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.
Alfred Hitchcock said that the literary form that most resembles a movie is not the novel but the short story, since it is designed to be digested in one sitting. But the dilemma for moviemakers who adapt short stories is that they almost always need to beef up or expand the story so it can fill 90 minutes or more.
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.
Here’s my question. What if there was a poem That didn’t know what it was about until it got To the end of itself? So that the poet’s job isn’t To play with imagery and cadence and metrical Toys in order to make a point, but rather to just Keep going in order to find out that the poem is About how hard it is to watch your kids get hurt By things they can’t manage and you cannot fix. If I had been the boss of this poem I would have Made it so they can manage things, or I could be The quiet fixer I always wanted to be as a father; But that’s not what the poem wanted to be about, It turns out. This poem is just like your daughter: No one knows what’s going to happen, and there Will be pain, and you can’t fix everything, and it Hurts to watch, and you are terrified even as you Try to stay calm and cool and pretend to manage. Some poems you can leave when they thrash too Much but kids are not those sorts of poems. They Have to keep writing themselves, and it turns out You are not allowed to edit. You’re not in charge At all—a major bummer. I guess there’s a lesson Here about literature, about how you have to sing Without knowing the score . . . something like that. All you can do is sing wildly and hope it’ll finish So joyous and refreshing that you gape with awe.
Philosopher Michael Ruse is an ardent evolutionist and unbeliever, but he often comes to the defense of believers who are under fire from militant atheists like Richard Dawkins. Ruse says his sympathetic stance toward religion is partly due to his Quaker upbringing. “I grew up surrounded by gentle, loving (and very intelligent) Christians. I never forget that,” said Ruse. He also objects to what he regards as bad atheist arguments. Evolution explains the existence of religion as an adaptive mechanism, but that doesn’t necessarily explain it away. “It is as plausible that my love of Mozart’s operas is a byproduct of adaptation, but it doesn’t make them any the less beautiful and meaningful,” Ruse said (New York Times interview, July 8).