Glen Hansard, lead singer for the Irish band The Frames, has a long, woebegone face pebbled with a rust-colored beard; his eyes are immense, with the peeled look of billiard balls. He suggests a gangly Gaelic version of the young John Lithgow.
I heard the Irishman on the radio say, only it didn’t sound the way we’d say it: commonplace, like dirt under the nails. He held it on his tongue, “Air-th,” as if it were the best place, like heaven: spacious, intricate, infinitely rich, with swells of color and cloud, forest stipple and patches of swale, the “r” rolling along like the hills. As if it were the best word in the language, better even than love.
The scarlet petals were floppy as old hats by March, and falling into piles on the rug, so I cut its plastic pot to free its roots and laid it by the compost in the mud. Busy that spring, I never noticed how it waited out the months, night after night in wind, in grueling rain and a late snow, inclining from the compost into light, its new leaves firming, shining, thick, like a novitiate of a strange order, as days warm, growing fierce and quick, blessing the lost plants I’ve lodged there. It rang like church bells, red, on the hour. Now let me learn to love what cannot flower.
The shavings curled from my plane the afternoon she stood a shadow in the door and spoke the single syllable. I thought, So soon, but deep in me a harmony awoke, a rhythm lost in the hammer song I made furnishing the world chair by chair, bed by bed. Her single word was Go. My debt was paid. Joseph’s memory would be satisfied: My craft would find its end in speech—the Word voiced as once when spoken it divided light from dark and all Creation bloomed. I heard my father in her voice. Both sadness and delight indwelt the shop, as if the two were one as they may be when the work of wood is done.
There’s not much I don’t know about you— yellow, red, sweet—grubbed up roots and all. Essential for a vigorous cuisine, alerting the sense—the crackle of your paper brown outer skin, your translucent inner sheaths like vegetable undergarments, your pungent heat rising from sharp steel and cutting board to my blurred eyes, your precise circles against the wood, before the sizzle in the buttered pan.
Reluctant to relinquish our intimacy your sharp essence clings to my fingers, like a reputation. Hours later, in the dark, you season the air around my hands, I’ll stud you with stars of cloves to bury in the belly of the bird before roasting. Or nestle your pearls with a stalk of mint among the green peas. If I leave you too long in the pantry, your patience exhausted, attenuated, soft at the center, you send up green spears through the mesh bag that call out chop me, make a salad, I am delicious.
How do I interpret my own layered membranes, like growth rings? I try to peel away the layers of my onion heart, never getting all the way in.
A copy of the Bay Psalm Book, the first book published in America, will be auctioned off by Sotheby’s and is expected to bring between $15 and $30 million, making it the most expensive book ever sold. One of two copies owned by Old South Church in Boston, it is one of only 11 remaining copies published. The proceeds will be used to help replenish Old South’s endowment once $7 million of it is used for deferred maintenance. The church historian resigned over the congregation’s decision to sell one of its treasures, but the rest of the congregation overwhelmingly supported the decision (New York Times, November 15).