In the nightmare of the dark All the dogs of Europe bark, And the living nations wait, Each sequestered in its hate W. H. Auden
In this dark time, I want to make light bigger, to throw it in the air like a pizza chef, to stick my fists in, stretching it till I can get both arms into radiance to the elbow spinning it above us.
But oh, dark is such a genius at argument, using all the rhetorical figures. And you aren’t bad yourself, Mr. Auden, elucidating war, how it subtracts and subtracts light till each nation becomes a blind man alone in his own dark, gripping his cane, unable to cross to his lover who waits by the pizza parlor. Unable even to see her, unable to sing out to her the way a lover might sing out, Susan, it’s you!
In truth, the dark is that personal, fluttering like a red moth behind my eyelids. My Texas cousin lies dead this afternoon and his widow’s at the Funeral Home with their child, trying to explain where he went. Isn’t that the brilliant final move of dark, Poof! to separate us from each other? Between us, Mr. Auden, you and I have multiplied
the dark till some might say there’s no escape. But seeing darkness is seeing something. Maybe that’s why, as Susan crosses to the blind man, I notice the horizon begins leaking into the sky. Light reaches the treetops. It falls in chutes. And then, god help us, like everything, it breeds and breeds.
Close to an hour more of light since December’s solstice stood the calendar on edge, balancing my dwindling days between the here and the hereafter. This late January thaw has turned thoughts to spring again, those Holland-ordered bulbs I bedded late into November already showing green above the gray and crusted soil. You’d think, with seventy winters now beneath my crust, that I’d know better, learn to stay hunkered warm against those drifts that still must slump against the garage door. Yet an old, insistent summoning, wiser than winter’s experts, sends me back to the seed catalogs, makes me check trowel, fork and leaf mold, bends my head to bloom and blossoms yet unseen but lending never-ending fragrance to every lifeless, frigid scene.
The year: 1944. The place: a makeshift military encampment in the verdant countryside outside of Madrid, where a company of Spanish soldiers is methodically eliminating the few remaining resistance fighters trying to topple the fascist government of General Franco.
Obvious of course, now and in the beginning: God is not a perfectionist. Good at detail for sure, and drama, but lacking the compulsion to get every piece of punctuation in its proper place, ever. And forever forgetting the finishing touches: a proper frame, that final proofreading.
Tempting to be critical of such sloppiness, all those excesses and omissions. For instance, surely there is too much sadness to go around, more than what’s necessary for lessons and poetry.
But I don’t mean there is no serious business here. Only that there is something else on the canvas, an art in line and color, a splash of mystery, a priority of passion perhaps, well beyond the right answer and its rush of applause, something still seeping into our soil.
Mark Bustos, a stylist at an upscale salon in Manhattan, gives free haircuts to homeless people every Sunday, his only day off from work. He started the practice during a trip two years ago to the Philippines. The response was so enthusiastic that he decided to make the same offer in New York. Many of the people whose hair he cuts are very thankful. He especially remembers the man who, after seeing what he looked like with his new haircut, asked, “Do you know anyone that’s hiring?” (The Week, August 29).