(translated from the Macedonian by Nola Garrett and Natasha Garrett)
I lift this skull that just hours ago the tempest dug out. How raw is his innocent death, exposed after centuries here in this hill where now I lay him down into a fresh grave, dewy among wild thyme buzzing with bees. This hill now seems greater with a new human stance. I have added to it my heart’s force and love, so I can comprehend where this resurrected one will go and what he might tell me, thought he covers himself with this umbrella, because it is darker out here than the light he blazes underground.
And conjectures, and offers a few ways to take down the body, the God who carries a taste for blood. On the altar, before him, an empty simple cross, and a purple bouquet, one of which, he doesn’t say, was arranged, and one which happened, he knows, against serious, best judgment—
the way you might extend a hand to an enemy, suspecting the risk, knowing better but offering and retracting your bared palm over time like a bud or a bloom opening to a violet spring sky.
In the wake of 9/11, Daniel Pearl, Southeast Asia bureau chief for the Wall Street Journal, was in Pakistan chasing down leads to a mysterious figure named Sheikh Mubarak Ali Gilani, who he believed had connections to Osama bin Laden and to the recently captured “shoe bomber,” Richard Reid.
They will not see me, living out of sight down the hill, the white-robed army of monks at prayer, the makers of incense and beds and meals with the smell of God about them.
They might feel me step into their pilgrimage, balancing between the jagged and the smooth stones, paying homage to the rock borders that turn me closer in, farther out, maddeningly away from the center.
This is no way to live a life. How many times have they made these very turns in their cloister, no labyrinth to guide them but only the vague inner nudge?
It is the place where tortuous and torturous merge. I take half an hour; they use half their lives. And for what? A pile of rocks in the center, a single life well lived?
The question, maybe, gives us pause. It does not stop that inexorable pull, like undertow sent to immolate a swimmer beneath the waves,
or the ineffable peace that spreads with every step.
A friend of mine has an idea for teaching youth about sex: have them view one of those graphic birthing videos that the hospital has for first-time parents, the kind that shows the crowning and the afterbirth, the agony and the joy. The kids will get the idea.
The feel of awl and augur in his hardened hands, the rough hull rimed with salt, a whittled plug he made himself, so tight he set his teeth! His handiwork behind him, Norway a miniature carved in the distance, he watched the gray Atlantic like a ravenous whale devour everything between.
The story ends, and yet begins again. Here in a foreign port, his touch begins to read each sign, the curves and swellings, splintered keel and patchwork. How his heart quickens when he finds his father’s fishing boat, familiar as his name, the family build, their house nailed fast above the rocky harbor.
And yet begins again. How the found word both fits and startles, an oracle recovered just in time, just when it’s needed, just before faith slips away like my great-grandfather’s wedding coat, ruined in a flooded basement with old books and portraits, speckled sepia like a gull’s egg, water-marked and too far gone to keep.
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).