After so much darkness, the field’s excess of light, the day floating on itself as in a dream. But it isn’t a dream, the small wound songs of the house finch, the sun hammering the grasses’ bronze tips. We had gathered about your bed
like a boat we tried to push off stony ground. We wanted to help: we believed in the buoyancy of that water. You held onto the ruins instead of our hands. What did we know of how it is to look back at one’s life?
A bee swings from the nightshade. Ants carry their burden up the post of the shed unmoved by song.The grasses bend under the weight of so much light. And the balm of the wind: from the woods the singing of leaves. Or is it the sound of water flowing?
Diablo Cody won an Academy Award for her screenplay for Juno, and it’s true that the film bubbles along on the strength of the snappy, frank commentary that Juno (Ellen Page) offers on the travails of being pregnant at 16.
See, it’s not sweet youth that touts a wildness, but crazy old age. Beauty shifts. Plump pink petals fall away, or stay, curling every which way, like stiff, unruly hair, dried to a deep blood-red.
The once-upright congregation- in-a-vase flops over, losing their heads, but that’s all right. They find another life in unconventional gesture, extravagant dance: this still troupe, ecstatic, with nothing left to lose.
All winter the fish lounge at the bottom of the pond squinting up now and then toward the cloudy light beyond the ice, but mostly skulking behind cold wet shadows like teenage guys down in the basement hanging out, waiting for life to happen dreaming elongated nursery rhymes feeling the submerged sluggish vibrations of the earth a faint quiver of the moon’s pull on the tides.
After Easter, though, they dopily drift toward the surface where I am waiting patiently with something like civilization in mind. Sooner or later they’ll make the connection: they get their daily bread from me. And in return I get a glimpse of their elusive grace, their perfect freedom organized into evening ritual.
The Austrian picture The Counterfeiters, which won this year’s Academy Award for best foreign film, dramatizes yet another little-known story of the Holocaust. In “Operation Bernhard” the Nazis assembled a select band of prisoners at Sachsenhausen concentration camp and put them to work producing counterfeit versions of the English pound note and the American dollar bill.
I ran away from home once to the nearby Bell Theatre, where I often viewed musicals and comedies with my family. I wanted to escape from quarrels, to find in the dark a life as shimmering as the stars.
The Sound and the Fury with Yul Brynner and Joanne Woodward was playing that night. Before long, my father came to take me home. I was eleven, too young to flee my family. He rescued me, as he would later, while away in school, sending me cash folded into his letters.
My father resisted my mother as well: Thanksgiving he refused to eat her green peas and mushrooms, dubbed them buckshot and devil umbrellas— word play an antidote to bickering.
Years on, I taught Faulkner’s novel, remembered the night my father took me home, his small notes on the underside of silver paper lining his cigarette packs.
Nathan Eckstrom teaches English in the Boston Public Schools, one of the most diverse school systems in the country. Its more than 9,000 students come from about 100 countries, and they speak more than 80 languages. Instead of taking a vacation this past summer, Eckstrom went to Haiti to find the places where several of his students live and to visit their extended families. He knows that he will be able to make better connections with his Haitian students after learning about their culture and country. Over the past ten years, Boston teachers have made similar trips to Cape Verde, the Dominican Republic, Vietnam, and other countries. Fund for Teachers, a Houston-based nonprofit, helps fund these trips (Boston Globe, September 12).