Last Sunday my grandma laughed at the memory of a clumsy silverware thief: one day she came home to a slamming screen door and a trail of knives that began in the living room and petered out in the yard. She said they were not precious. But my dad whispered. He remembered how she came in with them, all in one hand. In a delicate furious bouquet.
Those who discovered Joanna Newsom’s full-length debut The Milk-Eyed Mender (Drag City, 2004) fell without exception into two camps: either they ran screaming from her Betty-Boop-on-helium voice and tales of bridges, balloons and beans or found themselves enchanted and amazed.
“The Department of Defense announced Friday that the battery operated ‘digital’ bugle has come of age and is a necessity with only about 500 U.S. military buglers to perform at the 1,800 daily funerals for veterans.” –Washington Times, 10/09/02
And now even this is pantomime— or worse—a kind of full-bodied lip sync at the gravest occasion. Someone in uniform lifts horn to lips to blow (one thinks), simulates the deep draw that hallows breath into note and moves us to that spacious human room where mourning sounds. And now even this is just charade, a button pushed (at least the fingers move), and though the tones are clear as night and sure as sleep, one wonders whether God is really nigh and what besides the soldier-child might die.
The walk back, more loss. When I open the door it’s over, so I set to piddling: tidy end tables, check the mail, draw a bath. The restless energy finally settles as I pass the mirror. I peer into it. My nose touches glass. Not much left, already effaced, not even a cross to speak of. A smudge. A few black soot stains like pinpoints on the forehead. The rest of the blessed ash has vanished to a grey amorphousness, to symbolize . . . not much. Except a wish for those hallowed moments to be followed by sustaining confidence. Except spirit, which means to shun its listless weight for yearning, awkward if not more earnest prayer and fasting in the clear face of dust.
where’s alfreddy who cuts your grass or lifts your rake when you’re not looking and where’s the reliable gunfire from the deuce-eights’ section eight doorways down on twenty-eighth on this last day of August lavender all rotted at the bottom splayed across the concrete walk as you sit barefoot on the porch steps and watch without a thought honeybees and bumblebees ascend and drop in praise of higher fragrances and offer thanks there’s no parade today for trayvon on your street named mlk jr way because you’re that weary
so for this moment with this breath you God bless the bees
“Our best college students are very good at being critical. In fact being smart, for many, means being critical,” says Wesleyan University president Michael S. Roth. In the last half century an emphasis in education on inquiry has been reduced to exposing error and undermining belief. Not only does this stance not get college graduates very far later in life, “fetishizing disbelief as a sign of intelligence” has diminished our culture. Liberal learning, argues Roth, should have an equal commitment to finding meaning in culture and becoming absorbed in creative and compelling work (New York Times, May 10).