“The Department of Defense announced Friday that the battery operated ‘digital’ bugle has come of age and is a necessity with only about 500 U.S. military buglers to perform at the 1,800 daily funerals for veterans.” –Washington Times, 10/09/02
And now even this is pantomime— or worse—a kind of full-bodied lip sync at the gravest occasion. Someone in uniform lifts horn to lips to blow (one thinks), simulates the deep draw that hallows breath into note and moves us to that spacious human room where mourning sounds. And now even this is just charade, a button pushed (at least the fingers move), and though the tones are clear as night and sure as sleep, one wonders whether God is really nigh and what besides the soldier-child might die.
Devotees of children’s literature have received an unexpected lift from the nearly simultaneous release of the new film of Charlotte’s Web, based on the story by E. B. White, and Miss Potter, a biography of Peter Rabbit’s creator, Beatrix Potter. Each in its way is a charmer.
The walk back, more loss. When I open the door it’s over, so I set to piddling: tidy end tables, check the mail, draw a bath. The restless energy finally settles as I pass the mirror. I peer into it. My nose touches glass. Not much left, already effaced, not even a cross to speak of. A smudge. A few black soot stains like pinpoints on the forehead. The rest of the blessed ash has vanished to a grey amorphousness, to symbolize . . . not much. Except a wish for those hallowed moments to be followed by sustaining confidence. Except spirit, which means to shun its listless weight for yearning, awkward if not more earnest prayer and fasting in the clear face of dust.
How can children read, with words wobbling any way they feel like? Spelling shows up as speling, and spelin spills to spleen. Stolen bases slide to stollen basis. There’s no Too Far, no leash to keep the feral hound from escape, no property line between ideas, no surveyor to fasten edges.
And if Johnson doesn’t finish soon, words might wander further into wildness, soar like index cards in a hurricane, and scatter like so much litter. Or worse— careen like bullets into meanings, blowing every deal to pieces.
If he finishes, you could be stuck in a poem entirely on spelling, longing for rescue from the strait- jacket they tied us into so we can read and write this. How fragile the guide rope of logic seems between us! How tenuous sweet mutual understanding!
Sam Johnson, in your stained shirt, big as Fleet Street, rehearsing for the thousandth time your smudgy slips of paper, you’ve never finished anything on time, you rarely finish. This is a prayer for you. But shall I bless or curse?
Psalm 96 issues an invitation repeated throughout the Old Testament: “Sing to the Lord a new song.” Today’s Christian musicians follow that call into vistas that David could never have foreseen, from Celtic folk to speed metal to reggae.
Here in the basement of the Espresso Royale on Sixth Street in this land grant university town, amid English Fog lattes and keypad-clatter, in the afternoon before the all-hallows-eve in which Katie, a great-great-et-cetera granddaughter of the townswoman they hanged for the crime of witchcraft, will play a game—homo ludens— of volleyball against the maize-and-blue Michigan Wolverines I draft a missive to the good citizenry of Dorchester as though they might yet happen upon these words, as though their revivified selves were a short gallop from this latitude and longitude, as though their sins of omission and commission might still be forgiven— not just forgotten—by an act of penance that includes a pilgrimage to tonight’s venue and a maniacal cheering for this descendent as she executes (I didn’t invent the language) a perfect play that culminates in (really, I didn’t) a kill. Full stop because I don’t know how to end this letter. So I do what I always do: continue breaking lines and staggering down the page until it’s time to witness more volleyball and cheer like nothing else ever happens or matters.
A growing body of research indicates that diversity in the classroom contributes to childhood development. Kids who make friends with kids from other races in school are better able to handle diversity and their academic performance is improved, according to a study done at New York University. Without assistance from teachers, however, the tendency over time is for same-race relations to increase and cross-race relations to decrease (NPR, July 12).