The Valley of Elah is the legendary spot between two mountains where, according to 1 Samuel, young David slew the mighty Philistine warrior Goliath. The site is an appropriate allusion for writer-director Paul Haggis’s movie about the American experience in Iraq. In the Valley of Elah posits that the U.S. may be the military Goliath brought down by hit-and-run insurgents.
Neil Jordan’s The Brave One has a lacerating opening section. Erica Bain (Jodie Foster) is a New York disc jockey who dedicates her radio show to the neglected or vanishing splendors of the city she adores. One evening she and her fiancé (Naveen Andrews, of TV’s Lost) are mugged while walking their dog in Central Park; he’s killed and she winds up in a coma.
Outside my window, the bushes have turned, redder than any fire, and the sky is the same blue Giotto used for Mary’s robes. My mother says, if she still had a house, she’d plant one or two of these bushes, and I love how she’s still thinking about gardening, as if she were in the middle of the story, even though we both know, she’s at the end, the last few pages. Down in the meadow, the goldenrod’s gone from cadmium yellow to a feathery beige, the ghost of itself. Mother, too, fades away, skin thin as the tissue stuffed up her sleeve. The scars on her stomach itch and burn, but inside, she’s still the girl who loved to turn cartwheels, the woman whose best days were on fairways and putting greens. On television, we watch California go up in smoke, flames leapfrogging ridge to ridge. Here, these leaves release a shower of scarlet feathers, as everything starts to let go. Oh, how this world burns and burns us, yet we are not consumed.
First portions to my husband, then the boys. I eat what’s left behind, grow willowy, more like a girl than I ever was.
My clothes curtain, I think of cutting the excess to sell, for what? There’s nothing left in this town, we are the only harvest to ripen white in the wind.
My husband says sometimes God allows pain to cause us to move. I pack our things.
The last cow to calf was three springs past, and now I boil its bones to make broth.
Naomi’s sojourn Ruth 1:1
The grain fled from our hands. Harvest brought no yield. Each day turned to us—empty faces, empty faces, and our sons’ mouths gaped wider. My fat of childbirth negotiated to rib, our children’s bellies bloat. I cut the oil by half and by half til we are eating water, some dirt. Hunger becomes the greater God; it gnaws us like a bone. We leave our home.
What they say of you, they say of me, the girls you were a girl with, the men you did not choose, I will not choose. I will carry what you carry, like a child, on my hip that has never born a child, heavy as a child who will not follow your voice. Your home built of sorrow will be my sorrow, the wasp pressed against the inside of the pane, my pane, the slackening of your skin, loosened skin around the eyes, will be my loosening, your hair gone colorless will be my own lack of color. Your cup of bitter waters is my cup of bitter waters and together we will drink it, until the bowl has gone dry as a skull.
A Turkish couple living near the Syrian border invited 4,000 Syrian refugees living in or near their city to their wedding party. The idea came from the groom’s father, who hoped their example would inspire others. The couple pooled money they had received from family members to throw the party, and wedding guests contributed food as well. The bride admitted being shocked when she first heard about the plan, but agreed that seeing the happiness in the Syrian children’s eyes was priceless. Nearly 2 million Syrian refugees live in Turkey (Telegraph, August 4).