I felt it, riding through the afternoon— the nights are getting shorter and it’s cold and then the baby shifted in my womb and the innkeeper sent us to his sandy field. I did what I was made to do. And now who knows what else is possible? God’s breath moves against the soft nose of the cow. The moon shines on this shed and on the path where you lean, watching us. Who are you? I am the round yon virgin of your song. You are the sky the light is passing through, and you are the iron moonlight. You’re sweet fresh- smelling hay. You’re Bethlehem, the tall kings. Reach out, release us from this wooden crèche.
This 1982 drama directed by Alan Parker is one of the great films of its decade—complex, adult, irresolvable, with a screenplay by Bo Goldman that poeticizes its characters’ anguish. Many of the lines stay in your head.
Each time I visit, my father gives me The things that are sold from weekend driveways— A painting, old golf clubs, assorted books. Before it’s too late, he says, repeating That caution bimonthly for nineteen years Because the Bible says threescore and ten.
But lately, they’ve been practical, these gifts, Things requiring muscle, as if some part Of him might enter me through communion, Transubstantiation happening when I take these things in my hands, receiving His body and blood in the church of work, Believing I will take it through my hands, That forgiveness will follow when I fill His role as oldest, feeling him return In the useful things lifted one morning, The rake and clippers, the shovel and hoe.
Beside the porch, this afternoon, his gifts Are clustered like possibilities raised By numbers—a sickle, a pick, a scythe. “One last thing,” he says, waving me inside Where I imagine vacuum cleaner, broom, A year’s-stiff mop, following his shuffle Until, in his bedroom, he says, “Not these. Just look,” showing me nail file and tweezers, Cuticle scissors, the small implements Of grooming left behind by my mother, What he won’t part with, flexing those scissors With finger and thumb, ready to receive.
Though atmosphere-heavy and plot-light, and obviously pushing Brad Pitt for a “he’s doing serious art here” Academy Award, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford turns out to be a mesmerizing look at the final months of a gun-toting desperado.
Let there be light! A flash, a bolt, a brilliant blaze that puts the kibosh on chaos. Let light shine on width, breadth, depth, a dazzle to illuminate all matter everywhere. Let it glint gloriously off ocean wave, sea swell, a brooklet’s little ripples.
Let fish rejoice in it fantastically, the fur of fox, cat, cougar, coyote be haloed. Let light’s hot pulse pull prairie grass, kinnikinnik up, up to verdant growth, turn grain from green to gold. In every garden everywhere let peonies, nasturtiums and
preposterous begonias unfold. Let every butterfly, bat, bird bathe in radiance. Let it pour mornings into breakfast bowls, fill empty cups to overflowing. At evening let light’s long plumes linger: violet and vivid on every atom of creation.
When darkness closes in, shrouding the valley floor, let sky be spangled still, lit with the glow of meteors, the murky milky way, the white hot stars. O Light of life, Light of the wobbling world: your splendor does not tarnish,
will not be overcome by random avalanche, smart missile, guns, flood, smoke of forest fire. Your warmth will melt the iron grip of fear. A stone-cold guarded grave can never hold you.
Patients at the Maple City Health Care Center in Goshen, Indiana, have a new way to pay for medical services. They can join Martha’s Gift program, which knits blankets for babies in the community, and receive a credit against their bill. The knitting happens in a group setting in which people joke, laugh, and share their lives. The center serves low-income people and the uninsured. It has a sliding scale payment plan, but offers community service projects as another way to pay off bills. The knitting program not only makes health care more affordable but counters the isolation that often accompanies illness (Elkhart Truth, December 31).