evil is matter
out of place? He kisses his love
as he pivots from the brothel gate,
his ardent heart already gritty
with guilt. I imagine the big A
trying to shake sin from himself
as I haul our red rug out and shake it.
Dear God, what we track in, how sin sifts
like fine silt into our deepest grooves!
And once inside, the dirt forgets
that it’s our backyard. We keep tracking
the outside in, sweeping it out again.

Or that’s what I get from The Confessions.
How love, like soil, is out of place for, maybe,
half its orbit. How sinning and repentance follow
one another like all the circles on this fickle
earth, rain taken up by clouds, then falling
on us again. Maples spinning whiffs
that grow to seedlings. Children begetting
children. And every insult you bestow
whirring like graying underwear
in some dryer of regret.

Way back in Christianity’s kindergarten,
Augustine had it figured out. He guessed
our remorse and longing as he closed
the brothel door, seeing a woman
gaze at the sooty outline on her white sheet
of a tall blacksmith the morning after.




Film

The Wrestler

The story of the proud and vital man who has lost his power and nobility is a recurrent theme, especially at the movies. Films have specialized in showing us the washed-up boxer (The Set-Up, Requiem for a Heavyweight, Fat City) and cowboy (Red River, The Gunfighter, Unforgiven).