Arts+Culture

Arts+Culture

We Are the Eighth Day, © Melanie Weidner

Film

Angst

Growing up in the Greek Orthodox Church, I learned to confess my sins by kneeling directly in front of the priest. I had no reason to believe that other churches handled this sacrament differently. When I first saw Ingmar Bergman’s The Seventh Seal, I was mesmerized by the scenes of Death and the Knight talking to each other, in part because they were sitting in some sort of booth with a small door between them. What a great cinematic concept, I thought. When I later visited a Catholic church for the first time and saw the rows of confessionals, my response was, “They stole the idea from Bergman!”
Music

Sound alternatives

David Bowie called them his favorite iPod download. U2 used their song “Wake Up” as the walk-on anthem for their last tour. Coldplay and David Byrne are unabashed fans. Not bad for a band that just debuted its second album.
Poetry

Was blind, but now I see

You have your sight, and yet you cannot see.
        —Tiresias, Oedipus Rex



Driving into the city to teach
in gray-green late summer,
I see one flaming red maple
and think of Oedipus
standing dangerously above the hoi polloi.

But it is Moses’ tree,
a call story on a highway hillside.
I want to stop traffic,
shout, “Take off your shoes, people!”

For the world is on fire
with a beauty so fragile that,
like the thread of ash
after the stick of incense burns,
one breath can topple it.











Poetry

On hearing my young student in Britten's parable opera Curlew River

Somewhere in the sacred opera,
in a sea of men, the little voice,
        fearless in the face
        of the foreign marketplace of sound
        booming in the maw of the basilica,
came forth, the little voice,
like the water bird above the river.

The lost child’s chant, meant to take away
a mother’s grief, came at us
from behind.

His form, white, diaphanous, backlit,
wafted from the narthex down the nave,
one flaming wing trembling,
his treble sure, sure, soaring,
pinning my lapsed heart
to some small certainty:

All shall be well.
The ears of the deaf
shall be open, as well
as the gates
to the house of doubt.





Poetry

A parable of marriage

Disregarding the heat, we settled down to it:
clearing a path through the elmwood and oak.
It’s slow going—an all-day job. Stones fat

as watermelons. Quick, gray blades of limestone
layered into the ground a foot or more.
We rooted them out with crowbars, a shovel,

or dug them free by hand, then tossed
the rocks into a wheelbarrow. Tomorrow,
they’ll be put to use: load by load we’ll haul them

up the hill for a border, follow
our new trail straight on to the high west
pasture. Where late in the day sun breaks

against shade, burns whitest fronting the treeline
of the woods—light upon shadow—we
stopped work for the night. Passing you

the last drink of water from the canteen,
I nodded toward home, and we traced the way
back down in silence, the only sounds

a locust, the snap of twigs, our workboots
scraping over rock shards and dust.
We kept close to ourselves, listening.