Arts+Culture

Arts+Culture

We Are the Eighth Day, © Melanie Weidner

Poetry

Self-portrait

After four years, Michelangelo has reached the end,
and now Jonah, whom he has reserved for last,
dangles his bare feet over the Sistine’s void,
sharing his precarious aerie with a dead fish,
two cherubs and a vine. A marvel of foreshortening,
he reclines on his arm and eyes God, still arguing
petulantly that he is not the man to undertake
such a harebrained job, lacking both talent
and inclination. His fingers point in opposite
directions, one to the threat of Nineveh and Rome,
the other to the safety of Tarshish and Florence,
regarding his own death as a small price to pay
to make a point. Yet as the fresco dries to stone,
he gazes beyond the gap between his intractable
pique and God’s intractable grace, dumbfounded
at the resplendent vault arching above a city at peace.
Film

Walled in

The winner of the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, The Lives of Others, looks at a political system kept in power by a police agency that has absolute power to keep any citizen under constant surveillance.
Poetry

Night music

These Yorkshire fells and dales
appear ever to be falling away,
toppling from Emily’s wuthering heights
into wide accommodating valleys
carved by Derwent, Calder, Ribble and the rest
then trimmed by flocks of patient sheep
that crop the slopes and shoulders round
toward that verdant jeweled Jerusalem
folk hereby love to sing about.

Up here, along the tops, however,
driving tight along the teetering edge,
mad vertigo hangs you out there in the balances,
suspended in that stomach-clutching space
between this summit and the next,
flung far into the spinning turn,
the terrible excellence of things.

Might it be that way also at the end,
nothing all that dark and dreadful,
but a life-demanding climb,
agonizing to be sure, all the gasping way
along and up some looming harsh escarpment
grasping toward the final summit where, at last,
you stumble forward into emptiness
to find everything . . . all at once?



Poetry

Twelve knives for the new year

Last Sunday my grandma laughed at the memory
of a clumsy silverware thief: one day she came home
to a slamming screen door and a trail of knives
that began in the living room
and petered out in the yard.
She said they were not precious.
But my dad whispered.
He remembered how she came in with them, all in one hand.
In a delicate furious bouquet.
Music

Sound alternatives

Those who discovered Joanna Newsom’s full-length debut The Milk-Eyed Mender (Drag City, 2004) fell without exception into two camps: either they ran screaming from her Betty-Boop-on-helium voice and tales of bridges, balloons and beans or found themselves enchanted and amazed.