Winter dawn pinks even this dirty air, here where the currents of the world stall between mountain ranges. We awaken inhaling fumes and dust, the calls of crows, breath and prayers from around the globe.
A child in church, I knelt with the congregation, leaned into the wails of women around me pleading for the son lost to Chicago, for Hiroshimo’s victims, the girl with the iron lung. They would begin on a pitch around middle C and slowly rise with arched phrases into a high tremolo toward the amen, as though reaching to heaven.
Now the sun tears the gray veil, and doves repeat their soft, low moaning, for heaven is nearer than we think—in the undersides of leaves and in their shine, warmth on my shoulder, scent of bread. Even in that sick, black night when a man stood in the center of the lane, his arms out, pleading for the headlights to come in, as we stood beside him, now in a silent heap, his boots flung off, as we breathed “mercy,” as we breathed “help.”
Since time flies one way like an arrow, the sugar can’t be stirred out of your oatmeal and no matter how long the murderer sobs on the median strip—sorry!—he can’t reverse his swerve, cannot rescind his drink
before the crash. Like him, was Jesus heartsick to find history’s not a zipper running both ways? He who loved eternity—its roominess, its reversibility—as he grew up, did he have to learn he never could unsay a thing
he’d said? And yet today, like all Good Fridays, He hangs on the cross again. On altars he hangs. On necklaces. His death is like an x that rides the wheels of time to come again in ritual, that miniature eternity, that spring
re-sprung. Dear God, there in your big eternity, remember that your hands and feet can never be unscarred again. Hear these words spoken by a body that suffers, by a tongue that will stiffen soon and be gone.
Have mercy on us who love time. May this prayer be a tire that rolls over every inch of the way to find You. May it be a bell which can never be unrung.
A pair of British imports explores faith of different kinds. Millions, directed by Danny Boyle from a script by Frank Cottrell Boyce, is by far the slicker of the two. It is chock-full of glitzy visual effects, something to be expected from the man who directed the kinetic drug film Trainspotting.
Did the blessed mother note the measure of the moon? Ancient church tradition says they came on the same day— that Gabriel’s whispered “hail” shared Golgotha’s dark noon, that her pain embraced perfection and who are we to say?
It was exquisite sorrow to have her melody become counterpoint to her son’s words arduously spoken that afternoon of agony; below she stood mute, numb, to watch his body slowly punctured, torn and broken.
How did she ponder and how could her heart sustain a moment of astonishment, an anniversary gloss, now—forlorn as vinegar; bitter balm for pain. But she would hold to his wine, hard-won from torture, loss,
his new wine of forgiveness, now soaking into sod; trusting it could endow her to forgive even her God.
Hell wants him, heaven won’t take him, earth needs him.” So proclaims the poster for Constantine. It sounds like an ad for a previous Keanu Reeves movie, the ridiculous Devil’s Advocate. Yet some of the same publicists who promoted Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ are promoting Constantine—and for similar reasons.
where’s alfreddy who cuts your grass or lifts your rake when you’re not looking and where’s the reliable gunfire from the deuce-eights’ section eight doorways down on twenty-eighth on this last day of August lavender all rotted at the bottom splayed across the concrete walk as you sit barefoot on the porch steps and watch without a thought honeybees and bumblebees ascend and drop in praise of higher fragrances and offer thanks there’s no parade today for trayvon on your street named mlk jr way because you’re that weary
so for this moment with this breath you God bless the bees
“Our best college students are very good at being critical. In fact being smart, for many, means being critical,” says Wesleyan University president Michael S. Roth. In the last half century an emphasis in education on inquiry has been reduced to exposing error and undermining belief. Not only does this stance not get college graduates very far later in life, “fetishizing disbelief as a sign of intelligence” has diminished our culture. Liberal learning, argues Roth, should have an equal commitment to finding meaning in culture and becoming absorbed in creative and compelling work (New York Times, May 10).