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.
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).