Reader, here is no know-nothing muddle-mouth grinning till his time’s up, nor this month’s charismatic hotshot— let’s be glad for that. Nor is it time for deeper, troubled things, the heaviness of swollen hands that knit our sweaters or underfed teenagers who look like my six year old, sweet in his warm bed. Shall I go on, then, or end it?
It’s not even an occasion for lyrical greatness (who can bear or hear it?), or honoring the slain and scars of veterans (how to sustain it?) or excursions on hermeneutical wings along the Word. Or less estimable, more complicated forms of happiness: breathless days when we became better than ourselves, as if awaking from a dream.
Let other songs bless or curse with big decibels. I leave this business, such as it is, to higher-minded poets or tireless annalists.
I sing simply of Love, of grace, and those graces who are your friends, warm with life and giving you grief, playfully—these late evenings in December. And I sing of such beautiful people, even closer, safe and asleep nearby, here and there, her and her and him, so pleasing and peace be with them, and you too, Reader, you too.
It’s 1967 in Minnesota, and life is getting more and more difficult for physics professor Larry Gopnik (Michael Stuhlbarg). Despite his best efforts to be a good man, a respected member of his Jewish community, a bona fide mensch, the structure of his life is collapsing like the walls of Jericho.
One day thought’s Gethsemane Like some personal handicap Or guilt, will venerate the image Of its last nativity, will fold Its wings away and say, “The bird of doubt has gone today.”
And all the “how could I be So stupid” habit of the soul Will harden to a pigment Like raven’s feathers, painted And set on an ancient canvas, Giving up its foreground To a moment’s peace in that journey Of escape from Bethlehem of birth.
Just as in David’s “Rest on the Flight Into Egypt,” an angel having whispered Of slaughter, “You must leave, Joseph,” He, knocking walnuts from the tree, The donkey munching quietly some hay, His son reaching up for grapes, A young child’s suffering at play, Not thinking yet, “I must, they say.”
And Mary, seated on a rock, After long labor, serene as Nazareth, building her pyramid.
Just after we’ve communally stuffed and thanked, the first sleet comes down in shanks of dirty lambs’ wool, rude messy sheets, slathering the cars we hunch in, hurrying again, against some febrile deadline, dodging the poor squiggling squirrel trying to shoot across the heavy-metal trafficked road that intersects his world.
He seems to have made it, tail on. We may, too, make it home, untripped this time by our own haste, knowing in some dark artery that the meal we need, the company against the cold, like the animals in the Ark, are all waiting, like Advent, inside the small rooms of the remaining calendar, we pass through, one by one.
So you doubt the whereabouts of God, a quark, everywhere yet nowhere at once. So the hell what? Doubt you the wind, doubt sandstone erosion and trilobite carapace. Let faith in dawn weather slow as feldspar. The sperm whale’s lungs collapse a thousandfold in unfathomable depths, yet bear it, unyielding. You who preach against miracles, go doubt the arctic tern asleep on the wing. Doubt that a father will leave untouched constellations of frost inside his windshield, the breath of his child frozen overnight. Doubt that bodies lose a few grams the moment of death. Doubt that, you who will, doubt that.
Americans now donate five times as many clothes to charity than they did in 1980. The supply of donated clothing outstrips the demand: typically, only 20 percent of donated clothing is sold where it is donated. In 2014, 11 percent of clothing donated to Goodwill ended up in landfills. About 45 percent of all donated clothing is exported to foreign countries by for-profit companies. The glut of used clothing disrupts local economies in developing countries, putting textile workers out of jobs. Bre Cruickshank recommends that clothing donors invest “in timeless styles of better quality,” rather than “refreshing our wardrobe according to seasonal trends” (Not Just a Label, April 9).